Midweek Short Hops: Tuesday, March 29Analysis
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Team of the day: Florida
In a totally shocking development, the Gators are the team of the day after responding from last weekend’s series loss at Kentucky with another quality performance and a 3-2 win over Florida State, which clinches the season series between the two teams.
As usual, UF freshman righthander Jackson Kowar put together an impressive start, striking out four, walking one and allowing just a run on five hits in five innings, while the Gators bullpen did the rest with another freshman, Brady Singer, tossing three shutout frames and Shaun Anderson closing out the contest.
“First of all, the crowd was great for both schools. It was packed and it is a really good venue to play in. I can’t begin to explain how proud of our team I am to bounce back from a tough weekend. It’s been a tough couple of days for us and I’m proud to coach this team with the way they responded tonight. I thought the focus was as good as it has been all year long,” Florida coach Kevin O’Sullivan said. “The ability to make pitch after pitch and we ran two freshmen out there for the first eight innings of the ballgame. I thought Jackson grew up a lot tonight and I thought Brady bounced back from a tough game on Sunday and threw the ball really, really well. It was great to get Shaun (Anderson) back out there to close the ninth inning out. It was clean, crisp game and I don’t think we gave away many at bats. I just love the fact that we were able to rebound from the weekend and play with a tremendous amount of grit and focus to win an important mid-week game.”
With the win over the Seminoles, here’s a statistic for you to chew on: The Gators are now 32-8 in the last 40 games against in-state rivals Florida State and Miami. That’s called dominance of the Sunshine State, folks.
Player of the day: Nick Senzel, Tennessee
The Volunteers have had some injuries and bad luck get into the way of a potential rebound campaign, but top prospect Senzel just keeps churning along. Though Senzel hadn’t displayed big-time home run power before Tuesday, entering the contest with just a pair of homers, he got things going in a big way in a 9-2 win over Middle Tennessee State.
Senzel went 2-for-2 with a pair of homers and six RBIs. Senzel started it all off with a solo home run in the first inning before smacking a three-run job in the third inning to pace the Tennessee offense.
For the season, the junior slugger is hitting .357 with nine doubles, four homers and 35 RBIs, along with a .500 OBP and nine stolen bases. That’s the All-American type of season we expected.
Upset of the day: Northern Kentucky over Kentucky
Though some will point to Tulane’s win in Baton Rouge over LSU and College of Charleston’s win in Columbia over South Carolina as upsets, I don’t view those two results as that surprising. However, the same can’t be said about Northern Kentucky beating Kentucky, fresh off a series win over Florida, 5-4 in Lexington.
NKU entered the contest with an RPI in the 270s, but captured a massive road victory to improve to 8-16 overall. Norse starting pitcher Tyler Miller allowed three earned runs in six innings, but it was reliever Charlie Jerger that really guided the way, tossing three shutout frames to end the contest. NKU got an impressive performance from Logan Spurlin, who went 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs.
Those are the types of losses that could really hurt Kentucky at the end of the season, regardless of what happens in Southeastern Conference play.
Other notable upsets:
College of Charleston over South Carolina: The Cougars have put together a solid campaign in Matt Heath’s first hurrah, and they captured a thrilling 6-5, 13-inning triumph over South Carolina on the road. The game was tied at 5-5 with an out in the top of the 13th with runners on second and third when Luke Manzo hit a tapper to Gamecocks reliever Canaan Cropper. Cropper, though, threw to first base and the Cougars were able to bring in the go-ahead run and close it out in the bottom frame. Morgan Phillips had a huge home run for the Cougars, while Carter Love threw three shutout innings out of the bullpen to lead the way on the mound. Charleston already had a top-10 RPI, and this win gives it yet another boost. On a side note, the Josh Reagan allowed home run to Phillips was his first run allowed this season.
Tulane over LSU: We’re not real sure how much of an “upset” you can call this. After all, the Green Wave entered the season on the cusp of our rankings. But, for now, it is and Tulane hit the road and captured a dominant 7-1 win over the Tigers, their first over LSU at the new Alex Box Stadium. Tulane starting pitcher J.P. France allowed just four hits in six shutout innings, while Grant Witherspoon had a pair of hits, and shortstop Stephen Alemais had a pair of hits, along with some spectacular defensive players. For LSU, it was a rather disappointing return home after the A&M series, and it now hits the road to face an Auburn team that got back to feeling good on Tuesday.
Bases loaded, Stephen Alemais goes BEHIND the back for a double play. Tulane 5 – LSU 0. ??? https://t.co/bwb4tYy5Rs
— Fear the Wave (@FearTheWaveBlog) March 30, 2016
Fresno State over Long Beach State: Though the Dirtbags have been red-hot the past few weeks, the Bulldogs have a good resume of their own, so again, we’re not sure how much of an upset this truly is, especially up in Fresno. But, the Bulldogs captured a 10-5 victory with Jesse Medrano going 2-for-2 with a double and four RBIs, while outfielder Brody Russell went 3-for-4 with two RBIs. The silver lining in this one from Long Beach State’s perspective was Luke Rasmussen smacking his fourth homer of the season.
Pepperdine over UC Santa Barbara: Someone out there needed to cool down the Gauchos, and the Waves were more than willing to be that team in a 6-2 win Tuesday afternoon. Waves starting pitcher Chandler Blanchard threw three shutout innings, while they used six pitchers in all. UCSB’s Kyle Hatton put together a quality performance, but the bullpen was unable to hold the Waves down the rest of the way.
Oakland over Michigan State: The Spartans were one of those teams we talked about in our rankings meeting the other day, and, well, they didn’t start a crucial week in impressive fashion, losing 3-1 at home to Oakland. OU starting pitcher Chris Van Dyke set the tone with four scoreless frames, while the Grizzlies used five more arms to get the job done.
Did you know?
With a 7-2 victory on the road over No. 23 Houston, top-ranked Texas A&M has now won 25-straight midweek affairs, dating back to the 2014 season. A&M got a strong performance on its second day of being No. 1, as outfielder Nick Banks had his second-straight impressive performance, hitting a home run and a double and finished the night with two RBIs, while first baseman Hunter Melton also chipped in a three-hit performance and red-hot leadoff hitter J.B. Moss smacked a home run and recorded three hits. Now, it’s a trip to the Sunshine State for a showdown with No. 2 Florida.
The rest of the story
• Rockin’ Riley: North Carolina has a showdown with Miami on the horizon and three-hole hitter Brandon Riley had a night to remember in a 10-2 win over Davidson, as he went 4-for-4 with a pair of doubles. Zack Gahagan knocked in a pair of runs and Kyle Datres finished the night with two hits.
• Louisville Dominance: Western Kentucky has been a thorn in the side of some teams this season, but not Louisville on this night. UL’s Kade McClure tossed six shutout innings, while the offense banged out a season-high 20 hits in a 17-0 thrashing of the Hilltoppers. Colby Fitch had a big home run early in the game to set the tone, while Will Smith had four hits and three RBIs, and Colin Lyman had two hits and knocked in four runs.
• Hail State! Mississippi State has been red hot over the past few weeks, and that trend continues Tuesday night in a mighty impressive 13-5 win over Southern Mississippi. The Golden Eagles had been a nuisance for the SEC before Tuesday, and actually led the Bulldogs 2-1 after 3 1/2 innings. However, MSU scored 12 runs its final six at bats to capture the victory. Athletic Jacob Robson had a triple and two RBIs, while Nathaniel Lowe had a pair of doubles, four hits and three RBIs. Reid Humphreys also got in on the action with a double and two RBIs.
• Wolfe Leads The Pack: The Pirates are establishing some consistency during the midweek and East Carolina captured yet an other solid victory at home, 9-6, over UNC Wilmington. ECU starting pitcher Jacob Wolfe struck out five, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just two runs on six hits in 6.1 innings to set the tone, while third baseman Eric Tyler went a perfect 4-for-4 with an RBI.
• Cowboys Ride High: You know what that sound is right now – it’s the sound of Josh Holliday and Oklahoma State getting the steam team revved up. OSU entered the season with incredibly high expectations. And though it had some tough losses to begin the year, most in close fashion, the Pokes have battled back in strong fashion, improving to 18-7 overall with a 5-4 win over Arkansas, a game that included a Ryan Sluder steal of home in the eighth inning. Remey Reed was terrific out of the bullpen with three scoreless frames, while Collin Theroux smacked a three-run homer in the second inning to tie the game at 3-3. Oklahoma State, by the way, is now approaching top-10 RPI status.
• For Beer, I Will: Clemson fab freshman Seth Beer has had such a special season thus far, but he unfortunately had to miss Tuesday’s road game against Furman because of the passing of his grandfather. The Beer family certainly will remain in our thoughts, but with him out of the lineup, the Tigers still managed to take care of business, 9-7, over the Paladins. And guess what? His replacement, K.J. Bryant, helped lead the charge with a three-run homer to left field, in his hometown mind you. That was an impressive win to shake off the rust left behind by the Miami series.
• An Auburn Attack: We all talked about how explosive the AU offense was after the home series against top-ranked Texas A&M. Well, the Tigers hit the road last weekend and were pretty much silenced by Arkansas. This response? The Tigers banged out 10 runs on 15 hits in a 10-1 thrashing of rival Alabama in Montgomery, Ala. Blake Logan and Anfernee Grier each had a home run for the Tigers, while Jordan Ebert finished the night with three hits. In all, the top five hitters in the Auburn lineup finished the night 11-for-24. That usually gets the job done, and by the way, that is now Alabama’s third-straight midweek setback.
• Connor Calls: It has been anything but an illustrious campaign for Todd Butler and Wichita State this season. However, they had a little fun Tuesday in a 10-2 home win over Stephen F. Austin, as 6-foot-5, 220-pound, freshman righthander Connor Lungwitz put together a strong performance, striking out 10, walking just one and allowing a hit in six shutout innings. On the flip side, with the win, the Shockers are still sitting at an abysmal 8-16 overall.
• Lightning Boldt: Remember when it looked like Nebraska might be one of the bigger disappointments of the season? Well, the Huskers continued their ridiculously hot ways on Tuesday with a dominant 8-2 win over in-state rival Creighton. And guess who shined? Yep, Mr. Ryan Boldt. Boldt continued his torrid pace with a pair of homers, two stolen bases, three hits in all and four RBIs, while Scott Schreiber collected a double and knocked in two runs.
• Bruised Bruins: UCLA took a step back last weekend with a tough series loss to Arizona on the road, and Tuesday’s ugliness in a 14-7 loss to Cal State Fullerton won’t help the cause. UCLA starting pitcher Jake Bird allowed seven runs in just 1.1 innings, while the Bruins bullpen struggled after him. For the Titans, Dalton Blaser led the charge with a home run and three RBIs, while three other Titans knocked in a pair of runs, including veteran first baseman Tanner Pinkston.