PUB WISDOM

Tiger Who?

Highlanders’ Schedule is Tougher than Yours

Sophomore maestro Joe Kelly clocked two saves as visiting UCR took last weekend’s series against No. 5 UC Irvine. The overall toughness of the Big West Conference no doubt helps UCR’s strength of schedule — allegedly the best in the land.

According to the preview of this weekend’s Big West conference weekend series between UC RIverside and Cal State Northridge — bitter rivals back in the D2 CCAA — the latest set of Strength of Schedule ratings at Boydsworld.com has UC Riverside’s schedule ranked as the toughest in all of Division I College Baseball. (I looked and couldn’t find it at www.boydsworld.com-PW)

From the UCR release: The Highlanders rank ahead of defending national champion Oregon State and current PAC-10 leader Stanford. UCR has played #5 UC Irvine three times, #8 Nebraska four times this season, #21 San Diego twice, #22 Cal State Fullerton and #25 Long Beach State three times. UCR plays #5 UC Irvine once more for a non-conference match-up on May 6th.

That said, they’re well under .500 this season overall, and have their hands full in a Big West conference race that looks to be an all-out dogfight. They currently are tied for 4th with No. 25 Long Beach State.

The Highlanders have retained their propensity to swing above their weight when they play the heavy programs. To wit, they’ve won weekend series against two top-ten teams — UC Irvine when they were No. 5, just last weekend, and Long Beach State, while they occupied the No. 9 slot earlier in the season. They don’t have the consistency of last year’s Big West-winning squad, but if they can turn some of the experience they’ve gained playing the toughest schedule in the land into a second-half surge and sneak into the rankings, they could well find a spot in a regional.

Ace sophomore stopper Joe Kelly is back in the bull pen for Doug Smith, and proved stone-cold in the 9th inning during Sunday’s rubber game win over UCI at Anteater Field — another bit of mo’ upon which the Highlanders can build.

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