<
>

LSU, Miami riding high

LSU has ably navigated a treacherous portion of its schedule, winning five of six games against Arkansas and Florida. AP Photo/Andrew Woolley

Three things we learned this weekend

1. Either Florida is really struggling or LSU is finally living up its talent level.

2. The Pac-12 will rotate a "Flavor of the Week" hot team the rest of the season.

3. The Miami-Florida State series in two weeks just got a lot more interesting.

Team of the weekend: Miami

Wow. A sweep of North Carolina, which included two shutouts? Again, wow. About the only problem for the Hurricanes this weekend was the ground crew not covering the field as a monsoon hit the Coral Gables area on Saturday, delaying the start of the series' middle game. But storming three from the Tar Heels has now put the Canes on top of the Coastal Division of the ACC.

Off-radar team of the weekend: Sam Houston State

Sure, the Bearkats (23-9) won three straight versus Northwestern State, but they probably should get this recognition for the cumulative way they've been playing over the last three weeks. Sam Houston has won 12 straight including Southland sweeps of Texas State, UT-San Antonio and Northwestern State, plus a midweek win over Rice.

Biggest disappointment: Troy

The Trojans' foibles aren't new, but the preseason Sun Belt favorites have now sunk to 3-9 in conference play after losing all three games at FIU this weekend. And a big culprit is that the key hits just aren't coming, as evidenced by the 34 baserunners stranded in the three losses to the Panthers.

Best series: USC over Cal

There was heavy drama in Los Angeles as all three games were decided by winning runs in the ninth inning. Cal scored a pair of runs in the top of the ninth and was guided to victory by a perfect inning of relief from Joey Donofrio on Thursday. But the Trojans came back to score last at-bat wins Friday and Saturday to pull out an unlikely series win and move to 19-10 on the year.

Heating up: The West Coast Conference

Though most nonconference games are done for the year, besides the midweek editions, the WCC has now ascended to become the No. 4-ranked conference in the RPI, ahead of both the Big 12 and the Big West. San Diego, Gonzaga, Portland, Pepperdine, Santa Clara, Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary's have all beaten Big Six conference powers. The big question is, will the NCAA selection committee take notice and hand out more than one or two perfunctory at-large bids?

Cooling down: Florida

This is a pretty obvious one. Coach Kevin O'Sullivan seemed unfazed, though, telling me after Friday night's win that "every team goes through rough periods during a long season." But I'm not sure he anticipated the Saturday loss to LSU. The Gators appear vulnerable. Are we looking at a team at risk of losing its national seed status?

Raised an eyebrow: LSU

Maybe the Tigers actually raised two eyebrows here, winning a huge series against Florida in Gainesville. But what is most worthy of mention is how clutch this team is becoming. With a pair of one-run wins over the Gators, LSU is now 8-3 in one-run games this year overall and has a 7-2 mark in SEC white-knucklers. Strong work.

Of note

• Baylor has now won 14 straight games, including all three games at Missouri this weekend, keeping the Bears unbeaten at 12-0 in Big 12 play. Until now, no Big 12 team had ever started better than 7-0.

• The nation's longest home winning streak finally came to an end Sunday as Dartmouth lost a 4-3 decision to Columbia. Before that, the Big Green had won 26 straight at Biondi Park, dating back to April 2010.

• Army could have the strongest Patriot League team in recent memory. The Knights swept Lehigh in four straight games this weekend to improve to 23-8 overall and 8-0 in the league, marking the best start in league play since 1993.

• Akron senior Sam Watkins had back-to-back bottom-of-the-ninth game-winning hits Saturday (an RBI double) and Sunday (an RBI single with two outs) to help the Zips sweep Bowling Green.

• Cal State Bakersfield's Taylor Aikenhead threw his fifth complete game of the season in Saturday's 3-1 win over Santa Clara, holding the Broncos to seven hits in his 97 pitches. He leads the nation.

Without further ado, here are this week's Power Rankings …

1. Florida State (27-5)

Of note: While the top teams keep taking hits, the Seminoles keep winning and the young pitching gets better. Sunday's win over Georgia Tech was Mike Martin's 1,700th for his career.

2. Kentucky (30-3)

Of note: At this time in 2011, the Bat Cats were 2-10 in SEC play. In 2012, they're 9-3 with a two-game lead on Florida. But their SEC-leading offense (at .328) will be tested at Arkansas.

3. Baylor (25-7)

Of note: Still perfect in the Big 12 at 12-0. The Bears have allowed just 17 stolen bases, but face the two fastest teams in the Big 12 with Kansas State and Texas A&M up next in league play.

4. UCLA (21-7)

Of note: As if their early-season schedule hasn't been tough enough (ninth-best nationally), the next four weekends for the Bruins will be at Arizona, at Oregon State, vs. Stanford and vs. Purdue.

5. Florida (27-5)

Of note: It's hard to figure these guys out. When I saw them Friday night at McKethan Stadium, they blew out LSU 7-0. No problems there, right? But the Gators have dropped five of their last seven.

6. Arizona (23-9)

Of note: The Wildcats rapped out 45 hits in the thin air of Salt Lake City, downing Utah in two of three and increasing their Pac-12-best average to .331 as a team.

7. Texas A&M (26-6)

Of note: Since a 15-12 loss to Kansas State on March 16, Texas A&M is 12-1 and hasn't given up more than six runs in any game during that stretch. The Aggies still lead the Big 12 in both offense (.308) and pitching (2.88 ERA).

8. Stanford (20-7)

Of note: The Cardinal are in seventh place in the Pac-12, which is pretty indicative of what a monster that conference has become. And Monday's 19-6 win over Cal was nasty as well.

9. LSU (25-7)

Of note: The Tigers showed remarkable moxie, not only coming back from a 7-0 skunking at Florida on Friday but also overcoming a 7-2 deficit Saturday to pull out the series win.

10. Miami (24-8)

Of note: The Hurricanes are back on an uptick after the sweep of North Carolina. Starters Eric Erickson, Eric Whaley and Steven Ewing combined for 20 innings and gave up just two runs.

11. North Carolina (23-9)

Of note: I'm not sure anyone saw that sweep at Miami happening. But clutch hitting has become a problem as the Tar Heels earned eight walks but stranded 14 baserunners in Sunday's loss.

12. Cal State Fullerton (21-10)

Of note: It was a perfect week for the Titans, which included a pair of close shaves versus an improved UC Davis and has them on top of the Big West once again. But beware: A rivalry weekend at UC Irvine awaits.

13. South Carolina (23-9)

Of note: It's almost weird to see the Gamecocks lose a Friday night game. With that pitching staff? Yikes. They nearly got upset Saturday by Tennessee as well before escaping.

14. Rice (23-11)

Of note: The Owls got a big series win at Tulane. But they've struggled with consistency since starting the season at 9-0 and have yet to win more than two consecutive games in a row.

15. Purdue (24-5)

Of note: Thanks to ace Joe Haase, the Boilermakers have won their last eight weekend openers. Also, their series sweep at Northwestern was their first unbeaten Big Ten road series since 2001.

16. Arkansas (24-7)

Of note: After a 20-2 start, the Razorbacks have hit a rut, going just 4-5 since then. But they rebounded to beat Georgia twice this weekend and still have the best pitching staff in the SEC, with a 2.65 team ERA.

17. UCF (26-7)

Of note: On Sunday I saw the Knights prove why they have a ton of character. The scintillating bottom-of-the-ninth win over UAB improved their record in one-run or extra-inning games to 10-4.

18. Oregon (21-9)

Of note: With a series win at UCLA, the Ducks are now 8-2 in games versus ranked opponents. And in typical George Horton style, they pitch (3.06 ERA) and field (.978) as well as anyone.

19. New Mexico State (25-9)

Of note: The Aggies have won 15 of their last 16 games, including two wins at Arizona. They also lead the nation in walks earned with 215, a full 19 more then the next-closest team.

20. San Diego (26-8)

Of note: The Toreros picked up a huge series win over rival Gonzaga to take the lead in the WCC and also gave their RPI ranking a shot in the arm, up to No. 29.

Dropped out: NC State, Ole Miss

Bubble wrap: Appalachian State, Sam Houston State, NC State, Louisville, Liberty