Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (2024)

Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (1)

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Weekend PreviewPat James - May 16, 2024

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The final weekend of the 2024 college baseball regular season is here, and with it comes several series with major NCAA Tournament implications.

Five ranked matchups – including the much-anticipated showdown between Arkansas and Texas A&M – highlight the slate. Without further ado, let’s dive into some of the series and other storylines to know.

3 Series To Watch

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No. 3 Arkansas at No. 5 Texas A&M

At one point we thought this series might feature the top two teams in the country, but instead we’ll have to settle for it being a top-five matchup. There’s arguably more at stake in this scenario than if it had been No. 1 vs. No. 2, though, because both teams are trying to find their footing after hitting some speed bumps in recent weeks.

Texas A&M has lost two straight series—to LSU and Ole Miss, both on the road—thanks in large part to two issues that have cropped up, one that might be worth worrying about if you’re an Aggie supporter and one that’s definitely not worth worrying about.

The one that’s not worth worrying about is the offensive production. A&M has had one of the most prolific lineups in the country all season, but it has scored four or fewer runs four times over the last two weekends, and not coincidentally, those are the four losses it has taken in those series.

What might be worth a little bit of worry is the weekend rotation outside of Ryan Prager (8-1, 2.71). Justin Lamkin (2-2, 5.47) gave up five runs in 1.2 innings, tied for his shortest start of the season, against Ole Miss last weekend, and his SEC ERA is 8.07. Tanner Jones (3-1, 6.98), who has an 8.80 SEC ERA, was skipped last weekend in favor of Shane Sdao (2.03 ERA, 40 IP), who was making his first conference start of the season.

For Arkansas, which lost a series two weekends ago against Kentucky and last weekend had to fight hard to win a series against Mississippi State at home, the issue has long been clear: the lineup. Whether due to injuries—Kendall Diggs’ shoulder injury has been particularly impactful—or players simply not taking steps forward as anticipated, the Razorbacks have struggled to score against good pitching this season, as shown by their .243 batting average and 218 runs scored in conference play (both ahead of only Missouri in the league).

A healthy Peyton Stovall (.339/.402/.564) has been a catalyst, and after a slow start, Hudson White (.279/.373/.450) has come alive of late, contributing plenty of clutch hits along the way, and he now leads the team in hitting in SEC games with a .321 average. Impact bats like Wehiwa Aloy (.279/.376/.478, 11 HR), Ben McLaughlin (.297/.454/.471), Diggs (.242/.352/.416) and Nolan Souza (.262/.375/.523) all batting .262 or lower in conference games has limited the length of the Arkansas lineup, which has in turned only intensified the spotlight on Stovall and White to carry the load.

— Joe Healy, from the SEC Weekend Preview

Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (3)

No. 6 Oregon State at No. 14 Arizona

The final Pac-12 regular season title and potentially NCAA regional hosting duties will be on the line as the Beavers and Wildcats face off at Hi Corbett Field.

Despite being picked to finish ninth in the preseason Pac-12 coaches poll and starting the season 10-13, Arizona enters the series with a 1 1/2-game lead over Oregon State and needs only one win to secure its sixth and final Pac-12 crown. Sitting at No. 27 in the RPI, the Wildcats are currently on the wrong side of the hosting bubble. As discussed on Wednesday’s Nerdcast, though, a series win against the Beavers would push their RPI closer to 20, and if you combine that with the Pac-12 title and their No. 1 nonconference strength of schedule, Arizona’s path to hosting becomes clearer.

That the Wildcats even find themselves within striking distance of hosting is largely due to their pitching. Their 4.14 ERA ranks 12th nationally, and they lead the country in walk rate (6.1%), strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.69) and FIP (4.26). Their weekend rotation – consisting primarily of Jackson Kent (3-2, 3.12), Clark Candiotti (6-2, 3.01) and Cam Walty (8-1, 2.83) – has registered a 3.31 ERA, the seventh-best mark in the nation.

Arizona’s offense is Division I average (100 wRC+), but is led by one of the Pac-12’s top players in Mason White (.309/.402/.618). The shortstop paces the Wildcats and is tied for second in the conference in home runs (17) and RBIs (60).

The amount of support White receives from the rest of the lineup will go a long way in determining the series winner, as Oregon State boasts one of the country’s most potent offenses. The Beavers are fifth nationally in OPS (1.009), wOBA (.447) and wRC+ (135), and they also possess the country’s highest walk rate (15.6%). Our No. 2 college prospect for July’s MLB Draft, Travis Bazzana (.424/.589/.972, 26 HR, 60 RBIs) is one of three stalwarts with an OPS over 1.000, along with Gavin Turley (.291/.413/.612, 17 HR, 64 RBIs) and Jacob Krieg (.281/.464/.556). Brady Kasper (.275/.409/.549), Micah McDowell (.423/.512/.763) and Wilson Weber (.312/.409/.667) also appear to be rounding into form after battling injuries for much of the year.

As much attention as Oregon State’s offense receives – and deservedly so – the pitching staff has also excelled. Led by a strong 1-2 punch in Arizona transfer Aiden May (5-0, 2.77) and Jacob Kmatz (5-2, 3.65), the Beavers rank 15th nationally in ERA (4.22) and 19th in WHIP (1.34).

Oregon State can only claim its sixth Pac-12 title in the last 19 seasons with a sweep of the Wildcats, but with its RPI already at No. 14, a series win would likely lock up hosting privileges.

Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (4)

No. 8 Wake Forest at No. 17 NC State

No host candidate bolstered its resume more last week than the Demon Deacons, as they surged from outside the top 16 into the top eight with a three-game sweep of Clemson. Now their focus shifts toward maintaining their position as they visit a Wolfpack club that’s just as hungry to open the NCAA Tournament at home.

Chase Burns (10-1, 2.85) set the stage for Wake Forest against the Tigers, striking out a career-high 16 batters over seven innings of one-run, two-hit ball. The performance – which garnered him D1Baseball National Pitcher of the Week honors – served as the latest example of the righty delivering in a big spot. But it wasn’t the only one of significance for the Demon Deacons.

Josh Hartle (6-2, 5.32) logged his third quality start in his last four outings, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out nine over six innings. The bullpen, led by Cole Roland (1-0, 3.65, 6 SV), gave up only two runs while striking out 13 and walking two across 9 2/3 innings. And offensively, Nick Kurtz (.322/.538/.805), Jack Winnay (.324/.425/.719), Seaver King (.323/.389/.609) and Marek Houston (.328/.424/.505) combined to go 18-for-45 with six homers, 16 RBIs and 10 walks compared to six strikeouts.

With the sweep, Wake Forest extended its winning streak to nine games, improved to 15-12 in ACC play, pushed its RPI into the top 10 and upped its Quad 1 win total to 11. A series win at NC State – which is No. 20 in the RPI – would further cement the Demon Deacons’ top-eight status. A series loss, however, would leave them with work to do in the ACC tournament.

While a top-eight seed appears to be out of its reach, NC State would move into hosting position with a series win this weekend. And if its season so far is any indication, expect the Wolfpack to bring its A-game.

After winning two of three games at Virginia last weekend, NC State boasts series wins over the Cavaliers (No. 13 in the RPI), North Carolina (No. 5), Clemson (No. 7) and Duke (No. 23). It also split two road games against Florida State (No. 9). Despite those accomplishments and ranking sixth nationally in strength of schedule, the Wolfpack sits outside the hosting picture, due in part to series sweeps at the hands of Georgia Tech and Louisville and a 3-6 midweek record.

NC State’s inconsistency can largely be attributed to its pitching struggles, as it ranks 12th in the ACC in ERA (6.41) and last in walk rate (12.2%). The bullpen has been quite shaky, posting a 6.60 ERA, and was recently dealt a major blow with Shane Van Dam (4-0, 4.58) being ruled out for the rest of the year due to an elbow injury. Jacob Dudan (2-2, 4.63) has turned in a solid freshman season and Sam Highfill (5-1, 5.01) has mixed in some strong starts, but the Wolfpack will need more arms to emerge.

Offensively, the lineup is anchored by Alec Makarewicz (.358/.418/.721, 18 HR, 65 RBIs), Garrett Pennington (.351/.432/.653, 14 HR, 54 RBIs) and Jacob Cozart (.305/.436/.603, 15 HR, 42 RBIs).

Pitching Matchup To Watch

Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (5)

Oregon State’s Aiden May vs. Arizona’s Jackson Kent

A year removed from helping the Wildcats make a late push into the NCAA Tournament, May makes his return to Tucson Thursday, looking to keep the Beavers’ Pac-12 title hopes alive and continue his recent dominance.

May enters the weekend riding a 23 1/3 scoreless innings streak that has lowered his ERA to 2.77, the best in the Pac-12. Over his last three starts, the righty’s been especially overpowering, striking out 30 while yielding 10 hits and four walks. The stretch has seen him up his changeup usage from 8.2% in his first seven starts to 23.4%. In that span, the pitch has a 39.5% chase rate and a 47.6% whiff rate and teams are hitting .059 against it.

May will be opposed by his former staffmate Kent. The deceptive lefty is coming off his two worst outings of the season – a stretch that’s seen him surrender 10 runs (nine earned) in 10 2/3 innings. But he’s been one of the Pac-12’s most consistent arms over the course of the entire year, posting a 3.12 ERA while striking out 81 (24.6 K%) and walking 23 (7 BB%) over 78 innings. He’s been especially good at Hi Corbett Field, registering a 2.70 ERA over 36 2/3 innings.

Other notable pitching matchups:

  • Arkansas’ Hagen Smith vs. Texas A&M’s Ryan Prager
  • Ole Miss’ Liam Doyle vs. LSU’s Luke Holman
  • Cal Poly’s Jakob Wright vs. UC San Diego’s Anthony Eyanson*
  • Georgia Tech’s Aeden Finateri vs. Florida State’s Jamie Arnold*
  • Virginia’s Evan Blanco vs. Virginia Tech’s Brett Renfrow*
  • North Carolina’s Jason DeCaro vs. Duke’s Kyle Johnson
  • Oklahoma’s Braden Davis vs. Cincinnati’s Nathan Taylor
  • Oregon State’s Jacob Kmatz vs. Arizona’s Clark Candiotti
  • Vanderbilt’s Bryce Cunningham vs. Kentucky’s Trey Pooser
  • Wofford’s Zac Cowan vs. Samford’s Michael Ross
  • Nebraska’s Brett Sears vs. Michigan State’s Joseph Dzierwa



Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (6)

Arkansas ace Hagen Smith leads DI in ERA (1.65) and strikeouts per nine innings (17.24). Who was the last pitcher to accomplish the feat in a full season?

A. Paul Skenes, LSU
B. Trevor Bauer, UCLA
C. Stephen Strasburg, San Diego State
D. Jered Weaver, Long Beach State

Mid-Major Spotlight

Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (7)

Postseason play is still a week away for most of the country, but not the Ivy League – which begins its double-elimination conference tournament Friday with a pair of games between Columbia and Penn and Princeton and Cornell.

Looking to secure its sixth league title in the last 10 full seasons, Columbia (26-16) is the tournament’s top seed with a 17-4 conference record. The Lions’ .980 OPS is 131 points better than any other Ivy League squad’s, and their 86 homers are 37 clear of second place. Three lineup regulars possess an OPS above 1.100: Griffin Palfrey (.383/.479/.708), Cole Hage (.340/.479/.686) and Jack Cooper (.346/.388/.741, 16 HR, 59 RBIs). On the mound, Columbia is led by Joe Sheets (4-3, 5.08), who paced the conference with a 2.52 ERA over 39 1/3 innings during league play.

The No. 2 seed at 12-9 in Ivy League play, Princeton (17-24) features the league’s ERA leader in Jacob Faulkner (7-1, 3.16, 4 SV). The righthanded reliever has struck out 49 (20.8 K%) and walked 11 (4.7 BB%) in 57 innings and 19 appearances (one start), good for a league-best strikeout-to-walk ratio (4.43). Offensively, the Tigers are led by Jake Koonin (.329/.414/.537, 19 2B, 11 SB) and Jake Bold (.306/.429/.463).

The No. 3 seed with an 11-10 conference mark, Cornell (15-19) returns to the postseason for the first time since winning the 2012 Ivy League Championship Series. Anchoring the conference’s second-best lineup during league play are John Quinlan (.395/.458/.597) and Max Jensen (.371/.465/.568). Quinlan became just the second player in Ivy League history to amass 40-plus hits during conference play with 42.

Rounding out the field is reigning Ivy League champion Penn (20-22, 11-10), which hopes to recapture some of the magic that helped it to the 2023 Auburn Regional final. The Quakers are headlined by Wyatt Henseler (.375/.486/.786), the league leader in OPS (1.271), home runs (19) and wRC+ (180). Should he not sign with an MLB organization this summer, Henseler will spend next season at Texas A&M. He and Nick Spaventa (.322/.409/.503) help lead the conference’s second-most powerful offense (.849 OPS). Penn’s 6.48 ERA, meanwhile, is the best among conference tournament participants.

– Kaileigh Grieb

6-4-3 Charts Stat of the Week

Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (8)

The SEC’s hottest team entering the regular season’s final weekend, Georgia suddenly finds itself in the thick of the top-eight-national-seed discussion. Charlie Condon and a budding pitching staff are among the biggest reasons for this surge. But so is unassuming star Corey Collins.

A .268/.391/.477 hitter over his first three seasons in Athens, the first baseman is slashing .367/.598/.800 with a career-high 16 homers and 49 RBIs this year. Not only does he lead the nation in on-base percentage, but he’s also third in OPS (1.398), wOBA (.586) and wRC+ (206); only Condon and Bazzana – the potential top-two picks in July’s draft – rank ahead of him.

Among the biggest reasons for Collins’ breakout is he’s hitting the ball in the air more. After not posting a groundball rate below 27.5% in any of his first three seasons, his current rate sits at 11.6%. That’s in comparison to a 60% fly-ball rate and a career-best 28.4% line-drive rate.

Collins is also performing significantly better against breaking balls. From 2021-23, he batted .149 with a .299 slugging percentage, a .291 wOBA, a 21.2% chase rate and a 42.9% whiff rate on sliders. He also hit .143 with a .257 slugging percentage, a .242 wOBA, an 11.2% chase rate and a 50.8% whiff rate on curveballs.

This year, he’s batting .300 with a .950 slugging percentage, a .625 wOBA, an 11.8% chase rate and a 30.4% whiff rate on sliders. Against curves, he’s hitting .500 with a .500 slugging percentage, a .655 wOBA, a 9.1% chase rate and a 22.2% whiff rate. His improved whiff and chase rates against both pitches have largely contributed to his career-best walk (24.7%) and strikeout rates (13.9%); his career walk and strikeout rates entering this season were 14.1% and 24.7%, respectively.

Trivia Answer

C. Stephen Strasburg, San Diego State

Strasburg led DI with a 1.32 ERA and 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings in 2009. He is one of only three pitchers to pace the nation in both categories, along with Pittsburgh’s Dave Welty in 1967 and North Carolina A&T’s Al Holland in 1975.

Where Can You Find D1Baseball?

Kendall Rogers

– Arkansas at Texas A&M

Aaron Fitt

– Rice at East Carolina

– North Carolina at Duke

– Wake Forest at NC State

David Seifert

– Michigan at Indiana

– Oklahoma at Cincinnati

– Villanova at Xavier

Mike Rooney

– Wake Forest at NC State on Friday (ACC Network)

Eric Sorenson

– Utah at Southern California

– UC Santa Barbara at Cal State Northridge

– Hawaii at Long Beach State

– UC Irvine at Cal State Fullerton

Burke Granger

– Ball State at Kent State

Patrick Ebert

– Minnesota at Northwestern

Shotgun Spratling

– Ivy League Tournament

– Patriot League Championship

Discuss this story and more on the D1Baseball Forums!

Everything you need to know for college baseball’s 14th weekend • D1Baseball (2024)


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