Pac-10 meets SEC when Beavers host Volunteers this weekend on the diamond

2010-02-24T22:13:00Z Pac-10 meets SEC when Beavers host Volunteers this weekend on the diamondBy Brooks Hatch, Gazette-Times reporter Corvallis Gazette Times
February 24, 2010 10:13 pm  • 

This weekend's Pape Grand Slam between Oregon State and Tennessee won't settle the debate about whether the Pacific-10 or SEC is the best conference in college baseball.

But OSU's home-opening series does provide an intriguing intersectional matchup between established powers that each advanced to the 2005 College World Series and, in OSU's case, captured NCAA championships in 2006 and 2007.

Games are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday at Goss Stadium, weather permitting.

"They're great for college baseball," Casey said of such intersectional series. "Hopefully SEC schools want to hook up with Pac-10 schools, and vice-versa. It helps figure out strength of schedules and which conferences are as strong, and if you play everybody regionally, it's hard to tell that."

Casey regularly calls the Pac-10 the country's best conference. Tennessee skipper Todd Raleigh undoubtedly feels that same way about the SEC.

"No question the SEC and Pac-10 will always be in that top tier," with the ACC and Big 12, Casey said. "I'm extremely excited about (the strength) of our conference and the SEC, and playing teams within those conferences helps the conferences and your program."

How does a neutral observer evaluate the two conferences?

"Top-to-bottom, the SEC is usually the best conference, no doubt," said analyst Eric Sorenson of Easton's College Baseball Today (collegebaseballtoday.com), one of the sport's top Web sites. "But it depends on which year you're talking about, (because) it's cyclical.

"In general, the SEC will have more NCAA tournament teams, mainly because that horrible system called the RPI (the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index) favors an SEC team a tad more than a West Coast team.

"This is a generalization, but the Pac-10 will tend to have better pitching and the SEC will have better hitting. Of course, that wasn't the case last year when the Pac-10 arms were young across the board, but I think we'll see that turn around completely this year, as witnessed by the Pac-10's 25-4 opening weekend."

The Pac-10 and SEC have proven their superiority, especially over the ACC, in Omaha (see accompanying breakout).

ASU was the lone Pac-10 team at the 2009 CWS but Sorenson thinks the conference will be stronger this spring, as its young pitchers mature and Oregon - which won at traditional Big West Conference powers Cal State Fullerton and Long Beach State this past weekend - develops its program.

"And the SEC is almost always considered the top conference," he added. "More than likely, the ACC is also going to be thrown in there as a top-two or top-three conference as well. But unlike the Pac-10 or SEC, nobody from the ACC has managed to win a national championship in a long, long time," dating back to Wake Forest in 1955.

Pac-10-SEC intersectional games are somewhat rare. However, OSU has played its fair share, either in the regular season or in the NCAA tournament, and is 7-3 vs. three SEC clubs over the past four seasons.

• OSU defeated Georgia 5-3 in Omaha in 2006 for its first CWS victory after seven consecutive losses.

• OSU swept a three-game series at Georgia in 2007.

• The Beavers lost 8-1 to Vanderbilt at Arizona State in their 2008 season opener, then took two of three over Georgia at the inaugural Pape Grand Slam at PGE Park.

• OSU split two games at Tennessee to open the 2009 season. The rubber game was snowed out.

Sorenson describes intersectional series as "vital" for the long-term health of the sport. However, they're not as prevalent in the past because playing tougher competition can have short-term negative consequences.

"Don't get me started on how (bad) it is that college baseball has fewer and fewer intriguing intersectional matchups," Sorenson said. "It's getting like college football and that sucks.

"The SEC can usually get away with staying at home and playing marshmallow teams and then bulk up their RPI in conference play. Not many of them stray from out of their region, or out of their own stadium for that matter.

"Georgia, Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Tennessee have shown some (guts) in the recent past to make good attempts to play interesting series. The Pac 10 teams, on the other hand, always seem to travel around a lot more, with the possible exception being Arizona State the last few years."

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