The beginning of conference play is like a new season within the season in college sports. A fresh start, if you will. It doesn’t matter what happened up to this point, whether you were two games under .500 or had a perfect record, conference is all that matters now.
Conference favorites TCU started out conference play exactly the way many people thought they would. With a sweep over Baylor, they started out conference on a high note. They look to be hands down the team to beat in one of the top baseball conferences in the country. The pitching staff is deeper than any in the country, and the hitting has been a very nice surprise. Now the Baylor Bears aren’t as good as they were in previous years because of all of the youth on the team, but any time you are able to sweep in the Big XII, you’ve done a great job.
The West Virginia Mountaineers have been in the Big XII for two full seasons (2015 is their third year) and have taken the yearly series against the Texas Longhorns in each of those two years. The Horns got it done in 2015 though as they were able to take two out of three games in Austin. The two sides split the first two games of the weekend with each going into the 10th inning (UT 4-3 on Friday, WVU 7-6 on Saturday), and it looked like those teams would be headed for extras again on Sunday. Sitting at 0-0 going into the bottom of the sixth, the UT bats woke up to put three runs on the board (including two with two outs). After Mountaineer RF Shaun Wood launched a home run over the RF wall to cut the score to 3-1 in the seventh, Texas came back with two more runs in the bottom half of the frame to give us our final score of 5-1.
Texas A&M began conference play with a home series against the Auburn Tigers. Auburn has been a surprise to begin the season, coming into the weekend with an overall record of 13-4, but they couldn’t send the Aggies into the loss column for the first time on the season on opening weekend. A&M won each of the games by at least 4 over the weekend as they hold onto their perfect record (the only team without a loss left in D1). A&M was dealt a crushing blow to their weekend rotation during week one of the conference season as they have found out that A.J. Minter is out for the season and will have Tommy John surgery on Friday. They head to Hoover, Alabama, to take on the Crimson Tide next weekend in what should be a good test for both A&M and Alabama.
LSU looked like the No. 1 team in the country in a series victory over Mississippi. The Rebels were able to win the Saturday match-up in the 14th inning (5-3), but LSU pounded their way to victory on Sunday with an 18-6 series clinching win. The Tigers are winning behind a young weekend rotation (sophomore Jared Poche’, freshman Alex Lange, and freshman Jake Godfrey), but the defense and lineup are absolutely as elite as you will find in college baseball. Those three guys are going to dominate the SEC over the next few years.
Mizzou completed their first-ever SEC sweep, and first road conference sweep since 2009, with three wins over Georgia this weekend. Even though the Tigers aren’t expected to have an amazing year in the SEC, this was a great way to begin conference play.
There weren’t many surprises over the weekend in the PAC-12 as the top teams in the conference took care of business. Arizona State secured a series victory against an underrated Oregon State Beavers team with a win on Sunday. The Sun Devils scored five runs over the last few innings on Sunday to win 7-4 and take the series. ASU has already played nine games against Top 25 teams. They’ve won five of those match-ups.
If there was a surprise in the PAC this weekend, it was the Cal Golden Bears taking two out of three from the No. 8 Oregon Ducks. This team has come a long way from where they were a few years ago when they almost cut the program. Cal is 15-4 on the season with series wins over UC Irvine, Kansas State, Chicago State, and now Oregon. They have a good chance to keep that going with a midweek contest against San Francisco on Tuesday, and a road series against the Washington Huskies this weekend.
Utah came back from a seven run deficit by scoring nine in the final two innings to beat Arizona on Sunday. They took two out of three from the Wildcats over the weekend but have a three game set with UCLA looming next weekend.
Virginia Tech got their first-ever sweep of a ranked opponent. What makes it even sweeter for VT fans is that it came against their biggest rivals, Virginia. Depending on what poll you subscribe to, the Cavaliers are No. 1 in the country. No doubt losing Brian O’Connor for four games for bumping into an umpire really hurt the team this weekend. He still has two games to sit out before he can return to his game managing duties.
After losing two of their first three games last weekend against the Virginia Cavaliers, the Pitt Panthers welcomed in the No. 11 North Carolina Tar Heels to Charles L. Cost Field for three games and were able to take two out of three to earn a series win in ACC play. The Panthers head down to Durham to take on the Duke Blue Devils next weekend after two in the midweek against Penn State and Akron on Tuesday and Wednesday.