Weekend College Baseball Preview, March 8-10

James Guillory-US PRESSWIRE

March 8-10: Stories to watch and Open Thread

Indiana State's Sean Manaea has only thrown in two games this season and hasn't been able to pitch since Feb. 22 because of rainouts. Saturday, Manaea will face Mercer University. Manaea is a definite Top 5 pick in the 2013 First-year Player Draft, could possibly go #1, and is considered the top draft-eligible LHP in the country. Manaea blew minds in the Cape Cod League in 2012, and is a candidate for a cabinet full of post-season awards. In his two starts this season he's given up a run in 10 innings and has notched 16 strikeouts. We know that starters like to get consistent work in and it'll be interesting to see how Manaea responds to two full weeks of rest.

Mercer, located in Macon, Georgia, is not a hyped or even well known school. They have put together a pretty good season so far in 2013 behind the bats of Derrick Workman and Chesny Young, and the arms of DJ Johnson and Brandon Barker, and are ranked 28th. They lost an absolute slugfest to Georgia Tech on Tuesday (25 runs in the BBCOR era? Guh...), and dropped one to Alabama State. Those are the only two losses so far, and having beaten Notre Dame and Ohio State, among others with more cache than the Bears, they enter the weekend sitting on an 11-2 record. Could they be this year's Stony Brook or Kent State? They get Manaea in the second of their two Saturday games.

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This week I haven't heard about a player with as much helium as Gonzaga Junior LHP Marco Gonzales. His overall numbers for the year don't exactly jump off the page: 2.45 ERA, 22 K in 22 IP, .268 BA against (the 22/4 K/BB is nice). What people who have seen him in person are talking about is that he is a fearless bulldog on the mound. He challenges hitters relentlessly. He is the perfect example of how the stats don't tell you everything about a player. It's hard to quantify makeup and there is no matrix for doggedness.

While there is no way to measure these elements of Gonzales' personality, it is evident that he has top-flight stuff. He took it to the Razorbacks last week, throwing a complete game shutout against the then #2 team in the country, striking out 9 and walking none. Following two pedestrian games to begin the year, a start like that against a program like that will certainly give people something to talk about.

Gonzales faces Hawaii Friday at 8:35pm Pacific, and you can watch the game here.

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The Pac-12 and SEC are the two premier powerhouse conferences in College baseball. As a West Coast native, I definitely have my bias as far as which of the two should be considered the best. At this time last week the Ducks were riding pretty high, and then they ran into the Fullerton Titans, losing 2 of 3 over the weekend. This week, Vanderbilt, at #2, the spot occupied by Arkansas last week, is the highest ranked SEC team and they take their spikes to Eugene for three games against the #15 Ducks.

Vandy's Lefty Ace, Junior Kevin Ziomek takes the bump on Friday, but the best pitching duel may be on Sunday when the Commodores' undefeated Soph. Philip Pfeifer faces Freshman phenom Cole Irvin, who also has not lost in 2013.

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#18 Georgia Tech and their top hitter, Junior Daniel Palka, head to Blacksburg to do battle with #30 Virginia Tech. Palka is expected to go in the 1st two rounds of the draft. His current SLG is 1.260.

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San Diego's Kris Bryant has three homers in his last two games entering Saturday's game vs. Holy Cross. He hit two on Tuesday against Cal State Fullerton and another vs. Seton Hall Wednesday.

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Streaking UCLA hosts Notre Dame, USC, and Oklahoma, coming off their win against Long Beach State. It may not be the (cancelled) Dodgertown Classic, but if you can get to some games, you should be able to see some fantastic baseball in Southern California.

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-College Baseball 360.com has their national composite rankings updated for the week.

-Perfect Game spotlights Freshmen to keep your eye on.

-The 2nd ever Eric Sorenson and Mike Rooney podcast on Sorenson's Easton blog has some interesting discussion, and they start the upcoming weekend talk at about the 45 minute mark.

-Follow all the scores of the weekend here.

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