Horton’s Ducks, others make more noise

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Sometimes even Oregon coach George Horton is wrong.

He certainly was wrong before the season when he stated he thought the Ducks would be improved, but could need at least another season before competing for an NCAA postseason appearance.

The Ducks, barring a poor finish, will make an NCAA regional this season.

After losing a hard-fought home series to Arizona State last weekend, the Ducks hit the road this weekend to face a Stanford club in need of a good series win. The Ducks, though, spoiled the Cardinal’s return home by winning two of three in a series that was moved up a day because of a threat of inclement weather.

With the victory, the Ducks now have a 21-11 overall record and an RPI of 31.

Horton’s Ducks weren’t the only big winners on Saturday.

Cal State Fullerton responded from a heartbreaking series-opening loss to UC Irvine with a win on Saturday, Texas used another stellar pitching performance to beat Kansas, California once again beat USC and UCLA outlasted Oregon State in a fantastic 16-inning contest.

There also were plenty of teams that dropped stock, especially Louisville, which was crushed by Pittsburgh and lost for the second straight day.

We highlight the teams that rose and fell on Saturday.

Oregon (21-11) – There’s a chance UO coach George Horton will win National Coach of the Year honors at the end of the season. What Horton is doing with his Ducks this season is simply amazing. The Ducks won the series opener against Stanford and responded on Saturday with a win in Game 2 before dropping the series finale. UO, though, finished the weekend with a road series win over the Cardinal. UO appears to be a near lock as a regional team as of today.

Texas (25-7) – The Longhorns started the season ranked No. 1 because of their pitching staff. Well, the pitching staff guided the Longhorns to a series win over Kansas this weekend. UT won the series opener on Friday before riding a great start by Cole Green to beat KU 3-1 in Game 2 on Saturday. Green struck out five batters and allowed just one run on four hits in seven innings. The UT bullpen also did a nice job with closer Chance Ruffin recording his eighth save of the season.

Cal State Fullerton (17-12) – Coaches find out the most about their teams by how they respond from adversity. On Friday, the Titans suffered a heartbreaking loss when UC Irvine’s Jeff Cusick hit a three-run walk-off homer. Fullerton, though, had a swift response on Saturday with a 6-3 triumph over the Anteaters. Fullerton starting pitcher Daniel Renken had a respectable start and reliever Dylan Floro threw a pair of scoreless innings to finish the game. The series finale will be fantastic.

Michigan State (22-5) – The Spartans could be the class of the Big Ten this season. State coach Jake Boss is doing a fantastic job. State clinched a road series win over Minnesota on Saturday with a 12-5 triumph. Eli Boike and Ryan Jones led the way at the plate, while starting pitcher Kurt Wunderlich gave the Spartans a respectable start. The Spartans now have won five straight games and have a 4-1 Big Ten mark.

California (19-10) – The Golden Bears are one of the biggest surprise in the Pac-10 so far this season. The Bears were expected to finish near the bottom of the conference standings, but Cal now sits at 5-3 in league play after clinching a series win over USC on Saturday with a 7-1 triumph. Cal starting pitcher Justin Jones struck out 10 batters and allowed a run on nine hits in eight innings to key another victory. Cal could sweep the Trojans on the road on Sunday for the first time since 1972.

Auburn (21-11) – After falling short of an incredible comeback against LSU on Friday night, the Auburn Tigers hoped to respond with a vengeance on Saturday. They did just that against LSU. The Tigers scored 11 runs on 12 hits en route to an impressive 11-7 victory over LSU. Auburn’s Trent Mummey, Hunter Morris and Brian Fletcher had huge days at the plate to lead the offensive cause. AU could earn a huge series win with a victory in Sunday’s rubber match.

UCLA (24-3) – After suffering a tough loss in the series opener against Oregon State on Friday, the Bruins bounced back on Saturday with a thrilling 3-1 win in 16 innings. UCLA starting pitcher Trevor Bauer threw 7 1/3 shutout innings and Garett Claypool threw 4 2/3 shutout innings in relief to lead the Bruins. After two fantastic games between the Bruins and Beavers, it’ll be interesting to see which team comes out on top in Sunday’s series finale.

Long Beach State (14-14) – The Dirtbags took steps forward the past two weekends with nice series wins over Oregon State and Pacific. But they took a step back this weekend with a tough series loss to UC Davis. With a .500 record, the Dirtbags would be ineligible for an NCAA regional if the season ended today. It will be interesting to see how the Dirtbags respond next weekend against at UC Riverside.

Louisville (24-6) – The Cardinals have cruised through most of their schedule this season, but they are having a weekend to forget against Pittsburgh. The Cards dropped the series opener 8-3 before losing in dismal fashion on Saturday with a 15-5 setback to the Panthers. The Cards will take an even bigger hit on the national stage if they fail to win a game this weekend. Sunday’s series finale is important.

Missouri (17-13) – It would be a surprise if the Tigers made an NCAA regional at the end of the season. They definitely are in some trouble. The Tigers dropped the series opener at Oklahoma before losing a 10-4 decision on Saturday to run their weekend record to 0-2. Missouri starting pitcher Eric Anderson allowed six runs on nine hits in five innings of work. With the loss, the Tigers now are 2-6 in Big 12 play.

Alabama (20-11) – The Crimson Tide’s starting pitchers have done a nice job much of the season, but haven’t gotten things done this weekend against Kentucky. Adam Morgan had one of his worst starts of the season on Friday. Jimmy Nelson had the same result on Saturday, allowing seven runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings in a 8-2 setback to the Wildcats. With the loss, the Tide now has lost four of their last five games.

College of Charleston (23-10) – The Cougars have taken a significant step back this weekend. They dropped the series opener to Furman on Friday. They also lost Game 2 on Saturday by a score of 8-5. College of Charleston starting pitcher Kevin Decker allowed five runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings in the losing cause. The Cougars now are just 8-6 in conference play. They need to take care of business in Sunday’s series finale.

Southern Mississippi (16-13) – It would take a fabulous finish for the Golden Eagles to make an NCAA regional at the end of the season. For the second straight day, the Golden Eagles dropped a tough contest to Central Florida. As a result, the Eagles now have an RPI of 90. In an 11-10 loss on Saturday, starting pitcher Scott Copeland allowed six runs on five hits in 2 1/3 innings. It has been a disappointing campaign thus far for the Eagles.

South Alabama (22-13) – The Jaguars have been one of the Sun Belt’s pleasant surprises this season. But they had a great opportunity to make a huge statement this weekend with a series win over a fantastic Western Kentucky club. That won’t happen, though. Jaguars starting pitcher Garrett Harris allowed seven runs on eight hits in 5 1/3 innings as they dropped a tough 12-4 decision to the Hilltoppers. The Jaguars are down 0-2 in the series and hope to salvage a win in the series finale.

• Arkansas has been a big winner so far this weekend. Though the Razorbacks have taken two games from a Mississippi State club that isn’t factoring into the SEC title race, the Bulldogs still have a solid RPI. That has helped the Razorbacks, who at 25-6, climbed to No. 2 in Boyd’s latest RPI ratings. The Hogs have a fantastic 11-4 record against Top 50 RPI teams.

• Louisville has had a horrible weekend thus far with a pair of ugly losses to Pittsburgh, but maybe the weekend won’t be so bad after all. The Cardinals still are sitting at No. 7 in the latest RPI ratings. That is a little surprising when you consider the Cards are just 4-5 against Top 50 RPI teams. That series win over Ole Miss earlier this season definitely is helping them out. Pittsburgh, which is 22-7, climbed to 48 this morning.

• Cal State Fullerton has played a fantastic schedule this season. That once again is helping it against UC Irvine this afternoon. The Titans beat the Anteaters on Saturday and climbed to 13 in the latest RPI ratings. The Titans are just 6-7 against Top 50 RPI teams and 2-4 against Top 25 RPI teams. That mark needs to improve to host a regional, but Fullerton at least is moving the right direction.

• Mississippi has been in a strange situation so far this weekend. The Rebels have won the first two games of their series against Georgia. However, they have dropped a few spots in the RPI ratings. The Rebels, who are 23-9, dropped to 25 this morning. Very strange occurrence, indeed.

• Despite still having an unimpressive mark in the SEC, Kentucky has moved back into the regional picture this weekend with a pair of wins over Alabama entering Sunday’s series finale. The Wildcats, who are 21-11, climbed to 31 this morning. UK, though, is still just 8-8 against Top 50 RPI teams. They do, however, have six wins over RPI Top 25 clubs.

• California and Oregon are big winners so far this weekend. The Golden Bears won their first two games against USC and climbed to 26 in the RPI ratings. Oregon, meanwhile, won a weather-shortened series against Stanford and climbed to 28 in the RPI ratings. The Pac-10 is in fantastic shape from a regional bids standpoint. The league has far exceeded its preseason expectations.

• Miami could be in very good shape if it can earn a road series win over Virginia Tech on Sunday. The Hurricanes climbed to 11 in the latest RPI ratings with an impressive 23-8 record. The ‘Canes are 1-2 against RPI Top 25 teams and 7-4 against RPI Top 50 teams. The ‘Canes probably aren’t in the national seed mix just yet, but a series win over the Hokies would put them a step closer to that goal.

Kendall Rogers is the college baseball editor for Yahoo! Sports and Rivals.com. Follow him on Twitter and follow Yahoo! Sports College Baseball on Facebook. Send Kendall a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Apr 11, 2010