NC State righty Jason Parker (NC State athletics)


D1 Digest: Ranked Showdowns Galore


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Friday’s Staff Coverage:

Kendall Rogers on Vandy’s Versatility
Eric Sorenson UCLA’s rout of Oregon State

SEE ALSO: SEC Primer | Pac 12 Primer & More | Penn State Rising Up | Midwest Notebook | Duke-Louisville To Showcase Arms

Now that conference play is in full swing in most of the power conferences, Friday offered the best slate of games of the young season to date. The schedule was highlighted by seven showdowns between teams ranked in the D1Baseball Top 25:

• No. 2 UCLA won its series opener against No. 3 Oregon State, 8-0, behind a gem from Zach Pettway (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K), who earned his first victory of the year. Jack Stronach (2-for-2, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR) led a balanced 12-hit attack for the Bruins, as seven of nine starters got into the hit column. Grant Gambrell started in lieu of OSU ace Kevin Abel for the second straight week and took the loss, allowing six runs on 10 hits in 6.1 innings. 

UCLA’s pitching has been simply superb in the first half of the season, even with ace Ryan Garcia sidelined. The Bruins notched notched second straight shutout and sixth in 16 games this year, as they extended their winning streak to four games and improved to 13-3 on the year. Their impressive body of work includes a road series win at UCLA, victories over Oklahoma State and USC last weekend, and now a marquee win over the Beavers.

Mississippi State ace Ethan Small dealt once again (Aaron Fitt)

• No. 6 Mississippi State improved to 17-1 on the season with a 6-5 win on the road against No. 5 Florida. Lefthander Ethan Small (6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 11 K) continued his early-season brilliance for the bulldogs, earning the win to improve to 2-0, 1.50 with a ridiculous 51-5 K-BB mark in 30 innings through five starts. The Bulldogs broke a 1-1 tie with a run on a wild pitch in the sixth, then added to their lead in the next two innings and got a crucial two-run double from Elijah MacNamee in the op of the ninth, helping them hold off Florida’s charge in the bottom of the frame. The Gators rallied for three runs in the ninth against closer Cole Gordon, who stranded the tying run at third base by striking out Brady McConnell to end the game.

Mississippi State already has a quality series win over Southern Miss and single victories over Sam Houston State, Texas Tech and East Carolina, but now it will try to record its first marquee road series win of the year with freshman phenom JT Ginn on the mound Saturday.

• No. 8 Georgia also opened SEC play with a big road win, taking down No. 22 South Carolina 6-1. Sophomore ace Emerson Hancock (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 K) was masterful for the Bulldogs, improving to 5-0, 0.58 with 37 strikeouts and eight walks in 31 innings this year. We knew Hancock had a huge arm, but his command has clearly taken a big leap forward in his sophomore year, and this was a statement win for him on the road against a ranked foe. John Cable spotted Hancock to an early lead with a two-run homer in the second, and Aaron Schunk delivered a key two-run triple in the sixth to provide some breathing room.

This weekend is the first big test of the year for Georgia, which got off to a 15-2 start against a soft nonconference schedule. The Bulldogs certainly aced the first question on that test.

• Speaking of sophomore aces, Tanner Burns continued his otherwordly start to the season in No. 18 Auburn’s 2-0 win against No. 23 Tennessee. Burns turned in 6.2 innings of four-hit, shutout ball, walking one and striking out nine to outduel Garrett Stallings (7.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K). Burns extended his scoreless streak to 22.2 innings and improved to 3-0, 0.54 on the year with a sterling 48-5 K-BB mark in 33.1 innings. Read more about Burns in Kendall Rogers’ Golden Spikes Spotlight on the Auburn ace earlier this week.

Auburn, meanwhile, has now thrown six shutouts in its last 10 games — that’s one more shutout than the Tigers threw all of last seasons. Tennessee had scored at least five runs in 15 of its 18 games heading into Friday. Auburn got all of its offense in a two-run seventh, highlighted by a double from Kason Howell.

• No. 20 NC State’s incredible start to the season continued with a 16-0 blowout of No. 10 Florida State, keeping the Wolfpack unbeaten at 18-0. NC State rocked first-team preseason All-American Drew Parrish for eight runs in the second inning, sparked by an Evan Edwards solo homer and continuing with triples from Brad Debo and Devonte Brown, then capped by Patrick Bailey’s two-run double and Tyler McDounough’s two-run single. McDonough finished 4-for-5 with two runs and three RBIs to lead a 16-hit barrage for the Wolfpack in support of Jason Parker (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K).

What more can you say about NC State? The ‘Pack extended its school-record unbeaten streak to start the season with its biggest win of the year — its second victory against a ranked team this season (NCSU also beat Coastal Carolina in extra innings on Feb. 24). The Wolfpack is getting contributions from up and down the lineup, but the freshman McDonough has been a revelation, hitting .382/.424/.526 with 16 RBIs. At this early stage, he looks like one of the front-runners for ACC freshman of the year honors.

• Leadoff man Cooper Davis (2-for-5, R, 3 RBI) led a balanced 12-hit attack for top-ranked Vanderbilt in a 7-4 road win at No. 19 Texas A&M. Kendall Rogers was on hand for this one and will have a full report.

• No. 12 Texas erased an early 3-0 deficit to win its Big 12 opener against No. 11 Texas Tech, 4-3. The Longhorns surged ahead with three runs in the sixth, thanks in large part to a pair of costly TTU errors by preseason All-Americans Gabe Holt and Josh Jung. Texas mustered just five hits on the day, but it got stellar bullpen work from Ty Madden and Kamron Fields, who bombined to work four hitless innings in relief of Bryce Elder (5 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K).

Upset of the Day

Notre Dame has made a nice recovery from its rough start to the season. The Fighting Irish improved to 3-1 in ACC play with a 9-2 win on the road at No. 24 Clemson. Eric Gilgenbach (3-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI) and Jared Miller (3-for-4, 3 RBI) led the Notre Dame offense in support of Tommy Sheehan (9 IP, 7 H, 2 ER), who went the distance to improve to 3-1.

Other Highlights

Miami improved to 15-3 with a big 6-4 road win at No. 15 North Carolina. The Hurricanes broke a 2-2 tie with four runs in the sixth to chase Gianluca Dalatri (5 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER) and help Evan McKendry (5.2 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER) improve to 4-0. The Miami bullpen was lights-out in relief of McKendry, as JP Gates, Greg Veliz and Daniel Federman combined to work 3.1 innings of shutout relief, allowing one hit combined. Raymond Gil went 3-for-3 with an RBI to lead Miami’s balanced 10-hit attack.

• No. 7 Louisville also picked up a quality road win in ACC play, 8-3 against Duke. Lethander Reid Detmers (6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) continued to shine for the Cardinals, who handed first-team preseason All-American Graeme Stinson (4 IP, 6 H, 4 ER) his second straight loss. Drew Campbell (3-for-5, 2 RBI) led Louisville’s 13-hit attack.

• Will Ethridge (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 9 K) turned in a gem to lead No. 9 Ole Miss to a 1-0 win over Alabama. Ethridge out-dueled Sam Finnerty (6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER), as Cole Zabowski’s solo homer in the second proved all the offense the Rebels would need. Austin Miller and Parcer Caracci combined to work three shutout innings of relief.

• No. 14 Arkansas also opened SEC play with a shutout victory, 2-0 over Missouri. Isaiah Campbell (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K) was masterful for the Razorbacks to improve to 4-0 on the year. Arkansas has quietly gotten off to a 15-2 start.

• No. 25 Arizona State improved to 17-0 with a 6-0 win against Washington State in its Pac-12 opener. Gage Workman homered twice and drove in four to lead the ASU offense in support of Alec Marsh (6.1 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K), who improved to 5-0.

Arizona State’s Alec Marsh (Eric Sorenson)

• Jake Agnos (7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K) turned in another strong start to lead No. 17 East Carolina to a 9-0 win at Maryland. First-team preseason All-American Bryant Packard (4-for-5, 3 R) had a big day for the Pirates, who also got a big three-run homer from Jake Washer and a two-run shot from Spencer Brickhouse.

Houston came from behind with four runs in the eighth to earn a nice 8-6 win on the road at Dallas Baptist. Joe Davis went 2-for-4 with three RBIs for the Cougars, who have won five straight after losing their previous five games against rugged competition.

• Heading into ACC play, I wrote that Boston College looks “frisky.” The Eagles might just be better than simply Frisky; they won their series opener at Wake Forest 5-3 to improve to 10-6 overall and 2-2 in the ACC (they also won the series finale last week at Louisville). Dan Metzdorf (5.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K) turned in a solid start to earn the win for BC.

Virginia came from behind with three runs in the ninth to earn a sorely needed 9-8 win at Georgia Tech. Brendan Rivoli (4-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI) had a big day for the Cavs, who snapped a three-game skid and improved to 9-8 on the year.

Southern Miss won its Conference USA opener on the road against a dangerous Louisiana Tech team, 12-9. Hunter Slater and Matt Wallner combined for six hits, five runs and seven RBIs to lead USM’s 14-hit onslaught. Slater finished the night with a pair of home runs.

Washington opened Pac-12 play with a nice 9-3 win at Oregon. Nick Kahle and Ramon Bramasco had three hits apiece to lead UW’s 14-hit barrage in support of freshman David Rhodes (6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K), who improved to 3-1.

San Diego stayed hot with a 5-1 win over Pepperdine in its WCC opener. The Toreros have won six straight (including a 3-0 showing at the Seattle Baseball Showcase and a midweek win over TCU) to improve to 14-4 on the year. Lefty Chris Murphy (6 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 6 K) turned in a strong start for USD to earn the victory.

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