Ten Thoughts: Friday, March 13

More D1Baseball.com Coverage:
Fitt on Michael Matuella’s start vs. Georgia Tech (premium)
• Sorenson on USC’s return and win over Washington State (free)
Etheridge on LSU’s win against Ole Miss in its SEC opener (premium)

1. Tennessee’s Bret Marks Earns Near Perfect Marks

Tennessee logoThe Volunteers might be off to somewhat of a slow start this season, but the senior righthander has been a steady presence on the mound. Last week he struck out 12 and allowed just five hits and a run in 7.2 innings against Grand Canyon. Marks, though, took his game to yet another level Friday night in a 6-3 win over Florida in a contest that wasn’t as close as the score indicates.

The righthander tossed an absolute gem against the top-ranked Gators, carrying a no-hitter into the ninth inning and not allowing a hit until UF freshman Dalton Guthrie singled through the left side to start the inning. UF scored three runs in the inning, two of them credited to Marks, but it didn’t matter. His performance was simply masterful, striking out eight, walking two and allowing those two runs and just one hit in eight innings.

“Any time you win in the SEC on a Friday night, it’s a big win,” Tennessee coach Dave Serrano said. “We were led by Bret Marks and by four guys who took some aggressive swings and hit balls over the fence. I know what our coaches have been preaching to our offense and I’m proud of how we really stung some balls. But tonight was about Bret Marks. It’s tough to throw no-hitters, even tougher in this league against the No. 1 team in the country like Florida. I’m very proud of his performance and how he stayed in character. It was just a good team win for us.”

In addition to Marks’ big night on the mound, the Volunteers got a power infusion at the plate, jumping out to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning. They got homers from A.J. Simcox, Christin Stewart, Nathaniel Maggio and Andrew Lee in the game.

Though he settled down after the first inning, it was an uncharacteristic start for Florida sophomore righthander Logan Shore, who struck out four and allowed five runs and six hits in six innings.

1. Texas A&M Wins Again … Now 19-0

Texas AM logoIt was another day and yet another gutsy performance by Rob Childress’ Aggies. The Aggies were pushed to the brink earlier this week when Texas-Pan American had them down 3-0 in the eighth inning. However, A&M rallied from behind to win 4-3 in extra innings. Friday night against Auburn, the Aggies didn’t need late drama to take care of Sunny Golloway’s Tigers.

Instead, the Aggies put it in the hands of third baseman Hunter Melton. Melton connected on a grand slam off Keegan Thompson in the second inning before hitting a game-sealing two-run double in the eighth inning to put A&M ahead of AU 6-2, and for good.

Melton continues to be a big-time power producer for the Aggies, while righthander Grayson Long put together his fourth straight quality start, striking out seven and allowing just two runs (one earned) on three hits in six innings. On the flip side, Auburn’s Thompson settled down after the first couple of innings and had a decent start, but it wasn’t enough, as he allowed six runs on 10 hits in seven innings. Interestingly, Thompson finished the game with 130 pitches.

The Aggies stay undefeated for another day.

3. California … Under The Radar No More

Cal Golden Bears logoThe Golden Bears have been one of the more intriguing teams to follow the past few weeks. Dave Esquer’s club started the season on a positive note, but just haven’t earned a lot of recognition with some teams in their region also doing well. Well, Cal deserves plenty of recognition after pounding Oregon 9-3 on Friday.

California veteran first baseman Chris Paul had a huge day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with a walk, a home run, a run scored and two RBIs, while freshman righthander Jeff Bain, starting on Friday to begin conference, was more than serviceable, allowing three runs on five hits in 6.1 innings.

For the Ducks, usually consistent lefthander Cole Irvin had a less than stellar day on the mound, allowing four runs in three innings, while the bullpen struggled immensely in the setback.

As for Cal, now sitting at 14-3 overall, another win this weekend over the Ducks would absolutely put them in the mix to be in the next D1Baseball Top 25.

4. Oregon State Wins Yet Again

Andrew Moore (Oregon State)Andrew Moore (Oregon State)

Pat Casey’s Beavers, to no surprise, are getting things going at precisely the right time. OSU and Arizona State were locked in quite the battle Friday night at Phoenix Municipal Stadium with both righthander Andrew Moore and ASU’s Seth Martinez putting together impressive performances.

In OSU’s 1-0 victory, Moore struck out three in 7.1 shutout innings, while Martinez countered with three strikeouts in eight shutout frames. The lone run in the contest was scored in the top of the ninth when Oregon State’s Caleb Hamilton hit an RBI single up the middle to score Kyle Nobach.

Moore, by the way, showed a hard-nosed approach against the Devils, sitting 88-92 mph with his fastball, while he also showed adequate feel for his slider and changeup.

5. Bubba Derby, San Diego State Race Past Texas Tech

Tim Tadlock's Red Raiders are struggling right now. (Texas Tech)Tim Tadlock’s Red Raiders are struggling right now. (Texas Tech)

It’s not always easy being one of the hunted, and Tim Tadlock’s Red Raiders are finding that out the hard way so far this season, especially the past couple of weeks. Tech went on the road last weekend to California and got swept by Fullerton. Well, the Red Raiders didn’t start this weekend in good fashion either, losing 9-0 to San Diego State with righthander Bubba Derby leading the way.

Derby, who has one of the best names in college baseball, struck out 11, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just three hits in eight shutout innings. Our Shotgun Spratling was in attendance at Tony Gwynn Stadium and said Derby was up to 94 with his fastball, and did a terrific job of locating that pitch around the plate. Derby, Spratling said, also showcased good command of a pair of breaking balls.

As for Tech, righthander Ryan Moseley had a tough start against the Aztecs, striking out just three and allowing six runs (four earned) on seven hits in five innings. Texas Tech has now lost four of its last six contests.

6. Craziness In the ACC

Here’s a snapshot of the craziness from the ACC on Friday:

• Wake Forest logoWake Forest has very much flown under the radar this season, but made a nice statement against Florida State in a 4-1 triumph, outhitting the Seminoles 12-4 in the process. Wake’s pitching combo of Matt Pirro and Parker Dunshee stymied the ‘Noles, Pirro allowing just a run on two hits in 5.2 innings, while Dunshee struck out five in 3.1 shutout innings out of the pen … FSU starting pitcher Mike Compton was scratched from his start before the contest because of an abdominal strain he suffered during warmups … The loss by FSU snapped an 11-game winning streak.

• Virginia Tech logoVirginia Tech received a terrific performance from senior lefthander Sean Keselica in a 2-1 upset win over Virginia. Keselica struck out four, walked one and allowed just four hits in the complete game performance. Meanwhile, Virginia elite prospect and lefthander Nathan Kirby had another quality start, striking out six and allowing a run on five hits in 7.1 innings. Kirby, however, did also finish the game with four walks. The Cavs chose to issue an intentional walk to load the bases in the ninth—then lost on a walk-off walk, as their strategy backfired.

• Pittsburgh logoLast weekend, Pittsburgh used the pitching of T.J. Zeuch to knock off Virginia to begin the weekend. This weekend, Zeuch only lasted a few innings, and the Panthers had to rely on the offense to get the job done. That didn’t matter in Pitt’s 12-9 win over North Carolina. Pitt second baseman Jordan Frabasilio went 3-for-5 with a home run, while Frank Maldonado also hit a home run. Meanwhile, shortstop Charles LeBlanc went 2-for-2 with five RBIs … UNC starting pitcher Zac Gallen allowed eight runs on six hits in just 3.2 innings.

7. Kaprielian Carries UCLA

UCLA righthander James Kaprielian (Aaron Fitt)UCLA righthander James Kaprielian (Aaron Fitt)

After going 0-3 last weekend against the likes of TCU, Vanderbilt and USC, the Bruins wanted to start the weekend off on the right foot with junior righthander James Kaprielian on the mound. The righty didn’t disappoint, putting together one of his better performances so far this season in a 2-0 victory over Washington.

Kaprielian struck out 10, walked two and allowed just five hits in seven shutout innings. Meanwhile, UW freshman righthander Noah Bremer, whom Aaron Fitt profiled in the Weekend Preview, also didn’t disappoint on the road in a Friday contest, striking out five and allowing just a run on six hits in 5.2 innings.

The only concern for the Bruins? They’ve scored just 12 runs in their last five games after starting the season hitting at a torrid clip.

8. Upset Of The Day: Southern Illinois over Illinois

Southern Illinois logoSkimming through the scores throughout the evening, this one stood out more than any. The Salukis, who were 2-13 entering the contest, won 2-0 over red-hot Illinois.

The ringleader of the upset? Redshirt senior lefthander Aaron Hauge. The 6-foot, 205-pounder was just terrific against the Illini, striking out six, walking two and allowing seven hits in eight shutout innings. Meanwhile, the Illini wasted another excellent start from lefty Kevin Duchene, who struck out nine, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just two runs (one earned) in six innings.

The rest of the weekend will be a gut check for the Fighting Illini. This is simply a series it can’t lose to be potentially mentioned in the same breath as Indiana over the last two seasons.

9. Pitching Prowess: David Hill, rhp, San Diego

San Diego coach Rich Hill (center). (Shotgun Spratling)San Diego coach Rich Hill (center). (Shotgun Spratling)

Just a couple of weeks ago when the Toreros headed to Austin to face Texas, they appeared to be in pretty bad shape. Then righthander David Hill dealt against the Longhorns, spurring some of those in attendance to wonder how exactly USD had struggled so much.

Well, the Toreros disposed of the Longhorns that weekend, took a series from Mississippi State — on the road — last weekend, and began this weekend on a high note in a 3-0 win over Portland with Hill leading the way yet again. The talented veteran righthander struck out 14, walked just one and allowed just four hits in a complete-game shutout.

Amazingly, Rich Hill’s Toreros have won six of their last seven contests.

10. Ole Miss Runs Into Hale Storm

LSU's Conner Hale (Kendall Rogers)LSU’s Conner Hale (Kendall Rogers)

Those who have asked me about LSU in the last week know the name very well by now — third baseman Connor Hale. Hale put on a show at times at the Houston College Classic last weekend and looked like someone ready to morph into a big-time senior sign for a pro club.

Hale continued his hot ways Friday night in a 6-4 home win over Ole Miss to begin conference play. The talented infielder went 3-for-3 with a double, two runs scored and two RBIs to lead the offensive cause, while outfielders Mark Laird and Andrew Stevenson each finished the contest with a pair of hits.

On this night, though, it was again all about Hale, who’s now hitting .347 with a team-high seven doubles and a team-high 17 RBIs.

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