“The Road to Omaha” is a column I started writing opening weekend of last college baseball season where I would talk about the weekend’s biggest winners, surprises, and post my vote for the Top-25 in the country.
I decided to wait until the conference season this year before I brought the column back for the 2016 season. In doing so, it has given me time to better evaluate teams and players, and I have a better feel for what teams actually boast at this time of the year. Some conferences began conference play last weekend but, now that all of them have, it is time to bring it back.
Texas 2-1 over No. 6 TCU
The Horns got a much needed series victory in Austin over the Horned Frogs over the weekend. It was only UT’s second series win of the season (UNLV 2-1 opening weekend). It also gives a boost to a Texas team that has looked a little lethargic at times this year.
Tres Barrera hit three home runs last week, two came in the weekend set against TCU.
No. 17 California 3-0 over No. 3 Oregon State
California has been outstanding this season, outside of a conference opening weekend series loss to USC (2-1). The Golden Bears scored 5.3 runs per game against the Beavers while only giving up five runs all weekend to OSU. I mentioned before the year began that I thought Cal had a great chance to win the PAC this year. Weekends like that make me feel really good about that pick.
Daulton Jefferies pitched a complete game four-hitter with two earned runs on Thursday night to open the series, and Ryan Mason followed that up with a complete game four-hitter of his own on Friday. Mason gave up no runs with seven strikeouts to secure the series victory.
No. 2 Texas A&M 2-1 over No. 10 LSU
The Aggies exorcised some demons in College Station over the weekend as they took down the Tigers for their first series win over LSU since joining the SEC. Though the Tigers are going through some struggles of their own at the moment, namely in the starting rotation, that is a quality series win for A&M.
The Tigers dropped their second straight conference series as Alabama won two out of three to open the conference slate in week five.
After struggling to start the year, Rice has looked great since being swept at the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children College Classic in Houston. Since losing to UL-Lafayette, the Owls are 11-4 with series victories over East Carolina and UTSA, and a mid-week win over a ranked University of Houston. While it is not a surprise that Rice swept Old Dominion, the team is playing their best baseball of the year right now.
Sticking with the Owls, and Conference USA, Florida Atlantic is definitely one of this season’s biggest surprises. FAU beat Mississippi State twice on opening weekend and dropped a 2-1 decision to Florida in a mid-week matchup last week. Infielder CJ Chatham (.374/.348/.527) leads the team with 34 hits in 91 at-bats, while Stephen Kerr and Esteban Puerta lead the team in home runs with three a piece. Marc Stewart (3-0 2.18 ERA) has been very good on the mound with only eight runs in 33 IP. Though the strikeout number isn’t high, neither is the number of hits he’s allowed.
While Georgia Tech isn’t a necessarily a team that comes out of left field, the team has been impressive in the early going. The Yellow Jackets are hitting .319/.388/.466 as a team while the pitching staff boasts a 3.26 ERA. Though the start of conference play hasn’t been terribly kind to Georgia Tech, the Yellow Jackets have won two straight conference series (3-0 over Virginia Tech, 2-1 over North Carolina).
- Texas A&M
- Miami, FL
- Oregon State
- Florida State
- South Carolina
- Mississippi State
- Long Beach State
- NC State
- East Carolina
- Oklahoma State
- UC Santa Barbara
- Georgia Tech