Back Four More: Quartet of CWS teams front preseason Top 25
Texas, which finished second at the College World Series, is ranked No. 1
Three ACC teams -- Virginia, Georgia Tech and FSU -- are in the top 10
North Carolina, the winningest team in the nation the last four years, is No. 20
Texas is No. 1 in Baseball America's preseason Top 25 for a record sixth time in the 30-year history of the rankings. The Longhorns, who last topped the preseason rankings in 2006, broke a tie with Stanford for most years starting atop the rankings. Texas was also preseason No. 1 in 1983 (when it became one of four teams ever to start the season in the top spot and go on to win the national title) and in '85-'87. The 'Horns, who finished as the national runner-up last year, claim the top spot based largely on the strength of the nation's most talented pitching staff.
Three other 2009 College World Series participants fill the next three slots, highlighted by defending national champ Louisiana State at No. 3. Second-ranked Virginia leads a group of three Atlantic Coast Conference teams in the top 10 and six in the top 25, including North Carolina, which is ranked No. 20 after four consecutive trips to Omaha. In fact, all eight participants in last year's CWS start in the 2010 rankings.
(NOTE: Last year's records do not include ties.)
The Longhorns have the nation's deepest, most talented pitching staff, headlined by five ace-caliber right-handers in Taylor Jungmann, Brandon Workman, Cole Green, Chance Ruffin and Austin Dicharry.
The Cavaliers welcome back every regular from a team that led the ACC in batting (.327) a year ago, making their lineup experienced, deep, athletic and versatile. And sophomore lefty Danny Hultzen anchors a strong pitching staff.
3. Louisiana State
The defending national champions have to replace some offense, but their staff is bookended by the nation's best starter (junior righty Anthony Ranaudo) and perhaps the best closer (sophomore Matty Ott). The Tigers' defense remains athletic and rock-solid up the middle.
4. Cal State Fullerton
The entire weekend rotation returns from a staff that ranked fourth nationally in ERA (3.53). Shortstop Christian Colon and speedy center fielder Gary Brown form a dynamic duo to lead the offense and defense.
Uncharacteristically, pitching is a question mark for the Owls, but only Virginia can match Rice's deep, athletic lineup. Like the Cavs, Rice will be elite defensively as well as offensively, led by sophomore third baseman Anthony Rendon.
6. Georgia Tech
Power bats (infielders Tony Plagman, Matt Skole and Derek Dietrich combined to hit 43 homers a year ago) and power arms (first-team preseason All-Americans Deck McGuire and Kevin Jacob are top-tier bookends) have Tech poised to return to Omaha for the first time since 2006.
The addition of the nation's top recruiting class and the return of key veterans like senior center fielder Matt den Dekker make Florida absurdly deep all over the diamond and on the mound. Slugging first baseman Preston Tucker is on the verge of superstardom.
8. UC Irvine
The Anteaters were the nation's best team down the stretch in 2009 before running into red-hot Virginia in the regionals. With the notable exception of shortstop Ben Orloff, the core of that team returns, headlined by ace lefty Daniel Bibona and closer Eric Pettis.
9. Florida State
Florida State returns three All-Americans -- dynamic leadoff man Tyler Holt, shortstop Stephen Cardullo and two-way standout Mike McGee -- and the entire weekend rotation from a super regional team.
10. South Carolina
The Gamecocks suffered a setback in spring practice when their best player, sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr., broke his hand. But he should be back in time for conference play, and South Carolina is balanced enough to stay afloat until then.
11. Texas Christian
Pitching depth is TCU's biggest asset. Freshman left-hander Matt Purke, an unsigned first-round pick of the Rangers last year, gives the Horned Frogs a potentially dominant ace to go with their fleet of power arms.
12. Coastal Carolina
Left-hander Cody Wheeler and righty Anthony Meo form perhaps the best one-two pitching punch in Coastal Carolina history. The Chanticleers, with their highest preseason ranking ever, are likely to lead the nation in stolen bases, sparked by speedsters Rico Noel, Scott Woodward and Chance Gilmore.
A physical, experienced lineup headlined by corner infielders Phil Wunderlich and Andrew Clark gives Louisville a strong shot at its third super regional in the last four years.
14. Arizona State
The Sun Devils have their hands full replacing first-team All-Americans Jason Kipnis and Mike Leake, plus controversial but successful coach Pat Murphy, who was forced to resign in November. But plenty of key players from last year's CWS team return, led by senior lefty Josh Spence and closer Mitchell Lambson.
Junior outfielder Kyle Parker, who doubles as the starting quarterback for Clemson's football team, anchors a powerful, versatile offense. The pitching staff is loaded with quality arms but is counting on lefty Casey Harman to emerge as an ace during his junior year.
With six everyday regulars who boast above-average speed, athleticism is a strength for the Hurricanes, but they must prove they can hit. The pitching staff could be terrific if lefties Chris Hernandez and Eric Erickson return to their stellar 2008 form.
The Razorbacks boast the nation's premier power-hitting trio in preseason All-Americans Zack Cox, Brett Eibner and Andy Wilkins. Eibner has first-round talent as a powerful outfielder and as a hard-throwing right-hander off the mound.
18. East Carolina
Three weekend starters, a closer and five everyday regulars return from last year's super regional team. DH Kyle Roller, the MVP of the Cape Cod League last summer, anchors what should be a characteristically talented East Carolina lineup.
19. San Diego
Injuries torpedoed the Toreros in 2009, but premium talents Sammy Solis and Victor Sanchez look mostly healthy now, giving USD's chances a major boost. The pitching staff could boast three aces in Solis and righties Kyle Blair and A.J. Griffin.
20. North Carolina
Replacing first baseman Dustin Ackley -- college baseball's player of the decade for the 2000s, according to BA's survey of 150 Division I coaches -- and ace Alex White won't be easy, but the Tar Heels still have the arms and the Omaha experience to be dangerous in 2010.
21. Southern Mississippi
Several key veterans from last year's surprise Omaha team are gone, but Southern Miss welcomes back 2009 Conference USA pitcher of the year Todd McInnis and preseason All-America shortstop B.A. Vollmuth.
Georgia is young, but its 2008 recruiting class was the best in school history. If Zach Cone, Chase Davidson, Peter Verdin and company can take steps forward as sophomores, the Bulldogs can reach Omaha for the fourth time in the last seven years.
It's all about pitching in Westwood. Sophomore flamethrower Gerrit Cole is a leading candidate to be drafted first overall in 2011, and he has a rock-solid supporting cast in fellow righty Trevor Bauer and left-hander Rob Rasmussen.
The Rebels have won four regionals in the last five years but have not broken through to Omaha since 1972. First-team preseason All-America left-hander Drew Pomeranz showed last June that he's willing to carry them to the CWS on his own, if necessary.
25. Oregon State
The Beavers are awash in power arms. Sophomore ace Sam Gaviglio and junior closer Kevin Rhoderick are proven commodities at the front and back of the staff. But several of them are still trying to live up to the expectations they carried with them to Corvallis.
For more of Baseball America's 2010 college baseball season preview, click here.
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