Big SEC Series Headlines Weekend Action…
There are a handful of big conference series on tap around the country this weekend in college baseball action. The biggest of those series has #3 Vanderbilt at #4 South Carolina, with Sunday’s series finale scheduled to be televised on ESPNU.
Here’s a look at some of this weekend’s action(all rankings are based on the latest College Baseball 360 Composite National Rankings).
CLICK HERE for Friday’s College Baseball 360 Top 50 Matchup/Scoreboard coverage page.
#3 Vanderbilt (31-3, 10-2 SEC) @ #4 South Carolina (26-6, 10-2 SEC)
The new bat standards have made many college offenses look quite mortal this season, but not these two powers. Christian Walker (.344, 7 HR, 37 RBIs, 1.031 OPS) leads the offensive charge for the defending national champion Gamecocks. Jackie Bradley, Jr.’s average sits at .286, but he’s still belted 6 HR as well. Vanderbilt’s balanced offensive attack is hitting .316, with seven players who have started at least 20 games batting .303 or better. Anthony Gomez (.379), Jason Esposito (.320) and Curt Casali (.319) share the team RBI lead with 27 each. Aaron Westlake (.397, 5 HR, 25 RBIs) has been the top overall Commodore hitter. The Friday pitching match-up is one to see. South Carolina send 2010 College World Series hero Michael Roth (7-1, 1.25 ERA) to the mound, while Vandy counters with Sonny Gray (7-1, 1.54 ERA). The two teams have closers who have been lights-out as well. Commodore Navery Moore has a ridiculous 0.46 ERA with 7 saves in 18 appearances, while the Gamecocks counter with Matt Price (3-2, 2.82 ERA, 10 saves). SC set-up man John Tayler is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 29 1/3 IP.
Oklahoma (25-8, 6-5 Big 12) vs. Oklahoma State (26-8, 8-4 Big 12)
Bedlam. That’s what they call it when these two programs get together, and it should be no different when they square-off this weekend. For years Oklahoma State was the perennial baseball power in the Sooner State, but it’s Oklahoma that’s coming-off a trip to Omaha. However, OSU is back on track in 2011. The Cowboys need three wins to match their overall 2010 win total and they already have as many wins in conference play as they did last year. The series features a pair of .400 hitters. Dane Phillips (.404, 3 HR, 26 RBIs, 1.096 OPS) leads the Oklahoma State offense and Garrett Buechele (.401, 7 HR, 42 RBIs, 1.046 OPS) tops an OU that’s batting .330. Brad Propst (6-1, 1.25 ERA) tossed his (and OSU’s) second complete game of the season in last week’s sweep of Missouri. Michael Rocha (7-1, 1.02 ERA, 2 CG) fronts the Oklahoma staff. Game one of the series in in Tulsa, with the last two games are in Oklahoma City.
#13 Oregon State (24-7, 5-1 Pac-10) at #16 Stanford (16-9, 3-3 Pac-10)
Stanford’s record is anything but spectacular, but the Cardinal has played some pretty spectacular competition so far. Consider this, Stanford Friday starter Mark Appel is just 2-3, but he has gone head-to-head with Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray and Taylor Jungmann of Texas. Both are expected to be high first round draft picks in June. It won’t get much easier for Appel this weekend when he faces OSU’s Sam Gaviglio (6-1, 1.34 ERA, 3 CG). Both pitching staffs are solid, but neither has “strikeout” pitchers. The Stanford staff has a 3.28 ERA with 116 Ks and 85 BB in 217.0 IP, while the Beavers have 228 punchouts and 79 walks in 277 2/3 innings. Oregon State has 33 sac bunts, compared to just 13 home runs. Andrew Susac (.364, 25 RBIs) and Parker Berberet (.256, 27 RBIs) share the team lead with 4 HR each. Stanford has gone yard just 14 times. Kenny Diekroger (.373) has the top Cardinal average, while Brian Ragira (.304, 3 HR, 24 RBIs) is the RBI leader. In a series where a lot of balls will be put in play defense could be the x-factor. Oregon State has a slight edge with a .973 fielding percentage, compared to Stanford’s .965.
#22 Arizona (22-11, 4-5 Pac-10) @ #25 UCLA (17-11, 7-2 Pac-10)
This sneaky series features three of the top power pitchers in the country, let alone the Pac-10. UCLA’s Trevor Bauer (6-1, 1.67 ERA) and Gerrit Cole (4-2, 1.74 ERA) don’t sneak-up on anyone, but Arizona’s Kurt Heyer (5-1, 1.38 ERA) also checks-in with 80 strikeouts in 65.0 innings pitched as well. Bauer leads the nation with 97 strikeouts, Heyer’s 80 ranks third and Cole’s 64 Ks is 13th. Arizona’s .342 team batting average has defied the national offensive downward trend. The Wildcats, led by Joey Rickard (.428) and Cole Frenzel (.408) took two of three last weekend from Cal against, arguably, the second-best pitching staff in the Pac-10, but they’ll face the top staff in the conference this week. UCLA has struggled to score enough runs to support its vaunted hurlers in 2011. The Bruins have actually brought their team batting average up to .258 in recent weeks, but they’ve still managed to win their first three conference series against USC, Washington and Washington State. Dean Espy (.318) is the only UCLA regular batting over .300.