College Baseball Preview
Hooray! Baseball is upon us. Yes, the college baseball season is underway. It's not even February, yet the first pitches of 2006 have already been thrown in several warm-weather locales.
The schedule picks up steam next Friday with 33 non-conference games, including the defending champion Texas Longhorns at the University of San Diego for a three-game set. Other featured series include Cal State Fullerton at Stanford and the University of Southern California meeting Long Beach State.
Texas beat Florida in the finals of the College World Series last June and has now hooked six national championships, including two of the past four. The Longhorns finished #1 in 2002, #3 in 2003, #2 in 2004, and #1 again in 2005.
Not surprisingly, Texas is ranked #1 in all the preseason polls. The eyes of Texas will be looking for the Longhorns to become the first school to win back-to-back titles since Louisiana State in 1996 and 1997. Stanford won it all in 1987 and 1988. If Texas outlasts everyone this year, talk will quickly turn toward the 'Horns being in the midst of the greatest run of championship finishes since USC won five in a row from 1970-1974.
Augie Garrido has captured five titles and is the only coach to win national championships at two schools--Cal State Fullerton (1979, 1984, and 1995) and Texas (2002 and 2005). He has taken 12 teams to the College World Series and will be seeking his sixth appearance since 2000 with preseason All-Americans Adrian Alaniz (So. RHP, 8-3, 2.67 ERA), Jordan Danks (Fr. OF, Round Rock, TX), Kenn Kasparek (So. RHP, 8-0, 2.10 ERA), Kyle McCulloch (Jr. RHP, 12-4, 2.92 ERA), and Drew Stubbs (Jr. OF, .311/.384/.527) leading the way.
Garrido's Longhorns will have to fend off nearly 300 Division I baseball programs in the country. Like college basketball, 64 teams will make it into postseason play. The 16 Regional winners will advance to the Super Regionals, and the eight teams victorious in the Super Regionals will head to Rosenblatt Stadium in Omaha, Nebraska for the 60th College World Series. The winners of the two brackets in the double-elimination tournament will meet in a best-of-three championship series.
We are going to preview the Big West, Pac-10, Big 12, SEC, and ACC over the next five days and conclude our series with the Best of the Rest on Saturday and predictions on Sunday. Our articles will highlight the teams most likely to make the playoffs with a particular focus on All-Americans and potential first- and second-round picks in the amateur draft in June.
With a record number of intersectional games this year, the college baseball season promises to be more exciting than ever. Boyd Nation, an opponent of the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) that the NCAA committee uses to seed schools and select at-large berths for the playoffs, believes that "the Left Coast teams may start being treated more fairly. The RPI's still broken, but teams may be learning to work around it."
[Editor's note: A salute to the legendary Rod Dedeaux, who passed away earlier this month at the age of 91, is in order. Dedeaux, who retired from USC in 1986, won 11 national and 28 conference championships. He was named the head coach of the all-time College World Series team in 1996 and was honored by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball as Coach of the Century in 1999. Rest in peace, Rod.]