Shakeup in the rankings

April, 14, 2008

Just when you think you have a handle on how the season is going to play out, everything changes after another weekend of conference play. While the top teams in the nation have clearly set themselves apart, there's lots of room for debate once you get past the top 10.

Around the Horn: Weekend Wrap

Paper tigers: There's a reason that games are played on the field and not on paper. The matchup between No. 8 Missouri and No. 12 Texas was expected to be about pitching; Tiger ace Aaron Crow brought a 42-inning scoreless streak into the series while Texas' staff ERA was close to 4.00. Crow's streak was snapped four batters into the opener, as the Longhorns scored five in the first on their way to an early 9-3 lead. The advantage was short-lived, as the Tigers scored 10 runs in the third and six runs each in the fourth and sixth on their way to a 31-12 victory. Despite allowing nine runs in five innings, Crow improved to 8-0 this season. The 31 runs were the most that Texas has ever allowed. Missouri kept the pressure on early in Game 2 on the way to a 13-2 win, while Texas salvaged the finale with a 9-2 victory behind Kyle Russell's second multi-homer game of the series.

Friday night is all right for scoring: Missouri wasn't the only team scoring in bunches on Friday night. While ace pitchers usually dominate the series openers, 11 teams scored at least 17 runs Friday. The slugfest of the night was Cleveland State at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, as the Vikings bounced back to win the second game of a doubleheader 24-18 after the Panthers won the opener in the bottom of the ninth. Richmond (23), Rutgers (21) and Gardner-Webb (21) all broke the 20-run mark, while Duquesne (18), Bowling Green (18), USC (17), Texas-Pan American (17), and Wright State (17) were all within a field goal.

When the going gets tough: The strong keep getting stronger in the ACC, as the top three teams all swept conference series away from home. No. 1 Miami scored 34 runs to sweep Georgia Tech and improve to 30-3 overall and 8-1 away from home. Boston College hung with No. 3 Florida State during both halves of Friday's doubleheader before dropping the finale 17-2; the Seminoles stayed just ahead of the Hurricanes at 31-3 overall and 17-1 in ACC play. No. 4 North Carolina accomplished something it had never managed before, winning a three-game series at Clemson for the first time since the ACC adopted its current schedule in 1990.

Wild, wild west: While the ACC is the strongest conference at the top, if this weekend is any indication, the Pac-10 might be the best conference from top-to-bottom. No. 2 Arizona State needed eight runs in the ninth inning on Sunday to take their series at cellar-dwelling Washington State. USC dominated No. 5 California for 2 ½ sgames, winning the first two games 17-1 and 11-5 before the Golden Bears scored the last eight runs to win the finale 13-11. No. 10 Stanford joined the Sun Devils at the top of the conference standings by taking two of three at defending national champion Oregon State. And while the results haven't matched the talent so far this season, UCLA and Arizona were ranked at the top of the polls in February.

Happier trails: Entering this weekend, only five of 24 SEC series had been won by the visiting team; this week, three teams managed to win away from home. No. 19 Vanderbilt and No. 15 South Carolina both faced their second straight road series after being swept last weekend. The teams returned the favor this time around, as the Commodores swept Mississippi State and the Gamecocks took all three from Auburn. The other road warrior was more surprising, as second-to-last place Arkansas went to Gainesville and took two games from No. 25 Florida. At the top of the conference, No. 14 Georgia extended its SEC winning streak to eight games and improved to 12-3 with a sweep of No. 17 Kentucky.

Reveille call: Texas A&M took over first place in the Big 12 this week with a sweep of Oklahoma, and now look to move into the Baseball America rankings for the first time this season. The Aggies have won 13 straight games to improve to 30-6, and their 12-3 record in conference play is half a game better than No. 6 Nebraska. The Huskers dropped their series at No. 21 Oklahoma State this weekend to fall out of the top spot. It's rivalry week for the Aggies, who host No. 11 Rice on Tuesday before playing Baylor this weekend.

Breaking up is hard to do: Maybe the Summit League is looking for something beyond the notoriety of being the most far-flung conference. Over the weekend, two of the longest games of the season were played by league members. On Friday night, a 5-4 game between Oral Roberts and Centenary turned wild in the ninth inning. The first place Golden Eagles scored five runs in the top of the frame to take a 9-5 lead, but Centenary rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the ninth. Neither team scored against until the 16th inning, when Oral Roberts scored a run to win 10-9. It was a long day at the ballpark for Southern Utah and North Dakota State on Saturday. After waiting through a 3½ hour delay to allow the field to dry, the Thunderbirds and Bison played for 5 hours and 26 minutes before a winner was determined. Southern Utah scored seven runs after the second out had been recorded in the 17th to win 12-5 in the longest game in North Dakota State history.

A dish best served cold: When the MAAC updated its by-laws to require all schools to participate in all sports, the message was clear; LeMoyne's baseball team was no longer welcome. The Dolphins had represented the conference in the NCAA tournament in three of the last five seasons and were the only school affected by the rule. LeMoyne took out their frustration on the field this weekend, sweeping a doubleheader at St. Peter's by scores of 20-1 and 29-7 before taking the finale 8-4. This season, the Dolphins have struggled against MAAC schools, and are now 5-6 against their former conference.

Eighteen is enough: Bowling Green scored 18 runs in each of its first two games at Ball State to take the series from the Western Division leader, who entered the weekend 6-0 in MAC play. In the opener, the Falcons clubbed a school-record eight homers to beat the Cardinals 18-12. The bats stayed hot the following day as Bowling Green held on for an 18-16 victory to clinch the series. The Falcons wouldn't have needed as many runs to win the finale, but were held to seven as they dropped the contest 9-7 to fall half a game behind first place Ohio in the Eastern Division.

What to Watch For: Midweek Matchups

Just six more weeks until Selection Monday; while some teams rest as they head into the conference stretch runs, others are looking for marquee wins to support their case on Memorial Day.

Governor's Cup Game (Tuesday): No. 18 Ole Miss travels to the Mississippi Braves' park in Pearl to take on SEC rival Mississippi State in a nonconference showcase. The Rebels took two of three at Starkville earlier this season, while the Bulldogs have yet to win a conference series. This is the second game this season for Mississippi at Trustmark Park, where they lost there to Southern Miss in extra innings last month.

No. 9 Wichita State at No. 6 Nebraska (Tuesday): A battle for snow belt bragging rights in Lincoln, at least until Nebraska plays No. 8 Missouri to finish the season. The Shockers play their fourth straight game in Nebraska, where they took an MVC series from Creighton this weekend. The schools have split their last 10 meetings, with Wichita State winning 5-3 at home last year.

No. 11 Rice at Texas A&M (Tuesday): Last year, the Owls swept Texas A&M in the super regionals after losing both games during the regular season; given the NCAA's propensity for grouping regionals geographically, these two schools will likely cross paths later this season. The schedule gets tougher over the next month for the 30-6 Aggies, who could use this feather in their cap come tournament selection time.

No. 25 Florida at No. 3 Florida State (Tuesday): The rubber match is in Tallahassee this week, and the Seminoles have been the better club since their meeting in Jacksonville two weeks ago. While the Seminoles have won seven straight times since that meeting, the Gators have gone 4-5 and dropped SEC series against Tennessee and Arkansas; with momentum on their side, Florida State looks to take the season series for the first time since 2003.

Beanpot Championship (Wednesday): It's not just for hockey, as the area teams get to play at Fenway Park on Wednesday. Boston College and Massachusetts will play in the championship game, while Harvard and Northeastern will battle for third place. The Eagles are only 5-13 in ACC games, but at 18-17 are the only team in the tournament above .500; Massachusetts (10-14), Northeastern (12-16-1) and Harvard (4-25) have all struggled in and out of conference.

Closing Number

Four: The number of home runs hit in one game this weekend by both Jacob Priday (Missouri) and Brian Cavazos-Galvez (New Mexico). They each fell two short of the NCAA record of six, set by Marshall McDougal of Florida State on May 9, 1999 at Maryland.

Priday closed in on several Missouri career records with his five-for-five effort on Friday in the Tigers' 31-12 win over Texas. His 44 home runs are one shy of the school mark, while he finished the weekend two RBIs short of the school record of 222. Priday also set Big 12 records with his four home runs, nine RBIs and six runs scored in the game.

Cavazos-Galvez was even better in New Mexico's 26-9 win over Air Force on Sunday, finishing 6-for-7 with six runs scored and 10 RBIs. He set new Mountain West standards in homers, runs, RBIs and total bases (19). On their way to sweeping the series, the Lobos outscored the Falcons 46-13.



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