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March 9, 2009

Unlikely suspects gain huge ground

Clear your eyes and take a look at the ACC Atlantic Division standings.

Conventional wisdom suggests Florida State is leading the division, but that actually isn't the case.

Okay, so let's try Clemson.

Yes, the Tigers played top-ranked North Carolina tough over the weekend. But no, a 1-2 conference record is not good enough for the division's top spot.

Let's throw Boston College out there. Yes, that's it. Wait, what?

I'm as surprised as everyone else, and after a week of ACC play, Boston College leads the ACC Atlantic Division following an impressive and surprising road series win over Florida State.

While the Eagles were the biggest surprise of the week, Cal State Fullerton and Georgia lately have been phenomenal.

On the other end of the spectrum, LSU somehow found a way to lose a home series to Illinois, while UCLA extended its losing streak to 10 games.

We unveil this week's winners and losers.

Winners

San Jose State: Most observers think about Fresno State when it comes to the WAC, but coach Sam Piraro and the Spartans are trying to change that trend this season. The Spartans still haven't played elite competition, but have tallied a pair of impressive wins over Santa Clara. The Spartans had another productive week that ended with a series sweep over Pacific by scores of 5-4, 9-3 and 6-3. The surging Spartans now have an overall record of 9-0 entering the week with games against San Francisco, Cal Poly and Cal State Northridge.

Georgia Southern: The Eagles have a tough road ahead with two-straight road series at UNC Greensboro and Appalachian State, but currently have much confidence after another successful weekend that ended with an overall record of 11-1. The Eagles beat Winthrop in mid-week action and also defeated Indiana and LeMoyne in the Eagle Invitational. The most important win of the week, though, came Sunday afternoon in a 14-4 triumph over East Carolina. GSU certainly has more to prove, but is a mid-major to watch this season.

Boston College: The Eagles could be this year's Cinderella story. Okay, we're not going to go that far just yet, but you had to be impressed with the way they played against Florida State over the weekend. BC started the week with a mid-week split against Florida Gulf Coast. The Eagles then lost the series opener to FSU by a score of 4-1 before winning Games 2 and 3 by scores of 14-6 and 12-5. BC catcher Tony Sanchez and the rest of the team showed the nation they plan to be ACC contenders this season. Could it actually happen?

Georgia: The Bulldogs apparently don't need Gordon Beckham and Josh Fields to experience a wealth of success. Though it still is relatively early the Dogs put together another impressive week. After beating Wofford in mid-week action the Bulldogs took care of Quinnipiac in convincing fashion. The Bulldogs beat the Bobcats 7-0 in the series opener and won Games 2 and 3 by scores of 19-6 and 7-2 to complete the three-game sweep. The young pups could take another huge step forward with a series win at Alabama later this week.

Miami (FL): The Hurricanes had a rather strange week on the diamond. Miami began the week with a surprising loss to Rhode Island but ended mid-week action with a 14-3 win over Mount St. Mary's. UM hosted N.C. State for a three-game series and didn't disappoint. The 'Canes won the series opener 7-6 in extra innings and also won Games 2 and 3 by scores of 4-0 and 9-7 to complete the series sweep over the Wolfpack. With two-straight series sweeps, the 'Canes will feel great heading into the Duke series this weekend.

Cal State Fullerton: It now seems like long ago that we actually were worried about the Titans, their pitching staff and mindset. Now Fullerton is on a roll and there are few teams that can slow them down. The Titans beat San Diego State in mid-week action earlier in the week and entered the Southern Miss series with a wealth of confidence. The Titans defeated the Golden Eagles 15-2 in the series opener and also won Games 2 and 3 by scores of 11-6 and 11-3 to complete the impressive series sweep. Fullerton currently is on cloud nine.

Arkansas: Just over a week ago, the Razorbacks had major trouble beating teams such as Kansas and Western Illinois. But last week they rose to the occasion with a pair of mid-week wins over Valparaiso and a huge weekend series win over previously red-hot California. The Hogs defeated the Golden Bears 5-4 in the series opener but dropped Game 2 by a score of 12-6. On Sunday, though, they rose to the occasion with an impressive 13-3 win over the Bears. The Hogs welcome Florida to Fayetteville, Ark., to start SEC play later this week.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels started the season on the right foot, but really hadn't played a tough team on the weekend until this weekend's series against nationally ranked Clemson. The Heels didn't disappoint. UNC dropped the opening game of the series 5-4 but bounced back to win Games 2 and 3 by scores of 5-2 and 9-8. The Tar Heels still haven't been flawless this season, but picked up an important series win over the Tigers. The Heels hit the road for the first time this season later this week with a three-game set at Virginia Tech.

Virginia: It's certainly true the Cavaliers haven't played very tough competition this season, but give them credit for what they accomplished against Wake Forest this past weekend. The Cavaliers entered the series with an overall record of 9-0 and ended the weekend with an overall record of 12-0. Virginia won the series opener 18-2 before winning Game 2 in closer fashion, 8-6. The Hoos once again erupted in Game 3 with a convincing 15-2 victory. Virginia could make an even bigger statement against Florida State later this week.

Texas: You really can't beat the numbers the Texas pitching staff has compiled so far this season. The Longhorns entered the Stanford series with one of the nation's best earned-run averages and an overall record of 10-0. They ended the Stanford series with an overall record of 12-1. The pitching staff allowed just three runs in their two wins over the Cardinal this weekend. The offense also took care of business, scoring 11 runs in the two wins. The 'Horns couldn't be more satisfied entering Big 12 play against Missouri later this week.

Losers

Elon: Inclement weather kept the Phoenix from playing a few games the past week and a half, but they still expected to finish the series against The Citadel with a series win. That didn't happen. The Phoenix dropped a 12-8 decision to the Bulldogs in extra innings in the series opener, but bounced back in Game 2 with an impressive 17-5 victory. Game 3, though, didn't go Elon's way as the Bulldogs captured an 8-5 win and the series victory. The Phoenix head back to the drawing board following the disappointing loss.

LSU: Okay, everyone that had Illinois taking two of three from LSU this weekend go ahead and raise your hands. Yeah, there aren't many of you. After crushing New Orleans and Mississippi Valley in mid-week action, the Tigers entered the Illinois series this weekend with high hopes. The weekend, though, didn't exactly go as planned. The Tigers dropped the series opener to the Fighting Illini by a score of 3-1 and battled back in Game 2 with an impressive 22-10 win. Sunday's series finale also went against the Tigers, as the Illini captured a 6-2 win and the series victory. LSU certainly had a weekend to forget.

Florida State: The Seminoles had one of the worst weeks they've had in awhile. After dropping a pair of mid-week bouts against Jacksonville and North Florida, the Seminoles entered the weekend series against Boston College with high hopes. Well, that series didn't exactly end the way everyone expected it to. The Seminoles used strong pitching to win the series opener 4-1, but showed little the rest of the weekend from a pitching standpoint. The 'Noles dropped Saturday's game by a score of 14-6 and lost 12-5 Sunday afternoon. With a trip to Virginia coming up this weekend, FSU has very little time to sulk.

San Diego: The Toreros had to deal with some injuries this week but certainly aren't playing their best baseball with a road trip to Rice on the horizon. The Toreros began the week with a solid mid-week win over Western Carolina, but took a huge step back this past weekend with a less than stellar showing against rival San Diego State. The Toreros dropped the series opener 5-3 and lost Games 2 and 3 by scores of 6-4 and 6-5. USD, however, salvaged a game in the series with a 10-7 victory Sunday afternoon.

Southern Miss: After playing relatively weak competition the first nine games of the season, the Golden Eagles were welcomed to elite competition in nasty fashion against Cal State Fullerton this weekend. The Eagles dropped the series opener by a score of 15-2 and honestly weren't much better the rest of the weekend. The Eagles dropped Game 2 by a score of 11-6 and the Titans solidified the series sweep with an 11-3 triumph Sunday afternoon. To say the least, the Eagles must now head back to the drawing board.

UCLA: If you thought the Bruins failed to meet expectations last season, you're really not liking their performance so far this season. The Bruins started the season with a pair of wins over UC Davis, but literally have not tasted success since opening weekend. The Bruins had another dismal weekend at Oklahoma. After losing the series opener 6-5, the Bruins dropped Game 2 by a score of 7-6. The series finale also was a disappointment as the Sooners earned a series sweep with a 6-4 victory. Perhaps Hollywood is looking for a new horror movie?

Washington State: The Cougars split a home series with Oklahoma two weekends ago and had hoped to build on that. But that didn't happen this week. The Cougars began the week with a good mid-week win over Gonzaga but had a tough time establishing consistency at the Rice tournament this weekend. After losing the first game of the tournament 2-1 to Rice, the Cougars dropped a 2-1 decision to Oral Roberts before losing 7-3 to Notre Dame on Sunday. The Cougars now are 3-8 and must take care of business at Long Beach State this week.

Santa Clara: The Broncos certainly have plenty of time to turn things around this season, but their start has been unimpressive to say the least. The Broncos entered the Oregon series with four-straight losses and didn't fair much better against the Ducks. The Broncos won the series opener but proceeded to drop three-straight games by scores of 12-3, 3-2 and 5-1. The Broncos now have lost three of their last four and seven of their last eight. Oh yeah, they also finish the week with an overall record of 3-7.

Stanford: It's still very early and I'm certainly not the type to toot my own horn, but so far it looks like we were right about the Cardinal. After losing several key players during the offseason, I had major reserves about Stanford being a preseason ranked team. Those concerns already have played out this season. After dropping a mid-week affair to St. Mary's, the Cardinal lost two of three to Texas at home and scored just three runs in the two losses.

Wichita State: Well, the Shockers started the season on the right foot. But this past week, the Shockers succumbed to the Missouri Valley epidemic that has plagued other teams such as Missouri State and Southern Illinois in past weeks. After splitting a pair of mid-week games with BYU, the Shockers traveled to Fort Worth, Texas, for a three-game series against TCU. It wasn't pretty as the Frogs swept the Shockers by scores of 6-5, 9-4 and 12-3.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Rivals.com and Yahoo! Sports. He can be reached at rogersk@yahoo-inc.com.



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