Teams of the Week, April 30th to May 6th
One down. Three to go. No quarter given. None asked.
That's May for you. The cruelest month of the college baseball season only has three weekends remaining. Not only does this month weed out all the pretenders, but it also happens to be the month that most of these student-athletes have their minds on so many things at once.
Baseball. Practice. Games. Upcoming draft. Studying. Exams. Living arrangements. Coeds. I don't blame them for losing focus from time to time. But let's give props to the teams that kept their noses to the grindstone this past week. Here are this week's honorees for Teams of the Week.
Going from right to left on your atlas.
Team of the Week: Brown (2-0)
W1-0, W20-5 vs. Pennsylvania
Yep, Brown is now our favorite color, people. This is the first Ivy League title for the once-moribund program. The Bears were picked to finish behind annual Rolfe Division winners Harvard in the pre-season, and nothing looked out of the ordinary when they started 1-9. But when they swept three straight at Charleston Southern, including Devin Thomas going 6-for-13 with six RBI and Jim Dietz getting his first win with 8.0 innings and giving up just one earned run, that signaled a turning point. They've gone 19-7 since with Thomas finishing with .382-15-61 numbers (unheard of in short Ivy League seasons) and Dietz finishing 7-3, 3.12, 64Ks, 15BBs. If Princeton's fine performance in the Fayetteville Regional last year is any indication, this team could raise a ruckus too.
Honorable Mention: St. John's (3-1)
W2-1 vs. New York Tech
L3-0, W4-2, W6-2 vs. Louisville
The Redmen, er... Storm, sorry, have blitzed their way to the top rung of the Big East with this huge hot streak they're on. SJU has now won 25 of 28 and has also-rans Cincinnati and South Florida remaining in conference play. Barring a giant collapse, the RedStorm will win the regular season crown. And that's a big selling point with the selection committee, should they not win the post-season tourney. And plus, we'll see what kind of kick they get from beating the RPI No. 40 team this weekend.
Team of the Week: LSU (5-1)
W8-3 vs. Nicholls State
W9-7 vs. Southern
W, L, W5-3 at Arkansas
From the double-header wins on Wednesday to the final catch at the wall by Jared Mitchell on Sunday, this was a great week for LSU. Who would've thought these once-toothless Tigers could go into Fayetteville and come out with two wins, one being against Hog ace Nick Schmidt. My gawd! This is impressive. Welcome back to the baseball world Tigers. But I admit, it would be nice to see them get more arms to step up as Jared Bradford got both Ws on the weekend. On Friday, he supplied 3.0 innings of relief, giving up just two hits. Then he started with 5.0 innings of 6-hit ball for the win on Sunday. Bradford is now 10-2. As Mark Etheridge pointed out, Bradford has either won (7) or saved (3) 10 of LSU's 11 conference wins.
Honorable Mention: Coastal Carolina (2-0)
W8-3, W5-4 at Nebraska
Two years ago, the Chanticleers went on the road late in the season and beat North Carolina and Georgia Tech on back-to-back nights. It's believed that those two wins helped propel the Chants to a No. 1 seeding in the NCAA tournament. This could be a replay of that scenario. Andy DeLaGarza and David Anderson combined on a 7-hitter in game one and then Bobby Gagg improved to 9-1 with the win on Sunday. CCU won the two games despite allowing 15 walks and committing five errors. It was high-drama at the end as Pete Andrelczyk came on with men at 2nd and 3rd in the bottom of the 9th and induced a groundout to end the game.
Team of the Week: Missouri
W7-6 (11inns), L5-1, W5-4 at Texas
I have to admit, I've been cooing about the Tigers all season long, ever since I saw Soph Rick Zagone and Frosh Greg Folgia shutdown the Arizona State offense in a 3-2 win back in the Surprise Classic. So this is ratification of that feeling I had about them. I'd still like to have seen Coach Jamieson's boys play a some better teams on their non-conference slate, but this is a huge boost to their hopes of a No. 1 seed in the Big Dance. Soph Trevor Coleman belted two dingers in Sunday's series-clinching win. And by the way, is this whole team chocked with young players or what?
Honorable Mention: Oklahoma State (3-0)
W8-7, W10-2, W8-7 vs. Oklahoma
Winning the Bedlam Series did a lot of things for Okie State this weekend. First off, it gave the Pokes some much-needed RPI points since they started the weekend in the low 60s. Then, they also gained valuable ground in the Big 12 standings, after losing all three to Texas last week, things were starting to look bleak for the Cowboys. And finally, OSU gets that all-important bragging rights upper hand. I suppose the sugar on top is that this three-gamer pushes rival OU to teetering on the edge of missing the Big 12 tournament (they're 8-13, 7th place right now).
Honorable Mention II: Eastern Michigan (6-1)
W7-4, W4-0 vs. Olivet
W7-3 vs. Oakland
W20-0 vs. Siena Heights
L10-0, W3-0, W4-3 vs. Central Michigan
Okay, I had to put a second H.M. down here, because EMU played huge this weekend. I don't know who those junior high teams are in the mid-week, but winning the CMU series put the Hurons... er, I'm sorry, the Eagles (yawn) percentage points ahead of the Chips in the MAC West at 16-3. And that's a freakin' huge advantage because as you might recall, the winner of the MAC hosts the post-seaosn tournament.
Team of the Week: Long Beach State (3-0)
W8-3, W15-4, W12-7 vs. Cal Poly
With UC Riverside suddenly laying an egg in their Saturday night game vs. last place Pacific, this weekend sweep by the Dirtbags translates into sole possession of first place in the Big West (at 9-2). And, it also means that at 30-14, the Beach can start looking at hosting in the post-season, whether it be as a national seed or just a No. 1 seed. You can see what else I wrote about the rejuvenated Dirtbags after I saw them take down the Mustangs on Saturday afternoon, here:
Honorable Mention: North Dakota State (4-1)
W4-3 vs. Valley City State
L10-4 at Minnesota
W6-3, W6-5, W3-2 vs. South Dakota State
Hey, let's hear it for the Bison! This may be as close as it ever gets for our chance to laud them in baseball (lots of western teams taking the week off for exams, nobody killing it this week, some underachieved - the perfect storm for the Bison!). This weekend, NDSU won the Dakotas Championship in beautiful Newman Outdoor Field (also home to the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks.). Clean-up man Kole Zimmerman had a weekend worthy of the girlfriend cutting the story out of the newspaper to add to a scrapbook, belting the game-winning hits in both games of Sunday's doubleheader. NoDak is now 11-24 overall.