Winners and losers from college baseball non-conference play

The college baseball season is well underway, with many teams already starting to begin their quest to Omaha in conference play.

Before things really get going in conference, we decided to compile a list of winners and losers through the first four weeks of the season. Of course, we couldn’t fit everyone onto this list, but we threw in as many of the storylines as we could.

Please note that each team made the list for a certain reason. For example, Florida would not be on the list in the same category as Arkansas.

Take a look:

Winners:

Florida – The Gators are the only undefeated team in Division 1 Baseball entering Tuesday (3/10) and look to build upon an already impressive resume with a win over rival Florida State. Florida has found a way to win in thrilling fashion on multiple occasions, with a series sweep of Miami featuring two extra-inning games in Coral Gables. Florida had a bit of a down year last year, exiting Hoover early and getting ousted by Dallas Baptist in the Lubbock Regional hosted at Texas Tech.

However, the Gators return a plethora of talent and are absolutely rolling. In order to beat this team, you’re going to have to bring your A game and then some. If we could crown a champion in early March, it would have to be Florida. With the Seminoles in the midweek and No. 3 Georgia on the weekend, the Gators will have their hands full this week in the Sunshine State. While we already believe Florida is a true contender, this week will give us a much better picture on just how good the Gators really are.

Aside from a few close wins at Miami that could have gone either way, Florida’s had a relatively easy non-conference schedule thus far. Not to take anything away from the 2017 champions, but more success against the Top 25 will ultimately prove they are legit.

Georgia – The Bulldogs may not be in the headlines like their rivals to the South mentioned above, but they’re dominating the diamond day in and day out. Georgia already has three wins over a much-improved Santa Clara squad which we discuss later and a series sweep of in-state rival Georgia Tech under its belt.

Emerson Hancock, Cole Wilcox and Ryan Webb look to be in midseason form on the mound, with Georgia steamrolling its way through non-conference play in all but two games. The Dawgs had a few close calls against Richmond early, but are now dominating the weekend matchups and look to be a strong contender to win not only the SEC, but the whole crown. Just like Florida, we’ll find out a lot more about the Bulldogs this week, as they look to bounce back and take the midweek series against Georgia Southern, while also traveling to Gainesville on Friday.

Ole Miss – The Rebels were able to open up the season with a statement series win over Louisville in Oxford. After dropping its first game of the year, Ole Miss went on to win 14 straight, including a quality win at East Carolina. The schedule will only get tougher from here, as the Rebels host Vanderbilt and Florida, while traveling to Georgia and splitting up games with Mississippi State. Nothing comes easy in the SEC West, but Ole Miss is off to as good of a start as it could have hoped for. Taking the conference crown may be too tall a task, but a regional seed is well within reach as of now. If the Rebels stay hot, look for them to earn a national seed with ease and give the rest of the conference fits, however.

Oklahoma – The Sooners entered the season just outside the Top 25, but a series win over Virginia and a strong showing in Houston against LSU and Arkansas have catapulted them into the polls. Oklahoma has a massive midweek matchup with the upstart UT-Arlington on Tuesday, but is looking good so far. If the Sooners continue to play solid ball, look for them to be a legitimate contender not only in the Big 12, but also nationally.

Long Beach State – The Dirtbags are off to a solid start to the 2020 season, picking up wins over Mississippi State, Wake Forest and a number of other teams. Though it’s still early, Long Beach State looks to be legit out West on the Pacific Coast. The Sharks have a significant series at Tulane this weekend, which should help to paint a clearer picture on them, but as of now, they look to be one of baseball’s biggest surprises.

UCF – The Knights are off to a sizzling hot start to their 2020 campaign, with wins over a handful of solid ball clubs including Auburn. UCF went down to The Plains and swept the Tigers, who were an Omaha team just last season. We may not know all that much about the Knights yet, but have reason to believe they aren’t playing around. Look for UCF to challenge Tulane for the AAC title in conference play.

Tulane – As mentioned above, the Green Wave are about the only thing standing in the Knights’ way in the AAC right now. Tulane is also off to a hot start, with early wins over Louisiana, Cal State Fullerton, and Middle Tennessee State. However, the Green Wave have not been tested too much as of yet. We’re already quite impressed with the team from New Orleans, but we’ll find out a lot more in future games against LBSU, DBU and LSU this month.

Pepperdine – The other Wave out West are also off to an impressive start, picking up early wins over Oregon, Minnesota and Michigan. Pepperdine has quietly entered the Top 25 in many polls, but gets a bit of a break in its upcoming schedule, looking to build up wins over Cal Poly, San Francisco, BYU and others.

Tennessee – The Vols started off the season red-hot, wracking up a plethora of wins including victories over Texas Tech and Stanford. Tennessee dropped two games in the past week, but is still in prime position to make a run at a regional seed with a strong conference campaign. Keep an eye on the Vols over the next few weeks as we find out if they are pretenders or true contenders.

Alabama – Just like Tennessee, Alabama was no easy out in the non-conference schedule. It took a few weeks, but the Crimson Tide finally dropped a game over the weekend to Lipscomb, though ultimately taking the series. Alabama has looked the part of a tournament team early on, but will get tested in the coming weeks with a trip to Fayetteville and a home series against Auburn. The record is very good right now, but we still don’t really know just how good this Tide team is.

UT-Arlington – The Mavericks have been a nice surprise in the 2020 season, handling business on the weekends and taking games from Dallas Baptist and TCU. UT-Arlington will host Oklahoma tonight as we previously mentioned and look for that final boost to get into the rankings next week. This Mavericks team may not be generating a lot of national buzz, but can sneak up on just about anyone. You don’t want to mess with UT-Arlington.

Santa Clara – The Broncos currently sit at 12-5, having already matched their season win total from all of 2019 in early March. Santa Clara is producing runs on a consistent basis this season and pitching much better, becoming a candidate for one of the most improved teams so far. Need we say three of the Broncos’ five losses came on the road to No. 3 Georgia? In addition, Santa Clara took the final game from the Bulldogs, holding off a late rally to escape Athens with a win. We’re very high on the Broncos, who boast victories over the Dawgs and even Stanford, while dominating in-state play. Santa Clara may not make the tournament, but they’re easily one of the most improved squads in 2020.

Losers:

We won’t harp much on the losers here, but there’s a reason these teams are on the list. Sure, Vanderbilt and Arkansas can quickly turn things around, but for others… well.. not so much.

Vanderbilt – The Commodores were picked as one of the early-season favorites to return to Omaha and take the 2020 crown, but have looked anything but the part of a championship team thus far. In Vanderbilt’s two toughest weekends, the Commodores went 1-2 each time, even struggling to take the series at home against Hawaii last week. Sure, it’s early, we get it. Are we crazy to harp on Vandy already? Probably. But let’s not act like the Commodores’ start has been nothing short of a disappointment. Let’s see what Vandy can do in conference play. The losses are only going to be forgiven for so long.

Arkansas – Just like Vanderbilt, the Hogs opened the season as a championship favorite, wracking up wins at home over a number of teams in Baum-Walker. However, Arkansas had a bit of a skid last week, going 0-3 in Houston and dropping two more games during the week, before ultimately taking the South Alabama series. Arkansas still has the tools to return to Omaha, but needs to get things figured out before the going gets tougher.

Stanford – As for Stanford, this season looks to already be a wrap. Yeah, it’s March. We know you probably think we’re crazy. However, we’ll go ahead and say that the Cardinal are missing out on the NCAA festivities this year. Unless Stanford pulls some magic in the PAC 12 Tournament, the Cardinal will be anything but a tournament team. Injuries and attrition have quickly plagued a 2019 super regional squad, but Stanford will need to pull off a miracle to get back in contention through conference play. We knew the Cardinal were a partial shell of their former selves, but this bad? No, no one could have projected that. It’s beyond time to panic on The Farm.

Oregon State – Just like Stanford, the Beavers have become an NCAA Tournament regular. However, things are not looking too good for Oregon State so far. The Beavers are doing a bit of reloading themselves, but will likely miss out on the tournament if things don’t change quickly as well. A single win at Mississippi State to cap off a pretty bland non-conference resume is not going to cut it. Yes, it’s also panic time in Corvallis.

Michigan – Talk about a rollercoaster team, Michigan started off the year on fire, taking three out of four in the MLB4 Tournament and against Arizona State. However, the Wolverines, a national runner-up in 2019, have quickly cooled off. Michigan still sits a game above .500 and can easily make the tournament, but need to figure things out again and get back to winning.

North Carolina – Just like the Wolverines, North Carolina started off hot, but has since cooled off significantly. The Heels dropped a home series to a talented Dallas Baptist team, two games in Minnesota and got swept by Notre Dame. A team many picked to reach Omaha behind the bat of Sabato and others will need more offense to truly get going. The Tar Heels are a talented team and have hit a bit of a funk at the moment. The question is, can they rebound in a loaded ACC?

Nebraska – The Cornhuskers were picked to make the NCAA Tournament by many this season and a sleeper team in the Big 10, but are still slithering under .500 at the moment. Nebraska has not impressed so far and will need to gain ground in conference to make a run at the tournament if the Huskers can’t win the Big 10.

Ohio State – What about the Buckeyes? After defeating Nebraska in the Big 10 Tournament final last season to slide into the NCAA Tournament, Ohio State has fallen off the map in 2020. A 5-7 start has the Buckeyes reeling, though the season started with a challenging road stretch. Georgia Tech, a team made to look silly by Georgia just one week ago, absolutely crushed Ohio State in Atlanta. The Buckeyes need to get their act together or else they’re in for a long season in Columbus.

Kentucky – The Wildcats may not be a perennial power, but have disappointed early, getting swept by TCU and UNC Wilmington. With such a star-studded lineup in conference play coming up, Kentucky will need to dig deep to reach the tournament and looks primed for the bottom of the SEC East right now.

Cal Poly- We may have jumped on the Cal Poly bus a bit too early, ranking the Mustangs after just the first week or two of play. However, Cal Poly has sputtered since its hot start in Arizona and looks to be a bit of a fraud so far. Of course, when an underdog team wins two big games in February, it’s easy to overreact, which looks to be what happened on Poly. Time will tell if the Mustangs can get back to their winning ways.

Cal State Fullerton- Just like Cal Poly, it appears Cal State Fullerton was also a bit of a fraud, having won two of three at Stanford to open up the season. We have now learned that Stanford never was that good to begin with and Fullerton continues to fall against other competition. After jumping to conclusions on Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton, we’d like to play it safe on the other mid-major West Coast foes. However, Long Beach State looks to have proven its legitimacy thus far.

That’s all for this week! Make sure to follow along with us as we bring you more coverage from around the diamond!

2 thoughts on “Winners and losers from college baseball non-conference play

  1. No mention whatsoever of one of the best teams in college baseball, whose only loss is to a team that they mentioned was able to beat us. Texas Tech is a perennial regional host, the ACTUAL host of the regional that Florida was ousted out of the tournament from last year. Texas Tech has not lost a game since that Friday, in Round Rock, TX, to Tennessee, AND they have had two extra-inning wins in dramatic fashion to keep the win streak alive. A one-loss Texas Tech team that has to replace veteran pitching, and the #8 pick of the MLB draft, in Josh Jung (not to mention production from players like Cam Warren and Gabe Holt). This is typical press on college baseball. I don’t understand how Tim Tadlock and the Red Raiders, who have proven themselves year after year at this point, don’t get more respect from people. It makes the reporting look biased and poorly done.

    Like

    • Josh, with all due respect, we didn’t mention Texas Tech because they were projected to be a high-level team entering the season and have already managed a lot of success. We are well aware of the Red Raiders’ success on the diamond and have them ranked No. 2 in the nation right now. However, we appreciate your suggestion and would be happy to add them to the list.

      Thanks for reaching out!

      Like

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