The opening weekends usually feature a few marquee match-ups, but for the most part, we see the ‘big boys’ take on the lesser-known schools. For every Stanford vs. Texas, there’s six Texas A&M’s vs. Northwestern States. It’s no disrespect to those clubs — and there’s quite a bit of parity in the sport now — but it’s like this in every collegiate sport.
But this, boys and girls, is a great weekend of baseball games. Two of the best annual rivalries are revisited, and the best pre-season tournament of the year takes place in Houston.
Florida at Miami – I swear I’m not paid to mention Florida on this website, but boy would I be a rich man if I did. So far the Gators haven’t been challenged too much, but the Hurricanes will provide a real threat to the SEC favorite. Mike Zunino, Nolan Fontana and the rest of the Florida lineup will face off against a solid Miami pitching staff, lead by junior Eric Whaley and senior Eric Erickson. The Hurricanes also have a talented lineup, including the red-hot catcher Peter O’Brien (a third-round pick of the Rockies who is slugging .933 on the season) and Stephen Perez, who should go in the first five rounds. A very good challenge for Brian Johnson, Hudson Randall and the rest of the vaunted Gator pitching staff.
Clemson at South Carolina – First, these two teams hate each other. Second, they are baseball powers. Third, they hate each other. There may be no better baseball rivalry then Clemson and South Carolina, and both teams are loaded this year. The Gamecock’s best pro-prospect is first basemen Christian Walker, a candidate to go on day one. South Carolina also has one of the best senior pitchers in the country in Michael Roth, and hard-throwing right-hander Matt Price is a name that will intrigue many, though he’s likely a reliever at the professional level. The Tigers best player is infielder Richie Shaffer, a player who likely will have to switch to first-base but should provide average offensive production at the position, and right-handed pitcher Domonic Leone should go in the first five rounds as well.
Houston College Classic – These tournaments usually only feature one headline team, but this year, there’s three powerhouses in the field, which makes it a must watch. Rice is one of the best teams in the country, lead by 2013 first-round talent Ausin Kubitza, and also feature arguably the best bullpen in the country, including right-hander J.T. Chargois. Texas has had a rough go of it so far, but they’ve played one of the better schedules in the country, and in a year where left-handed pitching is difficult to find Hoby Milner is one of the better options in the 2012 class. And last but certainly not least, Arkansas is loaded again in 2012, with top 100 talents Nolan Sanburn and D.J Baxendale the best prospects for 2012.
Others to watch:
Stanford at Fresno State
Rutgers at Georgia Tech
Southern California at UNC
Oklahoma State at TCU
Michigan State at Texas A&M