D1 Digest: Wednesday, March 21Roundup
Team of the Day
No. 7 Florida State completed a two-game midweek sweep of No. 23 UCF with a 13-3 thrashing of the Knights on Wednesday. Leadoff man Nick Derr homered and drove in four, while Drew Mendoza chipped in a homer and two RBIs for the Seminoles, who got 2.2 scoreless innings of relief from Clayton Kwiatkowski and two scoreless frames from Gage Hutchison. Two weeks ago, the Knights swept a pair of midweek games against Florida, but they have struggled in midweek action against the other Sunshine State powers they’ve faced, going a combined 0-4 against FSU, Miami and Stetson.
The Seminoles, meanwhile, have bounced back from a four-game losing skid by reeling off four straight quality against Notre Dame and UCF, improving them to 18-4 overall. In other words, it’s business as usual in Tallahassee through the first third of the season.
Upset Alert: Two SEC powers toppled
• In its first game after thrashing Kentucky in a three-game sweep, No. 4 Arkansas stumbled on the road at Charlotte, dropping a 6-3 decision. A second-inning Heston Kjerstad two-run homer (his first of two long balls on the day) gave the Hogs a 2-0 lead, but Charlotte tied it in the sixth and took the lead in the seventh on a Tommy Bullock RBI single. Two errors and a bases-loaded walk led to three more Charlotte runs in an ugly eighth for Arkansas.
The 49ers have earned some nice wins over the last week-plus, thrashing Wake Forest last Tuesday and then taking two of three from Florida International before beating Arkansas to improve to 12-8 on the year. The Hogs carry a 16-5 record into a marquee showdown at No. 2 Florida this weekend.
• Like the Razorbacks, No. 8 Vanderbilt was riding high after a big sweep this past weekend (on the road at Mississippi State), but the Commodores were knocked off at home by Belmont on Wednesday, 8-5. The Bruins did much of their damage in a five-run fifth inning against freshmen Jake Eder and Justin Willis. Kyle Conger, Matt Cogen and Chas Hadden combined for six hits and four RBIs to lead the Belmont offense, and eight Belmont pitchers combined to keep the Vandy offense at bay.
Player of the Day: Illinois’ Bren Spillane
Spillane has been a wrecking ball this season for the Illini, and he went bonkers to help Illinois overcome an early 5-1 deficit and beat Cal State Northridge 12-7. Spillane went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers, a double and eight RBIs. He became the first Illinois player to drive in eight runs in a game since 2004, just days after he became the first Illini to homer three times in a game since 2014. Wednesday’s outburst improved his season line to .439/.493/.985 with eight homers, 10 doubles and 29 RBIs.
The @bren_spillane show.
Highlights from the 12-7 win over CSUN ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/Ty8JAmTuhX
— Illini Baseball (@IlliniBaseball) March 21, 2018
At this point, I’m going to credit Illinois assistant coach Drew Dickinson for his prescience. Back in early February, Dickinson told me this about Spillane: “The guy we’re not talking about at all with the most stupid raw ability is Spillane — he could hit 20 homers and hit .340. He’s an athlete.”
Amazingly, it looks like Dickinson’s forecast might have been too conservative. A 6-foot-5, 210-pound righthanded slugger, Spillane flashed some power potential late last year after working his way through some injury issues, and now he’s simply blossoming into a big-time star.
• Florida Atlantic erased a 9-5 deficit with a furious six-run rally in the top of the ninth to stun Miami, 11-9. The Owls were down to their final out before Eric Rivera’s go-ahead grand slam. Our Walter Villa has more on Rivera’s heroics and the gritty Owls, who are riding a wave of momentum into a big series vs. Southern Miss.
• Shortstop Deacon Liput went 4-for-4, and No. 2 Florida got homers from Wil Dalton, JJ Schwarz and Blake Reese in a 10-3 win against Jacksonville.
• Two-run singles by Jake Snider and Danny Oriente highlighted a five-run eighth for No. 15 Louisville, which stormed back from behind to earn a road win at Western Kentucky, 8-5.
• Zach Watson (3-for-3, 3 R, 2 2B, 3 RBI) and Daniel Cabrera (4-for-5, 3 R, 2 2B, RBI) had big days to spearhead a 13-hit attack for No. 19 LSU in a 10-4 win against rival Tulane.
• Chris Proctor and Kennie Taylor had two hits and two RBIs apiece to lead No. 21 Duke to a 9-5 win against UMES.
• Mercer earned a quality road win at in-state rival Georgia Tech, 6-2. Drew Lingo (2-for-4, 2 R) and Jackson Ware (1-for-4, 2 RBI) led the offense for Mercer, which improved to 17-5.
• Nebraska used seven hits and 10 walks to edge Oral Roberts, 11-10. Jesse Wilkening (3-for-5, 2 R, RBI) led the offense for the Huskers, who salvaged a split of the two-game midweek road series and will carry a 12-9 record into their Big Ten-opening series vs. Minnesota.
• Reigning A-Sun player of the week Brooks Wilson continued to do it all for Stetson. He went 1-for-4 with an RBI as the DH and worked the final two innings for his ninth save, helping the Hatters improve to 18-3 overall with a 5-3 win against FIU.