College baseball to watch this weekend: Virginia to shore up pitching if it hopes for a return to CWS

Take a look at the various college baseball polls, and a couple things stand out.One, some of the sport’s powers are right where you’d expect them (Vanderbilt, LSU, Florida, UCLA, Louisville and Miami to name a few). And two, there is new breed of teams that have replaced other traditional powers (UC Santa Barbara, Illinois, UCF, Florida Atlantic, Dallas Baptist and Iowa to name a few). MORE: Gators' Schwarz on home run binge | Five teams with something to proveThis week’s look around the nation is a snapshot of five teams that have some work to do to assure themselves of going on the road to Omaha. Virginia (7-11 ACC, 22-14, RPI 47)The Cavaliers have been one of college baseball’s best programs over the past decade. And after appearing in last year’s College World Series championship series, they were an obvious pick to return to Omaha. But injuries throughout the lineup have contributed to some inconsistency in the offensive attack, although at just more than five runs a game, Virginia is scoring like it did last year. Getting Joe McCarthy (.301/6/49 last year) back this week from back surgery will help, but the key may be the mound, where the Cavaliers’ ERA (3.45) is more than a run higher than last year. They have a golden opportunity this week to make amends with No. 9 Miami coming to Charlottesville, where they are just 4-8 at home.Rice (12-6 CUSA, 24-15, RPI 45)The Owls played a terrific early-season schedule as they always do (Texas, Arizona, Stanford) and got off to a 6-0 start in conference play. Since, however, they’ve gone 6-6 in league play, dropping road series to Old Dominion and UAB. Like Virginia, Rice’s team ERA is up by a run from last year. But the Owls’ should be able to rely on a balanced lineup that has six starters hitting better than .300, led by Kirby Taylor’s .378 and the reliable John Clay Reeves (.359/6/41), who has about half of the team’s 13 homers. Rice entertains UTSA this weekend.South Carolina (6-10 SEC, 23-16, RPI 68)The Gamecocks appear in this piece for the second week in a row after getting battered by Florida in Gainesville and opening this weekend’s home series with Vanderbilt with a 12-0 loss Thursday night. Including the Vandy loss, South Carolina has allowed 10 or more runs in five of its past seven SEC games. As the pitching has faltered (3.88 ERA is up from 2.43 last year), the Gamecocks are hitting only .259 despite the big bat of Kyle Martin (.373/8/39). Losing Friday-night arm Wil Crowe doesn’t help, but South Carolina should put up a fight.Oregon State (6-6 Pac-12, 23-11, RPI 51)The Pac-12 is loaded, and the Beavers easily could be faring better than sixth place with three of their league losses coming by a run, including a gut-wrenching 3-2 loss last Friday to rival Oregon in which they gave up two runs to the Ducks without allowing a hit in the

bottom of the ninth. Andrew Moore (3-1, 1.46) and Drew Rasmussen (4-2, 2.44) will need to continue to shine on the mound as the Beavers host Arizona and upstart USC the next two weekends.Clemson (9-9 ACC, 20-18, RPI 81)It’s go-time for the Tigers, who have been to Regionals in 20 of Jack Leggett’s 21 years. Since dropping three of its first four conference series, Clemson has series wins over North Carolina and Boston College heading into this weekend’s get together with Duke. There’s time to improve the RPI with the likes of Georgia Tech (RPI 12), Louisville (10) and Florida State (7) still to play, but playing high-RPI teams will only do so much – Clemson will need to win a chunk of those games to put itself into postseason position.