Baseball Weekend Preview
Six of the top 13 to hit the diamond as conference play heats up
No. 1 Florida at No. 7 LSU
After squeaking out an extra-inning victory against No. 4 Florida State, the Gators are hoping to ride that momentum to Baton Rouge for the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. LSU is coming off a sweep of then-No. 12 Cal State Fullerton, and the Tigers boast a five-game winning streak entering the series. Florida sophomore left-hander Brian Johnson (4-0, 1.12 ERA) will take the mound on Friday night against freshman righty Kurt McCune (3-0, 1.11 ERA) in a battle of unbeaten aces. Daniel Pigott leads the Gators with a .483 batting average, 18 RBIs and 10 doubles. Pigott was the hero of the Gators' extra-inning victory on Tuesday, hitting a game-winning, walk-off single against FSU. JaCoby Jones is LSU’s leading hitter with a .439 average and 16 RBIs.
• Schedule: 6 p.m. CT March 18 (CSS); 6:30 p.m. March 19 (FOX Sports Florida); 12 p.m. March 20 (Cox Sports Television).
No. 4 Florida State at No. 5 Virginia
The top teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference’s Atlantic and Coastal Divisions, respectively, will meet at Davenport Field in Charlottesville. Virginia is fresh off its first sweep at Clemson and is riding an 11-game winning streak. The Seminoles are hoping to bounce back from Tuesday’s heart-breaking loss to top-ranked Florida on their first ACC road trip. The marquee pitching match-up of the weekend will be on Friday night when FSU’s lefty Sean Gilmartin (4-0, 1.24 ERA) meets fellow southpaw Danny Hultzen (4-0, 0.66 ERA) of Virginia. The Cavaliers lead the ACC with a 1.72 team ERA, but the Seminoles will challenge that with an offense that has a .315 batting average and averages 8.35 runs per game. FSU leads the all-time series 44-16, but Virginia has won five of the last six games between the two.
• Schedule: 6 p.m. ET March 18; 1 p.m. March 19; 1 p.m. March 20.
No. 13 Texas A&M at No. 3 Oklahoma
Big 12 Conference play begins with a bang this weekend as two of the league’s top teams clash in Norman for a three-game series. The Aggies have won five of their last six contests, including a 2-0 win over Cal State Fullerton on Tuesday. The Sooners started 16-0, but have lost their last three games, including two midweek games at Arizona State. Two of the league’s best pitchers will be pitted against each other on Friday as Texas A&M right-hander John Stilson (1-0, 1.30 ERA) and senior RHP Michael Rocha (4-0, 1.20 ERA) are the featured match-up. Sophomore Tyler Naquin leads the Aggies with a .394 average and is batting .600 over his last six games. The Sooners are hitting an eye-popping .346 as a team, led by third baseman Garrett Buechele (.438, 25 RBIs). OU holds a 35-31 all-time series lead against the Aggies and has won six of the last eight games in the series.
• Schedule: 6:30 p.m. CT March 18; 2 p.m. March 19; 1 p.m. March 20.
No. 13 St. Mary’s (Texas) vs. Angelo State
The top team in the Heartland Conference will wage a four-game battle against a streaking Lone Star Conference squad which has won its last nine contests. The first doubleheader will be played at ASU, and then the two teams will meet for two games at St. Mary’s. The Rattlers held on to their No. 13 ranking after winning three of four games last week, including a run-rule victory over previously nationally-ranked Tarleton State. The Rattlers’ Matt Holland boasts a 6-0 record and 2.61 ERA entering the series, while ASU relies upon right-handed reliever James Conlee, who is 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA. Angelo State second baseman Zach Cohen is riding a 13-game hitting streak and leads the Rams with a .397 average and 26 runs scored. Tyler Migl is the Rattlers’ top hitter, batting .455 with 20 RBIs.
• Schedule: 4 p.m. CT (DH) March 18; 4 p.m. March 20.
No. 28 Columbus State at No. 5 Georgia College
These two squads will meet for a key Peach Belt Conference West Division series beginning Friday. Georgia College leads the division with a 4-2 mark, but Columbus State follows closely with an even 3-3 record. The Bobcats are led at the plate by senior rightfielder Shawn Ward, who is hitting .390 with a team-best 32 RBIs. Left-handed sophomore Mike Guinane paces the team on the mound at 4-0 with a 2.96 ERA over five starts. Brodie Leibrandt is the Cougars’ top starter with a 5-0 record and 3.30 ERA.
• Schedule: 6 p.m. ET March 18; 1 p.m. March 19 (DH).
No. 20 Kutztown vs. East Stroudsburg
Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference Eastern Division play opens on Friday, and the nationally-ranked Golden Bears and regionally-ranked Warriors are both looking to gain early ground in a home-and-home doubleheader series. The Bears have won five of their last six games and are led by Shayne Houck, who is batting .418 with 15 RBIs and 19 runs scored. On the mound, Jonathan Grosse heads up the KU pitching staff with a 2-0 mark and 1.76 ERA. ESU enters the series on a three-game winning streak and is looking to snap a 12 game winless streak versus Kutztown. The Warriors’ pitching staff boasts a 2.96 ERA, while Brian Ernst paces ESU offensively with a .407 batting average and 21 RBIs.
• Schedule: 1 p.m. ET March 18 (DH); 1 p.m. March 19 (DH).
No. 6 UW-Whitewater vs. No. 15 St. Thomas (Minn.)
In the weekend’s only match-up between top-25 teams this weekend, both squads will be coming out of the cold for long spring break trips to Florida. The two teams have played just three games between them. UW-W opened up with two victories against Washington (Mo.), while the Warhawks fell to then-No. 18 St. Scholastica.
• Schedule: 12:30 p.m. ET March 20.
Methodist at No. 2 Shenandoah
The Hornets will attempt to keep their perfect record intact in a two-game series against USA South foe Methodist beginning Saturday. All-American Greg Van Sickler (5-0, 1.36 ERA) is Saturday’s expected starter. He is also a threat at the plate with a .483 batting average and 22 RBIs, leading the Hornets in both catergories. Methodist started league play 1-3, but has won six of its last seven overall games.
• Schedule: 1 p.m. ET March 19; 1 p.m. March 20.
No. 24 Millsaps at Hendrix
After cracking the Top 25 on Monday, the Majors posted a two-game sweep of No. 11 Illinois Wesleyan to improve to 14-6 on the year. The Majors will now return to Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference action, traveling to Hendrix for a three-game series beginning Saturday. Will Hawkins enters the series with a 26-game hitting streak and leads the Majors with a .452 batting average and 27 RBIs. Jason Riggins paces the pitching staff with a 4-0 record and 1.82 ERA. Hendrix, winner of five of its last seven contests, will look to avenge a pair of early season losses to Millsaps. Collin Radack paces the Warriors with a .394 average, seven doubles and 11 RBIs.
• Schedule: 12 p.m. CT March 19 (DH); 12 p.m. March 20.