Cayman Richardson, Virginia (UVa. photo)

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D1 Digest: ACC’s Wild Results Headline Saturday Action

Roundup

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Aaron Fitt’s Five

1. Mississippi State wins another huge road series

Remember when Mississippi State got swept at Arkansas three weeks ago? Me neither. Since that rough weekend in Fayetteville, MSU has put together arguably the most impressive three-week stretch of any team in college baseball this season. The Bulldogs responded immediately after that sweep with a midweek win over Ole Miss, then swept Georgia emphatically at home, then went on the road and took two of three at Texas A&M. Now you can add a road series win at rival Ole Miss — a team riding high after a huge road series win at LSU last weekend.

After winning Friday’s fog-dampened opener 2-0 behind Ethan Small, MSU clinched the series with a come-from-behind 8-5 victory on Saturday, erasing a 4-2 deficit with six runs in the seventh, highlighted by two-run singles by Tanner Allen and Rowdey Jordan. MSU is now 41-10 overall and 17-9 in the SEC, with a 22-10 record against the top 50 in the RPI (most top 50 wins in the country). In other words, MSU is right in the thick of the race for the No. 1 national seed.

2. Good day for road teams on Tobacco Road

There are three important ACC series in the state of North Carolina this weekend, and the road team won in all three of them on Saturday. In Durham, No. 7 Georgia Tech took another step closer to a national seed by clinching a big road series at Duke with a 15-3 blowout victory. I was on hand for the first half of this one; Tech’s offense put on a fearsome performance after falling behind 2-0 in the first inning. The Jackets answered immediately with five runs in the second, then broke it open with five more in the fourth. Slugger Kyle McCann went deep twice (Nos. 20 and 21), and Nick Wilhite went 4-for-4 out of the No. 4 hole, with three runs and two RBis. Georgia Tech has a deep, balanced offense that makes a ton of hard contact and can hurt you from top to bottom. Saturday was a striking reminder of that. At 17-9 in the ACC and No. 7 in the RPI, the Jackets are sitting pretty in the top-eight seed race.

About 90 minutes west down Interstate 40, Miami clinched a big road series at Wake Forest with an 8-4 victory. The Hurricanes took advantage of Wake Forest’s “boombox” home ballpark (as Friday starter Brian Van Belle termed it) by bashing five home runs, accounting for all of their scoring on Saturday. Freshman shortstop Anthony Vilar bounced back from a four-strikeout Friday with two homers and three RBIs on Saturday. Left fielder Chad Crosbie (filling in for Gabe Rivera, who left with an injury Friday night) went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBIs, and Miami got a solid start from super-talented freshman righty Slade Cecconi (5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K). Miami improved to 16-10 in the ACC and is in great shape to host a regional.

And in Raleigh, Clemson evened up its critically important series at NC State with a 4-3 win in 10 innings. The Tigers got strong pitching from Davis Sharpe (5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) and Carson Spiers (3 IP, 1 H, 0 R) at the front and back ends of the game, and Kyle Wilkie delivered a two-out double in the 10th with the bases empty, then scored the go-ahead run on an RBI single by Sam Hall. The Tigers leveled their ACC record at 13-13, and Sunday’s rubber game is huge for them.

3. Cal bludgeons Stanford

A day after Stanford smacked five home runs to beat California 10-7, the Golden Bears had an emphatic response. Cal smashed five long balls of its own and cranked out 20 hits in an 18-2 blowout victory over the second-ranked Cardinal, evening up the big rivalry series. Cal jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning against Will Matthiessen on the strength of three doubles, and the Bears never looked back. Cameron Eden (3-for-3, HR, 2 R, 4 RBI), Korey Lee (3-for-4, 2 R) and Max Flower (2-for-5, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI) led the onslaught for Cal in support of Jared Horn (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K), who improved to 5-1 on the season since returning from injury. The Bears, by the way, are 14-9 in the Pac-12 and No. 36 in the RPI.

4. Big West powers make their cases

UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine have been the class of the Big West all year, but heading into the weekend Cal Poly (with a .500 overall record) was actually tied with UCSB for first place in the conference. But not anymore.

UC Irvine clinched a huge series win against Cal Poly with an 8-0 win Saturday behind Trenton Denholm (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K). The Anteaters improved to 12-5 in the Big West (tied with Poly for second place) and No. 43 in the RPI, strengthening their at-large position considerably.

Cal Poly’s series loss also has allowed Santa Barbara to seize control of the Big West race. The Gauchos clinched a home series win over lowly Long Beach State with a 13-1 victory, running their winning streak to eight since they dropped the first two games at UC Riverside two weeks ago. And despite playing a home series against 11-37 Long Beach State, the Gauchos have somehow managed to remain No. 13 in the RPI, while opening up a two-game lead over UCI and Poly in the standings (14-3). We keep waiting for the Big West’s RPI problems to catch up with the UCSB, and so far it hasn’t happened. The Gauchos remain right in the thick of the hosting race.

5. Sooners get off the mat

Oklahoma found itself in dire need of a victory Saturday, with its at-large hopes fading fast. The Sooners rode a four-game losing streak into the day, with an 8-11 conference record and a No. 45 RPI — which is to say, very little margin for error. But OU found a way to even up its Bedlam rivalry series with Oklahoma State, winning 3-2 in 10 innings. Five Oklahoma pitchers limited OSU’s explosive offense to four hits, but Colin Simpson’s solo homer in the eighth tied the game up and forced extra innings. Oklahoma won it on Justin Mitchell’s walk-off RBI single in the 10th. The win boosted OU three spots to No. 42 in the RPI and improved it to 9-11 in the Big 12. This was a season-saving victory for the Sooners, but Sunday’s rubber game is just as important.

Notable rubber games to watch

• Oklahoma State at Oklahoma
• Missouri at Vanderbilt
• Clemson at NC State
• Michigan State at Iowa
• West Virginia at Kansas State
• Arizona State at Nebraska
• Stanford at California
• Tennessee at Florida

Kendall Rogers’ Five

1. Oregon State responds against Oregon

Alarm bells went off last weekend when the Beavers were swept at home by Oklahoma State. They needed a rivalry series against Oregon this weekend. OSU won the series opener against the Ducks on Friday before clinching yet another series win over their rivals with an 8-5 win on Saturday.

OSU starting pitcher Dylan Pearce allowed five runs in five innings, but freshman reliever Jake Pfennigs was terrific, striking out there, walking one and allowing just one hit in 3.1 innings. Meanwhile, the Beavers offense took care of the rest with Beau Philip going 3-for-6 with a double, Tyler Malone going 2-for-5 and three RBIs and Adley Rutschman drawing three walks.

In addition to the series win over the Ducks, Stanford was crushed by rival California on Saturday, meaning the Beavers sit alone in first place in the Pac 12, ahead of both the Cardinal and UCLA. Additionally, OSU’s RPI is up seven spots the past two days to 16. The Beavers continue to look good for a regional host, while they want to get a series sweep to better their top eight chances.

It’s a wash, rinse, repeat kind of weekend for Pat Bailey’s club.

2. North Carolina’s hosting chances take a hit

As we get closer to the postseason, each weekend series builds in terms of importance with Selection Monday not far away. Well, the Tar Heels dropped the series opener to Pittsburgh on Friday before responding in impressive fashion in the early game against Pitt on Saturday, winning 10-6.

The Tar Heels’ success didn’t continue in the nightcap with the Panthers grabbing a shocking series win with a 7-3 triumph over Mike Fox’s club. Pitt’s Billy Corcoran put together a solid start, striking out four, walking two and allowing three runs on six hits in 6.2 innings, while Chase Smith was terrific out of the pen with 2.1 shutout frames.

So, what does this mean for the Heels? UNC moves behind Georgia Tech and Miami in the Coastal Division standings, while also dropping all the way to 22 in the RPI with just an 8-8 mark vs. RPI Top 50 teams. Chances are good the Tar Heels are back out of the mix as a Top 16. Of course, the Heels still have plenty of chances for marquee wins next weekend and beyond with NC State and the ACC tournament on the schedule.

This weekend was definitely a setback, however.

3. Missouri sets up massive rubber match with Vanderbilt

Could Missouri actually slide in at the last second and nab a Top 16 seed in the postseason?

It’s definitely possible. The Tigers have played well down the stretch and though they lost the series opener to Vandy on Friday, they responded in style Saturday afternoon with a 5-2 win over the Commodores.

Mizzou junior lefthander TJ Sikkema put together yet another solid start, striking out four, walking three and allowing two runs and five hits in six innings, while Ian Bedell was terrific out of the pen, striking out three and allowing just two hits in three shutout innings. Despite the loss, Vandy freshman righty Kumar Rocker put together a quality start, striking out four, walking one and allowing three runs and six hits in six innings.

So, where does that leave Missouri going into the rubber match on Sunday? The Tigers are up to 14 in the RPI with a 13-12-1 SEC record. Another win over VU this weekend would put them in interesting shape, while a series win over Vandy followed by a home series win over Florida would likely make them a host entering the SEC tourney.

4. Indiana clinches road series win over Michigan

Michigan entered the weekend in total control of the Big Ten Conference standings, but Indiana has made things mighty interesting the first two days. IU won the series opener in impressive fashion before once again bringing out the bats in a 10-8 series-clinching win on Saturday.

Matt Lloyd, Elijah Dunham and Cole Barr each hit home runs to lead the Hoosiers, with Lloyd tallying two hits and four RBIs, Dunham tallying three hits and an RBI and Barr going 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Matt Gorski also had a nice afternoon at the plate with a double. On the mound, Tanner Gordon gave the Hoosiers five quality innings, striking out four and allowing two runs in five innings, while for the Wolverines, Tommy Henry allowed seven runs in just 4.2 innings of work.

With the win over Michigan, Indiana is now just a half-game behind the Wolverines with one more game remaining this weekend. UM finishes the regular season with a series at Nebraska, while Indiana returns home next weekend to face Rutgers. Should IU sweep the series, it’s tough to imagine Michigan winning the league. IU is sitting at 25 in the RPI, while the Wolverines are down to 43, down eight spots since Monday.

Stay tuned.

5. Virginia gets huge series win over Louisville

We started to take notice of the Cavaliers earlier this week when their RPI began to skyrocket. Well, the Cavaliers could be one of those teams that makes a furious rally at the end of the season to make the NCAA tournament.

Virginia put together a big-time offensive performance in a 12-6 win over Louisville at home to keep its postseason hopes alive. Tanner Morris had three hits and two RBIs to lead the charge, while Nick Kent and Zack Gelof each hit doubles, with Kent finished the afternoon 4-for-4 and Logan Michaels also having a solid showing with a two-hit performance. Cayman Richardson also had a massive day at the plate, going 3-for-4 with two RBIs.

On the mound, Chesdin Harrington allowed three earned runs in six innings, while Devin Ortiz and Andrew Abbott were strong out of the pen with Ortiz tossing two shutout innings and Abbott striking out two in a shutout frame. Louisville’s Glenn Albanese didn’t get out of the first inning. And amazingly, he allowed seven runs with just one  of them earned.

Virginia now sits at 12-15 in the ACC with a 29-21 overall record. Clearly, it has more work to do. But the Cavaliers are up to 47 in the RPI with just one series remaining — at rival Virginia Tech. UVa. still have much work to do the next couple of weeks, but it has put itself in striking position with the RPI climbing 13 spots so far this week.


National Notables

• Ball State picked up a doubleheader sweep of Ohio Saturday afternoon, and it was a day to remember, as the Cardinals tossed the program’s first nine-inning no-hitter in a 5-0 win over the Bobcats. John Baker struck out nine in seven shutout innings, while Lukas Jaksich struck out three in two shutout frames.

• Last but not least, our very own Aaron Fitt made a highlight reel play on a foul ball this afternoon as he covered the Georgia Tech-Duke game. Here’s the clip:

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