As they say in Ireland, “Top of the Morning to ya”! St. Patrick’s Day formally kicked off SEC and Big 12 play, and we had some interesting results. If you are reading this with a cup of coffee in hand, you are doing it right. Let’s dive in.
Doubleheader of the Day
Florida and Alabama split a Friday doubleheader that came to pass due to unfavorable weather reports for Saturday. The Gators looked the part of a national championship contender in this series. Brandon Sproat’s dominant performance on Thursday night kicked off what should turn out to be a loud series win.
Florida scored two in the ninth to comeback and win game one of the Friday double-dip, beating two of Alabama’s best arms in Ben Hess and Riley Quick. Shortstop Josh Rivera had the game-winner, and the fourth-year junior is playing at an elite level right now. Keep in mind that Florida won this weekend series without the services of projected first rounder Wyatt Langford. Langford’s return is to be determined and this is an important time for the Gators to hold serve.
For Alabama, winning game three was a massive result. The Crimson Tide were three outs from beating Jac Caglianone and Hursten Waldrep in the same day. But a demoralizing sweep was also very much on the table. Credit Brad Bohannon’s club for fighting through that negative momentum. Center fielder Caden Rose hit a huge two-run homer in the eighth and Kade Woods punched out all seven Florida hitters he faced to close the door.
Upset of the Day
Mizzou blitzed Tennessee 9-1 on a very cold day in Columbia. Righthander Chandler Murphy threw six innings, holding the Vols to one run on three hits. The Tiger hitters put a four-spot on Tennessee ace Chase Dollander in the first, and Steve Bieser’s crew never looked back. Don’t look now, but Mizzou stands at 14-3 with a great start to SEC play.
Weather affected the start of several series in the ACC. In Raleigh, Virginia bulldozed NC State 7-0, giving the Cavaliers two consecutive road series wins in conference play. Kyle Teel and Jake Gelof chipped in with two RBIs apiece, and Brian Edginton threw 6.1 scoreless innings. The Wolfpack are reeling, having lost five of six including several in blowout fashion.
Florida State blasted Boston College 19-8, collecting 22 hits in the process. James Tibbs continues to scorch the baseball, and he contributed three hits and four RBIs. Freshman Ben Barrett had a career day, going 5-for-5 with two home runs. On a positive note for the Eagles, FSU starter Jackson Baumeister lasted just three innings, forcing key Seminole reliver Conner Whittaker to log four innings in game one of the series.
Miami came back to beat Virginia Tech 4-3 in Coral Gables. Yohandy Morales’ walk-off double sealed the deal for the Hurricanes. Morales and CJ Kayfus had three hits apiece and this club continues to find a way. Given that star closer Andrew Walters has not pitched since the Florida series (March 4), this string of big wins for Miami has been very impressive.
Georgia Tech had Louisville on the ropes, giving a 7-6 lead to dominant closer Terry Busse in the eighth inning. The Cardinals proceeded to score a run in each of the final two frames, walking off the Yellow Jackets on Jack Payton’s RBI single in the ninth. Georgia Tech bore the brunt of its own self-inflicted damage, adding three errors to ten free passes. After his three-hit night, Payton is now hitting .424 and he may be the best pure hitter in the conference.
Big 12 Highlights
Two of the nation’s best offenses matched up in Norman, Oklahoma and visiting TCU throttled the Sooners 13-5. The Horned Frogs paired 15 hits with nine free passes, including a two-run home run from Brayden Taylor and a 4-4 day from left fielder Logan Maxwell. Cole Fontenelle added three doubles for TCU.
It seems that Texas Tech and Oklahoma State play exclusively one-run games, so this one was on brand. The Red Raiders erased a 7-3 lead to walk off the Cowboys in the 10th inning on a misplay of a fairly routine fly ball. Nolan McLean took the hard-luck loss and his usage (44 pitches) adds to the Texas Tech advantage in this home series. Tim Tadlock’s bullpen continues to be a carrying strength, as Brendan Lysik, Ethan Coombes, and Ryan Free posted five zeroes to finish the game. Middle of the order bat Kevin Bazzell added three hits.
The Best Regular Season in College Baseball Begins
The SEC can make this claim because it is the only league in our sport that plays ten straight weekends of conference play. No byes or breaks or off weeks. It is a 30-game gauntlet and may the best team win. The kickoff to opening weekend created immediate intrigue, which is on brand for this incredible conference.
LSU looks like the favorite to win the league and they did nothing to dispel that rumor tonite. Paul Skenes and the Tiger lineup overwhelmed the home Aggies, winning 9-0. Skenes punched out 11 over 6.1 scoreless innings. Tre’ Morgan, Dylan Crews, and Tommy White had two hits apiece, with White adding three RBIs. It was difficult to evaluate Texas A&M in this one as the sheer force of LSU stole the show.
Vandy’s much-maligned offense put up eight runs to secure the series win over Ole Miss. Hunter Owen threw a complete game two-hitter, punching out 11 Rebel hitters. Freshman RJ Austin had four RBIs and Enrique Bradfield Jr. added three hits and two stolen bases.
Arkansas defeated Auburn 7-2 but the biggest development in this one was the return of Hagan Smith to the bullpen. Smith finished the game with three scoreless innings, backing up Hunter Hollan’s excellent six-inning start. Given the recent injuries to the Hogs’ relief corp, this move certainly has merit.
Host Kentucky beat Mississippi State 6-5 in 10 innings. Hunter Gilliam singled off MSU closer Nate Dohm in the 10th and then scored on a sac bunt and two wild pitches to secure the victory. Wildcat righthander Mason Moore was instrumental in the win, throwing 4.1 scoreless innings in relief.
Break Up the Cougs
Washington State stayed hot, beating Oregon 7-1 in Pullman. Dakota Hawkins struck out 10 Duck hitters over 5.1 innings, and the Cougar bullpen continued its outstanding work. Cam Liss, Connor Wilford, and Andrew Baughn combined for 4.2 scoreless innings to finish the game. Three-hole hitter Jacob McKeon doubled and homered to lead the offense.
UCLA took the opener from red-hot Arizona (no pun intended), winning 5-1 in Westwood. The key to victory was a four-run first for the Bruins. Kyle Karros had two doubles, raising his season average to .368. Arizona ace TJ Nichols took his first loss of the year.
In a battle of two excellent teams trying to get right, host Stanford held on to defeat Oregon State 9-8. A grand slam by Eddie Park was the big blow for the Cardinal. Ace Quinn Matthews was solid but ran out of pitch count in the sixth. Flame-throwing lefthander Ryan Bruno was another bright spot for Stanford as he retired the final two hitters of the game. He came into the game with an 8.59 ERA but five of his last six outings have been scoreless. Beaver relief ace Ben Ferrer struggled uncharacteristically, giving up four hits and four runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Around the Horn
No. 10 East Carolina took care of business, beating Missouri State 3-0 in a non-conference series opener. Righthander Trey Yesavage struck out 11 MSU hitters over 7.1 scoreless innings.
Tanner Hall and Kros Sivley combined to give up zero earned runs in a 5-2 Southern Miss win at Texas State. Left fielder Reece Ewing added a run and an RBI early in the game, and catcher Blake Johnson homered and drove in two for the Golden Eagles.
Liberty won 9-7 at No. 20 FGCU to open Atlantic Sun play. Third baseman Cam Foster was 0-1 with four runs scored thanks to his four walks.
Rutgers hammered Mercer 23-6, and the Scarlet Knights are on a six-game winning streak despite playing all of those games on the road. Ryan Lasko and Jordan Sweeney both homered, and Sweeney finished with six RBIs.
Cal State Fullerton shut out UC Irvine 10-0 in Irvine. Second sacker Maddox Latta went 4-5, and lefthander Tyler Stultz threw seven shutout innings.
Northeastern swept a doubleheader from North Carolina A&T, moving their record to 12-3.
Host UTSA handled FAU 8-2 in a much-anticipated Conference USA matchup. Left fielder Caleb Hill had three hits and two RBIs, and Luke Malone was outstanding on the mound, surrendering just one earned run over 7.1 innings.