Thursday Thoughts - The "Code Delta!" Edition

"Code Delta! Code Delta!"

Going through security tonight at LAX, that was the last thing I wanted to hear yelled out by the men in blue. Yep, that means they stop everything, policemen brandish their guns (though not pointing at anyone... although this IS Los Angeles police, so I'm surprised) and we all have to wait around in our sock-feet because some schmuck unwittingly tried to go through security with a full bottle of some pink liquid in a water bottle. Sweet people, real sweet.

None-the-less, I made it through, despite wanting to heckle the guy like a crooked umpire... then I realized the guy probably wouldn't know what I was saying anyway. And now I'm in a questionable Portland hotel room. Can't wait to see how this weekend's college baseball action turns out. Today was an intriguing start.

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For starters---
To use a worn-out phrase, it's crunch time. This is no place for slip-ups, injuries or flimsy excuses. And I don't want to waste any time, so let's cut to what matters most this coming weekend.

Since Doug Kroll already did a "Bubble Watch" for the NCAA tournament, let's do something a little different for teams in must-win bubble-type situations.

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The You Better Freakin' Win Watch---

- Oklahoma
Record: 29-22
RPI: 31
This weekend: vs. Texas Tech
The turmoil of Devin Shepherd leaving and a roller-coaster season have the Sooners in a strange circumstance now. First things first, a series win here is a must, especially since they're tied for 7th and just a half game ahead of Kansas for that final Big 12 tourney spot. Secondly, if anything it can serve as a much-needed confidence builder.


- Louisville
Record: 37-17
RPI: 37
This weekend: at Cincinnati
The Cards are in a bit of a tougher spot than St. John's and Rutgers as they trail those two in the Big East standings. (Sorry, I'm a traditionalist, I think the regular season champion should carry more clout, regardless of the RPI). But of the three, the UofL has the best RPI. So they have that going for them... which is nice. Tonight's dramatic 12-inning win was a must.


- UCLA
Record: 28-22
RPI: 39
This weekend: at Washington State
From leading the Pac 10 to on the bubble. Doesn't seem possible, right? The Bruins still have Oregon State next weekend. So they better get the Ws while they can. (Now I see why Coach Savage appeared to be reading his team the Riot Act for 30 minutes in right field after game three at ASU.)


- Western Carolina
Record: 39-15
RPI: 42
This weekend: vs. Georgia Southern
Red hot, man. That's what the Catamounts are, having come from an 0-3 start to SoCon play, all the way to a 1st place tie with College of Charleston. Still, the RPI is firmly in a grey area. WCU should win this series, then even a share of the regular season title will do wonders in at-largeland.


- USC
Record: 26-23
RPI: 43
This weekend: at California
I'm still a little surprised that Mark Etheridge included SC in his projections, but I tend to forget the incredibly tough schedule they've faced this year. The RPI still must climb into the lower 30s in my opinion. Cal has played spoiler before, so this won't be an easy weekend.


- Minnesota
Record: 36-12
RPI: 40
This weekend: at Indiana
I know the committee is probably prepared to give the U the benefit of doubt concerning their numerous cancellations this year. Plus, they beat Arkansas, Ole Miss, Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara. Just don't blow it vs. the Hoosiers.


- Auburn
Record: 30-24
RPI: 47
This weekend:
Despite their spotty play all year, I'm still impressed with their series win over Arizona State and their good play last weekend against Vandy. Lose the series and it's over. Of course, an 18-7 win in game one is a good start. Still, this team is just 9-19 in the SEC and that's probably not enough.


- Kentucky
Record: 33-18-1
RPI: 50
This weekend:
Unlike Auburn, the Bat Cats don't have a non-conference win to hang their hat on (anyone remember their school-best 19-0 start?). And that will probably bite them in the butt on Memorial Day. A series win at Auburn and a run in the SEC tourney could change things. However, now they're behind the 8-ball in a big way, with tonight's 11-run loss.


- UC Riverside
Record: 33-17
RPI: 58
This weekend: at Long Beach State
After seeing the Highlanders demoralize Cal State Fullerton a few weeks ago, it seems almost weird that we're talking about a bubble team here. But they've been incredibly wishy-washy in the non-conference (winning twice against San Diego, Gonzaga and USC, but losing all three at Oklahoma and Washington). So even though they're only a game back of Long Beach, they've got more of a row to hoe.

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National Seed at Stake Watch:

- Arizona State.
Record: 38-12
RPI: 7
This weekend: at Oregon State
With OSU no longer a threat to win the Pac 10 and UCLA two games back after ASU swept them, this looks like a highly-likely choice for No. 1 seed and National Top 8. But, let's be real. Even still, what if they go 1-5 or 2-4 vs. the Beavers and rival Arizona? Gotta stay on top of things here, Devils.


- San Diego
Record: 41-15
RPI: 12
This weekend: No games.
No news to report here this week. The Toreros will play Gonzaga in the WCC playoffs at Cunningham Stadium next weekend. Then, their hope is to host a regional at San Diego State's Tony Gwynn Stadium. (That's awfully nice of the Aztecs)


- Texas A&M
Record: 40-12
RPI: 5
This weekend: vs./at Texas
So they've won 40 and have THAT for an RPI... what's the problem? Well, the Ags still sit way back at 4th in the Big 12. Do you think the committee will reward a 4th place team in a conference with a Top 8 National seed? I can't see it. Unless... they can beat and/or sweep Texas.


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Post-Season Hosting Watch---
- Michigan
Record: 36-13
RPI: 45
This weekend: at Iowa
I think the chances have become slim for the Wolverines to be hosting. But then again, what if they sweep the Hawks (or go 3-1) and then go 3-0 or 4-0 in the Big 10 tourney? They'd be somewhere around 43-14 or so.


- St. John's.
Record: 38-14
RPI: 53
This weekend: at South Florida
I'd still love to see a Regional in the New York area, and I'm convinced the committee would too. So I'd still give them a shot, but the Red Storm can't fall behind Rutgers and Louisville in the Big East. And for good measure, they better show well in the Big East tourney too.


- Louisiana-Lafayette
Record: 39-13
RPI: 13
This weekend: at New Orleans
The Cajuns have the RPI, the facility and the fan-backing (i.e.: money) to pull off a regional host spot. But any slip-up here against the Privateers and it can fall by the wayside. And as Mark Etheridge pointed out, a 3-6 record vs. Top 50 teams isn't stellar.


- Cal State Fullerton
Record: 31-19
RPI: 29
This weekend: at Cal Poly
It's true, the West may need a fourth Regional. If that's the case, history has seen the Titans host as No. 2 seeds on two occasions before, so this wouldn't be a stretch. To be sure though, Fullerton needs to stay consistent


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The Five Best Movies Filmed in Oregon---
Okay, now that we got the win-or-else lists out of the way, I'll be going to the Arizona State-Oregon State series this weekend up in Corvallis. In honor of that, here is the best movies to ever be filmed up here.
1- Animal House.
The University of Oregon served as the home for this ribald comedy. You can see the famous Harmon track stadium used in the scene where Neidermeyer gets red on Flounder for the pledge-pin on his uniform (Don't worry Flounder, Twisted Sister got revenge for you).

2- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
Filmed in a psychiatric ward in Salem, Oregon and, might I add, easily Jack Nicholson at his best. Especially the "baseball game on TV" scene.

3- Stand By Me.
The bucolic setting of Cottage Grove and the nearby woods made the perfect scene for this ultimate coming-of-age movie. Although that great train scene was filmed in Yreka, California.

4- The Shining.
Another Stephen King classic. Granted, the Timberline Lodge was used mostly just for the exterior scenes. The movie was fictitiously placed in Colorado, but King wrote almost every book to take place in his native Maine.

5- Mr. Holland's Opus.
Richard Dreyfuss must like Oregon, as this is another product of the state. Like Nicholson above, this may have been Dreyfuss at his best as well. (I take it back... maybe in Jaws.)


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If I were God, this is where I'd be this weekend---
1- Pearl, Mississippi, the SWAC Tournament.
After two days of play so far, Prairie View (32-23) and Jackson State (33-21) are the two unbeatens at 2-0. The Panthers have a pair of impressive wins over Mississippi Valley, 10-0, and Southern, 6-3. And get this, unlike most years here, it's been all about pitching here thus far. After six games, the losing team has averaged just over five hits a game and only 10 total runs. We're in for an amazing finish. Where's the company lear jet again?

2- Texas (39-14) at Texas A&M (41-12), Friday night game in particular.
The second and third game of this series is being held in Austin, but there's nothing like the atmosphere of the A&M student body when rival Texas comes to town. Plus this is a really big series anyway, with A&M holding out hope for a No. 1 seed, despite its 4th place standing in the Big 12. And man, I can just imagine those matchups, Adrian Alaniz against Blake Stouffer and David Nicholson against Kyle Russell. Mmmmmbeauty!


3- Norfolk, Virginia, the MEAC Tournament
This one is placed lower on the list because we all know that Bethune-Cookman is the dominant team once again and usually wins this thing, no problem. It would be difficult to imagine it not happening that way again, especially with tonight's opening round 13-2 knockout of Maryland-Eastern Shore. But keep an eye out for Norfolk State, who blasted a hot FAMU team and also played B-CC tough back in mid-April.


4- UC Riverside (33-17) at Long Beach State (35-14)
So much is riding on this one. UCR still needs style points and could gain them here, along with a share of the Big West lead. The Beach isn't world-beaters, but they're scrappers for sure and they've hit their overdrive gear after moving Danny Espinosa and Robert Perry to the middle of the batting order. A series win will further lock down home field advantage in early June for the Dirtbags. I still lean toward the James Simmons/Marc Rzepcyznski 1-2 punch on the mound.


5- Missouri (36-14) at Oklahoma State (38-13)
This one is absolutely crucial to the Pokes. Like UCR above, I think they're a pretty good team (though I saw them lose twice at Northridge) and for some reason have a crappy RPI. But it's hard to argue their 2nd place perch in the Big 12, thanks to an offense led by Ty Wright (.433) and Tyler Mach (.408-14-69). And Mizzou, with its soph arms like Rick Zagone (6-2, 5.08) and Aaron Crow (7-2, 2.37), could still be the most under-rated team in the country.


6- Arizona State (38-12) at Oregon State (36-13)
This one could've meant more at the top of the Pac 10 if OSU hadn't tanked it the last two weekends. But it's still a big series with Ze Pesky Beavairs needing some reassurance in the RPI department (just No. . I'll give you updates throughout the weekend. Looooooove Goss Stadium. Nice atmosphere.


7- Mississippi (33-20) at Arkansas (37-16)
If tonight was any indication, this should be a helluva series. Ole Miss won 5-4 on a bases-loaded ball through the catcher's legs in the 8th. But the Thursday night showdown between Will Kline (3.79, 100Ks) and Nick Schmidt (2.95, 97Ks) was nearly a draw, though Schmidt was saddled with the loss. The Razorbacks must rebound and win both remaining games to avoid a third straight SEC series loss and see their post-season ship start to take on water.


8- Coastal Carolina (42-10) at Winthrop (30-23)
CCU's case is pretty air-tight, but the Eagles need a boost, big time. Winthrop enters a game behind in Big South play at 14-4, so winning two-of-three would give the Eagles top-bunk in the Big South tourney, and a riveting argument for an at-large bid, should they need it.


9- Illinois-Chicago (30-17) at Wright State (32-19)
The Flames definitely go in with a big advantage, a two and a half game lead at 20-4 in Horizon League play. But WSU has the home field advantage. And it's also a classic pitching (UI-C leads the Horizon at 4.05) vs. hitting (WSU at .321, the only team above .300). And for what it's worth, both teams are tied for best fielding at .962. Go figure.


10- Virginia (40-13) at Boston College (20-26)
This one intrigues me because of what it could mean to the Eagles. A series win here, or a better result than what Wake Forest does at Virginia Tech, and BC makes the big step to inclusion in the ACC tournament. But BC couldn't pull out a tense first game tonight, losing 5-4 in 10 innings. So it will be a much bigger mountain to climb now, especially having to go up against Sean Doolittle on Friday.


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Best picture of this season?---
I was sent this picture by some dude who goes by "C" a week ago. It's a shot of Wake Forest outfielder Eric Williams making a diving catch at the warning track to record the last out of the game in an 8-4 win over UNC-Wilmington earlier this season. Nice freakin' grab. Good pic too:

Eric Catch.JPG
This is what the batter gets for having "warning track power"


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That loud scream you heard was from today's scores from Conference USA---
Chicago State - 2
Tulane - 1
The Green Wave has bottomed out. I saw them play out at USC earlier this season and they didn't seem like too bad of a team. I mean, Warren McFadden is one of the top outfield prospects in the country and Brad Emaus is a great power hitter and their pitching has some talent. But after seeing their RPI drop down to 74, this team must've lost its fight. CSU has an RPI of 293 (out of 293 D-1 teams.).

East Carolina - 2
Alabama-Birmingham - 11
The Pirates have reverted to their early-season punchless state. Just five hits off a guy that is just 5-5 this year? T.J. Hose wasn't sharp again, giving up nine hits in 6.0 innings and the pen gave up six earned runs in two innings. ECU is now 35-19.

Southern Miss - 6
Houston - 0
The Coogs are now just 5-7 since what seemed like an impressive sweep of Tulane in April. Ryan Belanger had a lot to do with their troubles tonight, going the distance and giving up just four hits for USM. UofH's No. 55 RPI just took another thwack to the back of the knee.


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Others on the BYU schedule---
With most conference tournaments underway next week, a lot of teams did like the Cougars do and are playing Thursday-through-Saturday series. So, we got this for some knee-jerk reaction Thursday night recaps...

Georgia - 3
South Carolina - 13
Cocks (39-15) still looking for National seed, get 3-for-4, 6RBI, two HR game from leadoff hitter Travis Jones.

LSU - 1
Vanderbilt - 4
Tigers slim, slim chance at post-season is now gone. David Price strikes out 15, most of them looking.

Missouri State - 0
Creighton - 1
MSU's Detwieler pitches a 3-hitter, but key error in 7th helped CU score lone run. Jays (39-12) stay tied with WSU in MoValley.

Illinois State - 5
Wichita State - 7
Shockers (44-17) get huge comeback win to stay on top with CU at 18-4 in the Valley. Matt Brown's two-rib double in the 7th was the big hit.

Charlotte - 5
Richmond - 1
Good news: 49ers win first ever A-10 title and improve to 42-10. Bad News: Stud Adam Mills left the game one strike short of his 9th complete game when he felt a twinge in his leg. Hmmmm.

Louisville - 6
Cincinnati - 4 (12 inns)
Whew! That's a huh-yuge relief to the Cardinals. With Rutgers and St. John's both winning today, this game was a must. Or else they would've fallen two games off the pace.

Old Dominion - 4
William & Mary - 11
With this loss (and a bad one at that) and Delaware and VCU both winning, all three teams are now tied on top of the CAA at 16-7. This should be a wild ride this weekend.

South Dakota - 11
Northern Colorado - 4
This gives USD a record of 30-18 on the season. It's the first 30-win campaign since 1996 and first since moving to Division I play two years ago. Nice work Jackrabbits.


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The death of white cleats---
As part of a project that this ad agency I do work for has asked me to do, I went out to buy a pair of baseball cleats from one of those huge sporting goods stores. Under the baseball section, there was about 20 different styles of baseball cleats from six or seven makers. Only one (1) pair on the entire wall was white in color. The other 19 or so were all black cleats. Tulane, UNC-W, Arizona State and Clemson are shaking their collective heads.


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Speaking of dead... Nike bats---
I've promised a couple of people not to use any schools by name, but I will say that in the past few weeks I've heard of three different teams in college baseball complaining about the lack of power in Nike's aluminum bats. One school official told me the kids on the team feel like they're hitting with wood. But these schools are stuck, because Nike has them under contract from head to toe and on all equipment. Money talks loud, I suppose. C'mon guys, do I have to say it... Do I have to say it?... Okay, go with Easton people! Best technology. Best word-of-mouth praises. Best tradition in college baseball.


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The Mid-Con has reached its Summit---
The Mid-Continent Conference has agreed to rename itself as The Summit Conference starting next fall. In baseball, it won't make any difference. It will always be referred to as The Oral Roberts Conference, in honor of the team that has won the conference in every year of its existence.


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The Horseshoe gets a new field---
So Ohio State has now put field turf down for their football field. Good thing too. Look at this picture I took after the OSU-Michigan football game last November as I was walking from the post-game news conference:

OSUfield.jpg
No, it's not from sorority girls grazing.

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This week's YouTube moment---
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVlcAJFTPRo
Any clip with Carmen Electra can't be bad. When it's coupled with a kick-ass song with rock-a-billy roots, it's as close to Heaven as you can get. Enjoy.


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And finally, to celebrate the best movie ever filmed in Oregon---
Five Things You Didn't Know About Animal House:
1- Over 50 colleges turned down the filming of the movie at their campus after reading the treatment. The reason UO gave the thumbs-up? Because the school's President made the mistake of turning down the filming of another movie during his tenure. A flick called "The Graduate" which was filmed at Cal instead.

2- The town of Cottage Grove, Oregon was used for the town parade scene. That's also where "Stand By Me" and the train wreck from Buster Keaton's 1926 film "The General" were also filmed.

3- Donald Sutherland was added as the pot-smoking professor as a ploy to get another "name" actor in the film. But director John Landis and producer Harold Ramis eventually felt the film was strong enough on its own and most of Sutherland's scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.

4- Tim Matheson, whose good looks and preppy smarm, was originally cast as one of the rival Chi Omega frat guys, but thought it was too boring and refused the "villain" role. He was eventually allowed to play Otter, a role originally slated for Chevy Chase.

5- If you look close, you'll notice blues guitarist Robert Cray is playing bass guitar in the frat house band Otis Day and the Knights.


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Alright stitch-heads, the games are already underway this weekend. Get out to one near you soon. I'm getting geeked over the end of this season and seeing how things will unfold as we head to the conference tournaments and the Memorial Day announcement show.

In the meantime, it's on to the ballyard people.

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