Division I Weekend Preview
Teams battling for position as conference championships loom
With just two weekends of regular-season play remaining until most conference tournaments get started, teams will be making every last effort to either qualify for their respective championships or battle for the best possible seeding in tournament bracket.
|Coastal Carolina is no stranger to regular season success the last few years. But the 37-inning scoreless streak the Chants are on? That's something new.|
|• Complete story, click here|
|• NCAA RPI|
|• Collegiate Baseball Rankings|
There are several conferences with tight races, but probably none more competitive than the Southeastern Conference will be over the next two weeks. Three teams in the East Division – Vanderbilt, Florida and South Carolina – will be vying for the regular-season championship with the Commodores entering the weekend with a one-game lead in the standings. Vandy and Florida will face each other in a divisional showdown this weekend, while South Carolina will play the West’s co-divisional leader Arkansas. Only the top eight teams in the 12-member SEC will qualify for with the Eastern and Western winners earning the top two seeds.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference, Wake Forest currently holds a one-game lead on Virginia Tech for the final spot in the eight-team conference tournament with six league games to play. The top four teams in the ACC Coastal Division will clash this weekend as Virginia hosts Miami, and Georgia Tech welcomes North Carolina to Atlanta. Virginia is the Coastal divisional leader by two games on second-place Georgia Tech, while Florida State holds a three-game lead in the Atlantic Division on Clemson, who the Seminoles will play in the final weekend of regular-season action.
Texas A&M returns to Big 12 Conference play this weekend looking to hold on to its first-place spot in the league standings with a three-game home series against Nebraska. Second-place Texas will step out of league play this weekend before battling A&M for the league’s top spot in the regular season finale next week.
Only four teams will qualify for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament, and with the top seven teams separated by just three games every victory will count down the stretch. The top four teams play each other this weekend as first-place Old Dominion hosts UNC Wilmington and Towson travels to James Madison.
The City of Houston will be the site of two key Conference USA series this weekend, as league-leading Southern Miss visits Houston, and second-place Rice hosts Memphis. USM holds a two-game lead on the Owls with two weekends of action left.
Charlotte will play its final Atlantic 10 Conference series of the regular season at La Salle as the 49ers look to retain a share of first-place in the league standings. The 49ers are tied with Rhode Island for first place in the A-10. URI will be idle this weekend, and will play its final league series at Dayton beginning May 19.
Connecticut enters the weekend with a comfy four-and-a-half game lead on second-place St. John’s in the Big East standings as the Huskies entertain Louisville for a three-game series. The Huskies have won 13 consecutive home contests and look to lock up a No. 1 seed in the league championship.
Florida International, the second-place team in the Sun Belt Conference, has won 13 consecutive games and will look to keep rolling against Arkansas State this weekend. The Panthers are coming off a 10-9 extra-inning non-conference victory against No. 23 Stetson, and sit just one game behind Troy in the league standings.
The MAAC, Ohio Valley Conference, Summit League and America East will all see their top two teams meet this weekend. Manhattan has lost just one league game and is ahead of Rider by three games in the MAAC standings, while Austin Peay is riding a seven-game winning streak and has a 2.5 game advantage on second-place Southeast Missouri in the OVC.
South Dakota State leads Oral Roberts by two games in the Summit League with eight games remaining in league play. The two squads will play a four-game series beginning May 13.
Winners of 15 of its last 16 games, America East-leading Stony Brook heads to Binghamton for a key three-game conference series against the second-place Bearcats this weekend. SBU took two of three from the Bearcats earlier this season, and holds a 2.5-game lead in the standings.
There will be one conference tournament in action this weekend as the Patriot League semifinals take place at campus sites. No. 4 seed Bucknell visits No. 1 Navy and No. 3 Lafayette heads to No. 2 Army, with both three-game series set for a doubleheader on Saturday and decisive final game, if necessary, on Sunday. The winners will advance to the Patriot League Championship Series on May 21-22
Series to Watch
No. 9 North Carolina at No. 13 Georgia Tech
In this meeting of nationally-ranked ACC squads, both will be looking to gain ground in the league standings as they try to catch first-place Virginia. Georgia Tech is just two games behind the Cavaliers and rank third in the league with a .310 batting average, and second in the ACC with a 2.71 ERA. Tech’s Friday night starter Mark Pope (10-2, 1.27 ERA) ranks second in the league in ERA while pacing the conference in victories and innings pitched (92.1), while centerfielder Kyle Wren tops the ACC in hits (77) and ranks third with a .376 batting average. UNC’s pitching staff ranks second only to Virginia in strikeouts, while Colin Moran leads the team with a .354 batting average and 60 RBI. The Tar Heels have won seven straight games entering the weekend.
Schedule: May 13 at 7 p.m. ET; May 14 at 6 p.m. ET; May 15 at 1 p.m. ET (CSS).
No. 23 Miami at No. 1 Virginia
After a nine-day hiatus, the top-ranked Cavaliers are back in action against Miami as they look to secure a No. 1 seed in the ACC Tournament. Virginia has lost just five games this season – three by one run. Virginia leads the league in batting (.314), scoring (7.75 runs per game), ERA (2.23), strikeouts per nine innings (10.01) and fielding percentage (.983). Miami sits in third place in the ultra-competitive ACC Coastal Division, just three-and-a-half games behind UVa. Virginia RHP Danny Hultzen (9-1, 1.19 ERA) ranks second in Division I with 13.32 strikeouts per nine innings. Miami leadoff hitter Zeke DeVoss paces the league with 28 stolen bases. The Hurricanes lead the all-time series 18-12, but Virginia took three of four contests last year.
Schedule: May 13 at 5 p.m. ET; May 14 at 12 p.m. ET (RSN); May 15 at 12:30 p.m. ET.
Utah at No. 10 TCU
The Utes and Horned Frogs will clash in a battle between the top two teams in the Mountain West Conference beginning May 13. TCU leads Utah by 1.5 games in the MWC standings. Utah has won seven of its last eight games heading into its final MWC regular season series, while TCU is 12-3 in its last 15 contests. The Utes are the league’s top hitting team (.305), while the Frogs lead the conference with a 2.94 ERA. Utah senior first baseman C.J. Cron tops the nation with a slugging percentage, and ranks second in Division I with a .448 batting average. TCU leads the all-time series 26-6. The Frogs swept the Utes last season in Salt Lake City, but Utah won the MWC Championship in TCU’s Lupton Stadium in 2009.
Schedule: May 13 at 6:30 p.m. CT (The Mountain); May 14 at 4 p.m. CT; May 15 at 1 p.m. CT.
No. 17 Arkansas at No. 3 South Carolina
After winning a series against No. 5 Florida last weekend, the Razorbacks will face another SEC East Division foe as they visit the Gamecocks. Arkansas is tied with Alabama for first place in the SEC Western Division at 12-12, while South Carolina trails Vanderbilt by one game in the Eastern Division. Sophomore right-hander DJ Baxendale (7-1, 1.58 ERA) will face Michael Roth (10-1, 1.23 ERA) in a battle of the league’s top two pitchers in ERA on Friday night. Offensively, freshman Dominic Ficociello leads the charge for the Razorbacks batting .346 with 43 RBI, while first baseman Christian Walker paces the Gamecocks with a .372 batting average, nine home runs and 50 RBI. Arkansas leads the all-time series 29-22, but South Carolina sweep the series in 2010.
Schedule: May 13 at 8 p.m. ET (ESPNU); May 14 at 4:30 p.m. ET (SportSouth); May 15 at 1:30 p.m. ET (Cox Sports).
No. 2 Florida at No. 5 Vanderbilt
The Gators travel to Nashville to battle for first place in the SEC Eastern Division standings with league-leading Vanderbilt in this series of top five teams. Vanderbilt leads the league in both batting average (.318) and ERA (2.35), while Florida follows closely with a .313 batting average and 2.57 ERA. RHP Sonny Gray of Vanderbilt (9-3, 1.94 ERA) and RHP Hudson Randall (8-2, 2.05 ERA) of Florida will showcase their talents in a Friday night contest between two of the top hurlers in the SEC. Florida head coach Kevin O’Sullivan and Vanderbilt head coach Tim Corbin served as assistant coaches together under Clemson’s Jack Leggett between 1999-2002.
Schedule: May 13 at 6 p.m. CT (CSS); May 14 at 2 p.m. CT; May 15 at 1 p.m. CT.