Helped its case
Mississippi: The Rebels really had been scuffling, but got back on track over the weekend against rival Mississippi State. The Rebels still have a long way to go to warrant serious consideration, but at least kept their hosting chances alive against the Bulldogs. The Rebels enter the week 20 in the latest RPI with a 35-17 overall record. Furthermore, they're 14-13 in the SEC with an 11-14 record vs. RPI Top 50. That resume certainly isn't host-worthy at this point, but a strong finish could turn the tide.
Memphis: The Tigers still have some work to do to warrant serious consideration for an NCAA at-large bid, but at least kept their hopes alive over the weekend with an impressive road series win over Rice. The Tigers, with the series win over the Owls, are up to 82 in the latest RPI with a 32-20 overall record. Furthermore, they're 1 1/2 games out of first place in Conference USA with a 5-3 mark vs. RPI Top 50. Memphis ends the regular season with a road series against SEMO, a series that won't improve their postseason resume.
Oklahoma State: What a story the Cowboys have been this season with new coach Josh Holliday leading the charge. They solidified their resume on the good side of the NCAA bubble over the weekend with a huge series win over rival Oklahoma. OSU's RPI improved to 35 with a 36-13 overall record. The Cowboys are 7-2 vs. RPI Top 50 and could move into the NCAA hosting discussion with a series win over West Virginia this weekend, along with an incredibly strong showing in Oklahoma City. It's a long shot, but at least a shot.
Kyle Bartsch and South Alabama are aiming for a regional host site. (USA photo)
UC Irvine: The Anteaters were on the bad side of the NCAA bubble last week, but likely did enough over the weekend against Cal Poly to improve their chances. The 'Eaters are up to 61 in the latest RPI with a 31-16 overall record, 5-4 mark vs. RPI Top 50. It's imperative the Anteaters leave a good impression the final two weekends with series coming up against Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State.
Clemson: The Tigers had a huge week on the diamond, a 7-0 week to be exact, and might just move in as a host site in our latest postseason projections. The Tigers have an RPI of 12 this morning, along with a solid overall resume. Clemson is 17-10 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, along with a 15-12 record vs. RPI Top 50 teams. The Tigers also are 8-10 vs. RPI Top 25 and 21-13 against RPI Top 100 clubs.
South Alabama: The Jaguars have representation on the NCAA Selection Committee and continue to do enough to warrant serious consideration for a host site. The Jags had yet another solid week, this time taking an important road series from Louisiana-Lafayette. USA's RPI is up to 14 this morning with an overall record of 39-14. Going deeper into its resume, the Jaguars are 0-2 vs. RPI Top 25, 6-8 vs. RPI Top 50 and 13-11 vs. RPI Top 100. That doesn't warrant a host site at this juncture, but stay tuned.
Kansas State: Yet another team to keep an eye on from a postseason hosting standpoint, the Wildcats had another huge week that included a road series sweep over in-state rival Kansas. The Wildcats are up to 22 in the latest RPI with a 37-15 overall record, and of course, are atop the Big 12 standings entering the final weekend of action. Going deeper into their resume, the Wildcats are 6-8 vs. RPI Top 50 and 20-12 vs. RPI Top 100. Again, it's a resume, that on the surface, needs some work.
UC Santa Barbara: Andrew Checkett's club continues to keep their postseason hopes alive, taking an important series from Cal State Northridge this past weekend. With the win, the Gauchos are up to 54 in the latest RPI with an improving 27-21 overall record. The Gauchos are 12-9 in the Big West, and five games out of first place. UCSB must take care of business against Pacific and UC Davis to close out the regular season to have a chance at an NCAA at-large appearance.
Auburn: The Tigers still have some work to do this weekend and in the SEC tournament to make a postseason appearance, but at least are headed the right direction after taking a huge road series from Florida, a series which they could've easily swept. AU improved to 11-16 in the SEC, but must improve that mark this weekend against Arkansas at home. Auburn is up to 28 in the latest RPI with nine wins vs. RPI Top 50 clubs.
Sam Houston State: Here come David Pierce's Bearkats as the regular season winds down. The Bearkats have had a rather up and down campaign, but are getting hot at exactly the right time. The Bearkats took care of business against Southeastern Louisiana over the weekend, and are up to 51 in the latest RPI with an impressive 33-18 overall record. SHSU's resume is solid with a 5-2 mark vs. RPI Top 50 teams, 11-7 mark vs. RPI Top 100 clubs. Just a team to keep an eye on the final two weeks before Selection Monday.
Florida State: The Seminoles captured a huge series win over North Carolina State with a win Monday night, and likely moved in as a top-eight national seed in our latest projections as a result. The Noles have an incredibly high RPI, and now have another marquee series win under their belt. FSU is 10-9 vs. RPI Top 25, 15-10 vs. RPI Top 50 and 25-10 vs. RPI Top 100.
Hurt its case
Stanford: The Cardinal has some serious work to do the final two weeks of the regular season to reach the NCAA postseason. They have an RPI of 80 after dropping a tough home series to Oregon State over the weekend. Furthermore, the Cardinal has an unimpressive resume even beyond just the RPI. For instance, Stanford has a 3-9 record vs. RPI Top 50 teams and is just 11-13 in the Pac-12. Stanford finishes the regular season with series against California and UCLA.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes had a chance to pretty much punch their ticket to the NCAA postseason this past weekend against Oregon. However, they dropped all three games at home to the Ducks, and now have an RPI of 57 with a 33-18 overall record. Also worth noting, the Bucks are 1-5 vs. RPI Top 25, 4-8 vs. RPI Top 50 and 10-12 vs. RPI Top 100. No doubt OSU needs to finish the regular season on a high note.
Arizona: Should there even be a chance for back-to-back titles this season, the Wildcats must start by going 5-1 or 6-0 in their final six games with series remaining against rival Arizona State and Southern California. The Wildcats had a tough weekend at UCLA, going 0-3 and falling to 88 in the latest RPI with a 1-10 record vs. RPI Top 50 clubs. Additionally, the Wildcats are a nasty 4-10 on the road this spring.
Kansas: The Jayhawks seemed to be in good shape following a home series sweep over Baylor, but took a step back last weekend by getting swept at home by heated rival Kansas State. With the series loss, KU dropped to 52 in the RPI with a 31-21 overall record. KU is now sixth in the Big 12 and has an 8-7 record vs. RPI Top 50, along with a 13-17 mark vs. RPI Top 100.
Michigan State: Just a week ago, the Spartans appeared to be in rather good shape with a high RPI and good conference standing. Now they're in trouble heading into the final week of the regular season after dropping a tough series to Iowa. MSU's RPI is down to 42, and it sits seventh in the Big Ten with a 10-8 league record. The Spartans must take care of business against Penn State on the road this weekend.
Notre Dame: Well, the Fighting Irish are pretty much done in terms of at-large hopes after dropping a tough series to St. John's over the weekend. The Irish still have an RPI of 41, thanks in part to a good non-conference schedule. However, they're just 7-7 vs. RPI Top 50 and sit seventh in the Big East with an unimpressive 9-12 league mark. The Irish likely will need to win the Big East tournament at this juncture.
Southern Mississippi: No doubt the Golden Eagles were in the mix for an at-large bid heading into last weekend's series against Southern Illinois-Edwardsville. However, after surprisingly losing that series, the Conference USA leaders are down to 116 in the latest RPI with a 26-23 overall record. Overall, the Eagles are 1-3 vs. RPI Top 25, 4-12 vs. RPI Top 50 and 10-18 vs. RPI Top 100.
Gonzaga: Yet another conference leader struggled over the weekend, as the Zags dropped a tough home series to Appalachian State. As a result, the Zags dropped to 100 in the latest RPI with a 32-16 overall record. Resume-wise, the Bulldogs are 0-1 vs. RPI Top 25, 3-2 vs. RPI Top 50 and 9-7 vs. RPI Top 100. The Zags likely need to win the WCC tournament to reach the NCAA postseason.
Texas A&M: The Aggies probably needed to take two of three from LSU at home to have any chance of an at-large bid, but they'll keep hope alive at Tennessee this weekend. The Aggies are down to 49 in the latest RPI with a 27-24 overall record. Resume-wise, the Aggies absolutely leave something to be desired with a 4-12 record vs. RPI Top 25, 7-18 mark vs. RPI Top 50 and 8-20 record vs. RPI Top 100.
Prospect watch: LSU's Eades rises to the occasion
COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- The rise of right-handed starting pitcher Ryan Eades might just be the difference for LSU as the NCAA postseason draws nearer.
Eades has always had the potential to be a dominant weekend starting pitcher. He showed glimpses of greatness last season. But he also showed glimpses of a pitcher who had much work to do in terms of refining his stuff becoming more consistent.
Even with those two things holding him back last season, he still managed to tally a respectable 3.83 ERA in 94 innings of work, along with 63 strikeouts and 28 walks.
Getting my first in-person look at Eades this season this past weekend against Texas A&M, I was interested to see him perform, especially early in the game. The Aggies got off to a hot start against the Tigers, getting the first two runners of the game on base. In a big situation for Eades in a game that only was going seven innings because of SEC travel rules, the Tigers desperately needed to get out of the jam unscathed.
In the past in those situations, Eades might have given up a big hit. But not this time. He's a different pitcher. After a sacrifice bunt, Eades proceeded to induce a pair of fly balls to end the threat. The right-hander got into a groove and was impressive the rest of the way.
"I didn't feel like I had my best stuff from the get go, but I settled in a bit more as the game went on, though, they did squeak a few hits in there," Eades said. "I just tried to stay back and good direction on the ball, while keeping my pitches down in the strike zone. My curveball was sharper, and I was able to keep the ball down the rest of the game."
Eades finished the game with just one strikeout, but also walked just one batter and allowed a run on eight hits in six innings of work.
From a stuff standpoint against the Aggies, Eades didn't touch 94-95 like he has the ability to, but sat anywhere from 89-92 with the fastball, along with a 78-80 changeup and 77-80 slider. Though Eades had a tendency to push some of his pitches too far off the plate at times, he also made some big pitches on the inside part of the plate to right-handed hitters, particularly to hard-hitting A&M freshman Hunter Melton.
Eades, who's likely to get drafted late in the first round of the upcoming MLB draft, seems to be back in a groove after sputtering in a couple of starts a few weeks ago. Against Arkansas and Alabama back-to-back weekends, Eades allowed five runs on eight hits in just four innings.
He's been much better since those two starts. Against South Carolina, he allowed just two runs (none earned) on six hits in seven innings, while against Florida he allowed just two runs on three hits in six innings.
Though the veteran right-hander feels good about where he's at right now, he still feels like there's room for improvement as the Tigers ready for the postseason stretch.
"From my perspective, I think the big thing for me is just consistently keeping the ball down in the zone and doing a better job of getting the leadoff hitter out," he said. "I also feel like I can always be improving my pitches."
For the season, Eades now has a 2.29 ERA in 82 2/3 innings of work, along with 69 strikeouts and 23 walks, and a .265 opponent batting average.
With just a week left of regular season play for many leagues around the country, it's time to take one last look at some teams in the midst of impressive streaks.
Current win streaks
Oregon State (12)
Seton Hall (12)
Western Carolina (9)
Austin Peay (8)
Sacred Heart (8)
Current home win streaks
Western Carolina (13)
South Florida (12)
New Mexico (11)
Florida State (10)
Oregon State (9)
Current road win streaks
North Carolina State (9)
Seton Hall (9)
Offense: Runs per game
North Carolina (8.6)
New Mexico (8.5)
Georgia State (7.9)
James Madison (7.6)
Tennessee Tech (7.3)
New Mexico State (7.3)
* North Carolina has been without freshman outfielder Skye Bolt for a few weeks now because of an injury. However, the Tar Heels got Bolt cleared by doctors and, at the least, he will play this weekend as his club finishes the regular season against Virginia. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels weren't able to clear catcher Matt Roberts, who missed last weekend's Georgia Tech series because of a concussion.
* Virginia talented shortstop Brandon Cogswell broke his middle finger and had surgery to repair the injury. Cogswell will miss this weekend's series against North Carolina, but could return for the ACC tournament as head coach Brian O'Connor said he'd be reevaluated at that time. For the season, Cogswell is hitting .346 with 11 doubles, four triples and 22 RBIs.
* Campbell is having a sensational campaign that should end with an NCAA postseason appearance, but it needs to get Brent Graham and Clayton Brown healthy down the stretch. Both players suffered foot injuries, with Graham expected back on Wednesday for the Camels. Meanwhile, the situation with Graham remains very much up in the air. However, CU coach Greg Goff is confident he'll be able to return to the lineup by next week's Big South tournament.
* Louisville coach Dan McDonnell earned his 300th career win as head coach over the weekend as the Cardinals made easy work of Connecticut. UL is now 42-17 on the season, 17-4 in the Big East, and is a near lock for an NCAA Regional host site barring some unforeseen season-ending result.
* Tulane has had a rather tough campaign, especially in the injury department, but finally had something to cheer about this past weekend in a series win against UCF. The Green Wave performed at a high level and helped head coach Rick Jones earn his 800th career victory. The Green Wave sits at 27-25 overall with a week remaining to the regular season.
* South Carolina assistant Sammy Esposito and strength and conditioning coach Billy Anderson will each serve a one-game suspension after getting into a verbal altercation in Sunday's series finale against Georgia. The suspensions were handed down via the NCAA rule that states: "personnel other than the head coach are ejected for disputing, arguing, and unsportsmanlike conduct."
* Indiana State junior left-handed pitcher Sean Manaea has been dealing with a nagging hip injury, and that caused him to dip in his velocity two weekends ago. Manaea was much better and consistent last weekend in a start against Alcorn State, striking out 11, walking one and allowing two runs on three hits in seven innings of work. Manea's velocity was the typical 92-plus for a few innings, while his slider was much more crisp. Still, Indiana State head coach Rick Heller feels like Manaea will be much crisper later this week when the Sycamores face Bradley at home.
* Texas A&M right-handed pitcher Rafael Pineda missed his start against LSU this past weekend because of a strain in his upper back. The Aggies need Pineda this weekend against Tennessee and in the SEC tournament. The veteran righty has a 2.87 ERA in 53 1/3 innings of work. He also has struck out 28 and walked 14, with teams hitting him at a .289 clip.
And from the NCAA statistics update:
* We haven't updated many statistics lately, but here's an inside look at the nation's best pitching staffs, ERA-wise, entering the final couple of weeks of regular season action:
1. Arkansas (1.87)
2. Oregon State (2.12)
3. LSU (2.38)
4. Louisville (2.40)
5. North Carolina (2.44)
6. Texas (2.46)
7. Indiana (2.52)
8. Cal State Fullerton (2.54)
9. Vanderbilt (2.55)
10. Oregon (2.62)
-- The common theme here? Seven of the eight teams listed are in the top 10 of our latest rankings. Meanwhile, Oregon and Indiana are within striking distance, while Texas is the odd team out, sitting last place in the Big 12.
What about offensively, from a batting average standpoint?
1. New Mexico (.340)
2. Georgia State (.324)
3. Delaware State (.321)
4. Kansas State (.321)
5. North Florida (.321)
6. Vanderbilt (.319)
7. Louisiana-Lafayette (.318)
8. James Madison (.316)
9. Virginia (.313)
10. North Carolina (.313)
-- Interestingly, out of this grouping, only three of the 10 teams listed are top 10 clubs in this week's rankings. New Mexico also is ranked, while Kansas State is right on the cusp as one of our next five teams to watch on the national stage.