Weekend Madness: Thursday, May 14
• Eric Sorenson’s Three-up, Three-down
• Michael Baumann on Illinois C Jason Goldstein
The Big Winner: South Carolina
Chris Chinea, who’s riding a red-hot bat, and the Tigers got out to a 6-2 heading to the bottom of the sixth inning, and it just seemed like Paul Mainieri’s club was in control. However, the wheels would soon come off this game for LSU, as South Carolina scored four runs in the bottom of the sixth, led by DC Arendas’s two-run home run and Hunter Taylor’s RBI single. Those big hits and more tied the game at 6-6.
With Carolina Stadium suddenly in a frenzy, the Gamecocks fed off that emotion, and LSU’s shaky bullpen struggled in the seventh inning, walking five Gamecocks hitters in a frame that led to four more South Carolina runs, and ended with a 10-7 victory for the home team.
Taylor and Arendas each finished the night with two hits and three RBIs, while hard-hitting first baseman Kyle Martin had two hits, and hobbled second baseman Max Schrock had a mammoth home run early in the game and went 3-for-4 with an RBI.
With the victory over the Tigers, the Gamecocks have now scored an impressive 57 runs in their last five games, and suddenly are 13-15 in the SEC. We’ve said it once already this week, but if the Gamecocks can win one more game this weekend, that might, just might, be enough to get them into the postseason.
What a turnaround the past two weeks for Chad Holbrook’s club, as I detailed in this Thursday feature on the Gamecocks.
Crown The Champs
TCU: It was the start of a huge series in Norman on Thursday night, as the Sooners of Oklahoma likely need a series win over the Frogs, or a ridiculously impressive run through the Big 12 tournament to get into the NCAA postseason. Well, the Frogs took home a 5-4 win and a Big 12 regular-season title in this one. TCU’s Cody Jones and Keaton Jones each hit homers in this one, while the Frogs showed off their premium pitching depth after starting pitcher Alex Young allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings. With the win, TCU coach Jim Schlossnagle, astonishingly, has now won regular season titles in eight of his 12 seasons with the Frogs.
Missouri State: Everyone has gotten so caught up talking about Dallas Baptist as a potential national seed, the Bears aren’t getting talked about a lot. But this is the elite team in the MVC right now, as evidenced by MSU clinching a share of the MVC regular-season title with a 2-0 triumph over Bradley. The Bears actually have a two-game lead over DBU in the conference standings, so would need to lose two games, and DBU win its final two games for there to be co-champions. On Thursday, MSU lefthander Matt Hall put together yet another gem, striking out 12, walking one and allowing just four hits in eight shutout innings.
Radford: Here’s a tip of the cap to Joe Raccuia and the Highlanders coaching staff. They entered Thursday a game ahead of Coastal Carolina (whom they have the head-to-head series win over). And while they took care of business on the road with a 6-2 win over UNC Asheville, the Chanticleers dropped a tough 10-9 decision at Campbell. Theoretically, the Chants could still tie the Highlanders atop the standings, but for our purposes, RU is the champion of the Big South. Radford starting pitcher Michael Boyle struck out five and allowed just two runs on seven hits in six innings, while the bullpen did a terrific job with Daniel Bridgeman tossing two shutout innings and Ryan Meisinger closing out the contest in style with a clean ninth inning.
Illinois: We won’t talk much about the Fighting Illini since our Michael Baumann was their to catch the win over Nebraska and has this terrific feature on Illini catcher Jason Goldstein. However, they did clinch the Big Ten regular-season title with a 6-3 win over the Cornhuskers, extending their win streak to an insanely impressive 25 games. Illinois lefthander Kevin Duchene struck out four, walked two and allowed three runs on five hits in seven innings, while lefty and closer Tyler Jay closed things out with three strikeouts in 1.2 shutout innings. Here’s another nugget for you from this game: Eight of Illinois’ nine starters had at least a hit in this one. That’s efficiency, folks.
Southeast Missouri State: The Redhawks have built quite a program over the past few seasons. They won the 2014 OVC title and are back at it again this season, clinching a share of the regular-season crown and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament with a dominant 12-0 road win over Belmont. SEMO starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi struck out seven in eight shutout innings, while Ryan Rippee and Hunter Leeper each led the offensive charge with homers, with Leeper knocking in four runs and Rippee three runs.
Mercer: The Southern Conference isn’t what it once was, but winning the league still has some merit, and the Bears captured at least a share of the regular-season crown Thursday with a 14-5 win over Samford at home. Electric outfielder Kyle Lewis led the offensive charge with a home run, two hits and three RBIs, while catcher Charlie Madden had two hits and six RBIs and second baseman Devin Bonin had four hits and an RBI.
Southeastern Louisiana: The Lions have been very consistent this season, and that was rewarded Thursday night with a 5-0 win over New Orleans and a Southland Conference regular-season title. The Lions got a strong start from Tate Scioneaux, who struck out six, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just seven hits in a complete game performance, while outfielder Julian Service had three hits. The Lions should hit the 40-win mark, and chances are solid they make the field as an at-large team despite having a mid-40s RPI.
— Coach Jay Artigues (@JayArtigues) May 15, 2015
The Other Winners
Southern Mississippi: When writing down a list of teams you potentially don’t want to play in the postseason, go ahead and jot down the Golden Eagles. Scott Berry’s club has been outstanding the past few weeks, and were impressive yet again in a 12-4 road win over Middle Tennessee State. Chase Scott and Austin Roussel each hit a home run to lead the offensive cause, while starting pitcher Cody Carroll allowed just one earned run on six hits in six innings.
Houston: The Cougars have a chance to be in pretty good shape for a host spot after this weekend if they can take the series from Connecticut. Well, there were some tense moments on Thursday, but UH took home a 5-4 victory over the Huskies, scoring two runs in the bottom of the 10th inning to get the win. UH righthander Andrew Lantrip struck out 11, walked two and allowed just three runs on six hits in 6.2 innings, while leadoff hitter Kyle Survance went 2-for-5 with an RIB, and two-hole hitter Josh Vidales had three hits.
UCF: The Knights are trying to get heavily into the mix for an at-large bid, and took a step forward Thursday night with a 12-9 road win over South Florida. UCF’s Erik Barber led the offensive charge with a home run, two total hits and four RBIs, while Tommy Williams also had a big day with a home run, two hits and two RBIs. Meanwhile, Derrick Salberg went 3-for-5 with two RBIs to help lead the way. UCF is still a game out of third place in the American Athletic Conference standings, but did get its RPI into the 40s with the win.
Kentucky: The winner of this weekend’s series between the Wildcats and Missouri is likely in the field of 64 next week, so this is a big one. Kentucky starting pitcher Zack Brown made sure his team was victorious in a 1-0 triumph over Mizzou. Brown struck out five, didn’t allow a walk and allowed just five hits in the complete game performance, while MU starting pitcher and righthander Reggie McClain allowed a run on eight hits in eight innings.
Texas A&M: Much had been made about the Aggies’ pitching staff after it allowed 30 runs in three games against South Carolina last weekend. But junior righthander Grayson Long rose to the occasion in a 4-0 win over Ole Miss. The righty struck out 12, walked three and allowed two hits in seven shutout innings, while Andrew Vinson tossed two shutout frames to end the game. With another win this weekend, the Aggies likely would position themselves very good for a national seed.
Florida International over Rice: I have to admit, this game caused me to do a little double take on our scoreboard page. Rice went on the road and did a clean sweep of Florida Atlantic last weekend, but struggled mightily in an 11-1 home loss to a bad FIU club. Rice righthander Jordan Stephens allowed four runs in just 3.1 innings, while Edwin Rios hit a home run for the Panthers, and FIU starting pitcher Andres Nunez struck out five, walked one and allowed just five hits in seven shutout frames.
Northeastern over College of Charleston: We all had Northeastern beating the red-hot Cougars in the series opener, right? That’s what I thought. The Cougars had a 4-2 advantage going to the bottom of the 10th inning in this one, but Northeastern got some heroics when Rob Fonseca smashed a walk-off three-run home run to give the Huskies a 5-4 victory. Charleston’s RPI would take a sizable hit if it lost another game this weekend, potentially dealing a big blow to its hosting chances.
Rutgers at Iowa: You know, when the Scarlet Knights gave Illinois all it could handle on the road last weekend, I wondered if they’d trip up the sizzling Hawkeyes. Well, they did it Thursday night in a 5-3 home victory. Rutgers lefthander Howie Brey had a big-time performance, striking out just two batters, but also just allowing three runs on nine hits in a complete game performance. Meanwhile, UI righthander Tyler Peyton struggled on the night, allowing five runs on five hits in 3.2 innings. Iowa’s RPI dipped a few spots after the loss, and a series loss would very much damage its hosting chances.
Northwestern over Maryland: Could the Terps find themselves back in a bubble situation this weekend? Well, if Northwestern wins another game in this series, sure. The Terps dropped a 1-0 decision to the Wildcats, and it was silenced by senior righthander Brandon Magallones, who struck out seven, walked one and allowed just two hits in a complete game performance. In case you were wondering, Terps stud sophomore righthander Mike Shawaryn struck out seven and allowed a run on four hits in 6.2 innings.
Clemson over Florida State: The Tigers are hoping to make some legitimate noise this weekend and in the ACC tournament, and lefthander Matthew Crownover gave them a boost in the series opener and 4-1 win over Florida State. The outstanding lefty struck out five, walked three and allowed just a run on five hits in seven innings. Meanwhile, reliever Pat Krall also was instrumental in the win with two shutout frames to end the game. Clemson now has an ACC record of 14-13, which is solid, but is still in the 60s from an RPI standpoint. In other words, still some work to do for the Tigers to seriously get into the at-large bid discussion.
Auburn over Florida: After getting swept at home by rival Alabama last weekend, the Tigers needed to start the weekend on a positive note, something that’s not easy to do against Florida. But AU did it in a 4-1 victory over the Gators, as righthander Cole Lipscomb allowed just a run on five hits in 6.1 innings, and Justin Camp tossed 2.2 innings of shutout baseball out of the bullpen. Auburn’s Melvin Gray had a double and three RBIs, while Florida righthander Logan Shore struck out six, walked tow and allowed two runs in seven innings.
Georgia over Arkansas: The Razorbacks have been red-hot as of late, but the Bulldogs put water on the fire Thursday night in a surprisingly dominant 10-1 victory. Bulldogs starting pitcher David Sosebee struck out seven, walked one and allowed a run on six hits in seven innings, while third baseman Mitchell Webb went 2-for-3 with three RBIs as the Bulldogs touched up Arkansas righthander Trey Killian for five runs in five innings.
In Case You Missed It …
• Vanderbilt righthander Carson Fulmer continues to have an amazing junior season and continued his impressive ways in a 2-1 road win over Alabama. Fulmer struck out 14, walked four and allowed just a run on two hits in a complete game performance. For the season, Fulmer now has a 1.51 ERA in 95.2 innings, along with 132 strikeout and 37 walks.
• Miami lefthander Thomas Woodrey put together a terrific performance in a 3-0 home win over Georgia Tech. He struck out seven, walked three and allowed just one hit in a complete game performance. The ‘Canes improved to 40-13 overall, 20-8 in the ACC.
• Arizona State has scuffled a bit lately, but the sure-handed arm of lefthander Ryan Kellogg wouldn’t let the struggles persist Friday night in a 5-0 win over Washington State at home. Kellogg struck out 11, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just five hits in the complete game performance. He threw 100 pitches, 75 for strikes.