Ten Thoughts: Saturday, April 2Roundup
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Team of the day: Florida
There was a sneaking suspicion going into the weekend that Florida would be ready for Texas A&M. After all, coach Kevin O’Sullivan had a pep in his step and the Gators received a wakeup call last weekend against Kentucky. Well, the Gators have put together two-straight very impressive performances, clinching a big series win over the Aggies with a 7-2 victory on Saturday.
Texas A&M scored two runs in the top of the first inning, but were unable to score the rest of the way as UF starting pitcher Alex Faedo was able to get into a groove. Faedo finished the day with seven strikeouts and two walks. And while he led the cause on the mound, the Gators showed elite plate presence against A&M’s pitching staff. A&M righthander Kyle Simonds was lifted after just two innings of work, and hard-hitting first baseman Peter Alonso hit a home run and collected four hits with three RBIs. Mike Rivera and Jeremy Vasquez also had productive performances with a pair of hits and two RBIs.
“I don’t want to overstate this, but that’s probably as good of a pitching performance by anyone that I’ve ever coached by the way the first inning went. Texas A&M came out ready to swing the bats. They were aggressive. I think Alex (Faedo) threw 35 pitches in the first, and then to really buckle down against a really good lineup for the next five innings — he competed,” O’Sullivan said. “I think it’s a valuable lesson for all of our pitchers. Dane (Dunning) was outstanding as well. We’re just playing really well these last couple of games, and we have to play really well against a good Texas A&M team.”
One series is just that, one series. However, the Gators have clearly looked like the better team so far this weekend with stud lefthander A.J. Puk waiting in the wings for the series finale, Meanwhile, the Aggies will counter with righthander Jace Vines, who missed his scheduled start on Friday because of an illness.
Upset of the day: West Virginia over Oklahoma State
It’s hard to tell who’s exactly in charge of the Big 12 Conference right now after TCU dropped a series at Texas last weekend, and perceived leader Oklahoma State dropped a series at West Virginia this weekend with a 4-3 setback. WVU starting pitcher Ross Vance allowed three runs in 7.1 innings, while KC Huth and Darius Hill each had a home run to lead the offensive charge, touching up OSU starting pitcher Trey Cobb for four runs on 11 hits in 6.1 innings.
Player of the day: Tyler Dixon, of, Murray State
We’re pretty certain you won’t find a better offensive performance this season than the one put together by Dixon. The Racers beat Eastern Illinois 31-11 on Saturday, banging out 28 hits in the process. And Dixon? He hit four homers, collected five overall hitters and knocked in six runs. Interestingly enough about this game, the Racers were up 16-0 after just two innings against the Panthers. Incredible performance, indeed.
Another one to mention: St. Mary’s junior lefthander Johnny York struck out eight, didn’t walk anyone and allowed seven hits in a complete game shutout, 1-0 win over Santa Clara.
Sturdy Anchors: After taking the series opener from South Carolina, No. 3 Vanderbilt was shut down by Gamecocks freshman righthander Braden Webb in Game Two. However, the Commodores struck back with a vengeance in the series finale on Saturday, taking the series with a 10-6 victory with nine runs in the middle innings. Vandy touched up South Carolina’s Adam Hill for three runs in four innings, while the bullpen couldn’t keep Tim Corbin’s club contained. Vandy’s Jeren Kendall had a home run and two RBIs, while Penn Murfee knocked in three runs to help lead the charge. Though it wasn’t pretty at times on the mound, closer Ben Bowden struck out six in the final two innings in a role he seems much more comfortable in right now. There were some questions about the VU offense a couple of weeks ago against Mississippi State, but they’ve figured it out the past two weeks.
Bulldogs Show Serious Bite: You never know how rivalry series will progress, but Mississippi State has clearly looked like the better team against Ole Miss this weekend, clinching the series win on Saturday with a dominant 6-2 win over the Rebels. MSU righthander Austin Sexton put together a brilliant performance, striking out eight, not walking anyone and allowing just two runs (both unearned) on four hits in a complete game performance. Youngster Jake Mangum had a double and a home run to lead the Bulldogs offense, while Ole Miss righty Chad Smith struggled from the get-go, allowing four runs on five hits in just 1.1 innings.
All’s Golden In Bay Area: With the loss of righthander Drew Rasmussen at Oregon State earlier this week, the Pac-12 lead seems to be up for grabs, and the beneficiary of that might just be California, which by the way, swept the Beavers at home last weekend. Cal clinched a home series win over UCLA with an 8-2 triumph on Saturday. Brenden Farney hit a three-run homer in the first to get his team off to a good start, while he finished the contest with five RBIs. Meanwhile, righthander Jeff Bain put together a quality start, allowing just two runs in 6.1 innings.
Beavers Still Believing: It’s been a tough week with the loss of Rasmussen for the year, but the Beavers are showing some serious mental toughness against Washington this weekend. The Huskies carried a commanding lead into the eighth inning on Saturday, but the Beavers scored all five runs the final two frames, including a go-ahead RBI single from Jack Anderson in the eighth, to beat UW 5-4 and to clinch an important home series victory.
BYU Causing Bruises: We profiled the Cougars a few weeks ago after their incredibly fast start. Well, they’re continuing to impress in WCC play, improving to 7-2 in league play, 23-3 overall with a 5-3 road win over Portland to sweep that series. Hayden Rogers threw six shutout frames out of the bullpen, while the top four hitters in the BYU lineup finished the night eight hits, including Colton Shaver’s three RBIs.
Utes Kidding Me? Utah has had a real flare for the dramatic the past few weeks, taking series from Oregon and Arizona State on the road the past two weekends, while, oh yeah, taking a series from Arizona at home this weekend by scoring five runs in the ninth inning in a 7-6 comeback victory on Saturday, winning the game on a Patrick Flynn RBI single. Cody Scaggari led the charge for the Utes with a pair of hits and two RBIs. With the win, the Utes are in bizarre position at 9-14 overall, but 6-2 in the Pac-12.
Pittsburgh Power: There was much talk about the Panthers coming into the weekend because of their strangely high RPI. However, Pitt evened its series on road against Clemson with a 15-5 victory Saturday afternoon. Pitt shortstop Charles Leblanc finished the night with four hits and six RBIs, while catcher Alex Kowalczyk hit a home run and knocked in four runs. Additionally, the Panthers touched up Clemson starting pitcher Charlie Barnes for eight runs on 10 hits in just four innings. With an RPI up to 19 after Saturday’s win, the Panthers have a chance to make a huge statement in the series finale.
Houston Walks The Plank: East Carolina has put together an impressive campaign thus far, and added yet another check mark to its resume with a series win over Houston, beating the Cougars 5-1 on Saturday to clinch the three-game set. ECU righthander Jimmy Boyd, a sinker-baller extraordinaire, struck out eight, walked one and allowed just a run on six hits in 8.2 innings of work, while the Pirates were able to do plenty against UH lefthander Seth Romero, who had his first iffy start of the season, allowing five runs on eight hits in 5.2 innings. Eric Tyler had two more hits for the Pirates, while impressive youngster Dwayna Williams-Sutton had a pair of hits and knocked in three runs.
Gauchos Going Strong: UC Santa Barbara lost several key cogs from last year’s regional host club, but this team might just be even better in 2016 after clinching yet another important series with a 3-1 win over Long Beach State. Noah Davis put together another quality start for the Gauchos, striking out five, walking one and allowing a run on seven hits in eight innings, while J.J. Muno led the offensive charge with a pair of hits and two RBIs. UCSB improved to 20-5 overall and continues to be a leading candidate to be a national seed out of the West.
The Hill(s) Have K’s: If you don’t know the name Kevin Hill so far this spring, you might want to go ahead and do some research. We’re of course, talking about the South Alabama righthander, who just continues to chop up all of college baseball. Hill put together yet another stellar start in a 13-0 win over Louisiana-Monroe, as the rising Jaguars improved to 19-7 overall. Hill struck out 10, walked one and allowed just three hits in eight innings.
Niagara Doesn’t Fall: Want to see the biggest boat race of the day in college baseball? Well, at least from our standpoint. How about Niagara? The Purple Eagles swept a doubleheader from St. Peter’s today, winning the two games by a combined 34-2 score. In the first game, Tanner Kirwer hit a home run and five runs, while in the second game, Kirwer was at it yet again with a pair of doubles and four RBIs.
Red Raiders Rolling: With the top spot in the Big 12 Conference seemingly up for grabs, could the team to beat right now be Texas Tech? That certainly could be the case. Tim Tadlock’s Red Raiders have played an impressive brand of baseball the past couple of weeks, and have now won eight of their last nine games, including a 10-3 victory to clinch a series win over Kansas State at home. Davis Martin put together a quality start for Tech, while Stephen Smith had a strong day at the plate with a home run and five RBIs. Tech improves to 7-1 in conference and looks mighty good right now.
A Florida Surge: While there has been much talk about Rice, Southern Miss and others the past couple of weeks, Florida Atlantic just continues to win at a very high level. The Owls clinched a road series win over Old Dominion with a 3-1 victory Saturday afternoon. FAU starting pitcher Marc Stewart did his job, striking out five, not walking anyone and allowing just a run on three hits in seven innings of work, while star shortstop C.J. Chatham led the offense with a home run and two RBIs. With the win, FAU is now 20-4 and a sparkling 7-1 in league play.