Michael Toglia (left) and Jack Stronach (right) played big roles in UCLA's win at Stanford on Saturday (Aaron Fitt)


D1 Digest: UCLA’s Bounceback Highlights Saturday Action


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Saturday’s Staff Coverage

Shotgun Spratling on USC’s shocking series win over ASU
Eric Sorenson on TCU-Oklahoma
Aaron Fitt on California’s Jared Horn

Aaron Fitt’s Five

1. UCLA bats break out at Stanford

I double dipped on Saturday in the Bay Area, catching the first seven innings of Game Two between No. 1 UCLA and No. 2 Stanford before heading to Berkeley for an evening game between California and Washington State. I left Sunken Diamond after UCLA scored twice in the seventh to go up 11-5 on the Cardinal, and that wound up being the final score. UCLA’s offense was mighty impressive, cranking out 15 hits against lefty Jacob Palisch and the Stanford bullpen.

Junior left fielder Jack Stronach led the attack, going 4-for-5 with three runs and two RBIs to raise his season line to a robust .444/.526/.619 in 63 at-bats. The junior lefthanded hitter showed off advanced pitch recognition and barrel control, first pulling a low left-on-left slider through the right side for an RBI single in the first, then going the other way with a 90 mph fastball on the outer half for a line-drive single to left, then ripping a Zach Grech changeup down the right-field line for an RBI double, then going down below the zone and flipping another RBI single to center field. Since the injury to Jeremy Ydens, Stronach has given UCLA a huge boost as a key run producer in the heart of the lineup.

UCLA’s Jack Stronach (Aaron Fitt)

Michael Toglia also impressed Saturday, as he usually does when I’m in the house. The switch-hitting behemoth tomahawked an elevated 89 mph Palisch fastball over the left-field fence for a two-run homer in the fourth, then turned around to the right side and ripped a two-run double into the right-field corner to break the game open in the seventh. And leadoff man Garrett Mitchell wrought serious havoc, starting the game with a drag bunt single to spark a three-run first, then hitting a line-drive single the other way against the tough lefty Palisch in the third, and turning on an Alex Williams breaking ball for a line-drive single to right in the fifth. All three of those hits led off innings.

It’s remarkable that UCLA is 22-6 and ranked No. 1 in the country even though some of its stars got off to slow starts in the first half (specifically Toglia and Chase Strumpf), and others have been hampered by injuries (Ydens and righthander Ryan Garcia, who will start Sunday’s rubber game). But UCLA has continued to pitch and defend at a very high level, and its versatile offense is really starting to find its stride. As good as the Bruins were in the first half, they have a chance to be even better down the stretch.

2. Georgia evens up showdown vs. Vanderbilt

UCLA-Stanford isn’t the only matchup between top-five teams this weekend. No. 4 Georgia rebounded from Friday’s 3-2 loss to No. 4 Vanderbilt with a convincing 8-3 win on Saturday in Athens. The Bulldogs led 3-1 in the fourth inning, when Riley King broke the game open with a grand slam off Jake Eder, who entered the game with a 1.22 ERA in 37 innings. The Bulldogs got strong pitching from lefthander C.J. Smith (7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) and flame-throwing righty Cole Wilcox (2 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) and out-hit the Commodores 11-5. Sunday’s rubber game should be fascinating.

3. English cycles to help Georgia Tech survive

Preseason All-America two-way talent Tristin English hit for the cycle to help Georgia Tech win an 11-10 slugfest over North Carolina, leveling the big ACC Coastal Division showdown. English scored five runs and drove in three, highlighted by a key two-run homer in the eighth inning, to become the first Yellow Jacket to hit for the cycle since Richard Lewis in 2001.

Georgia Tech has had some trouble protecting late leads so far this spring, and Saturday was nearly Tech’s biggest bullpen disaster yet. The Jackets led UNC 9-2 heading into the seventh inning and 10-6 heading into the ninth, but the Tar Heels rallied back to tie the score at 10-10 with four runs in the top of the ninth. But after tying the game, UNC stranded a pair of baserunners in the ninth, and Georgia Tech won it on Michael Guldberg’s walk-off sacrifice fly in the bottom of the ninth. The two teams are once again tied for first place in the Coastal Division heading into Sunday’s rubber game.

4. Ole Miss makes emphatic statement against Florida

Over the last two weeks, we’ve started to see why Ole Miss was a preseason top 10 team. It’s safe to say the Ole Miss offense is firing on all cylinders now. The Rebels scored 40 runs in a three-game sweep of Florida this weekend, capped by a Saturday doubleheader sweep that included a 16-4 thrashing and a 12-10 slugfest victory. Shortstop Grae Kessinger went bananas in Saturday’s first game, going 5-for-5 with two doubles and five RBIs, while Thomas Dillard chipped in four hits and three runs, and Anthony Servideo went 3-for-3 with four runs as part of a 20-hit barrage in support of freshman lefty Doug Nikhazy (6 IP, 1 ER).

The Rebels stormed back from an 8-0 deficit in the nightcap, taking the lead with eight runs in the fifth inning, then answering Florida’s two-run sixth with runs in the bottom of the sixth and seventh. Ryan Olenek and Cole Zabowski combined for five hits and five RBIs in that one, and Servideo added two more hits and two more runs. Ole Miss has now won back-to-back series against Arkansas (on the road) and Florida to improve to 8-4 in the SEC. That series loss to Missouri three weeks ago feels like ancient history.

5. Texas fires back against Baylor

Texas looked like it was on the verge of a series loss at Baylor on Saturday, falling behind 5-0 through five innings. But the Longhorns mounted a furious comeback in the late innings, scoring four times in the sixth (highlighted by Austin Todd’s two-run homer and Lance Ford’s two-run single) and three more in the seventh en route to an 8-6 victory, leveling the series. Ford added an RBI double in the ninth and finished with four RBIs to lead the Texas offense in support of Blair Henley (7 IP, 10 H, 5 ER), who rebounded from a rocky start to earn the win and improve to 5-1.

Kendall Rogers’ Five

1. Arkansas bounces back with big series win

The Razorbacks dropped a tough home series against Ole Miss last week, but they bounced back in a big way on the road against Auburn. The Hogs dropped the first game of the series before beating the Tigers in extra innings to set the stage for a big rubber match.

Arkansas put together a complete performance in an 8-0 triumph over Auburn. Freshman lefthander Patrick Wicklander set the stage with a strong start, striking out six, walking three and allowing just two hits in five shutout innings, while Cody Scroggins tossed a scoreless frame and righthander Zebulon Vermillion tossed three shutout innings to end the game.

Offensively, veteran Trevor Ezell hit his second big home run of the weekend and finished the night with three RBIs and two walks, while Heston Kjerstad had two hits and two RBIs, freshman Christian Franklin added two hits and Jacob Nesbit had a hit and two RBIs.

For the Tigers, they continue to miss weekend starters Jack Owen and Davis Daniel. Owen has missed the past couple of weeks with an injury, while Daniel won’t be available for at least another three weeks.

2. Clemson clinches yet another key ACC series win

Other than one small hiccup at home against Notre Dame, the Tigers have been terrific in ACC play. The Tigers swept North Carolina earlier this season and added yet another marquee series win to their resume with a 6-3 win over Louisville.

Clemson got yet another quality start on the mound. Mat Clark struck out two, walked one and allowed a run and four hits in 7.1 innings. Meanwhile, Louisville lefthander Nick Bennett scuffled at times, striking out five, walking two and allowing five runs and seven hits in five innings.

Grayson Byrd and Bryar Hawkins each hit home runs to lead the Clemson charge at the plate, while Sam Hall had a double and two RBIs and Bryce Teodosio finished the afternoon with three hits.

Clemson will continue to scale the rankings after yet another awesome week. The Tigers are now 11-3 in the ACC and have seen their RPI shoot up to the Top 15.

3. Upset Alert: USC shocks red-hot Arizona State again

It’s not easy to tame Arizona State’s hard-hitting offense for the most part in one game, much less two games. While the Sun Devils rallied late in the series opener to make it respectable, the Trojans didn’t let the Devils get in any kind of groove on Saturday.

USC used a respectable start from Isaaac Esqueda to get the ball rolling. Esqueda struck out three and walked three and allowed three runs on seven hits in 5.2 innings, while the bullpen did a terrific job with Carson Lambert tossing 1.1 shutout innings and Chris Clarke closing it out with two shutout frames. On the flip side, ASU starting pitcher Boyd Vander Kooi allowed six runs on nine hits in five innings.

Offensively, USC’s Matthew Acosta had a huge day at the plate with two home runs and two RBIs, while CJ Stubbs hit a home run and knocked in two runs. The Trojans also got a strong performance from Ben Ramirez, who went a perfect 3-for-3 with an RBI.

ASU will be fine, but it will be interesting to see how it bounces back after losing three-straight games and not pitching well in the process.

4. LSU’s Henry Shines Against Texas A&M

The Tigers and Aggies tightened up their weekend series because of inclement weather, thus they played a doubleheader in Baton Rouge Saturday afternoon. The Aggies took the front-end of the doubleheader with Asa Lacy tossing an absolute gem. Lacy struck out 11, walked four and allowed just one hit in six innings in a 6-4 A&M win.

However, LSU freshman righthander Cole Henry put together yet another strong performance in a series-clinching 9-3 victory. Henry showed maturity and poise on the mound and dominated the Aggies, striking out nine, not walking anyone and allowing two runs and six hits in eight innings.

Offensively, Josh Smith and Zach Watson each hit home runs, while Antoine Duplantis avoided an 0-for weekend with an RBI single late in the game. Smith finished the night with two hits, while Watson had four hits. All about one LSU hitter had a hit in the win.

How about those Tigers?

Just two weeks ago, some around Baton Rouge were pushing the panic button after a series loss at Georgia. Now, the Tigers have back-to-back series wins over Mississippi State and Texas A&M, and the weekend rotation suddenly looks to be in terrific shape.

5. Welcome to the danger zone, Florida State

The Seminoles were expected to do some big things entering the season, but some folks in Tallahassee might be pressing the panic button after failing to score a run for the second straight day in a 4-0 loss to rival Miami.

Miami starting pitcher Chris McMahon struck out nine, walked three and allowed three hits in seven shutout innings, while Daniel Federman and Greg Veliz closed it out in a 4-0, series-clinching win over the Seminoles. For FSU, starting pitcher CJ Van Eyk struck out seven, walked three and allowed four runs and four hits in 4.2 innings, while Clayton Kwiatkowski kept FSU in the game with 3.1 shutout frames.

While Miami improved to .500 in league play, the Seminoles’ postseason streak is in real jeopardy the second half of the season. FSU’s RPI is down to 113, the league record is 6-8 and it now must face rival Florida in midweek action before hosting red-hot Clemson next weekend.

FSU needs to find a way to take the series finale from the Hurricanes, then get on a roll beginning with a strong showing against the Gators and Tigers. If not, it’s hard to find the path to yet another postseason appearance, which would be astonishing considering Mike Martin’s current streak.

In Case You Missed It …

Penn and Dartmouth played the longest game in Ivy League history Saturday afternoon. The Quakers and Big Green were tied 13-13 heading to the 21st inning before the Quakers put up an eight-spot in the top half of the inning. Dartmouth scored two runs in the bottom half, but it wasn’t enough. It was one of the wildest games in the history of college baseball. Want the wrap? Our friends at Dartmouth put together this video:

Sunday Rubber Games To Watch

UCLA at Stanford
Vanderbilt at Georgia
North Carolina at Georgia Tech
West Virginia at Oklahoma State
Mississippi State at Tennessee
TCU at Oklahoma
Texas at Baylor
Minnesota at Michigan

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