Back from Mexico and ready to get out on the road. Took the family to Cancun for a week and returned to 75 degree weather in Omaha. It is now starting to feel like baseball weather! I am in Baton Rouge tonight for Georgia at LSU on ESPNU at 8:30 Eastern, then head to Columbia tomorrow for the Mississippi St. v. South Carolina finale on Easter. Then Ole Miss at Georgia next Friday and the trek starts this year. It should be a great run and I will see a lot of SEC action through the regular season. More on tonight’s game a little later on…
Let me start with a brief look at last weekend. First, ASU and UCLA stay undefeated and we are almost ½ through the regular season. Each has set records for the fastest start in school history and each have played some pretty good clubs. This weekend, the Cardinal head to Westwood for UCLA’s first conference series of the year; Stanford is coming off a series win over USC at home. The Bruins took game one in extras and still sit undefeated. The Devils headed north to take on George Horton’s Ducks and a 1-0 game one win kept the Devils spotless as well. Drew Maggi’s first HR of the year was the difference as the teams combined for 9 hits. U of A took 2/3 from Oregon at home, after winning two midweek games against New Mexico. Andy Lopez’ club is off to a great start. I see as many as 7 Pac-10 teams solidly in the regional discussion right now, quite a statement for a conference that did have some struggles last year.
To last weekend’s best series, where UVA continued to show why they are one of the top teams in the country and Clemson showed why they are in the discussion as well. Each side put 12 runs on the board over the weekend, with UVA winning the series 2-1. Virginia had 10 hits in game 2 (and lost), that was the only double digit hit total for either team all weekend. Both should be hosts at the end of the year, and I would be very surprised if the ACC does not have at least 2 national seeds. Georgia Tech and FSU are the other two teams that are right there with Miami knocking on the door. The Wreck swept UNC in Chapel Hill to move to 8-1 in the conference. Deck McGuire and Matt Harvey went pitch for pitch on Friday, with McGuire getting the win. Harvey gave up just one earned run though and Tech won with three hits on the night. They then scored 24 runs over the next two games to sweep the series. The Noles swept Maryland at home, then beat Florida in a mid week game as well. Mike McGee leads FSU with 5 HR’s and has settled into the closer’s role as well. In 10 1/3 IP so far, he has given up just one hit.
There are some teams over the years that you remember in Omaha, even if they don’t go on to win the CWS. The Citadel’s run in 1990 is one that I will always remember. Georgia won the Series that year, but The Citadel was definitely the fan favorite in Omaha. Fred Jordan’s club is a great story this year too, with a 9-0 start in the SoCon and 19 wins already this year. Pretty impressive stuff for the Bulldogs.
In the SEC, the class of the conference is starting to show itself early. LSU, Arkansas, Ole Miss, Florida, South Carolina and Vandy are all in the discussion to host as we hit the halfway point of the season. South Carolina’s series win at Auburn was impressive and I will see them on Sunday in Columbia for the series finale against Mississippi St. More on both teams early next week. LSU got Anthony Renaudo back and he impressed in two innings at Tennessee. Renaudo will start again tonight and should go 40-45 pitches. The LSU lineup has some familiar faces, with Blake Dean and Micah Gibbs anchoring in the middle. Dean’s transition to 1B has been a good transition thus far, I look forward to seeing him over there tonight. I talked with Paul Mainieri today about his club, and he mentioned that Dean had never played 1B until this year. You don’t hear that very often with LH power hitters. A few notes on Georgia, they have really struggled but are getting close to 100%. The Dogs had 11 players drafted last year, but the toughest situation for all was the heartbreaking incident with Chance Veazey. I hope to see Chance next week when I head to Athens. I look forward to seeing Grimm tonight and a Georgia starting line-up that is all freshmen and sophomores. They got Farmer and Hyams back last weekend after injuries and that should help as the season moves on.
Others that impressed this week include Kansas St. with a 3 game sweep at home against Oklahoma St. Brad Hill’s club then beat Wichita St. in a mid week game but was clipped by Texas tech last night in the series opener in Lubbock. Hill has done a masterful job the past two years in Manhattan. UT and Oklahoma meet this weekend in Norman (the Saturday game is on ESPNU). The Horns took game one thanks to a combined shutout by Taylor Jungmann and Chance Ruffin.
A few last notes, congrats to Randy Fontanez from USF on the no-hitter last weekend against Notre Dame. Fontanez struck out 12 and helped Lelo Prado’s club sweep the Irish. Lastly, it was a sad day for college baseball earlier this week when Jack Diesing Sr. passed away in Omaha at the age of 92. Jack is the reason that the CWS grew in Omaha and his efforts in building the tournament, and as a result the college game, are still seen today. Diesing’s drive and determination, and belief that Omaha could become a first class and permanent home to the CWS, allowed the event to become one of the NCAA’s banner championships. There was a great article on Omaha.com earlier this week that spoke of Jack’s dedication to the sport, the city and the event. Jack’s son, Jack Diesing Jr., has continued his father’s fine work over the past few decades and the Series continues to grow year after year. Have a great weekend, I’ll talk to you in the next few days.