Thursday Thoughts - The Mars Still Needs Guitars Version

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The HooDoo Gurus

I can't hear so well.

Go ahead, yell at me. I bet I won't hear you. Play "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" during the 7th-inning stretch with a Jerry Lee Lewis pumpin' piano lighted on fire. No effect.

'Coz I went to see those Australian blokes The HooDoo Gurus play at the El Rey Theatre in Hollywood last night. And my ears are still ringing today. I was foolish enough to stand right next to the speakers near the front of the stage. They don't play at Who-concert levels or anything (you know, the kind that left a permanent deadening buzz in the ears of Pete Townsend), but they played loud enough.

But I love 'em. Good, straight-forward, drum-and-wire rock and roll that wears well with time. Only problem is, now I'm supposed to go to Atlanta to help cover the Final Four for CSTV and if I have to do any on-camera stuff, I'll be as hard of hearing as Mr. Magoo.

While in the ATL, I'm going to do my best to break away and go see a Maryland-Georgia Tech game this weekend. Since the Terps are suddenly the "it" team in college baseball, off to a 17-8 start and coming off a no-hitter on Wednesday vs. Coppin State. My hope is to get a few minutes to bend the ear of coach Terry Rupp. We'll see.

On to other bidness.

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A couple of weeks ago I got to thinking about schools that don't sponsor baseball as a varsity sport any more. The Wisconsin's, the Tulsa's, the SMU's, the Syracuse's, etc. A lot of them should, though. Why not? So I thought I'd spell out the ones that really need to get back on the ball.

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What are you, Communists? Bring back baseball---
Perhaps no sport in Division I is more transient than baseball. Programs have been popping up and dropping down like the Whack-A-Mole game constantly over the last 10 to 20 years.

Most recently, the turk visited St. Francis in 2006 and schools like Drexel and Morris Brown in the previous seasons. Those programs have been added to a long list of schools that decided cuts were necessary in their athletic budgets, or more specifically, found that to meet Title Nine standards, elimination of baseball was an easy way to balance things out. Most are gone for good. On rare occasions, some programs are resurrected. Like what has happened at Buffalo, Stephen F. Austin and UC Irvine in recent years.

But what if the fairy Godmother of baseball reached down with her magic wand and granted the wish of baseball fans by resurrecting the sport at certain schools? Which programs would we like to see more than any others? Which would make the most sense?

Here are a baker’s half dozen of schools that not only should bring back baseball, but could be lumped into the “no-brainer” category.

1- Oregon
The Pac 10 reunited their north and south divisions back in 1997, and that has been a boon to the three northwest schools, Oregon State in particular. But Oregon, having dropped baseball in 1981, would seem like a logical addition. Let’s face it, nobody gets more corporate money than UO from famous alum Phil Knight and his Nike empire. Surely he can slip a few mil into baseball too. And considering what we’ve seen from football, can you imagine how imaginative those baseball uniforms would look? CSTV's Lindsay Schnell LOVES that "lightning yellow" jersey and pants combos, dontcha know.

2- Tulsa
Let’s face it, Tulsa is located in one of the hotbeds of college baseball. It dropped the sport in 1980, just before Oklahoma State built up to it’s monster program to match OU's and before the emergence of nearby Arkansas, Missouri State and Oral Roberts. So interest in college baseball is at an all-time high in the area. But it’s not like the Golden Hurricane don’t already have some tradition in the sport. They participated in the College World Series in 1969 and even have a CWS MVP in former first baseman Jerry Tabb.

3- Providence
It was a little surprising that the Friars Athletic Department dropped the sport in 1999, for two reasons. One, there is no football program siphoning most of the athletic budget and posing a gender equity problem. And two, Providence had six straight winning seasons prior to having the plug pulled. Plus the way the Friars closed out the ’99 season in nearly fairy tale fashion, showed that the team was competitive. The Friars entered the NCAA tournament as a No. 4 seed in the Tallahassee Regional after winning the Big East. And after eliminating The Citadel and Jacksonville, they finally succumbed in the championship round to the host Seminoles. But only after getting a standing ovation from the FSU faithful and victory lap around the field. C’mon guys, that only leaves us all wanting to see what this program was going to do next.

4- UTEP
Talk about good geography, good climate and a good recruiting base, the Miners have it all. But administrators dropped the program back in 1985 and there are no signs of returning. A return to the diamond would help alleviate some of the non-conference scheduling problems that teams like Texas Tech and New Mexico State have on a yearly basis. And you KNOW there are some good little league and high school baseball teams in El Paso to feed the university. Why? Because wasn’t that a band of El Paso youngsters that drummed the Bad News Bears so badly in the “Breaking Training” movie as they were traveling to play "in the 'Dome on Sunday"?

5- Colorado
When CU dropped baseball in 1980, the athletic department was a complete mess with the perennially losing football team being one of the main problems. Since then the football team has won a national title and a number of conference titles and can be a consistent money maker, helping to turn the athletic budget around. Colorado State and Wyoming dropped baseball in the 90s, leaving the front range of the Rockies with only two remaining D1 baseball programs, at Air Force and Northern Colorado. So a return would be helpful to the region. There has been some rumblings of reviving the program, but nothing in cement as of yet. But it would make sense for another reason - could you imagine how nice of a baseball stadium they could build with the Flatirons as a backdrop?

6- SMU
C'mon 'Stangs! Don't you see what small, private schools like Rice, Vanderbilt and Wake Forest have done with the sport? Plus, with the amount of high school talent that abounds in the Dallas area, it’s freakin' crazy to think that there is no Division I baseball program in a city of its size. With nearby Texas-Arlington and TCU, the Mustangs would have good natural geographic rivals. And Dallas would be a natural stop for northern teams wanting to come down and play some pre-conference games early in the season. Whether it’s arena football or minor league baseball, its noteworthy that people in the north Texas area will support a winner. So feel free to come back, SMU. Just make sure you win.

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They can't get a welcome mat big enough---
These highly-revered players are finally making their season debuts here in late March.

- Jason Jarvis, P, Arizona State
The strapping Frosh finally got cleared this past week after spending the fall semester at a J.C. He pitched extremely well in his first outing, but I saw him get lit by Lucas Duda at USC for a game-winning home run on Sunday. Chalk it up as lesson #1 in his college playing experience. He'll have better days.

- Arik Hempy, P, South Carolina
The Gamecocks have been fine without him (2.54 team ERA), but his recent return helps in quality depth for the mound staff. If/when he comes back 100%, then you can pencil him in as a weekend starter in the near future.

- Julio Borbon, OF, Tennessee
A pre-season All American, Borbon has been sorely missed until his recent return. Having been back for just seven games so far, Julio is hitting .300 already. After a 6-7 start to the season, the Vols appear to be getting back on track.

- Charles Brewer,P, UCLA
Although he's been cleared to play for the last two weeks, the highly-touted fireballer has yet to throw a pitch for the Bruins. And with the Bruins now sitting at 10-14, they may need all the quality help they can get. We'll see if the former Top 50 prospect gets his chance.

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In the words of Hank the Tank, "We're goin' streakin'!"---
Okay Florida State, I see you waving the Osceola flag over your sparkling 26-1 mark to start the season. Hell, it even looks like you're going to be better than the 28-3 mark I predicted you'd have with that un-sexy schedule. But who out there in the real world is hot? Let's go looking at the some of the streakiest (is that a word?) teams in the country and where it may come to an end.

- West Virginia (15-5)
Streak: Now 10-2 since a loss to Coastal Carolina on March 4th.
Victims: Mostly weak sisters like Hartford, Seton Hall and Canisius.
Hot streak ends?: Three games at Louisville this weekend.
Worth noting: WVU is hitting .329 and a very-efficient 28-of-33 in stolen bases.

- Charlotte (19-5)
Streak: On a 12-2 run since the beginning of March
Victims: Went 2-1 vs. CofC. Held JMU's Kellen Kulbacki to 2-for-11 in three games.
Hot streak ends?: Winthrop and UNC are the next two mid-week games.
Worth noting: The two losses were by one and two runs each.

- Ohio State (14-3)
Streak: Have won 13 straight since the beginning of the month.
Victims: Granted, a who's who of tin cans, none of which owns a winning record.
Hot streak ends?: Four games vs. Iowa (9-5) won't be a cakewalk this weekend.
Worth noting: I don't blame OSU, most of the Top 10 have played a laughable slate.

- Missouri (20-7)
Streak: Won 14 games up until Sunday's loss at Nebraska.
Victims: SLC contenders La.-Monroe and Texas State and two-of-three at NU.
Hot streak ends?: Will host heated rival Kansas this weekend.
Worth noting: The Sophomore/Freshman heavy pitch staff has a 3.06 ERA.

- Texas (23-8)
Streak: Have gone 13-2 since the beginning of March
Victims: Oral Roberts, Miami Univ., Winthrop, Baylor, K-State and Rice.
Hot streak ends?: In the Big 12, that could be anytime. OU calls this weekend.
Worth noting: Have now beaten Rice 10 straight times after Tuesday's 6-4 win.

- Coastal Carolina (24-3)
Streak: Have gone 12-0 since getting shut out at Clemson.
Victims: A trio of nice mid-week wins vs. UNC-W, Elon and College of Charleston.
Hot streak ends?: Three game weekend at Troy April 6-8.
Worth noting: The losses have come against ACC heavies NC State, UNC and Clemson.

- East Carolina (20-6)
Streak: On a 14-game win streak since March 4th.
Victims: An impressive list with Cal State Fullerton (3), Michigan (2) and Memphis (3).
Hot streak ends?: Tough three-gamer at Tulane this weekend.
Worth noting: The last three straight weeks, an ECU player has been named to the College Baseball Foundation's National Honor Roll. Lead off hitter Harrison Eldridge is the latest.

- Wichita State (22-5)
Streak: Are 14-1 since losing back-to-back games to Richmond and Oklahoma.
Victims: Long Beach State (2), Kansas and Kansas State.
Hot streak ends?: Roadtrip to improved Bradley could be tough this weekend.
Worth noting: WSU and The Beach played possibly the best series of the season with all three games decided by one run.

- Southern Illinois (20-6)
Streak: Have won eight straight and 11-of-12.
Victims: Middle Tennessee is probably the best on the list, whom SIU split with.
Hot streak ends?: Play three at Evansville this weekend.
Worth noting: Sophs Mark Kelly (.459) and Cody Adams (7-0/1.47) are huge surprises.

- Oregon State (23-3)
Streak: The defending champions are on a 12-game win streak.
Victims: Texas A&M, Evansville (3), San Francisco (3) and Cal Poly (3).
Hot streak ends?: Make long roadie to Arizona this weekend.
Worth noting: I know they're kicking-A, but it's still weird that the only game I've seen them play, they lost to Gonzaga.

- Washington (14-9)
Streak: Udub is 13-1 since losing two of three vs. UC Irvine.
Victims: Three game sweeps of both Cal State Northridge and Washington State.
Hot streak ends?: Hosts Arizona State this weekend.
Worth noting: Lefty Nick Hagadone (2-1,1.98, 29Ks in 27inns) is emerging as one of the best relievers in the country.

- St. Mary's (16-9)
Streak: The Gaels are 13-1-1 in their last 14.
Victims: Oregon State - that's pretty much it. But it's a good one.
Hot streak ends?: Will play three at Pepperdine this weekend.
Worth noting: LSU coach Paul Maineiri was right when he said of SMC, there are "good teams hidden everywhere."

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Top 10 Series of the Weekend---

1- No. 3 Vanderbilt (24-2) at South Carolina (22-4)
You know, when I'm putting this weekly list together, I might as well check Vandy's schedule first. For the third straight week, the Commodores face a tough assignment in SEC play (not like any of them aren't). Something tells me Carolina hasn't seen pitching like this since their players were playing summer ball somewhere. Advantage Vandy. Then again, it's a tough venue and the Cocks have been killing it lately. Advantage Carolina.

2- No. 23 Oklahoma (20-7) at No. 8 Texas (23-8)
Big Red vs. Burnt Orange. All we need now is the State Fair, Big Tex, Switzer, the Wishbone, Bevo and that guy with "Big Red" painted on his teeth. Both teams come in hot, but you have to love UT's sudden power surge with Kyle Russell (.375-16-38) and Brad Suttle (.432-8-38).

3- No. 21 East Carolina (20-6) at Tulane (20-7)
Tulane hasn't been world-beaters this year, but has the pitching (2.72 team ERA) that could leave the suddenly-hot Pirate bats walking the plank. Big key here: ECU has been enjoying things on the cozy side, with their last 19 games coming at home. We'll see how the road treats them here as the Green Wave fans wait en masse. No pressure.

4- No. 22 Long Beach State (13-9) at UC Irvine (19-6-1)
Should be a pitching-heavy weekend at Anteater Ballpark, with team ERA's of 3.48 going up against 3.54. UCI has been dying for a chance to prove it's worth after a few weeks of beating up on lesser opponents. Well guys, here you go. The Dirtbags don't have the sparkling numbers, but the callus they've built up against tough opponents just begs for weekends like this. It's alarm clock time, UCI.

5- No. 4 Oregon State (23-3) at No. 20 Arizona (22-6)
Andy Lopez's Wildcats are certainly a mystery team for 2007. Beating Fullerton and Hawaii but then edging past Morehead State in a pair of ugly one-run games. Then on Wednesday, the Cats beat rival Arizona State at Chase Ballpark, 6-5. Preston Guilmet (5-0, 1.70) and Daniel Schlereth (1-0, 1.47, 7svs and son of Mark) have become a wicked starter-reliever combo. OSU will have its hands full here.

6- No. 26 Nebraska (15-9) at No. 17 Texas A&M (23-5)
Huskers need to get off the schnide as they've now dropped four of their first six Big 12 games. Although, their two wins have come by a combined 29-2 score. Go figure. The team batting average of .277 pales in comparison to the Aggies .327. A&M is also adept at playing mind games with opposing pitchers. As a team the Ags have already stolen 79 bases on the season. (Now that I think of it, I hate the word "adept". I shouldn't use it anymore.)

7- No. 18 Ole Miss (19-8) at Auburn (19-9)
I know this sounds weird at the end of March, but this series is almost a must for both teams to avoid falling out of the conversation in the SEC. Auburn especially, as the Tigers sit at a rock-bottom 0-6 in conference play. The Rebs are stuck at 3-3 but those are after playing Vanderbilt and Alabama, possibly the best teams in the two divisions. So they are in a better situation. Will Kline (3-1, 2.74) and Lance Lynn (2-2, 2.05) will make a series win very tough for Auburn.

8- No. 12 Arizona State (21-9) at Washington (14-9)
Okay, so the Sun Devils seem like they're swatting at beach balls with their .359 average and .573 slugging percentage. But I've seen it with my own two eyes - the Devils bats can go silent. And the Huskies have a lot of good sophomore arms for the task. But Brett Wallace has quickly skyrocketed in my Player of the Year ballot and the addition of Jason Jarvis will be a huge help. I love the looks of this series.

9- West Virginia (15-5) at Louisville (16-8)
WVU seems to do this every few years; get off to a blazing start and then unravel in conference play. We'll see if that stereo is stuck on repeat mode. The 'Neers do have their work cut out for them as they face an L'ville team with a 2.68 team ERA and allow opponents to hit a greedy .202. Man!

10- St. Mary's (16-9) at No. 10 Pepperdine (20-8)
Don't be surprised if the Gaels pull off a win here. SMC has played very well at times this year (playing a pair of one-run games at Alex Box Stadium). Okay, so they've played kind of crappy too (losing to a school called "Patten"). But this is a huge redemption opportunity.

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Others Under-The-Radar---
- Stetson (20-9) at Kennesaw State (17-9)
For a team picked to finish 6th in the A-Sun, the Owls already took two-of-three from pre-season pick Jacksonville and now look to pull the upset vs. the Hatters.

- No. 15 Wichita State (22-5) at Bradley (10-7)
The Braves have been on a roll of late, going 7-3 in their last 10. But five of those were against Hawaii-Hilo. WSU has breezed since the Long Beach series.

- San Jose State (16-11) at Hawaii (21-9)
These two are so far off the radar, they're in a different time zone. The Rainbows are still quietly playing well and the Spartans are much improved despite an extra-inning loss to Stanford on Tuesday.

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Best Pitching Matchup---
David Price vs. Harris Honeycutt
Again, Price goes into the biggest spotlight game of the weekend. Must be getting to be old hat for him by now. Honeycutt is a different story. This guy has come from relative obscurity and pitched like a champion, going 6-0, 1.42 with 43 Ks in 37 innings. But if last week was any indication, this matchup is also on Dud Alert. Last week's Price vs. Nick Schmidt face-off never materialized, as both flamed out after giving up a number of hits and runs. So we'll see. Just know that this is potentially the best matchup.

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Best Mid-Week Win---
Coastal Carolina - 6
College of Charleston - 5 (10inns)
The way the Chanticleers are playing, you never know if this could be another No. 1 seed-type of season. But wins like this will certainly help that. Of all the mid-majors in the Carolinas, CCU is looking like the bee's knees. Winthrop has fallen off, CCU has already beaten UNC-Wilmington and Elon. Now here, the Chants take game one of two (the next matchup is May 8th.). But CofC really should be kicking itself over this one, committing four errors, walking eight CCU batters, hitting one other, throwing two wild pitches and stranding a base runner in each of the last five innings.

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Giving Love to the Big 10---
Yeah I know, not a popular thing to do, giving props to a conference rated at No. 12 in the RPI, right? Well take a deeper look. This conference deserves some ink here people. Here's how the top of the Big 10 looks:

Ohio State 14-3
Minnesota 15-5
Iowa 10-5
Michigan 11-6

Usually, by April, these northern schools are just starting to reach the .500 mark after rough rides in the non-conference. And just in case you're wondering about quality, Minnesota has built its 15-5 mark up with wins over Ole Miss, Arkansas, UC Santa Barbara and Pepperdine. Michigan, meanwhile, has dropped a pair of heartbreakers at East Carolina, while also beating Mississippi State and Troy along the way. OSU and Iowa are still in need of some marquee wins, but if they do well in conference play, it will help validate their status a bit more. Oh, and don't start harshin' on the Big 10s lower half either. You know who gave North Carolina one of its four losses? A 2-14 team named Penn State.

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Someone Saved My Life Tonight---
You've probably all heard about this already, but the time has come, UC Irvine's Blair Erickson is just one save shy of tying the NCAA career saves mark held by USC closer Jack Krawcyzk (49). He'll get his chance as the Anteaters play three games vs. Long Beach State this weekend. Erickson has eight saves already on the season and has given up just one earned run in 12 total appearances.


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Okay, that's it. Have a great college baseball weekend.

G'night.

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Eric Sorenson Eric Sorenson
Eric Sorenson is CSTV.com's National Baseball Columnist, and also appears on CSTV as a baseball expert