As the 2016 college baseball regular season approaches its end, the top teams around the country will continue to build their resumes in the hopes of receiving the best possible seed for the NCAA tournament.
Historically, the regular season doesn't mean everything when it comes to contending for the College World Series. UCLA was the No. 1 overall seed a year ago and didn't make it out of its regional. The same thing happened to Oregon State the year before.
Still, teams will do their best to peak at the right time to succeed in the postseason. As of now it appears the SEC and ACC should have the advantage going forward, but anything can happen when the pressure is on.
Here is a look at the latest polls and rankings and a breakdown of the top teams to watch out for.
|NCAA Baseball Rankings|
|Pos.||RPI (Record)||Coaches' Poll|
|2||Louisville (38-10)||Texas A&M|
|4||Texas A&M (37-10)||Mississippi State|
|5||South Carolina (36-11)||Louisville|
|6||North Carolina State (32-14)||Florida State|
|7||Ole Miss (36-13)||Vanderbilt|
|8||Florida State (32-13)||South Carolina|
|10||Vanderbilt (36-12)||Texas Tech|
|11||Texas Tech (37-13)||Ole Miss|
|12||Mississippi State (33-14-1)||North Carolina State|
|13||North Carolina (30-17)||LSU|
|14||Coastal Carolina (34-14)||Virginia|
|15||Virginia (31-17)||Oklahoma State|
|16||Georgia Tech (31-16)||Florida Atlantic|
|17||LSU (31-16)||Oregon State|
|18||Southern Miss (34-14)||UC Santa Barbara|
|20||UC Santa Barbara (31-12-1)||Arizona|
|22||Rice (31-14)||North Carolina|
|23||Arizona (31-16)||Coastal Carolina|
|25||East Carolina (30-16-1)||Georgia Tech|
|Source: NCAA.com and USAToday.com|
Full RPI breakdown available at NCAA.com.
Top Teams to Watch
While Florida is the No. 1 team in the country, the Gators are still locked in a battle to win the SEC. They are 16-7 in the conference—tied with South Carolina atop the SEC East and slightly better than 16-8 Texas A&M.
Still, this team remains the favorite to earn the No. 1 seed in the SEC tournament with two series left thanks to the pitching on the roster.
Florida ranks 10th in the country with a combined team ERA of 2.81, which is not an easy feat in such a loaded conference. The bullpen has been great, and A.J. Puk and Alex Faedo do their jobs in the rotation. However, the real star is Logan Shore. The junior has a 2.32 ERA and is 9-0 on the season, winning 14 consecutive decisions dating back to last year.
Adam McInturff of Baseball Prospectus had high praise for the pitcher:
Florida is confident when he takes the ball every Friday night, and he will be tough to beat in the postseason.
The lineup has plenty of depth as well, with first baseman Peter Alonso leading the way, but it's the pitching that will help this team win for the rest of the regular season and beyond.
This offense has been almost impossible to slow down as of late.
With Tuesday's 14-7 win over Bethune-Cookman, Miami has now won seven of its last eight games, reaching double-digit runs in six of those games. The key has been the offensive depth, with different players stepping up seemingly every night.
The Hurricanes have four players with batting averages of at least .350. Brandon Lopez leads the way with a .408 mark, good for 15th in the country. Zack Collins and Johnny Ruiz have each filled their roles of driving runners home, each tallying 45 RBI on the year.
Meanwhile, even the lesser known players can step up when needed. Miami scored 29 runs in the final two games of a series win over Georgia Tech, thanks to Jacob Heyward's three-hit, five-RBI night in the rubber match.
"It was a big series for us," Heyward said after the game, per the school's official website. "We feel like we’ve set ourselves up in a good position, being a top-five team in the country, and we just wanted to keep the wins rolling."
This squad is rolling now after a bit of a recent slide. The former No. 1 team in the country is peaking at the right time and should continue to cause problems for opposing pitchers.
There are few easy matchups in the SEC, but Texas A&M continues to take on all challengers. The Aggies haven't lost a series since Florida swept them at the beginning of April, going 15-3 in their last 18 games.
Boomer White is a big reason for the recent success, ranking second in the country with a .433 batting average. Richard Cross of the SEC Network noted how well the junior has played against conference opponents:
This would be impressive against high school pitchers, let alone in the best conference in college baseball.
Additionally, Hunter Melton has been one of the top power hitters in the league with 23 extra-base hits and a .618 slugging percentage. This duo has helped carry an offense that has been more than enough to contend for a conference title.
The pitching staff has also held up its end of the bargain with a 3.12 ERA and 419 strikeouts to just 136 walks on the season. While the group might not have traditional roles for its players, the coaches know how to get the most out of everyone, and the system has worked. No matter what innings pitchers such as Mark Ecker or Brigham Hill work, they have done their jobs and gotten outs.
This makes Texas A&M a dangerous team in the coming months.
Note: All stats courtesy of team sites.
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