College baseball’s regular season is rounding third and heading for home, and while many teams will spend the next three weeks jockeying for position in the NCAA tournament, five have shown they are a cut above the rest.
North Carolina (41-4), Vanderbilt (39-6), LSU (39-6), Virginia (38-8) and Oregon State (34-8) look to be locks for national seeds. There are eight of those coveted seeds, and Cal State Fullerton (36-7), N.C. State (34-11), Florida State (35-9), South Carolina (33-12) and Oregon (33-10) are in the running for the last three.
Vanderbilt is on track to be the most dominant SEC team in decades. The Commodores are 19-2 in SEC play, the best 21-game record in league history, and they could challenge the mark for best conference record since the conference expanded to a 30-game schedule in 1993. USC had a 25-5 record in 2000. The Commodores have won 11 straight series going into this week’s trip to South Carolina.
While teams such as the Tar Heels and Commodores have done what was expected of them since January, there have been some big disappointments.
Stanford (23-15) is in danger of being on the outside looking in when the NCAA tournament field is announced May 27. Texas (22-20) is alone in last place in the Big 12 and must win the conference tournament to avoid missing the NCAAs for the second straight year.
A look at the national scene:
• Biggest surprise: Virginia is the runaway winner. Picked third in the ACC’s Coastal Division, the Cavaliers are enjoying the fruits of 10th-year coach Brian O’Connor’s masterful makeover after losing two weekend starters, the anchor of their bullpen and three starting infielders.
• Biggest bust: Texas (22-20) is 5-13 in the Big 12 after getting swept at Baylor. The Longhorns have lost nine straight Big 12 series and could finish last in their conference for the first time since 1956. Veteran coach Augie Garrido is feeling the heat for an offense whose 3.8 runs per game ranks 271st out of 296 Division I teams.