D1 Digest: Saturday, May 13Columns
It was another typical May Saturday in college baseball, with lots of broken records, broken hearts, broken dreams and even a few broken bats as teams continue to jockey for positioning in the race to the national seeds, the at-large discussion and for conference tournament placement.
On Friday, Oregon State became the first team to sew up a conference title, by beating Oregon. On Saturday, it was Louisville and North Carolina locking up their respective divisions in the ACC. Joining them in the pennant-waving department is Missouri State in the MVC, who improved to 16-0 on conference play with a 4-1 win over Indiana State today.
Also, two birthday boys became game-winners for their respective teams as Georgia’s Kevin Smith picked up his fourth win of the season on his 20th birthday with seven innings of three-hit work in a 4-1 win over Mississippi State. Out on the West Coast, Stanford’s Nico Hoerner, also celebrating his 20th birthday, hit a game-winning RBI single in the 10th inning of the Cardinal’s 6-5 win over Cal.
That’s all good stuff. But here is the best of the best from Saturday’s action…
The best of the day in college baseball
1- The Champs of the ACC
Louisville wrapped up the Atlantic Division with a 6-4 win at Clemson and North Carolina locked up the Coastal Division with a 9-4 win at Virginia Tech. The two powerhouses are inching closer and closer to being shoo-ins for National Seeding as the Cardinals entered the day at No. 4 in the RPI and improved to 45-6 and the Heels began the day at No. 2 with a mark of 40-10. The Cards slammed four home runs, led by Colby Fitch and Drew Ellis who both blasted eighth inning yard calls to salt away the win over the Tigers. This marks the Cardinals’ third straight Atlantic Division pennant. Reaching back to the Big East years, UofL has also won six straight conference titles and eight titles in the last nine years. In game one of a double-header, UNC got a two-run dinger from Tyler Lynn in the sixth inning to pull ahead of Tech for good and lock up the Coastal title outright for the first time since 2013.
2- Renae Martinez, Oklahoma hero
The Sooner catcher did a good job of celebrating senior day a day early by lacing a moon-shot dinger over the left field wall with two on and two out in the bottom of the ninth inning at L. Dale Mitchell Park to beat No. 6 TCU 9-8. It was the sixth home run and 33-34-35th RBI of the season for the Sooners’ top hitter. OU still has some designs on hopefully pulling a home Regional and this win certainly gives that a shot in the arm as the Big Red now moves up to No. 20 in the RPI after today.
3- Tyler Holton, Florida State
Wake Forest came into this weekend as one of the top hitting teams in the country, even leading the nation in home runs, but T.H. said, “No dice, tobacco boys.” The sophomore RHP tossed a complete game four-hitter – all singles – and did not allow a single Deacon runner to reach second base the entire game as the Seminoles took the second game of the DH, 4-0. Holton struck out nine Wake batters in his 124-pitch effort. After the teams renewed their game that was started on Friday night, the ‘Noles pitchers did not allow a single run in the 13 innings played on Saturday. But WFU won the completed game 4-3.
– The Gophers sixth inning of hell.
Minnesota is still in the thick of the Big 10 race with a 12-6 conference mark. But this weekend represents one of the best chances of the season for them to pick up some major RPI points as they host Long Beach State. Today, behind a marathon sixth inning which saw them score nine runs, the Gophers pulled off a much-needed 12-6 win to even the series vs. the Beach. The Maroon and Gold sent 13 batters to the plate in the frame, including two-RBI doubles from Eduardo Estrada and Micah Coffey. The U entered the week at No. 71 in the RPI, but after going 1-1 so far this weekend, they have actually dropped a spot to No. 72. Isn’t the RPI just wonderful?
– Trey Cumbie, Houston
In the same week that the Cougars found out they’d be without ace Seth Romero the remainder of the season, they also get this stellar start from Cumbie, who went the distance, giving up five hits with 11 strikeouts and one measly walk as UofH took down Tulane 4-zip.
– The Walk Machine
Boston College leadoff hitter Jake Palomaki drew a walk to lead off the game, breaking the Eagle record for career walks with his 115th to help lead them to a 5-1 win at Quinnipiac. Mitch Bigras hit a solo home run in the fourth inning to break a 1-1 tie and give the Eagles a lead it would not lose. BC also won game two of the DH, 3-0, behind a combined three-hitter from Brian Rapp, Carmen Giampetruzzi and John Witkowski.
– The Bottom Of the LSU Order
Back when I saw LSU play at Arkansas, Tigers coach Paul Mainieri lamented the fact that his team just wasn’t hitting. “I tell you Eric, we just don’t have enough pop all the way through the order like Arkansas does,” he said. Well he’s eating those words today as the six-through-nine in the Tiger order combined for eight of the 10 hits LSU earned today in a 9-1 rout of Auburn. Michael Papierski, batting our of the eighth position in the order, clubbed a two-run homer in the fourth inning and seven-hole hitter Beau Jordan added two ribs as part of a 2-for-3 day. By the way, with the win and MSU’s loss at Georgia, the Bayou Bengals are now in first place in the SEC West at 18-9. Our Kendall Rogers had this piece on LSU’s demolition over Auburn over the weekend.
– The Bishop’s Order
Old Dominion eight-hole hitter Turner Bishop had a wicked-big game, going 3-for-5 with a home run and seven RBI in a 21-1 whitewashing of FIU. Bishop came within a triple of hitting for the cycle. The 21 runs was the highest run total for a single game since 2009 for the Monarchs, who also batted around three times in the game. FIU won the second game of the day 10-9.
– Another Great Name For the All-Name Team
Baylor cliched its series vs. Oklahoma State with a 3-2 win in Stillwater. In the process they got a great performance from starting pitcher Montana Parsons, who went six innings, giving up six hits with six strikeouts to get the win. Now, I realize that’s not a dominating performance but I couldn’t pass up the chance to have a guy named “Montana Parsons” on my Honorable Mentions list. So there you go.
Actually, one interesting note about the Bears is that after having a 2-8 stretch from March 24th to April 8th, they have now gone 12-5 in their last 17 contests and have also won seven of their last eight. The Green and Gold has now won 31 games or more for the first time since 2012.
– Big Crowds in College Baseball Mecca
Creighton may not be making much hay against McNeese, having lost the first two games of the series, but for the third straight game this week CU has brought in an impressive trio of crowds. In Tuesday’s game vs. Nebraska they pulled in 8,478 fans, then in Friday’s game vs. McNeese there were 9,047 fans (for an afternoon start, no less. WTF?) and today they got 8,484 fans for the 5-3 loss to the Cowboys. That’s 26,009 fans for three games and none of them involved an SEC team. Well done Jays fans.
– Zuber the Great
Arkansas State reliever Tyler Zuber threw 3.0 innings of relief tonight to help the Red Wolves down Georgia Southern 1-0. But get this, all NINE of Zuber’s outs came via the strikeout. Yes, all nine outs with the whiff. Very very strong there Mr. Z.
– Bush’s Blasts
UC Santa Barbara tied up its series at Cal State Fullerton with a 6-3 win on the strength of Austin Bush’s two yard calls, one in the fifth inning and then an opposite-field, two-run dinger in the ninth inning. With the two fencebusters, the strapping 6’6 slugger leads the Big West with 14 homers.
The worst of the day in college baseball
1- Auburn, all-burned.
This is a bad time for a tailspin, but the Tigers have gone toothless of late. Auburn came into the weekend as the fifth-best offense in the SEC (at .282), but in Alex Box Stadium they managed just two earned runs in 27 innings, getting swept in three straight, including Saturday’s 9-1 loss. LSU freshman Eric Walker looked stellar, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning before a Sam Gillian home run broke that up. The Plainsmen now look at the very real possibility that they have descended to the NCAA bubble at No. 46 in the RPI and that they are destined for the Ouch List Pain Train tomorrow night.
2- New Mexico
As the band Los Lobos asked, “Will the wolf survive?” Man, it doesn’t look like it today as the Lobos went to the central valley of California and got their hats handed to them for the second straight day, this time by a decisive 16-2 count at the hands of Fresno State. OOOOF! The ‘Dogs made this one a laugher from early on, racing out to a 12-1 lead after four innings. On Friday, the Bulldogs bit the wolves by a 9-3 count. So that makes it 21-4 in favor of Fresno for the first 18 innings of the weekend. UNM has dropped to No. 47 in the RPI.
3- Rhode Island
Man alive, THIS was not a loss the Rams needed here. URI dropped a 5-4 decision at home to George Mason, who came into the weekend with an RPI of No. 195. The Rams appeared on my Bubble List in Thursday’s “Off The Top Of My Head” feature and came in with a 28-16 mark, ranked at a very tenuous No. 47. They go to bed tonight staring at the ceiling with an RPI at No. 56.
– Washington’s poor rebound
A day after one-hitting Arizona State (thank you Noah Bremer) on Friday night, the Huskies dropped an 8-5 decision to the Sun Devils as five Husky pitchers never could find the right mojo off the mound, surrendering 14 hits along the way. Andrew Snow and Hunter Bishop both had two hits and two RBI to pace the ASU bat brigade. Meanwhile, UDub drops to 25-22 overall and even more painful, they also drop to 11-12 in Pac 12 play and… pause for effect… No. 74 ranking in the RPI.
– UConn bats.
Okay, after Friday’s doubleheader sweep of USF, you can understand a little bit of a letdown today. But instead they delivered a big letdown, as the Huskies managed just two hits and one walk off of Bulls starting pitcher Peter Strzelecki in a 2-0 loss in Storrs. The Huskies suffered through eight Ks along the way as well. Leadoff hitter Kevin Merrell knocked in Garrett Zech with an RBI single in the seventh for the only run of the day USF would need. Cameron Montgomery added a pinch-hit solo home run in the ninth to add some window dressing for the Bulls win.
– Navy up against the wall.
Fourth-seeded Bucknell got a complete game effort from Connor Van Hoose as the Bison took a 1-0 lead in their best-of-three at the Patriot League Semifinals in Annapolis. Van Hoose, who has four complete-games this year, held top-seeded Navy to one run on three hits to put the Bison 27 outs away from advancing to the PL title series next weekend against Holy Cross. In 16 innings vs. Navy this season the Bucknell ace has allowed one run on six hits.