'Civil War' has added meaning
Also: Lacrosse kicks up; C of C golfers pair with blind players
The baseball version of the “Civil War” will not be just about Oregon and Oregon State battling for bragging rights this year.
With both squads perched in the top 10 nationally -- OSU at No. 3 and Oregon at No. 6 -- and only one game separating the rivals for first place in the Pac-12 standings, this weekend has the makings of a classic at PK Park in Eugene.
“It’s a very emotional series no matter what’s going on as far as playoff implications,” senior shortstop Tyler Smith said.
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“It’s big for the state, and big for the Northwest in terms of baseball,” senior left-hander Matt Boyd said. “It’s pretty cool that we have two teams from the Northwest vying for a Pac-12 title.”
During the last decade, college baseball has gained more and more importance in the state of Oregon. It started when OSU won back-to-back NCAA championships in 2006 and '07, and then picked up some more momentum when Oregon reinstated a dormant program in 2009.
“It says a lot how we’ve been able to build these programs over the last 10 years or so,” Smith said. “It’s pretty crazy how Oregon, after we won those championships, wanted to get their program back to compete with us and they did. They’ve got a great coach over there. It says a lot that we can compete with the California and Arizona schools, and that we’re both at the top of the Pac-12. It’s pretty special.”
The Beavers enter the series on a 12-game winning streak and a one-game lead on the Ducks in the Pac-12 standings with a 20-4 mark. Meanwhile, Oregon is doing its best to keep pace. The Ducks are on an eight-game winning streak and own a 19-5 record in Pac-12 play.
OSU’s pitching staff boasts the second-best ERA in the nation at 2.12 as the weekend rotation has churned out quality start after quality start. Boyd, Andrew Moore and Ben Wetzler have started all 24 games for the Beavers during Pac-12 play, and are currently on an 18-game streak of quality starts. The trio has combined for an 18-3 record and 1.73 ERA while pitching 78 percent of the innings in Pac-12 action.
“From top to bottom, we’re one of the best pitching staffs in the nation,” Boyd said. “We all push each other on and off the field. There’s been healthy competition all year, and it’s created the kind of atmosphere that breeds success.”
However, the Ducks aren’t far behind with a 2.62 ERA (10th in the NCAA), and they own a .980 fielding percentage, good for fifth in the nation. Plus, the Ducks won the first regular-season meeting between the two teams, 6-3, in Corvallis on April 9.
“I’ve said often that I hope one of these days that we both go to the College World Series,” Oregon head coach George Horton told the Daily Emerald. “In a perfect storm, we’d play each other for the national championship. There’s room for both of us in Omaha, and there’s room for both of us to host.”
Of note, each of the last three years has produced weekend sweeps. The Beavers swept Oregon in Corvallis in 2010 and 2012, while the Ducks took the series in Eugene in 2011. This year’s three-game league series will be in Eugene, followed by a non-conference match-up in Corvallis on Tuesday. Both teams will have one regular season Pac-12 series remaining after this weekend.
Friday’s game will start at 9 p.m., while Saturday and Sunday’s games will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Networks at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
• Sunday’s Division I men’s lacrosse quarterfinal matchup between North Carolina and Denver should offer plenty of offense as two of the nation’s top five scoring offenses take the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. UNC is scoring 13.5 goals per game, which ranks fourth in Division I and is coming off a 10-goal first-round victory against Lehigh. Of note, UNC’s top two goal scorers -– Marcus Holman and Joey Sankey -– have combined for one goal in the past two games, but have assisted on 15 of the Tar Heels’ 32 goals.
Denver is averaging 12.71 goals per game, and topped Albany 19-14 in first-round action last week. It was a season-high goal total for Denver. The Pioneers were sparked by Wesley Berg’s eight goals and assist for nine points, just one shy of the DU single game record.
“North Carolina was ranked No. 1 in all of the polls over the last few weeks, but somehow ended up seeded No. 5,” Denver head coach Bill Tierney said. “When you get to this time of year, you’re always going to play somebody great, and now it’s up to our guys to get ready. They’re already excited, and we know we will have our hands full.”
The game will be broadcast live at noon on ESPNU. The Tar Heels are seeing their first NCAA semifinal appearance since 1993, while Denver looks to return for the first time since 2011.
• South Alabama's softball team will host the program’s first NCAA Regional beginning Friday as the Jaguars earned the overall No. 13 seed of the tournament after winning the Sun Belt Conference Tournament for the second consecutive season. It is only the Jaguars’ sixth season of softball.
“For such a young program, it is a huge accomplishment for our players to host a regional,” USA head coach Becky Clark said. “That’s the cool thing about starting a program -- there are a lot of firsts.”
USA (45-7) will host Florida State, Mississippi State and Mississippi Valley State for the four-team tournament in Mobile beginning Friday. The Jaguars defeated both FSU (41-16) and Mississippi State (32-22) during the regular season. MVSU is the Southwestern Athletic Conference champion, but owns a losing record at 24-26. Each game of the regional will be broadcast on ESPN3.
• Division I women’s lacrosse quarterfinals are Saturday, and the four-game schedule is highlighted by an Atlantic Coast Conference clash between unseeded Virginia and No. 3 North Carolina in Chapel Hill at 1 p.m.
UVa’s win against sixth-seeded Georgetown last weekend was the Cavaliers third victory against a top-10 opponent this season. Virginia has won four of its past five games, and have won two games in the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2007 when the field was only 16 teams rather than its’ current total of 26 squads. In UVa’s last trip to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2010, the team fell to North Carolina 17-7.
The Tar Heels have won 13 consecutive NCAA tournament home games after downing Loyola (Md.) 11-9 last weekend. UNC has advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the ninth consecutive season, but will be challenged by a Virginia team that only lost to the Tar Heels by one goal earlier on March 9.
• The Anderson (Ind.) softball team will be making its’ first appearance in the Division III championship on Friday when it faces Luther at 2:30 p.m., in Eau Claire, Wis. Anderson was seeded eighth in its NCAA Regional, but knocked off top-seeded Trine in the opening game. The Ravens then lost to Aurora, but battled out of the loser’s bracket to win five consecutive times to claim the program’s first regional championship. The Ravens are the only first-time participant in the eight-team NCAA Championship field. However, of the remaining seven, only one program has won a national title. Central (Iowa) has won four championships with its most recent coming in 2003.
• There is another Anderson having postseason success in Division II softball. The Trojans from Anderson, S.C., advanced to the NCAA Super Regional round for the first time in school history after upsetting host Lenior-Rhyne in regional action. The Trojans are seeking to become the first team from the South Atlantic Conference to earn a spot in the Division II World Series. Anderson will travel to Armstrong Atlantic for a best-of-three series beginning Friday in Savannah, Ga.
• The Rollins women’s lacrosse team will look to avenge its only loss to the season when the Tars face No. 2 Limestone in the Division II semifinals on Saturday in Owings Mills, Md. Limestone topped the Tars 13-12 in early March. Rollins, which won its first postseason game in the quarterfinals against Lock Haven, will be vying for a spot in the NCAA final for the first time in program history. Limestone advanced to the championship game in 2011, but lost to Adelphi 17-3.
• The same four teams from last year’s Division III women’s lacrosse semifinals will be at it again this weekend in Owings Mills, Md., when Cortland State takes on defending NCAA champion Trinity (Conn.), and Salisbury tangles with Middlebury on Saturday at Stevenson University. Trinity enters the semifinals on a 28-game winning streak dating back to last season. The Bantams are 20-0 this year heading into the rematch with the Red Dragons.
• The Division II men’s lacrosse semifinals will feature a rematch between Northeast-10 Conference foes Adelphi and Le Moyne. AU nipped the Dolphins 10-9 in overtime during the regular season, and Le Moyne topped the Panthers 7-5 in the NE-10 title game two weeks ago. In the last meeting, Le Moyne, the nation’s top scoring defense, held Adelphi to a season-low five goals. The Dolphins have not given up double-digit goals all season. The most they have surrendered is nine against the Panthers in a regular-season loss on April 6.
• The top-seeded Florida women’s tennis team will face one of the two squads who defeated the Gators during the regular season when they take on Duke in the NCAA tournament Round of 16 on Friday in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. The Blue Devils beat the Gators, 4-0, on Feb. 17 in Durham, but injuries have decimated that Duke squad. The Blue Devils currently have four scholarship players and a soccer player in their lineup, and are forfeiting at No. 6 singles. Still, Duke rallied to defeat Texas Tech 4-3 on the road in second-round action. The Gators lead the all-time series against Duke 34-5 and are 6-0 against the Blue Devils in NCAA action. Last year, the two teams met in the NCAA semifinals, where Florida won a 4-3 decision and went on to claim its sixth national championship.
• The North Carolina baseball team is poised to finish among the top five nationally in both team scoring and team ERA, a feat accomplished by only three other teams since 1989.
The Tar Heels are the top scoring team in Division I, averaging 8.6 runs per game, while the pitching staff boasts a 2.44 ERA, good for fifth in the nation.
However, the No. 2 Tar Heels will face one of their toughest tests of the season when they host No. 7 Virginia for a three-game series beginning Thursday. UNC can secure its second consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference Coastal Division title with one win against Virginia this weekend. A victory would also give the Tar Heels their first ACC regular-season title since 1990, as well as the top seed in the league tournament. To win the Coastal Division, Virginia must sweep the series. Carolina swept the Cavaliers last season, and has won six of the past seven meetings.
All three games can be viewed on ESPN3.
• The Cal State Monterey Bay baseball team is not only heading to its first Division II tournament, but is also the No. 1 seed in the West Regional. Dixie State will host the six-team regional tournament in St. George, Utah. In just three seasons, California Collegiate Athletic Association Coach of the Year Walt White has turned around a program that posted an 8-41 record in 2010. Now, the Otters enter NCAA postseason play with a 38-15 mark, and an impressive 22-8 record against West Region teams with records of .500 or better. CSUMB is one of four first-time participants in the Division II championship, but the only one to earn a No. 1 seed.
"Advancing to the NCAA tournament is a great accomplishment and I couldn't be more proud of our players, coaches, and athletic department," White said. "It has taken everyone to get to this point and it will take all of us to advance. The West Region is one of the toughest in the nation and we will need to be at our best this coming weekend."
The Otters face sixth-seeded Chico State in the opening round of regional play on Thursday.
• Two College of Charleston men’s golfers paired with two blind golfers in the eighth annual Charleston RiverDogs Golf Tournament to benefit the Medical University of South Carolina’s Storm Eye Institute. Senior John Duke Hudson and freshman Josh Lorenzetti played with Peter Alan Smith and Jim Gilstrap as the collegiate duo learned a whole new perspective on the game.
Smith and Gilstrap suffer from retinitis pigmentosa (RP), which is a degenerative eye disease that weakens vision. Smith is completely blind, while Gilstrap is legally blind and has limited sight.
Hudson will soon compete at PGA Tour Q-school, while Lorenzetti will represent CofC in the NCAA Regional Championship in Baton Rouge, La., beginning Thursday. Lorenzetti became the first CofC freshman to win the Southern Conference Championship, and will join junior Alex Ellis as at-large individual selections in the regional field. It is the first time the Cougars have been represented in the NCAA postseason since 2003, and the first time the program has had two individuals in postseason competition.
You can read more about Hudson and Lorenzetti’s experience as seeing guides on the golf course by clicking here.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy