A closer look at college baseball’s homestretchPublished 10:28am Monday, May 6, 2013
For the first time in 11 weeks, North Carolina has been nudged out of the top spot in college baseball.
Vanderbilt (39-6) moved ahead of North Carolina (41-4) after going 4-0 the previous week. North Carolina finished 2-2 the previous week.
The only other team to occupy the No.1 spot in 2013 was Arkansas.
Rounding out the top five this week is Cal State Fullerton (36-7), LSU (39-6) and Oregon State (34-8).
The Southeastern Conference has seven teams in the top 30 this week, followed by the Pac-12 with six and the Atlantic Coast with six.
The team that I feel will be a contender for the national championship is Cal-State Fullerton.
The Titans, led by head coach Rick Vanderhook, are establishing themselves as a major contender with strong pitching and defense.
Through 43 games, the Titans have lowered its team earned run average to 2.47. They are seventh overall in the NCAA in that category.
Not far behind is Vanderbilt, with a 2.58 ERA through 45 games. Arkansas leads the nation in ERA with a 1.75 ERA through 44 games.
If anyone questions the fact that good pitching and defense wins, look no further than Oregon State (2.09), North Carolina (2.33) and LSU (2.46).
The team with the best balance between pitching and offense would be North Carolina.
The Tar Heels rank 10th in the nation in hitting with a .317 team batting average.
When the discussion of Auburn or Alabama baseball comes up, neither team ranks in the top 100 in hitting.
Compounded with their inability to hit the ball, both teams are just so-so in pitching, with Alabama ranked 36th with a 3.12 ERA and Auburn sitting in the 44th spot with a pedestrian 3.27 ERA.
The SEC will come down to who gets hot during the SEC tournament.
Vanderbilt has a sizable lead in the SEC East and LSU leads Arkansas by 2.5 games in the West.
Alabama (27-18, 11-9 SEC) trails LSU by 4.5 games. The Tide faces Mississippi State this weekend.
Auburn is buried in last place with a 7-14 conference record and trails LSU by nine games.
The Tigers are 25-18 overall and face Mississippi this weekend.
Both teams have nine conference games remaining.
The SEC has won the NCAA Division 1 national championship nine times, with LSU winning six times, followed by South Carolina (two) and Georgia (one).
The Pac-12 owns the most national championships in baseball with 27. Southern California leads with 12, followed by Arizona State (five) and Arizona (four).
Oregon State, California and Stanford each has two national championships.
Alabama has reached the College World Series five times, with its last visit being in 1999. Auburn has played in the CWS four times, with 1997 being the last time they made the finals.
Can a team with a dismal record get hot at the right time? In baseball, anything is possible, but at this point in the season, I would not bank on any miracles for either of the in-state teams.
The two teams that could surprise everyone would be South Alabama (34-12) and Troy (32-12), both out of the Sun Belt conference.
Final note on the polls – the USA Today college Coaches poll still has North Carolina at No.1, followed by Vanderbilt, LSU, Cal-State Fullerton and Oregon State.
Until next time …
Meyers is a sports columnist for The Outlook. You can follow him on Twitter at @brucemeyers11.