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D1 Digest: 10 takeaways from Friday’s action

Roundup

SATURDAY COVERAGE:

• Aaron Fitt on Florida’s balanced offense
• Kendall Rogers on Texas A&M’s Trevor Werner
• Eric Sorenson on CSUN and UCLA
• Latest RPI
• Friday Scoreboard
• POWER RANKINGS: C | 1B | 2B | SS | 3B | OF | SP | RP


Sproat, Gators dominate Commodores

Florida ace Brandon Sproat had everything working for him on Friday, as did the Gators offense as the team moved to within one game of visiting Vanderbilt in the SEC East standings with a 10-0 win. Sproat allowed just five hits and three walks over six scoreless frames, striking out five. Jac Caglianone’s two-run single in the bottom of the seventh gave Florida the run-shortened walkoff win.

Florida got out to an early lead, scoring eight runs in the second, third and fourth innings. Deric Fabian’s two-run homer began the scoring and Wyatt Langford capped off the team’s three-run second with an RBI double. Fabian hit a two-run single in the third, giving him a four-RBI day at the plate, while a sac fly by Caglianone and a two-run homer by BT Riopelle led to Florida’s three run fourth.

Be sure to read Aaron Fitt’s first-hand account of Florida’s win: Fabian’s big night highlights Florida’s lineup depth in blowout of Vandy

Arkansas, the model of consistency

Another Friday led to another win against a ranked opponent as No. 3 Arkansas took down No. 6 South Carolina in Fayetteville, 4-1. The Hogs improved to 29-3 at home (37-12 overall) where they continue to flat-out dominate year and year. Sophomore lefthander Hagen Smith provided another strong start, allowing just one run over the first 5 2/3 innings with seven punchouts, while go-to bullpen ace Gage Wood moved to 2-0 on the year with 3 1/3 scoreless innings in relief. Kendall Diggs was the offensive hero at the plate providing an RBI single in the third and a two-run single in the seventh.

It’s a positive start to the weekend for Arkansas, which has swept each of its last two SEC opponents and continues to hold a narrow half-game lead over LSU in the SEC West standings.

Lowder, Skenes at it again

It has become a weekly rite of passage in college baseball for Wake Forest’s Rhett Lowder and LSU’s Paul Skenes to have a dominant performance to kick off the weekend and put their teams in an early position for a series win. This weekend, and more specifically Friday night, was no different as both the No. 1 Demon Deacons and No. 2 Tigers were guided by their aces.

Lowder moved to 11-0 on the year, blanking host Florida State over the first seven innings of a run-rule-shortened 10-0 win for Wake Forest. Lowder struck out six FSU hitters, allowing just four base hits without issuing a walk. Skenes, who leads the nation in strikeouts by a wide margin, added 13 more on Friday, improving to 10-1 on the season by allowing just one run on three hits and a walk in the seven-inning, 12-1 win for LSU.

Heading into the weekend these two aces were third and fourth in the nation in ERA (1.67 for Lowder and 1.73 for Skenes) and at the very least they’re not going to lose any ground. Some way, somehow it would be extraordinarily fitting if these two squared off against one another in Omaha, like a Tom Brady/Peyton Manning AFC Championship game of old, and we would all instantly be the victors should that come to fruition.

Clemson, Virginia win big in tumultuous ACC

No. 16 Clemson continued its winning ways with a big 15-4 win over Virginia Tech on Friday, riding an eight-run fifth inning to victory. Cam Cannarella, Billy Amick and Riley Bertram all hit run-producing doubles in that frame as all three finished the day with rather loud performances at the plate. Seven different Tigers pitchers took the mound in a Johnny Wholestaff winning effort. Virginia Tech, which entered the weekend on the outside looking in of D1Baseball’s latest Field of 64 projections, doesn’t have much room for error from an at-large perspective.

No. 21 Virginia is in dire need of a series win after losing its last three weekends to Duke, Notre Dame and Pitt, and the Cavaliers got off to a good start on Friday with a 15-5 win at home against Louisville. Starter Nick Parker moved to 5-0 with 6 1/3 strong innings on the mound while infielders Griff O’Ferrall (4-for-5), Ethan Anderson (2-for-4 with 4 RBIs) and Henry Godbout (3-for-4 with 3 RBIs) carried the offense. Louisville is currently on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason picture, losing its last four weekend series after opening the season 25-7.

Back on Rocky Top

One week after losing its series on the road to Georgia, No. 23 Tennessee returned home this week to host No. 17 Kentucky. The series got off to a good start for the Vols after a 10-6 Friday win, and they improved their record at home to 31-4, as opposed to their 2-11 road mark.

Tennessee’s seven-run third inning was the difference in this game, a frame that saw three Volunteers – Hunter Ensley, Jared Dickey and Griffin Merritt – hit home runs. Merritt’s homer was a three-run blast, and he had a two-run shot in the sixth as part of a five-RBI performance at the plate.

Lovich goes Cyclin’

Missouri leadoff hitter Ross Lovich hit for the cycle as part of the Tigers series-opening 13-3 beat down against Georgia, a game that ended after Mizzou put a pair of runs on the board in the bottom of the seventh, one of which was Lovich’s cycle-clinching home run.

Lovich opened the bottom of the first with a double and scored on Luke Mann’s first of two home runs on the day, giving Mizzou an early 2-0 lead. He hit his triple in second inning, which brought home a run, and scored on a sac fly which preceded back-to-back solo shots by Mann and Hank Zeisler, giving the Tigers a commanding 6-0 lead after the second inning. Lovich recorded his single in the third inning and hit a fly out in the fifth before his home run in the seventh as part of a 4-for-5, three-run, two-RBI day.

Parity rules the Pac-12

Outside of another win for No. 4 Stanford, edging Arizona with a walkoff 9-8 victory on Friday, the rest of the Pac-12 continues to be a back-and-forth slug-fest. USC continues to ride a high, coming off a series win against Oregon by taking down a previously-ranked Arizona State squad 4-1. Washington got the best of No. 24 Oregon, 14-5, and UCLA beat No. 15 Oregon State, 12-5. 

As a result, outside of first-place Stanford, the Pac-12 standings are very muddled. Arizona State and Washington are now tied for second place with 14-10 (.583) records. USC and Oregon are both 14-11 (.560) with 16-12 Oregon State (.571) sandwiched in between.

Washington’s win may very well have been the loudest, riding consecutive series wins into the weekend and getting huge performances from its Nos. 3 and 4 hitters against Oregon on Friday. Coby Morales went 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles, a home run and four RBIs while cleanup hitter Will Simpson went 2-for-5 with two homers (his 16th and 17th of the year) and five RBIs.

DBU takes two in crucial C-USA clash

Projected inclement weather over the weekend in San Antonio forced a doubleheader on Friday between a pair of evenly matched, and ranked, Conference USA teams. No. 18 Dallas Baptist got the better of host No. 22 UTSA in both of those games, 11-7 and 11-9.

After UTSA jumped out to a brief 2-0 lead in the first game, DBU quickly answered back with Ethan Mann’s three-run bomb. A five-run fifth, headlined by George Specht’s grand slam, proved to be the difference. The second game saw DBU jump ahead with a five-run third inning, with Grant Jay’s three-run homer being the biggest blow, and tacked on two in the sixth, single tallies in the seventh and eighth and two more in the ninth to secure the series win, scoring six runs off dynamic UTSA closer Simon Miller while handing him his first loss of the season (7-1). Jay finished the game with a pair of home runs, adding a solo shot in the ninth that was the go-ahead and eventual winning run.

With the two wins DBU gives themselves some much-needed cushion in the C-USA standings, now 22-4 as compared to UTSA’s 19-6. The Patriots are now 39-12 overall and likely have re-inserted themselves in the hosting conversation with a modest RPI boost.

Minnesota plays spoiler as Big Ten race tightens

One week after Minnesota took two of three against Michigan the Gophers are at it again, taking down No. 19 Maryland, 10-7, to open this weekend’s action. In addition to Maryland’s loss Indiana, Rutgers, Iowa, Michigan and Nebraska all won. Indiana’s 13-6 in-conference mark is the same’s as Maryland’s, although the Terps convincingly swept the Hoosiers just two weeks ago. Rutgers is just one game back from the frontrunners while Michigan and Nebraska each trail by a pair of games in the conference standings.

Minnesota reliever Connor Wietgrefe has been particularly effective as of late, providing four scoreless innings out of the bullpen, allowing just a pair of hits while striking out seven Terps.

Other notable individual performances in the Big Ten include Marcus Morgan tossing six scoreless and hitless innings as part of a 9-0 win for Iowa. Seven different Indiana hitters hit home runs – including a 4-for-5, two-home run and six-RBI performance by Hunter Jessee – in the Hoosier’s 26-11 dismantling of Purdue. The dynamic duo of Brice Matthews and Max Anderson continued to swing hot sticks in Nebraska’s 19-5 thrashing of Penn State, combining to go 6-for-11 with six runs scored and six RBIs.

K-State gets the best of Ok State

Don’t look now, but Kansas State pulled ahead of Oklahoma State for second place in the Big 12 standings. The Wildcats have now won 12 of their last 16 games, including Friday’s 10-9 victory over the Cowboys in Stillwater. In typical Big 12 fashion, neither starter – K-State’s Owen Boerema and Oklahoma State’s Juaron Watts-Brown – had their best outing but both were kept in to eat up some innings as the offenses went to work.

Kansas State’s four-run seventh inning was the difference in this game, with Cole Johnson capping the scoring with a two-run double. Shortstop Nick Goodwin’s breakout season continues as he went 4-for-5 with three RBIs and third baseman Kaelen Culpper enjoyed a three-hit day. Oklahoma State made things interesting in the home half of the seventh and ninth innings, with Nolan Schubart hitting an RBI single and a two-run home run, both off fire-balling K-State closer Tyson Neighbors, but the Cowboys ultimately fell one run short.

Bubble Watch

Here’s a quick look at the five teams that just made the cut for this past week’s Field of 64 update, and those that just missed:

Last 5 In

NC State lost to North Carolina, 3-9, as the Tar Heels claim the series.

Texas Tech beat No. 12 West Virginia 5-2.

UTSA lost twice to No. 18 DBU, 7-11 and 9-11.

Texas State lost to Louisiana, 3-7.

Troy beat Marshall, 7-6.

First 5 Out

UC Irvine lost to CSUN, 10-15.

Virginia Tech lost to Clemson, 4-15.

Oklahoma beat Gonzaga, 5-2.

USC beat Arizona State, 4-1.

Rutgers beat Illinois, 5-4.

In addition, five projected regional hosts lost their opening-series game on Friday: Duke, West Virginia, Kentucky, South Carolina and Oklahoma State.

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