Sorenson: March Madness, Diamond-StyleAnalysis
It was another great day in college baseball. Lots of upsets. Lots of great individual performances. But before we get to all the zaniness of the day in D1 stitched ball, I was at the rivalry game between Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton.
Beach Boys Bag Big West Bullies
I know I’ll get some ruffled feathers from some of you insecure types who can’t stand the thought of your teams’ biggest rival not being THE best rivalry in the country in our sport. I mean, look at all the M$O$N$E$Y your program spends on baseball, right?
Fuggedaboutit. Although there are a lot of great rivalries out there, there is nothing quite as unique as the Long Beach State-Cal State Fullerton showdown. No other great, high-level rivalry can say that for these two universities baseball is the sport. And I mean even if it has to be a non-conference series – which is another huge pet peeve of mine but I can rant about that on another day.
Today was the rubber match of the three-game series at Goodwin Field between these two SoCal rivals and for the first time in a really long time it was the Dirtags who came in with the ranking next to its name at No. 21, as the Titans are unranked. Still it was no less contentious for these two.
WHAT I SAW AT GOODWIN FIELD
Both of these programs have a long history of solid pitching. In fact, sometimes they are all pitching and no hitting, but competitive and gritty as hell. That’s another thing that makes this rivalry so great. Not a lot of stars, just hard-nosed players. Today the Beach got stellar pitching and timely hitting to win the series.
Long Beach St. – 102 100 100 – 5 10 0
Cal St Fullerton – 300 000 010 – 4 6 1
WP: Josh Advocate, 3-0
LP: Colton Eastman, 4-2
Save: Chris Rivera, 10
– Garrett Hampson, 2-for-5, RBI, 2runs scored
– Tristan Mercedes, 2-for-2, RBI, run scored
– Daniel Jackson, 2-for-4
– Dalton Blaser, 1-for-4, HR, 2RBI
– Tanner Pinkston, 1-for-4, 2B, 2RBI
– Long Beach State, 16-7
– Cal State Fullerton, 12-11
HOW IT WENT DOWN:
Today, the Long Beach State Dirtbags got a little bit of stout pitching and timely hitting to mete out a dirt-under-the-nails 5-4 series-clinching win in sun-drenched Fullerton. While the offense got the Dirtbags four runs in the first four innings, overcoming a two-run deficit in the process, it was the long stretch of relievers who saved the day for the Back In Black crew.
Things didn’t start so well as Long Beach starter Tanner Brown got roughed up in the opening frame, giving up three runs on two hits and two walks, digging a 3-1 hole for the Dirtbags. But after that, it was an impressive string of pitching for LB as Brown settled in for the next two innings and then Josh Advocate and Lucas Jacobsen got three-up, three-down the next few innings. It wasn’t until the eighth inning that the Titan bats caught up with the Beach’s arms as Tanner Pinkston’s RBI double cut the Long Beach lead to a single run.
But from there it was Chris Rivera – otherwise known as Mr. Complete-and-Udder-Shutdown – coming in and went five-up, five-down to pick up his 10th save of the season for the Dirtbags.
The Long Beach offense wasn’t overwhelming but the top two in the batting order, Garrett Hampson and Tristan Mercadel both had two hits and scored three of the Beach’s five runs. Daniel Jackson, making just his fourth start of the year, added a 2-for-4 day as well. Long Beach outhit Fullerton 10-to-6 on the day
The win gives the Beach it’s sixth series win of the year in as many tries, even though the Dirtbags have yet to sweep a weekend from an opponent. I’m sure that is coming soon.
Here are a few more stellar images from today’s game, most of them came from the lens of my good bud and expert shutterbug Matt Brown, whose work can be found at MattBrownPhoto.com.
Caught up with Long Beach State head coach Troy Buckley after the game. Strangely, even though he has been on the job for six years this was the first time I actually had the chance to meet the big pitching guru. Here are some of the highlights of what he told me.
– On his thoughts of his team beating Fullerton:
“The road still goes through these people (he points toward the Fullerton dugout). You’ve got to play a really good game and you’ve gotta finish games to beat them. They’ve been making comebacks since well before any of these guys were ever born. The history and the creed and the motto is there. You’ve got to find ways to extend leads and finish games against these guys. It’s hard. We have a ton of respect for them and I think they do the same of us.”
– What he told his team after the game:
“I told them it’s a big deal. I think we can play better. I think we can extend by taking better at-bats and being more aggressive with our approaches. You know, it’s the little things that count, falling behind, cripple counts, you know they happen but you don’t want to settle on them happening. I told them to enjoy it, this is a good thing for their confidence. But at the same time, conference play kicks in next week and it’s the second part of our season.”
– On how he feels about the progress of his team so far:
“I’d say this team is similar to the 2014 team that went to the Gainesville Regional. They started to figure it out as the season went on. This team is a little bit more tougher and together and finding ways to win even when we are not playing very well. We are looking at the big picture. I’m focused on the macro version and I want them to focus on the micro. I want them to get better everyday and keep working. I think we have a decent idea of who we are. We know where our warts are too. There should be plenty of confidence for these guys.”
– On his feeling toward his team in relation to the Big West:
“It’s gonna be hard. Conference play is hard, no matter what conference you’re in. I think our conference is going to be really really competitive this year. There is a lot of parity. I like where we are, in a good place confidence-wise. So now is the journey, the second half of the journey. How are you going to continue to get better? These guys (points at Fullerton) are going to get better. Santa Barbara is going to get better. Winning this weekend is a good barometer for what we’ve got ahead.”
– On playing a three-game series against Fullerton in the non-conference:
“We’ve done this series because of RPI points, attendance, making money and because it gives us an understanding of what we need. Playing them gives us a good understanding of what we need to win in conference. We have a much better depiction of west coast baseball and how it’s going to play out after facing them. Last year we won two-out-of-three early on, when we went to play them again later they were a much better team and a different team.”
Now let’s take a quick sweep around the country and see who deserves a shout across the rooftops.
The best of the day in college baseball.
1- Holy Freakin’ Cow.
If you were walking down a dark alley by yourself the last thing you’d wanna see coming toward you is the South Carolina Gamecocks. These are a group of bad-arse individuals. Did you see what they did? Today’s 4-0 blanking of Ole Miss – in Oxford, no less – solidified the three-game sweep of the Rebels. Did I mention this was on the road in Oxford? My gaw-wed. The Cocks jumped on the Rebs for three runs in the first frame, started by a leadoff double from Gene Cone and a double from Alex Destino. Garnet and Black pitchers Adam Hill, Brandon Murray and Tyler Johnson combined to hold Mississippi to five hits and five walks. So let’s see, that’s 3-and-0 vs. Arkansas and 3-and-0 at Ole Miss in the last two weeks. Again… wow. Weird to think about, but for the first time ever the Gamecocks are now 6-0 in SEC play.
2- The Techsters Are Back
Anybody who thought Georgia Tech’s Yellow Jackets were passé after getting swept at Florida State two weeks ago will be given five or ten minutes to re-think that. But while you’re thinking about it, today’s 6-0 clampdown of North Carolina – in Chapel Hill, by the way – gave the Jackets a 2-to-1 series win and put them back over .500 in ACC play at 5-4. Zac Ryan and Burton Delaney combined on a four-hitter, allowing three walks, while the defense did not commit an error all day. The top four of the Jacket batting order accounted for nine of the 11 Tech hits and scored five of the six runs. Cleanup hitter Ken Johnson slapped a two-run dinger and was joined by Wade Bailey and Matt Gonzalez in the three-hits department.
3- Cal’s Bullpen
So far this year, the story of the year for the Cal Bears has been how stout they’ve been with starting flingers like Daulton Jefferies and Ryan Mason on the hill, who both threw complete game four-hitters in beating the Beavers on Thursday and Friday. Well in today’s 5-3 series-sweeping win over No. 3 Oregon State, it was all about the relief corps. Starter Jeff Bain lasted just a single out, giving up three runs on four hits. But relievers Matt Ladrech and Erik Martinez combined for zero hits and zero runs and two walks in the remaining 8.2 innings. Stellar.
– Morris Reaches 1K As A Cane.
Miami’s 11-inning 5-4 win over Clemson turned out to be head coach Jim Morris’ 1,000th victory in his stint as the Hurricanes’ head honcho. Edgar Michelangeli’s RBI single scored Johnny Ruiz from second base to secure the sprint-off win and locked down the series victory as well.
Last week Morris reached the 1,500 win plateau of his entire D1 head coaching career against Louisville. This win made him the second coach in Coral Gables to reach the 1,000 win mark at The U as the legendary Ron Fraser won 1,271 games in his 30 seasons there.
When asked if he ever thought he would’ve won 1,000 games as the Hurricanes skipper Coach Morris would say, “I really didn’t. It was the furthest thing from my mind. I was following the most influential coach in the history of college baseball. I wouldn’t have come here if it wasn’t for him. I was following the Bear Bryant of college football and the John Wooden of college baseball.”
The sophomore wunderkind pitched eight innings on the mound and hit a home run as part of a 2-for-5 day, leading the Cardinals to an 11-4 win. On the mound he struck out nine Cavalier batters marking the fifth time in six starts that he has K’d eight-plus in a start this year. He also allowed just one earned run and did not issue a walk in improving to 5-1 on the year.
– Tyler Ties One On.
East Carolina’s Eric Tyler hit two home runs and drove in a program-best eight runs to lead the Pirates to a series-winning 13-0 rout of Jacksonville. The Pirates pounded out double-digit hit totals for the 14th time this season, collecting 13 hits. Travis Watkins had three hits to lead the Pirates. Interesting note from the Game Notes section of Malcolm Gray’s write-up of the game, ECU had six two-out RBI in the game, pushing the season total to 55.
– Irish Out Of The Basement
Notre Dame started the weekend in last place in the Atlantic division of the ACC, but quickly climbed out of it with a huge weekend in Blacksburg. The Irish completed a three-game sweep of Virginia Tech with today’s 5-2 win. The Irish are now on a four-game win streak and have scored at least five runs in each game and have a team ERA of 2.25.
– The Great White North Gets Red Hot
Minnesota has been a streaky team this year, which is not surprising for a northern team who is probably going to be pretty good come April and May. Today, that streak went in the “red hot” direction as the Gophers impressively took a pair of games from the No. 25-ranked Missouri State Bears by 12-5 and 7-5 scores. Micah Coffey went 4-for-8 with three RBI and two walks and Jordan Smith went 3-for-8 with three RBI on the day. Though he went hitless in game two, two-hole hitter Terrin Vavra was the catalyst in game one going 4-for-6. Minnesota improves to 12-9 as the Bears drop to 19-4.
– Duncan Yo-Yos With The Bulls
Dartmouth has had its usual tough start, due to a rigorous schedule of course, but today saw Duncan Robinson throw a complete-game four-hit shutout of South Florida to lead the Big Green to a 1-0 win. He was downright efficient too, facing three batters over the minimum to notch his second career shutout, tossing 103 pitches, 71 of which went for strikes. Overall, Robinson K’d eight Bull batters and did not issue a walk. Dartmouth is now 5-12
– The Baseball Gods Even Things Up For Oklahoma State
In the second week of the season the Cowboys went to North Carolina and lost all three games by a single run, all in jog-off fashion too. Ouch. Well this weekend at Kansas State, the Pokes got the favor returned to them as today’s 5-4 win cemented three straight one-run wins at Tointon Family Stadium. The Pokes nearly shot themselves in the foot, allowing two eighth inning runs to score on a bases loaded walk and a bases-loaded plunking to tie it at 4-4. But in the top of the 10th a deep sac fly notched the go-ahead run in the 10th inning and then the Pokes had to withstand the tying run being just 90 feet from home plate in the bottom of the 10th.
– Navy Pitching Anchors Princeton
Navy took a pair of games from Princeton, both being shutouts, 1-0 and 7-0. The Midshipmen’s pitching staff combined to hold the Tigers to just six hits over 16 innings on the day. Luke Gillingham threw a complete-game two-hitter in game one and George Coughlin allowed just three hits in 7.0 innings of work in game two.
– Going Yard, Again, Again, Again, Again, Again, Again, Again and Again.
Southeast Missouri beat the stuffing out of UT Martin 26-2 as eight different players hit taters beyond the outfield fence. All of them were their first home runs of the season for Hunter Leeper, Garrett Gandolfo, Branden Boggetto, Kylar Robertson, Ryan Rippee, Dan Holst, Chris Osborne and Brian Lees. The RedHawks are now 17-8 and a perfect 9-0 in the Ohio Valley already.
1- Wait, Florida lost a game? FLORIDA LOST A GAME?!
I almost don’t want to believe it but yes, coach Kevin O’Sullivan’s team is human after all. Today his Gators actually allowed Kentucky to race out to a comfy 7-1 lead through five innings and held on from there. The vaunted top four hitters of Dalton Guthrie, Buddy Reed, J.J. Schwarz and Peter Alonso – probably the top four of any team in the country – was held to two hits in 15 at-bats. Meanwhile, Evan White went 3-for-3 with a home run and Dorian Hairston was 1-for-2 with a home run and three ribbies to pace the Bat Cats.
2- Where Did David Berg Go?
Oh draddit! The UCLA Bruins really miss reliever extraordinaire David Berg. Remember him? The dude who set the NCAA saves and appearances record… too bad he’s gone for the Bruins. Why? Because today UCLA took a 5-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning. Freshman Brian Gadsby (who has been really solid this season) and Scott Burke couldn’t hold the lead as they combined to give up five runs on four hits with two plunkings. And of course, it had to be All American Bobby Dalbec who got the game-winning RBI double, scoring Alfonso Rivas, who just previously had a two-run double. Arizona wins the series 2-to-1 to improve to 16-7.
3- Hard Luck Tigers
For the second day in a row Missouri had a chance against No. 2 Vanderbilt but this time came up short in a 2-0 loss in 11 innings. Mizzou should be kicking itself having had the winning run in scoring position in three of the last five innings of regulation when the game was scoreless. Tanner Houck was amazing on the bump as he had 14 strikeouts and two walks while giving up just two hits in his nine innings of work. As competitive as they’ve been the Tigers drop to 0-5 in SEC play and 14-11 overall.
– Bradley Butterfingers
Bradley dropped a 3-1 decision at Butler by committing five errors, two of them coming in the decisive eighth inning where the Bulldogs busted open a 1-1 game with a pair of runs. The winning run came across on a bases-loaded walk on the 12th pitch of Michael Hartnagel’s at-bat. To make matters worse, the Braves then lost a 6-3 decision to Western Michigan in its second game of the day. In that loss, Bronco pinch-hitter Evan Nelson blasted a seventh inning grand slam to account for the come-from-behind win.
– An Implosion In The Desert
We all knew Arizona State was going to be a bit on the young side but today really affirmed it. The Devils took a 7-6 lead over visiting Utah into the eighth inning. That’s when everything hit the proverbial fan as the Utes scored four runs in the eighth inning and six more in the ninth inning for a 16-7 rout. The Devils used 10 pitchers, who gave up 23 hits, seven walks and four hit batsmen. It also didn’t help that the defense also committeed three errors along the way. In a word… Yuck.
– Lost Wages.
People in Vegas are accustomed to losing, especially their hard-earned wages at the craps table. But the UNLV Rebels felt a good amount of pain today, committing three errors, giving up seven walks and also leaving 14 base-runners on the sacks in their 7-4 loss to in-state rival Nevada. The worst part was that the Rebs had a 3-1 lead going into the seventh inning, but allowed four runs in the seventh and two runs in the eighth to lose the game. In all, UNLV gave up four unearned runs which was the difference.
Wow, it’s been a wild weekend in our sport. We still have another day to go too. This is getting good.
But for now it’s time for me to hit the rack. Hope you StitchHeads had a great day of college baseball action.