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Friday D1 Digest: Cole’s Heroics Lead Irish, Vols Steady Against Vandy

Analysis

>> FRIDAY SCOREBOARD
>> PLAYER POWER RANKINGS: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP
>> Sorenson UCLA | Granger on Tennessee | Spratling on Mercer’s Jackson Kelley
>> Friday’s Top Performers

1 — Top-ranked Tennessee Steady Against Vanderbilt

Tennessee entered the weekend battle tested but hitting the road to face your rival is another test. Well, the Volunteers put together a steady performance in a 6-2 win over the Commodores. Vandy righthanded pitcher Chris McElvain looked sharp to the first two hitters of the game before Tennessee’s Jordan Beck cranked what appeared to be a solo home run opposite field over the right field wall. The umpires, however, checked his bat and called him out after it lacked a test sticker from the weekend. It still had a sticker from the midweek game against Western Carolina. That occurrence didn’t get Tennessee off its game, as an inning later Luc Lipcius hit a two-run home run. The Vols didn’t look back. Freshman righthanded pitcher Chase Burns continued his impressive ways with seven strikeouts, just one walk and allowed two runs on five hits in 5.1 innings of work, while the bullpen was terrific with Will Mabrey and Camden Sewell each tossing 1.2 shutout innings. The Vols easily could’ve gotten off their game in the first inning. Instead, they used that energy as fuel the rest of the way. 

2 — Stellar Pitching Showcased In Tallahassee

After being a little wobbly as of late, Notre Dame lefthanded pitcher John Michael Bertrand knew he needed to put his team on his back in the series opener against Florida State. Likewise, FSU lefthanded pitcher Parker Messick looked to set the tone for another weekend. Both were phenomenal in a 12-inning affair that Notre Dame won 2-0 on a Ryan Cole two-run home run. Messick, who has been terrific the entire spring, took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, but allowed a hit with two outs in the seventh inning. He finished the night with 11 strikeouts and just two hits allowed. Meanwhile, Bertrand struck out 12 and walked just one in 7.2 innings of work. Simply sensational. Here’s a stat for you from this game: the Fighting Irish and Seminoles struck out a combined 34 times. Another win this weekend would be massive for Link Jarrett’s Irish. 

3 — Southern Miss’ Hall Shines Against Louisiana Tech

Tanner Hall first got the nation’s attention earlier this season when he shut down Mississippi State in a midweek game. Now, a few weeks later, he’s the Friday night starter for the Golden Eagles, and he’s continuing where he left off. Hall was tremendous yet again Friday in an 8-2 win over Louisiana Tech in a crucial C-USA series. Hall struck out 11, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just two runs (all unearned) on six hits in eight innings. Reece Ewing, Will McGillis and Carson Paetow each hit homers for the Golden Eagles, while Gabe Montenegro was his old self in the leadoff spot, tallying two hits, one of them a double. In addition to the action on the field, props to USM fans for putting almost 6,000 fans in the house at Pete Taylor Park. Hall and Co., sent the fans home in a frenzy.

4 — Georgia Tech’s Maxwell Shines in Familiar Role

There’s no doubting that Georgia Tech righthanded pitcher Zach Maxwell has one of the more powerful arms in college baseball. So, while his bid to be a starting pitcher hasn’t worked out, he certainly proved himself yet again as a reliever Friday night in a 6-4 win over Virginia on the road. Chance Huff went just 4.2 innings for the Yellow Jackets, and after one reliever, Danny Hall turned the game over the hard-throwing righty. Maxwell was phenomenal, shutting down a red-hot lineup with six strikeouts and just one hit allowed in four shutout innings. Tech’s lineup made Virginia lefthander Nate Savino looked pedestrian, as he allowed six runs on seven hits in four innings. Kevin Parada launched a mammoth home run in the win and finished the night with two hits and three RBIs. Tonight, though, was all about Maxwell and getting his mojo back at the back end of the bullpen. 

5 — Illinois Throws More Cold Water on Purdue

Just a few days ago, Purdue was one of the hottest teams in college baseball. Then, it dropped a midweek game, and on Friday night, it was dominated by Illinois, 8-1, to begin Big Ten play. Illinois lefthanded pitcher Cole Kirschsieper put together a strong start for the Fighting Illini, striking out nine, walking just two and allowing just three hits in seven shutout innings. Brandon Comia and Taylor Jackson each hit homers for the Illini, while Cam McDonald had two hits and two RBIs … In a quick look around the Big Ten, Rutgers knocked off Minnesota 6-4, Maryland defeated Penn State 8-4, Indiana edged Northwestern 5-4 and Nebraska defeated Ohio State 5-3. Nebraska starting pitcher Shay Schanaman struck out eight and allowed just a run on six hits in 6.1 innings of work. 

6 — Strong Pitching Throughout In The American

If you love plenty of pitching, tonight was your night in the American Athletic Conference. In the headliner on Friday night, UCF defeated rival South Florida, 5-0, in a game headlined by a pair of premium arms in UCF’s Connor Staine and USF’s Orion Kerkering. Staine struck out eight, walked three and allowed just one hit in six shutout frames, while Kerkering struck out five and allowed two earned runs in six innings … In Houston, Wichita State righthanded pitcher Jace Kaminska was outstanding in a 4-0 win over Houston. Kaminska struck out 12 and didn’t walk anyone in eight no-hit innings. He allowed just four hits … Cincinnati’s Connor Linn struck out four and allowed just one run on five hits in six innings in a 7-3 home win over East Carolina … Tulane’s Grant Siegel struck out nine in seven innings in a 16-3 road win over Memphis. Let’s also give some love to Luis Aviles, who hit two doubles, a home run and knocked in five runs for the Green Wave.

7 — UCLA Cools Off Another Red-Hot Offense

The Bruins headed to the Arizona Desert last weekend to face one of the hottest offenses in college baseball and impressed with strong pitching. The Bruins continued their successful ways on the mound yet again — this time against another potent offense — in a 3-2 win over Oregon. UCLA righthanded pitcher Jake Brooks put together a strong start, striking out three, walking just one and allowing two runs on six hits in eight innings, while JonJon Vaughns hit a home run and Jake Palmer finished the night with two doubles and three RBIs. UCLA has been consistent as of late and will look for its third-straight series win against the Ducks on Saturday. UCLA is once again knocking on the door to the Top 25. 

8 — Insane Finish In Fort Worth

West Virginia and TCU were locked in an absolute battle through eight innings. The Frogs carried a 2-1 lead into the ninth inning and had two outs while West Virginia had runners on second and third base. Well, the unthinkable happened. Just like last week’s Big 12 series between Texas and Texas Tech, West Virginia decided to be the aggressor with a runner on third base. Abernathy broke for home and scored to make it 2-2 before an error allowed a second run to score on the same play. It was insane, and you can see the play for yourself below. On another note, TCU loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the ninth before freshman David Bishop struck out on an extremely questionable strike three call. There was a lot to unpack from this game. WVU righthanded pitcher Jacob Watters struck out eight and allowed a run on four hits in six innings, while TCU righty Riley Cornelio had yet another solid start, striking out eight and allowing a run on two hits in six innings. 

9 — Georgia Captures Series Win Over Florida

There are just two series this weekend involving a pair of ranked teams — the first is in Nashville between rivals Vanderbilt and Tennessee. The other is this series between two rivals — Georgia and Florida. Georgia won the series opener in dramatic fashion after being down in the ninth inning. But the pulse of Friday’s game between the two teams was a lot lower, thanks to Georgia righthanded pitcher Jonathan Cannon. Cannon continued his dominant ways in a 6-1 victory over the Gators. He only struck out three Gators in the game but kept their offense in check with just five hits allowed in six shutout innings. Georgia reliever Jack Gowen allowed a run in three innings to close out the game, while offensively, Parkers Harber had a double and three RBIs. Though the Gators now have back-to-back series losses, a silver lining was the start by righty Brandon Sproat. Sproat struggled last week but tossed five zeroes to start the game and finished the night with eight strikeouts, one walk and allowed three runs in six innings. Georgia bounced back in impressive fashion from last week’s series loss to Kentucky, while suddenly, the series finale looms large for the Gators, which are now 3-5 in the SEC.  

10 — Stanford Outlasts Oregon State Despite Hjerpe’s Gem

Stanford had been scuffling before taking a series at home from Washington State last weekend. Perhaps that was the kind of weekend it needed to get back on track. The Cardinal appeared to be in trouble offensively against Oregon State lefthanded pitcher Cooper Hjerpe. Hjerpe had a historic night on the mound for the Beavers, striking out 17, walking just one and allowing two hits in eight shutout innings. However, he earned a no decision after the Beavs failed to score a run in the bottom of the eighth. The game went to extra innings and Stanford took a 1-0 lead in the top of the 10th on a Braden Montgomery double down the right field line. Amazingly, Hjerpe’s insane start was all for naught. Pitching was tremendous in this game, as Stanford righthanded pitcher Alex Williams answered Hjerpe with his own zeroes, striking out three and allowing six hits in 6.1 shutout innings. The Stanford bullpen, led by Tanner O’Rourke and Joey Dixon, did their part, while lefthander Quinn Mathews struck out two in the 10th to close out the contest. Give Stanford serious credit in this one. With Hjerpe dealing like no other, it would’ve been easy for the Cardinal to get frustrated. Instead, they matched the Beavs pitch for pitch. Now, they’re a win away from taking this crucial series.

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