Teams of the Week, April 2nd-to-April 9th.
Lent, Good Friday, Passover, Easter, the Final Four, the Frozen Four, Daylight Savings Time, a serious ratings drop to American Idol, they're all behind us now. So we can all just concentrate on the stitched-ball now, right? Ab-so-freakin-lutely! It's about time that baseball steps up to the main stage.
With that as a back-drop, here are the best of the best from the week of April 2nd to 9th in the college baseball landscape. Let's go to our usual East to West format. Enjoy.
Team of the Week: Charlotte (4-0)
W8-5 vs. Winthrop
W9-0, W4-0, W13-0 vs. St. Joseph's
At 26-5, the 49ers are bordering on one of the biggest surprises of the season so far. And just so you know, it's not like I thought Charlotte had a wildy-successful week against the struggling Eagles and the down-trodden Hawks, it's how they went about things. Stringing together 27 straight scoreless innings over the weekend, the Niners have now thrown nine shutouts this season. They are also dominating the Atlantic 10, as expected. Ace Adam Mills is going to get my attention for Player of the Year voting as he's now 8-1, 1.06 with five complete games and 99Ks in 76 innings. Damn!
Honorable Mention: Stony Brook (5-1)
L4-2 at Fairfield
W4-3 at Hofstra
W7-3, W7-2, W12-3, W5-4 vs. Maine
The Seawolves are off to a shocking 4-0 start in AmEast play after taking down pre-season favorite Maine in four straight games this weekend. Senior 1B Rob Leonard was named America East player of the week after driving in 10 runs on the weekend, including the game-winning grand slam in Friday's lid-lifter vs. the Black Bears. For the week, Stony Brook outscored its opponents 37-19. In a strange twist of irony, this week, the Stony Brook administration also announced the New York-based school would join the Big South in football only. Huh? The Big South? Eeesh!
Team of the Week: Rice (4-0)
W5-4 vs. Prairie View
W4-0, W9-6, W8-6 at East Carolina
You guys remember that crazy first round game between Rice and PV last June? The Owls must've had visions of that game dancing in their heads again as they barely escaped another Panther scare back on Tuesday night. They recovered well enough to pull out the most impressive weekend of any team in the country, winning all three games at East Carolina. Just ask Fullerton how tough that is. Frosh Ryan Berry was named C-USA pitcher of the week for Friday's shutout. You also have to love the Owls resiliency, coming from behind to win both of the final two games in Greenville. Jess Buenger had a 3-for-5 day on Sunday, which included the game-winning two RBI single in the top of the 9th. Rice is coming around to being Rice again.
Honorable Mention: Mississippi State (3-1)
W17-7 vs. Louisiana-Monroe
W11-9, W2-1, L9-3 at Arkansas
If it's possible for a team to fly under the radar in the SEC, the Bulldogs are as close as it gets to that. Not a lot of marquee wins. Not a lot of bad losses. No ripples. No rocking the boat, ya' know? But this weekend, MSU pulled out a pair of stunning wins in one of the toughest places known to mankind, Baum Stadium in Fayetteville. Justin Pigott tossed a complete-game, eight-hitter in Saturday's 2-1 win. Edward Easley, an under-the-radar catcher for the Maroons went 6-for-9 with six RBI in the first two games of the week. With the wins MSU improves to 21-8 overall and 7-5 in the SEC, good for second place in the West.
Team of the Week: Baylor (3-1)
W12-6 vs. Houston
W4-2, W5-2, L5-4 vs. Oklahoma
This isn't your father's Baylor, I tell ya'. And I'm sure coach Steve Smith knows it. But this weekend's series win over then-No. 23 Oklahoma has helped get over some early aches and pains, and the realization that the Bears were on a 4-7 run going in. There's still a lot of work to be done for the young BU squad as they sit a 19-15 and still look up at the Big 12 standings at 4-8. But this is a good start back in the respect department. A trip to Kansas and a visit from red-hot Missouri follow.
Honorable Mention: Nebraska (3-1)
W12-10 at Creighton
W5-2, W9-2, L8-6 vs. Oklahoma State
This hasn't been a vintage start to the season for the Big Red, just now edging out to a 19-12 mark, despite a potentially great pitching staff. But this week saw the Huskers come out of their shell with three quality wins. Which is good, because, as I said in my Thursday Thoughts, NU really stood at risk of going into the Big 12 abyss if they would've tanked it here. Slugger Andrew Brown was named Big 12 Player of the Week after going 8-for-14 with four doubles and a triple. Tony Watson was named co-pitcher of the week after K'ing 12 Pokes batters on Friday.
Team of the Week: UC Irvine (2-1)
W2-1, L10-2, W12-6 at Cal State Fullerton
The Anteaters have now gone through both Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton and left with a pair of series wins. That's good. That's seriously good. Especially when you consider that Fullerton hasn't lost a home series to a conference foe since 2002. Scott Gorgen was named the Big West co-pitcher of the week for shutting out the Titans through 8.0 innings to improve to 8-1 on the season. His ERA is also a miniscule 2.44. Now UCI hosts league-leading Cal Poly for three. Do they ever get ANY rest?
Honorable Mention: The Arizona Schools
Arizona (3-0) - W1-0, W15-12, W5-3 vs. California
Arizona State (3-0) - W5-4, W12-8, W14-1 vs. Stanford
These two are now 28-6 and 26-10 and ranked Nos. 11 and 12 respectively. This was a pair of solid weekends that the two in-state rivals put together, which also puts them at 1-and-2 in the Pac 10 standings. further signaling to the rest of the West that the balance of power isn't in the L.A. basin, the Bay Area or the Rainbelt, but it has officially just shifted to the desert for this season.