Saturday D1 Digest: BC barnburner, Calvin Harris headline the actionRoundup
• Aaron Fitt on UNCW’s Tanner Thach
• Eric Sorenson on Saturday’s West Coast action
• Joe Healy on Georgia’s Jarvis Evans
• Check out Mark Etheridge’s SEC Extra Bases Blog
• COACHING BUZZ: Alabama coaching hot board
• STAT ROUNDUP: Top 40 Hitters and Top 40 Pitchers
Game of the Day: No. 19 Boston College 11, No. 2 Wake Forest 9
Following Friday’s dominant performance by Wake Forest ace Rhett Lowder, Boston College jumped out to an early 1-0 in the first inning in game two against the host Demon Deacons on an RBI single by Joe Vetrano. Leadoff hitter Barry Walsh added another run in the third on a solo home run, and No. 19 Boston College carried a 2-0 lead into the bottom of the sixth inning. In that inning four run-scoring singles produced five runs for second-ranked Wake Forest. BC pulled ahead in the next half inning as Cohl Mercado hit a three-run homer to pull within even and moved ahead in the eighth on a solo home run off the bat of Vetrano. Wake Forest pulled ahead once more, scoring four runs in the eighth, the biggest blow being a two-run double by Lucas Costello. Down by a run with three outs to go, Boston College found more magic in the top of the ninth as Peter Burns hit a three-run home run to tie the game, 9-9, and force extra innings.
The game remained tied until the top of the 12th when Vetrano and Kyle Wolff hit solo home runs to give the Eagles an 11-9 lead. Reliever John West held the potent Deacons’ offense hitless over the final four innings to pick up the win. Vetrano finished the contest 3-for-6 with the two home runs and three driven in.
Upset of the Day: Auburn 8, No. 1 LSU 6
Yes, the top-ranked LSU Tigers do indeed lose games. Considering they’ve been ranked No. 1 since the beginning of the year, however, they don’t lose many, as Auburn handed LSU only their ninth loss of the year in an 8-6 victory on Saturday night. LSU initially took the lead, scoring single tallies in the second and third innings before Auburn’s three-run fourth, with all three runs scoring on bases-loaded walks. LSU re-claimed the lead in the fifth courtesy of Cade Beloso’s two-run single.
An inning later Auburn jumped ahead again, this time for good, scoring four runs in the sixth inning on run-scoring singles off the bats of Brody Wortham, Nate LaRue and Bobby Peirce in addition to a sac fly from Ike Irish. Starter Tommy Vail provided another strong outing, striking out eight over the first four innings, as four bullpen arms combined to secure the victory. Auburn has a chance to win the series on Sunday, which is significant considering they also beat South Carolina a week ago.
It should be noted that the top two teams in the country (LSU and Wake Forest) will be playing rubber matches on Sunday. The same is true for No. 4 Florida while the Nos. 3 and 5 teams – South Carolina and Vanderbilt – have already lost their weekend series.
Player of the Day: Calvin Harris, Ole Miss
Harris enjoyed a historical performance on Saturday as Ole Miss salvaged the third and final game of their series against Missouri. In the 20-14 victory, Harris went 4-for-6 at the plate and all four of those hits were home runs. He hit a two-run shot in the third, a grand slam in the fourth and two more two-run blasts in the sixth and ninth innings giving him 10 RBIs on the day. Peyton Chatagnier also had a multi-homer performance for the Rebels as the two teams combined for 34 runs and 18 extra-base hits, 12 of which were dingers. Harris is now batting .342 on the year with 12 home runs and 45 RBIs.
Pitchers of the Day: Connor Fenlong, Indiana State
The overall numbers aren’t gaudy, but Connor Fenlong tossed a complete game shutout against Bradley as Indiana State claimed the game, and the series, with a 2-0 victory. Fenlong moved to 7-2 on the season, striking out four with six hits and two walks allowed, and it was his second complete game shutout of the year, first pulling the feat just two weeks ago in a run-rule shortened game against Southern Illinois. It was also the second straight complete game effort for Indiana State as Matt Jachec went the distance in their 6-1 win on Friday. The Sycamores improved to 31-13 on the year (18-2 in the Missouri Valley) by winning 23 of their last 25 games and lowered their cumulative staff ERA to 4.02.
Upsets abound in the SEC
No. 1 LSU wasn’t the only SEC team upset on Saturday as four other teams from the Southeastern Conference ranked within D1Baseball’s Top 25 played four unranked in-conference opponents on Saturday and lost, two of which were series losses. The series losses were handed to No. 3 South Carolina and No. 5 Vanderbilt by Kentucky and Alabama, respectively.
Kentucky arguably has the most difficult path to the postseason, particularly after they were swept at Vanderbilt a week ago with series remaining against South Carolina, Tennessee and Florida leading up to the SEC Tournament. After taking the first two games of their series at home in Lexington against South Carolina, the Wildcats have the opportunity to sweep the Gamecocks and put them right back on track. Saturday’s game was all about offense in a 14-7 win for Kentucky as all nine starters recorded a base hit and five of those batters enjoyed multi-hit games. Jase Felker’s bases-clearing triple in the fifth inning broke a 5-5 tie and James McCoy’s three-run homer one inning later gave Kentucky some breathing room.
Alabama made headlines to open the weekend following the dismissal of Brad Bohannon as interim head coach Jason Jackson begins his tenure with a 2-1 start. Bama took game one in emphatic fashion, 11-2 on Thursday, before losing Friday’s game. The Crimson Tide bounced right back on Saturday squeezing out a gritty 2-1 victory That was determined in the eighth inning when catcher Mac Guscette hit a solo home run to break a 1-1 tie. Devin Futrell (Vanderbilt) and Jacob McNairy (Alabama) were engaged in a pitcher’s duel over the first six innings of the game before the bullpen came into play. Alabama improves their postseason profile by knocking off the fifth-ranked Commodores while moving to 32-16 overall and 11-13 in the SEC.
The game between Georgia and No. 18 Tennessee got off to a concerning start, at least for Bulldogs fans, as starting pitcher Charlie Goldstein was removed from the game with a hamstring injury after facing just one batter. That apparently wasn’t a problem for Jarvis Evans who out-dueled Tennessee’s Chase Dollander for the next 5 1/3 innings, allowing just one run on three hits and a pair of walks with seven strikeouts. Connor Tate provided an RBI double in the first and a sacrifice fly in the third leading up to Charlie Condon’s 20th home run of the year in the 3-1 win.
After No. 4 Florida snuck by Texas A&M with a 6-5 win on Friday the Aggies hung a crooked number on the Gators on Saturday, claiming a 15-2 run rule-shortened victory. Leadoff hitter Hunter Haas ignited the team with a solo home run in the third and began Texas A&M’s eight-run scoring barrage in the fourth inning with a two-run double. Austin Bost kicked off their six-run sixth with a three-run homer. Although Aggies starter Troy Wansing didn’t factor into the decision he provided 3 2/3 valuable, shutout innings to set the tone early.
The Tennessee/Georgia and Florida/Texas A&M series will be determined on Sunday.
Stanford’s march continues
Although they opened their Pac-12 schedule with a series loss at USC, and suffered another series loss at Oregon a few weeks ago, No. 7 Stanford continues to take care of business out west by winning their third straight weekend series thanks to a 12-11 win over No. 20 Arizona State on Saturday. In doing so, Stanford improved to 30-13 on the year with a 17-6 mark in Pac-12 play, which leads the conference. Saturday’s win was a back-and-forth affair that saw six lead changes as each team had a big, run-scoring inning.
Arizona State’s came first, putting six runs on the board in the bottom of the second after Stanford scored single runs in the top of the first and second. Luke Keaschall started the scoring with a solo home run and Luke Hill ended it with a three-run blast; Keaschall’s second home run of the game, another solo shot in the third, gave ASU a 7-2 lead. Stanford stormed right back with a seven-run fourth, the biggest hits being a two-run homer by Drew Bowser and a two-run double off the bat of Carter Graham. Friday’s hero, Alberto Rios, came through in the clutch once again, albeit not as dramatic, bringing home the go-ahead – ultimately the winning run – in the top of the eighth when he bounced into a 6-4-3 double play.
Drew Dowd recorded the win by providing three valuable innings out of the bullpen and Ryan Bruno picked up the save with a 1-2-3 ninth.
The rest of the ACC better be on watch because the Clemson Tigers are on fire. With Saturday’s 4-3 win against visiting Louisville, Clemson won their fifth series in a row beating Florida State, Notre Dame, NC State and Boston College during that stretch. Saturday’s win gave them 30 for the year (30-17) as they improve to 13-10 in ACC play and in second place of the Atlantic Division behind No. 2 Wake Forest. Starter Austin Gordon, and stellar defense behind him, was the story in this one, limiting Louisville to just one base hit over the first six innings of the game. Clemson used a three-run seventh inning to pull ahead for good, scoring two runs on bases loaded walks and the third on a sacrifice fly.
Kansas State also secured their 30th win of the 2023 season on Saturday, beating Southeast Missouri State 12-5, their fourth-straight series win. It was the pitching staff that stood out in K-State’s 2-1 victory on Friday but it was the offense that grabbed the headlines in their most recent W. Most notably, Roberto Pena hit his 14th and 15th home runs of the season; Brendan Jones hit a second-inning grand slam and Kaelen Culpepper stayed hot, hitting his eighth homer of the year.
Troy piles on runs in series win
Troy doesn’t have a lot of margin for error as a team that is squarely in the mix for a bid to this year’s NCAA Tournament, regardless if they win the Sun Belt’s automatic bid at the end of the month. A week after they were upended at South Alabama, Troy returned home this weekend and has taken care of business against Georgia Southern, following Friday’s 15-7 win with a 16-5 victory on Saturday. Shane Lewis continued his incredible season as he’s in the thick of the national home run race, hitting his 26th home run of the year on Saturday after hitting two on Tuesday and two on Friday. But the biggest bat on display in the Trojans’ lineup was shortstop Tremayne Cobb Jr., who went 5-for-6 with a pair of three-run home runs, three runs scored and eight RBIs on Saturday after his 3-for-4, three RBI performance on Friday. More importantly to Troy is that they continued to secure their place in the postseason with another win.
Cougars pace the American
Wichita State and Houston are facing one another as part of a crucial weekend series in the American Athletic Conference, with the Cougars winning the first two games at home. With the 7-5 win on Saturday Houston has now won six straight series and hold a one-game lead over East Carolina. Drew Bianco enjoyed a loud game at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a double, a triple and four RBIs out of the nine hole to help guide the Cougars to victory.
No. 14 ECU meanwhile has kept pace since being swept by Wichita State two weekends ago, taking the first two games of their series at Cincinnati. Saturday’s 11-3 win was headlined by a Jacob Starling three-run home run that helped break the game open in the sixth and a Justin Wilcoxen grand slam in the top of the ninth that effectively slammed the door.