The Best Teams Step Up, The Elite Teams Leap Forward: Week Two Thoughts
Although this college baseball season is still in its infancy, Week Two showed us a glimpse of this season's dynamic. The results this week, some resilient, others surprising, and the rest expected, perhaps even created a distinction between potential contenders and contenders.
After making a national statement of intent in last weekend's marquee series against then-No. 18 East Carolina, No. 1 Virginia (6-1) brought out the brooms and crushed a struggling Rhode Island squad.
Despite playing clearly inferior competition, Virginia demonstrated the same offensive balance it showed against East Carolina. Almost all Virginia offensive starters have hit above .300 this season insofar, and every batter found some way to contribute runs in last weekend's series.
Additionally, Danny Hultzen and Robert Morey dominated a Rhode Island lineup that simply did not have the bat speed to catch up to low-90s fastballs, while Cody Winiarski performed well enough to give Virginia fans confidence about his ability as a bona fide Sunday starter.
Other teams like No. 14 Coastal Carolina (7-1) and No. 12 Clemson (6-0) impressed against great and good opponents, respectively.
Comparatively speaking, other top teams such as No. 2 LSU (7-0), No. 3 Florida State (6-0), and No. 6 Arizona State (7-0) were not as impressive as Virginia in their wins or demonstration of team strength.
LSU won against William & Mary, but not as emphatically as Virginia beat Rhode Island. Florida State and Arizona State have demolished its competition insofar, but have yet to face a real challenge like Virginia has—this will change tomorrow though when the 'Noles face No. 4-ranked Florida (5-0).
These elite teams will eventually display their true colors in the face of adversity and a challenge.
Virginia has seemingly demonstrated its capacity as national championship favorites, while the likes of LSU and Florida State will show their true colors soon against Pepperdine and Florida, respectively.
It will be extremely interesting to follow tomorrow's Florida State-Florida game, considering this matchup will dictate bragging rights for the the state; considering Florida State's extreme advantage in prestige and performance in the state of Florida, it will be interesting to see the ramifications of a potential Florida win tomorrow.
Other teams that struggled in the first week seemingly showed their true colors in Week Two. No. 5 Texas and No. 11 East Carolina rebounded after poor showings in Week One, while previously-No. 9 (now No. 18) Cal State Fullerton continued to struggle last weekend against No. 16 TCU (5-1).
Texas was able to beat a good (previously No. 18) Stanford team through offensive balance. Stanford did a good job keeping Cameron Rupp in check, forcing the other players in the Texas lineup to step up and notch key hits. Texas, a team looking to respond to criticism that they cannot recover from the losses of Brandon Belt and company, responded.
Fullerton's failures have been a complete surprise, although their inability to fight back from adversity after falling behind late in games after the Arkansas disaster last season could explain their mental block. Christian Colon, as good as he is, cannot carry Fullerton to where they expect to be alone. Fullerton and Coach Serrano need to take note from Texas and buck up before their season spirals before their eyes.
Fullerton is lucky that UC Irvine's lack of success so far (against similarly-tough competition) and the fall of the Pac-10 from the pedestal after their great week last week are mitigating their failures.
Some Pac-10 teams have moved themselves towards the front of the pack, and garnered national spotlight.
No. 23 UCLA (6-0) (unfortunately) dominated the Dodgertown Classic, demonstrating itself as the best team in Los Angeles and perhaps the West Coast. Washington State (6-0), a good but not highly-esteemed team, has also done itself well by beating Texas Tech and a respected Bethune-Cookman team.
No. 22 Kentucky (6-0) also did really well last weekend, perhaps proving that they aren't missing James Paxton's talent (and distractions) too much and can seriously contend with teams like Ole Miss and LSU for SEC supremacy.
Other esteemed teams have moved back towards the middle of the pack, including Stanford (against Texas), USC (unfortunately against UCLA), and James Madison (albeit in a tough series; we'll see how their super-charged offense does against UVa).
Overall, it's been another great week in college baseball.
The teams that we thought would be ultimate contenders for Omaha have stepped forward, while other teams have battled against each other for national attention. It looks to be a good month of college baseball this March!
I'm going to start writing a weekly college baseball power rankings series, so I hope y'all look forward to that. Thanks!
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