As we all wait for Spring Training games to start later this week, College Baseball opened up it's season this week. Just figured I'd do a quick blog giving my thoughts on who I think are the top ten teams in the country after this weekend.
1. North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0)
Most people thought going into the season that the best team in the country was either Arkansas, or North Carolina. With Arkansas looking somewhat unimpressive against Western Illinois this weekend, even losing a game, UNC emerges as the team to beat nationwide. The Heels are led by Colin Moran at third base, but carrying the offense this weekend was Freshman outfielder Skye Bolt, who was drafted by the Washington Nationals last June. Kent Emanuel, who many think may be a first round pick with Moran this June, threw a complete game shut-out in a 1-0 win over Seton Hall friday night. After a rainout on Saturday, the Tar Heel's bats came alive on Sunday winning 17-2.
2. Louisiana State Tigers (3-0)
LSU started off their season with a dominant three game sweep of a decent Maryland team. The Tigers got dominant pitching performances from Sophomore Aaron Nola on Friday and Junior Ryan Eades on Saturday. Leading the way with the sticks were Sophomore outfielder Chris Sciambra, and Junior infielder, and potential first round pick, JaCoby Jones. Also giving the team an impressive weekend with the bad was Freshman shortstop, and draft pick of the Red Sox last June, Alex Bregman.
3. Kentucky Wildcats (2-0)
After the injury to Nerlens Noel, the passionate fans of Big Blue Nation should be jumping off the basketball bandwagon and onto that of their fantastic baseball team. Perhaps the breakout star of the weekend was Kentucky Junior infielder J.T. Riddle, who went 9-11 with three doubles and a triple, between two wins over UNC Asheville and Niagara. A.J. Reed and Jerad Grundy both turned out impressive outings on the mound, with Reed helping offensively as well. The best MLB draft prospect on the team, Sophomore outfielder Austin Cousino, didn't disappoint either, hitting .429 with a grand slam on the weekend.
4. UCLA Bruins (2-1)
UCLA started off the year with a disappointing extra inning loss to big time MLB draft prospect Tom Windle and the Minnesota Golden Gophers. But that didn't prevent them from having a successful first weekend, winning 14-0, and 14-1 over the next two days. Adam Plutko, Nick Vander Tuig and Grant Watson all impressed in quality starts for the Bruins, with two Sophomores outfielder Eric Filia and third baseman Kevin Kramer, anchoring a balanced offense.
5. Arkansas Razorbacks (2-1)
Quite simply, the preseason favorite Razorbacks just didn't show up Sunday afternoon, dropping a tough game to Western Illinois after two dominant wins against the same opponent. Fortunately for them, Ryne Stanek, potentially the #1 overall pick in June, was very good in a four inning outing on Friday. Arguably one of the best Saturday starters in the country, Junior Barrett Astin, also delivered a very impressive start. With Dominic Ficociello out with an injury all weekend, Sophomore Brian Anderson and Redshirt Freshman Tyler Spoon carried the offense, with Anderson going 6-11 with three extra base hits.
6. Vanderbilt Commodores (2-1)
Vanderbilt, like Arkansas, tainted an otherwise successful weekend by struggling on Sunday, in this case against a very good Long Beach State team. Starting pitcher T.J. Pecoraro and highly decorated Freshman recruit Carson Fulmer both struggled, and the Commodores couldn't quite overcome the early deficit. That being said, the offense was very good all weekend, led by Senior outfield Connor Harrel, who hit two home runs. Also, Kevin Ziomek and Tyler Beede, one of the more intimidating one-two punches in the country, were both very impressive on the mound.
7. Oregon Ducks (3-0)
Oregon may not have the big names that a lot of the other teams in the Top 10 have, but they got the job done this weekend, winning all three games against a good Hawaii team. Jake Reed was dominant in his start on Friday, and is looking to emerge as one of the best pitchers in a Pac-12 league which is filled with excellent starting pitchers.
8. Mississippi Rebels (3-0)
Ole Miss catapulted themselves from somewhere in the 20-25 range in the country, up into the Top 10 after a dominant sweep against a very good TCU team, which had been ranked #13 in the country. The Rebels have one of the best Friday night pitchers in the country, in Junior Bobby Wahl, who was set the tone for the weekend with 6.1 innings of scoreless baseball and 8 strikeouts in his start on Friday. Mississippi won by a score of 5-2 on both Saturday and Sunday, thanks in large part to excellent work by the bullpen, and a very good weekend offensively from Sophomore outfielder Auston Bousfield.
9. Florida State Seminoles (3-0)
The Seminoles didn't quite play their best baseball this weekend against a pretty weak Rhode Island team, but they were able to go into the week with a fairly dominant 3-0 record. Staff ace Brandon Leibrandt pitched well enough to win on Friday, allowing four earned runs in five innings, but the team hopes that he will pitch better as the season progresses. Offensively, Sophomore infielder Jose Brizuela was the breakout star for Florida State, driving in six runs while hitting .400 with a double, triple and home run.
10. Rice Owls (2-1)
I'm going to give the Owls credit this week for playing and beating a very, very good Stanford team, rather than awarding a team like Oregon State, Arizona or Mississippi State that came out unscathed against weaker opponents. Rice started off by beating last years #7 overall pick in the MLB Draft, Mark Appel, thanks to a brilliant pitching performance by preseason All-American, Junior Austin Kubitza. With Stanford's best hitter, Austin Wilson, out with an injury Rice was able to win one of the next two, wrapping up a very successful weekend against Stanford, who may have the most pro talent in the country.
Honorable Mention: Oregon State (3-0), Arizona (3-0), Mississippi State (4-0), Florida (2-1), Stanford (1-2), San Diego State (3-0), Oklahoma (4-0), Georgia Tech (3-0), Cal State Fullerton (4-0)
UC Irvine (3-0)
Offensive Player of the Week: IF J.T Riddle, Kentucky
9-11 (.818), 3 2B, 1 3B, 4 RBI, 1 Run
Pitcher of the Week: RHP Austin Kubitza, Rice
1 GS, 6 IP 4 H 4 BB 12 K vs. Stanford