Ten Thoughts: Saturday, March 5Analysis
1. Team of the day: California
There’s no doubt the Longhorns are scuffling offensively right now, but much of that also has to do with California’s starting pitching depth in a four-game series. Get this: California has allowed four runs in three games in Austin so far this weekend with one more game to go.
Hard-nosed righthander Ryan Mason was the latest to put together an impressive performance on Saturday in a series-clinching 6-0 triumph over the Longhorns. The righty, who has pitchability and is consistent, struck out six Longhorns, walked just two and allowed just two hits in seven innings. Meanwhile, freshman talent Tanner Dodson came out of the bullpen and tossed two shutout frames to end the contest.
Cal suffered a tough season-opening series loss to Duke, but this again looks like a team beginning to find their way, and that’s a scary development for opposing teams moving forward.
2. Upset of the day: Eastern Illinois over Arkansas
Remember when the Hogs looked unbeatable last weekend down at the Houston College Classic? Well, the Panthers have given the Hogs all they can handle this weekend, including winning Saturday’s contest 10-8, all while using a whopping eight pitchers to get the job done.
The Panthers outhit the Hogs 16-11 and the top four hitters in their lineup combined for eight hits. Meanwhile, catcher Jason Scholl smacked a home run in the win, while Dane Toppel and Cale Henneman each knocked in a pair of runs.
Most impressive about this win? The Hogs even brought All-American reliever Zach Jackson out of the bullpen to extinguish the Panthers. His line? He allowed two runs on four hits in 2.1 innings.
Suddenly, the series finale is rather important for the Hogs. They can ill afford to drop a surprising home series to Eastern Illinois.
3. Tip of the cap goes to: Dallas Baptist’s offense
Goodness gracious what an offensive performance against New Mexico on Saturday. The Patriots entered the season with a few question marks, primarily on the mound with the departures of a few talented arms. However, the offense had some key pieces back and was still expected to be productive.
Well, the Patriots are now 7-3 on the season after a 33-8 road shellacking of Ray Birmingham’s New Mexico Lobos. The Patriots outhit the Lobos 31-16 and scored four runs in four different innings. Furthermore, two-way player Darick Hall had a huge day at the plate, going 5-for-5 with a pair of homers and six RBIs, while 2B Luke Stratman also had a big day, going 5-for-7 with a pair of homers and eight RBIs.
In all, only two starters didn’t have multi-hit games, and interestingly enough, one of those guys was one of DBU’s best players in Justin Wall, who finished the contest 0-for-5.
On a side note, Hall allowed four runs on 10 hits in five innings getting the start on the mound against the Lobos.
4. Sergeants of the Arms: Long Beach State’s pitching staff
You know, they did move Blair Field’s fences in to help generate more offense. Well, that hasn’t happened so far this weekend because Long Beach State’s pitching has been that good against the Cornhuskers, sweeping a pair of games on Saturday, 1-0 and 3-1.
In the 1-0 victory, a 13-inning affair, righthander Darren McCaughan really set the tone for the day with six strikeouts, just one walk and allowing just four hits in seven shutout innings. He threw 92 pitches, 64 for strikes.
The Dirtbags received some other impressive performances, including Austin McGeorge, who struck out nine in five shutout relief innings of work.
Though the Huskers struggled offensively in the first game, it was good to see Derek Burkamper put together a quality start. He struck out eight, walked two and allowed two hits in five shutout innings.
In the 3-1 win, LBSU 6-foot-4, 195-pound, righthander Tanner Brown had a very good start, striking out five, walking two and allowing just a run on five hits in seven innings.
Overall, it was impressive to see LBSU’s pitching staff have that kind of day, especially after getting throttled 9-2 in the series opener.
Our Eric Sorenson filed this terrific report from Long Beach.
5. More Arm Sergeants: UC Santa Barbara and Oregon
After Oregon took the series opener on Friday, the two had a terrific bout on Saturday that ended with UCSB winning 1-0 in the 14th inning on a Michael McAdoo RBI single. The story of the day, though, was both teams’ pitching staffs.
UC Santa Barbara’s Noah Davis, a freshman, struck out five and walked two and allowed just one hit in eight shutout innings, while sophomore Kyle Nelson came in and tossed six shutout innings to get the win.
Meanwhile, Oregon lefthander Matt Krook looked the part with 12 strikeouts in six hitless innings, while the Ducks used six other pitchers.
Oregon’s starting rotation has allowed two runs in 23 innings so far this weekend. Kudos to both teams pitching at a high level Saturday.
6. OMWA: Ole Miss Wins Again
Out of all the teams around the country, Mike Bianco’s Rebels are one of the pleasant surprises. Sure, we expected the Rebels to be a postseason club, but I know we didn’t expect them to be 9-1 at this juncture. Ole Miss added another impressive win to its resume on Saturday in an 8-2 win over Coastal Carolina.
Ole Miss righthander Chad Smith put together a quality start, striking out six, walking two and allowing two runs on seven hits in five innings, while the bullpen did excellent work with David Parkinson and Brady Feigl leading the charge.
Offensively, second baseman Tate Blackman went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and three RBIs, while J.B. Woodman had a double and leadoff hitter Errol Robinson had a pair of hits and an RBI.
Championships aren’t won the first three weeks of the season, but Ole Miss definitely looks like a force to be reckoned with moving forward.
7. Tennessee gets a significant victory
There’s no doubt Dave Serrano’s Volunteers are playing with a lot more confidence so far this spring. After falling just short against Maryland on Friday, his team bounced back in impressive fashion on Saturday with a 5-2 victory over ranked East Carolina.
Lefthander Zach Warren put together a solid start against the Pirates, striking out seven, walking three and allowing just two runs on eight hits in 6.2 innings. Meanwhile, elite third baseman Nick Senzel had a productive day at the plate, recording three hits and knocking in a run.
It’s still very early, but at 7-2 thus far, the Volunteers are putting themselves in good position with some high quality non-conference victories.
8. NC State just keeps winning
There was significant discussion about the Wolfpack during preseason rankings discussions. NC State looked very solid on paper, but did we really think they were going to be that good? That was a legitimate discussion a few weeks, but the Pack continued to prove their worth as a top-10 club, moving to 2-0 this weekend after a solid 2-1 victory over red-hot Alabama.
NC State 6-foot-1, 170-pound lefthander Brian Brown had a short but effective start against the Crimson Tide, striking out four and allowing just a run on three hits in 4.1 innings. The Pack bullpen did the rest of the work with Sean Adler, Evan Brabrand and Will Gilbert each going a scoreless inning or more.
The Pack is now 9-2 overall, and boy, are we setting the stage for quite the series between they and rival North Carolina later in the season?
9. Fresno State is rolling right now
We wrote about the Bulldogs earlier this week in our Under the Radar feature, found here, and they appear to be for real after improving to 11-0 with a series-clinching 10-5 road win over San Diego State.
Fresno State was led at the plate by first baseman Kevin Viers, who had a home run and two RBIs, while shortstop Korby Batesole also had a big day with a double and a pair of runs batted in.
On the mound, righthander Jimmy Lambert did what he’s done each of the past two weeks, keep opposing teams in check. The righty struck out nine, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just a run on five hits in seven innings.
Suddenly, Fresno State is rolling and that series next weekend at No. 3 Texas A&M is looming just a little large at this point.
10. Tulane bounces back in impressive fashion
David Pierce’s Green Wave had been struggling for the past week, but they apparently have gotten the memo this weekend against Pepperdine. The Green Wave pounded the Waves 15-0 on Saturday and have outscored them 26-0 in two games.
Tulane’s offense was led by Hunter Hope, who had three hits and two RBIs, while Jeremy Montalbano had a double, triple and finished the afternoon with a pair of RBIs. Furthermore, Cade Edwards, Matt Rowland, Lex Kaplan and Richard Carthon each finished the day with multi-hit performances.
On the mound, Tulane starter Alex Massey struck out seven and allowed just three hits in seven shutout innings, while the bullpen did an admirable job as well.
Tulane might be 6-4, but this is still a likely postseason team, and a very dangerous one at that.
From The Holster: Shotgun Spratling’s Words
LOS ANGELES — With closer Zac Houston struggling to throw strikes and three lefthanded hitters due up, Mississippi State skipper John Cohen threw freshman Kale Breaux into the fire against No. 22 Southern California. The lefty came through when it mattered most.
After a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch put the tying run on third base, Breaux struck out Lars Nootbaar and snagged a ball up the middle that was likely destined for a game-tying hit, ending the game and giving the Bulldogs an 8-7 win at Dedeaux Field.
Blake Smith (2-0) picked up the win for Mississippi State (8-3) with three scoreless innings of relief. Both starting pitchers struggled as USC’s Bernardo Flores didn’t make it out of the second inning and Austin Sexton gave up six runs on seven hits in 4.2 innings. The Trojans (6-4) took a 5-3 lead with a four-run third inning. But the Bulldog offense picked Sexton up with a four-run response the next half inning, highlighted by a three-run homer from Jack Kruger. Kruger finished with four RBIs on the day.
USC designated hitter Timmy Robinson also hit a three-run homer and had four RBIs while Jeremy Martinez hit a solo homer. Elih Marrerro had three hits and an RBI for Mississippi State.
Both teams will try to finish the weekend with a winning record as they conclude the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic at Dodger Stadium. Weather permitting, Mississippi State will take on Oklahoma at 11 a.m. with USC facing off against UCLA at 3 p.m.
In Their Words
Mississippi State head coach John Cohen talks about the Bulldogs’ 8-7 win at USC, including the effort of freshman Kale Breaux to strand the game-tying run at third base. He also discusses the offense’s confidence and the impact of Jack Kruger in the middle of the lineup: