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Saturday D1 Digest: Another Long Beach Triumph Headlines Action

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Dirtbags Make Statement in Starkville

It was clear from the beginning of Friday’s game between No. 4 Mississippi State and No. 24 Long Beach State that the Dirtbags were not intimidated by the task of facing the defending national champions on the road. After picking up the Game 1 win on Friday, LBSU turned around and went straight back to work, setting the tone early and finishing the afternoon with a 13-3 win, and more importantly, a series victory.

While Long Beach State certainly has the grit to win hard fought ballgames with its usual formula of strong pitching and defense under the leadership of third-year Head Coach Eric Valenzuela, it was the offense that stepped up on this day to steal the attention of 13,351 fans packed into Dudy-Noble Field on a brilliantly sunny day. In the top of the first inning, back-to-back singles by Jonathon Long and Chase Luttrell, with a wild pitch tucked in between, led to the game’s first run.

Following two runs by Mississippi State in the bottom of the first, Long Beach State responded with three more runs of their own in the top of the second, headlined by Alex Pimentel’s two-run home run. The host Bulldogs would respond once again, scoring a single run in the bottom of the third inning which pulled them within a single run.

That would be as close as the Bulldogs would get, as that led to one more loud response by LBSU, their most emphatic statement of the day – they scored four runs in the top of the fourth that took the wind out of the sails of the defending champs.

The first batter in the top of the fourth, catcher Connor Burns, walked on four straight pitches leading to the exit of hard-throwing starter KC Hunt. The next two batters also reached which set up Rocco Peppi to come through with his first collegiate base hit, a two-run single. Two batters later, Isaac Ramirez added a two-run double, giving the Dirtbags a commanding 8-3 lead.

Long added solo home runs in both the eighth and ninth innings as the Dirtbags tacked on five more runs over the final two innings leading to their loud series win. Long finished the day 4-for-4 with his two home runs, a walk and three runs scored.

Marques Johnson got the start for Long Beach State, grinding through the first 2 2/3 innings before handing the ball over to Jack Noble. From there, Noble shut down the Mississippi State offense, working the next 4 1/3 frames while allowing just three hits and a walk without giving up a run and striking out six. Ethan Clough was perfect over the final two innings to secure the win.

East Carolina, Dallas Baptist both go 0-2

Mississippi State wasn’t the only ranked team to falter in the first two games of the season as No. 12 East Carolina and No. 22 Dallas Baptist were also knocked off, with both losses coming in extra innings.

East Carolina carried a 3-1 lead into the top of the eighth before Bryant fought back with a pair of runs that forced extra innings. They added two more runs in the top of the 10th – although ECU’s Alec Makarewicz did hit a solo home run in the bottom of the 10th to make things interesting – as Bryant walked away with the 5-4 game and series win.

Dallas Baptist lost its second extra-innings games in as many days. DBU held Southeast Missouri State scoreless through seven innings on Saturday before SEMO scored a single run in the eighth and four in the ninth. The Patriots responded with two runs in the bottom of the ninth to take the game into the 10th, which was decided by a Brett Graber RBI single in SEMO’s 6-5 win.

It should be pointed out that Bryant and SEMO are the projected favorites to claim the automatic bids from the Northeast and Ohio Valley conferences, respectively.

Looking past this weekend, things don’t get any easier for the Pirates as they play Campbell, Duke and Virginia Tech the next three Tuesdays, a three-game series against North Carolina next weekend and Indiana State, Michigan and Maryland the first weekend in March as part of the LeClair Classic.

Much of the same is true for Dallas Baptist who play Texas Tech, Sam Houston State, San Diego, Oklahoma, Southern Miss and Oklahoma State between now and the middle of March.

Hogs Right The Ship

After Illinois State bested Arkansas 3-2 on Friday, the Razorbacks quickly set the tone in Saturday’s re-match, a 5-1 win for the Hogs. Captain Clutch, Robert Moore, put Arkansas on the board in the bottom of the second with a towering solo home run from the righthanded batter’s box. Later, batting lefthanded, Moore added a booming two-run double.

The most impressive and important development on the day for Arkansas, however, was the outing they received from freshman lefthander Hagen Smith. Smith, rated D1Baseball’s fifth-best impact freshman coming into the season, showed an impressive overall repertoire but really stood out by commanding his low-90s fastball well to the outside corners and at the knees leading to several quick and efficient innings. He ended his collegiate debut allowing five hits and a walk over six innings, striking out five, and has the Hogs feeling better about their weekend rotation.

In the loss Illinois State out-hit Arkansas 9-8 and tacked on their lone run with two outs in the ninth, but couldn’t string base hits together when they needed them most. The two teams will play for the series win on Sunday.

No. 23 Duke also got into the win column on Saturday after an Opening Day loss to VMI. Lefthanded starter Luke Fox (five innings) and righthander Billy Seidl (four innings) combined to strike out 11 Keydets in the 9-1 victory.

More Ranked Rubber Matches

In addition to No. 2 Arkansas, No. 3 Vanderbilt/No. 7 Oklahoma State, and No. 23 Duke, five other ranked teams will play rubber matches on Sunday, and all five of those teams suffered losses on Saturday after opening the season with victories.

One day after opening the year with a 1-0 shutout victory over Cal State Fullerton, No. 6 Stanford had the favor returned to them in a 11-0 loss. Fullerton’s Tyler Stultz worked the first five innings before four different relievers took the ball for one inning each, limiting Stanford to just four base hits. A three-run third inning and a six-run fourth – headlined by Caden Connor’s grand slam – were the biggest blows the Titans dealt. 

Cal walked off No. 17 TCU on Saturday when Rodney Green Jr. – who hit a pinch-hit, one-out triple in his first collegiate at-bat – scored on a wild pitch. TCU took what seemed like a commanding 4-0 lead after the first two innings of the game in Arizona as part of the MLB4 Tournament. Cal scored single tallies in the fourth and sixth innings before erupting for a four-run eighth. Eric Sorenson will have more from Scottsdale.

Four different Liberty relievers combined to record six scoreless innings as the Flames beat No. 9 Florida. Cameron Foster’s go-ahead, RBI double in the top of the fifth inning proved to be the deciding run.

After No. 14 Texas Tech walked off Michigan on Friday, it was unable to carry their offensive momentum into Saturday as the Auburn pitching staff limited the Red Raiders to one run on three hits. The Tigers only managed three hits of their own in the 2-1 win with Joseph Gonzalez working the first five, scoreless innings. Kendall Rogers will has more on all of Saturday’s action from the Globe Life Field, here:

No. 20 UC Irvine and Louisiana exchanged 7-4 victories on Friday and Saturday. Connor Kimple twice provided the go-ahead runs for the Ragin’ Cajuns on Saturday, first hitting a two-run single in the bottom of the first and later adding a two-run bomb in the fifth that proved to be the game winner.

Hawkeyes Newbies Flying High

Iowa’s newcomer group is a big reason D1Baseball has projected the Hawkeyes to make the postseason this year, which would be the first time since 2017. So far, so good, as the pitchers have been especially stingy through two games. And while they’re not playing Power 5 opponents, they’re not playing cupcakes either with convincing wins over Air Force and Ball State.

After Adam Mazur punched out nine in six frames on Friday, Connor Schultz and Brody Brecht each contributed four innings on Saturday. Schultz struck out nine along the way while Brecht fanned seven. Will Christopherson struck out four of his own in one inning giving Iowa 20 strikeouts on the day and 34 in two games; they’ve also only allowed three hits. All four of those pitchers are new to the program for the 2022 season. Mazur (94-97 mph) and Brecht (97-99) threw especially hard in their mound appearances.

Second-year player Keaton Anthony enjoyed an equally big day at the plate for Iowa, going 4-for-4 with a walk, two doubles, two homers, four runs and five RBIs.

Quick Hits

• We all knew LSU was going to have a high-powered offense. However, do you like gaudy metrics? Take a look at the ones showed in the tweet/graphic below. If you aren’t otherwise familiar, hitting the ball hard (like recording 100 mph-plus exit speeds off the bat) usually leads to big hits. There were plenty of big hits for LSU in Saturday’s 17-8 win over Maine, including Cade Doughty’s three-run home run in the first inning and a pair of dingers off the bat of Jacob Berry.

• The numbers keep piling up for VCU third baseman Tyler Locklear, who enjoyed a huge sophomore season a year ago prior to tying for the Cape Cod League lead in homers with nine last summer. On Saturday morning, he went 3-for-4 with a pair of homers, three runs scored and four driven in as part of a 13-3 win over Lafayette. It was his second four-RBI performance of the season, hitting a homer and driving in four during a 7-6 loss to Rider on Friday to open the season. Locklear was ranked 89th among D1Baseball’s top 250 draft prospects prior to the season.

• One day after pounding out 14 hits in a 13-8 win over Central Michigan, West Virginia continued its hit parade on Saturday in an 8-3 win over Kent State. The team’s 1, 2, 3 and 5 hitters – Austin DavisJJ WetherholtVictor Scott II and Grant Hussey – are a combined 18-for-35 (.514) doing most of the heavy lifting at the top and in the middle of the Mountaineers lineup. Hussey, a freshman, has a home run in each of the two games so far (his first collegiate blast was a grand slam) and Davis led off Saturday’s contest with a dinger.

• Florida State lefthander Bryce Hubbart struck out 13 James Madison hitters in just five innings of work. He also allowed only two hits in a lopsided 13-2 victory for the Seminoles. Reese AlbertLogan Lacey and Alex Toral combined to go 7-for-14 with five runs scored and nine RBIs. Albert had a pair of doubles while Toral hit a double and a grand slam.

• In addition to 24th-ranked Long Beach State, there were 11 other ranked teams that opened the year with 2-0 records: Texas (1), Ole Miss (5), LSU (8), NC State (10), Florida State (11), Notre Dame (13), Arizona (15), Georgia (16), Oregon State (18), Tennessee (19) and Georgia Tech (21). Miami opened the year 3-0 with a pair of wins over Towson on Saturday and a chance to make it 4-0 on Sunday.