Saturday Statements - When TV calls, you answer

In my attempt to look at college baseball teams from all four corners of the country (I'm still working on getting up to Maine), I turned my attention to the team that is housed in the farthest Northwest corner in Division I: The Washington Huskies.

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(UW 1Bman Aaron Russell had a bloody scary moment after taking a pitch to the dome)

Actually, the boys over at CBS College Sports Tonight, the nightly two-hour wrap-up of college athletics, contacted me on Friday about doing some more quick-hit snippets for features to run on the show in the next few days. So since the Going Yard guys, Brody and Jason, were out at today's USC-Washington game at Dedeaux Field and have some video equipment to shoot with, I was sent there to make a trio of videos for the show after today's game was over.

Here are the three subject matters they wanted me to touch on:
1- My prediction on the national seeds for the upcoming NCAA tournament.
2- My surprise teams in college baseball.
3- The most important upcoming games in the last few weeks of the season.

Not to ruin the features when they air or anything, but here were my answers:

1- How I think the National Seeds will shake out.
Here are the five locks:
- Miami
- Florida State
- North Carolina
- Arizona State
- Rice
And here are the three that I think will move into the last few slots:
- Georgia
- Texas A&M
- Stanford
I made this pick on the last three under the stipulation of "If they go on to win their respective conferences, these three teams will make the top eight." I think this season is as wide-open as it has ever been, so that makes me think that winning those big three conferences will curry more favor to the selection committee than some runner-up teams from other conferences.

But with that said, I also stated that Oklahoma State, UC Irvine and Nebraska were also in line to move into the top eight if those other three fell short.

2- My surprise teams heading into the last three weeks:
- UC Irvine.
Again, any team that can lose its top two pitchers, top four hitters and its head coach off a College World Series team and still find a way to make it into the Top 10 in both the polls and the RPI, I think that's an amazing coaching job. Credit coaching vet Mike Gillespie with keeping this team playing at a high level.
- North Carolina State.
I even admitted on air that this was a bit of a mystery team to me. I haven't seen them yet this season, though I hope to before all is said and done. They have two pitchers that are expected to be high-round draft picks, Eryk McConnell and Eric Surkamp, have both been decent, but not as outstanding as they were expected to be. But other players have stepped up and currently have the Pack sitting at No. 8 in the RPI - though after today's loss to High Point, it may not last.
- Georgia and Stanford.
I lumped these two together because they seem to be following similar paths, horrible last year, but a completely new team this season. The Bulldogs were 23-33 last season and the Trees were 28-28-1. Thanks to great pitching, particularly the Dogs Trevor Holder and Joshua Fields and SU's Erik Davis and Jeffery Inman, have helped make the turnaround. Now both could be in line for home regionals... and super regionals.

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(Gordon Beckham's defense has been an under-stated facet of Georgia's success)

3- Most important series remaining.
- North Carolina at Miami.
I made sure to mention that this series probably isn't as big as it seems since both of these teams are near-locks to be National seeds.
- Texas A&M at Nebraska.
This series could be for the Big 12 regular season title and - more importantly - a possible national seeding spot. In the very least, the winning is playing at home in the regionals.
- Cal State Fullerton at Long Beach State.
The Big West usually comes down to these two teams and sure enough, as of press time, they were 1-and-2 in the standings. The West might get four or five regional host sites and the winner here could be that last spot.
- LSU at Auburn.
Luckily I saw that LSU had beaten Kentucky twice today, so I was able to say, "It looks like LSU may have really helped itself with a series win at Kentucky today, but Auburn may still be on the bubble and may need this weekend win." Auburn's plight got a lot tougher with today's loss to lowly Mississippi State. LSU is now 31-16-1 and sure to improve on it's No. 37 RPI ranking.


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AS FOR THAT WASHINGTON-USC GAME---
The Diamond Dawgs take the second game of the three-game series with today's impressive win.

Washington- 10 13 1
So. California- 2 7 0
WP- Cam Nobles (4-3)
LP- Brad Boxberger (2-4)
Sv- Paul Dickey (5)

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(Orel Hershiser, in striped shirt, and Eddie Murray, in the row behind, took in today's Washington-USC game at Dedeaux Field)

I know there are so many worthy teams in the Pac 10 already, but be sure to keep an eye on the Huskies. Their RPI was last listed way down at No. 116. Not good. True. But look a little closer here, they are currently at 7-7 in Pac 10 play and are in 4th place for the time being. If - and I realize this is a big if - the Dawgs can win out at USC on Sunday and then go 5-4 in Pac 10 games remaining with Washington State (at home), Arizona State (in Tempe) and Stanford (at home), that would mean having a winning record against three teams inside the Top 23 in the RPI and would also mean a winning mark in Pac 10 play.

Could 3rd or 4th-place Huskies team be passed over a Pac 10 team below them? I'm not sure. Of course, the problem is that they are geographically challenged (why else is Oregon State always, always undervalued in the RPI as well?) and they also played some pretty weak non-conference games in February and March.

I will say this much, Udub looked incredibly impressive today, disposing rather easily of the Trojans today. So we'll see where things end up.

THREE UP---
1- Kyle Conley, Washington
While we're on the subject, the Udub slugger hit a pair of Dedeaux Field bombs today.
Somebody throw a pail of water on this guy. To say he's "on fire" may be putting it lightly. Get this, including yesterday's 4-for-4 game, the soph left fielder has gone 6-for-7 with two home runs, two doubles and a triple, helping the Dawgs win the first two games of the Pac 10 series in Troy.

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(Kyle Conley continued to wield a hot bat today with two home runs)

Special thanks to fellow UW bat Brett Wilcox, who went 3-for-5 with 6RBI, having hit a 3-run home run and a 2-run double as part of that.

2- Jared Bradford, LSU.
The Tiger slinger was a main cog in helping the sweep of Kentucky today.
Bradford got the win on the mound in game one, tossing two innings of 0-hit ball in the 3-1, 10-inning W. Then, in the game two 12-5 rout, JB went 4.0 innings while surrendering just two hits and striking out four.

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(Jared Bradford was a busy man today, getting a save and a win at Kentucky)

Since our very own Doctor of College Baseball, Kenny Cook, went to see the Tigers get out-classed by Georgia in Baton Rouge two weeks ago (where he reported that LSU looked very Smoke-like in listlessness), Paul Maineiri's charges have now gone 8-0, including wins over Tulane, South Carolina (3), Louisiana-Lafayette and now UK (2). LSU has also improved to 31-16-1 overall and that No. 37 RPI will surely improve, not matter what the outcome is in tomorrow's getaway game.

3- Jacksonville State's offense.
The Ohio Valley leaders beat Morehead State 22-10 and 18-5 in a DH.
I thought using fungo bats in a game was illegal. But that's what JSU must've been using today, rapping out 11 home runs in the two games. Brian Piazza looked more like Mike, blasting four bombs on his own. Clay Whittemore cashed in with three himself as well.

In the two games, the Cocks knocked out 43 hits on the day and have now won 13 of their last 15 games in the OVC and take a two-game lead on second place Samford.

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THREE DOWN---
1- The Home-town UofA's.
Arkansas. Lost 11-6 vs. Alabama.
Auburn. Lost 4-3 vs. Mississippi State.
Both teams lost at home and are looking more and more shaky.

It was tougher on the Hogs, having lost their second straight game to the new SEC West leaders, dropping them to 27-20 and 9-13. Their No. 25 RPI ranking is in jeopardy of course as the Razorbacks are still one of the most unpredictable teams in the country.

Auburn, meanwhile, has hit some trouble spots as well, needing every decent win it can use since the RPI rating of No. 55 means it must make the SEC tourney and make a run there. As of now, the Plainsmen are 25-23 and way down at 9-14 in conference play.

2- Fresno State.
Lost twice at home to New Mexico State, 8-4 and 9-2.
The Bulldogs once comfy lead in the WAC is now down to just a game and a half over the hard-charging Wolfpack of Nevada. This team has gone cold, after dropping three of four last week to the 2nd place Pack, the two losses to next-to-last-place NMSU was inexcusable. The Aggies got three home runs from Marcus Quade to pace the offense in game two.

3- Mike Stutes, Oregon State.
Dropped to 2-6 in today's loss at Washington State.
This senior season just hasn't turned out as expected for the dynamic Friday ace of the Beavers. Nobody said making the trip to Pullman was easy, but Stutes gave up 10 hits, nine runs and gave up four walks to the Cougs. Granted, it's probably easy to say that Wazzu is the best last place team n the country, sitting there with an RPI ranking of 23rd.

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More tomorrow, as we get down to our 4th-to-last Sunday of the regular season.

G'night.

Comments

The Dawgs swept SC. Conley had 4 more RBIs. Thanks for the pub. which means the UW hasn't been completely forgotten. And feel free to contiune to cover the PNW anytime. The Dawgs are now 3rd place in the Pac-10. Not too bad - and hopefully if they finish in the top 5 they won't be left out come regionals but it doesn't sound too promising for them since RPIs are so heavily weighted. (sigh) Hey, at least our coach didn't lie on his resume or steal money from his previous job!

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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