Top-10 matchup: Gamecocks-Gators top series to watch
No. 7 South Carolina at No. 1 Florida
The top-ranked Gators will play host to defending NCAA champion South Carolina in a key Southeastern Conference East Division matchup. Florida has won 10 in a row, including the program’s first sweep at LSU last weekend, and is off to the best start (20-2) in school history. Florida’s starting pitchers are 14-1 with a 1.93 ERA with 94 strikeouts and 20 walks in 111.2 innings. South Carolina will counter with a .306 batting average. The Gamecocks scored 41 runs in their two midweek contests. Florida batters boast a .328 average, led by junior Daniel Pigott, who is batting a stellar .432. South Carolina’s pitching also is solid; the Gamecocks have compiled a 2.93 ERA with 179 strikeouts in 178 innings. Friday’s pitching match-up features two left-handers – Florida sophomore Brian Johnson (4-0, 1.53) and South Carolina junior Michael Roth (4-1, 1.34). The Gamecocks lead the all-time series history 36-28, but the Gators are 7-1 against top-25 foes this season.
• Schedule: 7 p.m. ET Friday (FOX Sports Florida); 1 p.m. Saturday (FOX Sports Florida); 1 p.m. Sunday (Sun Sports).
No. 2 Vanderbilt at No. 22 Arkansas
After winning their opening SEC series against Mississippi State, the Commodores take their gaudy 20-2 record to Fayetteville for a tough league series. Vandy has won 13 of its past 14 games, but will go on the road for the first time since Feb. 20. Arkansas began SEC play losing two of three games at Auburn, but bounced back with a midweek sweep of Memphis. The Razorbacks have played just one of their past 10 games at home. Sophomore left-hander Cade Lynch (2-0, 2.70 ERA) will face preseason All-America right-hander Sonny Gray (5-0, 1.34 ERA) on Friday. Aaron Westlake leads the Commodores at the plate with a .420 batting average and 17 RBI, while freshman Dominic Ficociello provides the offensive spark for the Razorbacks with a .403 average and 25 RBI. Arkansas leads the all-time series 26-19, including a 13-7 mark when playing in Fayetteville.
• Schedule: 6:35 p.m. CT Friday; 2:05 p.m. Saturday; March 27 at 1 p.m. Sunday (CST/ESPN3.com).
No. 17 Arizona at No. 5 Arizona State
These two instate rivals will kick start Pac-10 Conference action as both enter the series with 16-5 records. The squads are the top two offensively in the Pac-10, as the Wildcats lead the league with a .351 batting average, and the Sun Devils follow at .331. Arizona also may have a slight edge on the pitching mound with a 2.93 ERA, compared to the Sun Devils’ 3.46 ERA. ASU is 10-2 at home this season, and is coming off a midweek split at No. 16 Cal State Fullerton. Arizona’s Joey Rickard leads the league with a .495 batting average and is one of three Wildcats hitting .400 or better. ASU’s Austin Barnes is the second-leading hitter in the league with a .436 average. He paces the conference with a .655 slugging percentage. ASU right-hander Kurt Heyer (3-1, 1.12 ERA) and Arizona RHP Kramer Champlin (3-0, 3.06 ERA) will start Friday night’s game.
• Schedule: 6:30 p.m. MT Friday; 6:30 p.m. Saturday; 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
No. 12 Georgia Tech at Miami (Fla.)
A huge Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division series is on tap in Coral Gables this weekend as the league’s only unbeaten teams in league play (6-0) will meet. Georgia Tech heads to the Sunshine State with a 13-game winning streak and a league-leading .338 batting average. Miami enters the weekend on a nine-game winning streak, led by first baseman Harold Martinez, who is batting .467 during the stretch. The Yellow Jackets rank second in the ACC with a 2.14 ERA, led by Friday night’s starter, Mark Pope. He is 5-0 with an incredible 0.23 ERA and has not allowed an earned run in the past 34 innings. Freshman Bryan Radziewski (3-1, 1.95 ERA) will get the nod against Pope in the first contest of the series. UM holds a 47-26 all-time lead in the series.
• Schedule: 7 p.m. ET Friday (CSS); 1 p.m. Saturday (Sun Sports); 1 p.m. Sunday (CSS).
• Related: Pope morphs into stellar starter for Yellow Jackets
No. 3 West Florida at No. 15 North Alabama
The Argonauts head to Florence, Ala., on an 11-game winning streak, but the Lions are on a hot streak of their own, winning their past six contests. West Florida is one game ahead of UNA in the Gulf South Conference East Division standings, while the two squads also are the top two teams in the South Region. The Argos lead the GSC with a .330 batting average, but UNC follows closely, hitting at a .325 clip. West Florida also boasts a 2.34 ERA, with starters Ben Hawkins, Jason Postill and Daniel Vargas-Villa compiling a 17-1 mark.
• Schedule: 2 p.m. CT Saturday (DH); 1 p.m. Sunday.
Cal Poly Pomona vs. No. 9 UC-San Diego
The surging Broncos had entered the series with the Tritons winning five of their past six contests, but fell to UCSD 5-2 on Thursday night in the first contest of the four-game weekend. UC-San Diego (11-6) is jockeying for position in the California Collegiate Athletic Association standings with Chico State and Cal State-L.A. Pomona is not too far behind with a 9-8 league mark, but must win some games in the near future to better their position before league tournament time. The Tritons have won the past eight games against the Broncos. UCSD leads the CCAA with .304 batting average and 3.12 ERA.
• Schedule: 6 p.m. PT Friday; March 26 at 12 p.m. Saturday (DH).
Rockhurst at No. 26 Southern Indiana
Defending NCAA champion Southern Indiana is in the groove, winning 10 consecutive after starting the season with a 2-5 mark. Great Lakes Valley Conference foe Rockhurst University is fresh off a league sweep of Northern Kentucky, and leads the league’s West Division with a 2-1 conference mark. Southern Indiana ranks second in the GLVC with a 3.81 ERA, but will be challenged by Rockhurst’s hot-hitting right fielder Ben Baker, who batted .583 with a .917 slugging percentage last week.
• Schedule: noon CT Saturday (DH).
No. 16 Tufts vs. No. 5 Christopher Newport
The Captains take a 25-game winning streak into a single-game meeting against No. 16 Tufts, which is still getting its feet wet through seven games. Chase Rose leads Tufts offensively with a .469 batting average with 13 RBI, while the Jumbos’ pitching staff sports a 3.63 ERA. The Captains are batting.326 as a team, led by Matt Shoemaker’s .427 average and 27 RBI.
• Schedule: 2 p.m. ET Friday.
No. 3 Texas-Tyler at Texas-Dallas
An important American Southwest Conference series is up for grabs between these rivals in a three-game series. UTD has won five of its past six games, while UT-Tyler has yet to lose and enters the weekend 22-0. Freshman Matt Olszewski, the reigning ASC East Hitter of the Week, leads the Comets with a .417 average. Texas-Tyler tops the ASC in batting (.361), ERA (1.99) and fielding percentage (.978).
• Schedule: 2 p.m. CT Friday; noon Saturday (DH).