Our roundup of Saturday's college baseball action begins in the Southeastern Conference, where Arkansas and Louisiana State provided plenty of drama for a national television audience on ESPNU, and a Baum Stadium record crowd of 11,014 (actual attendance).
• In perhaps the most compelling game of the weekend, Arkansas beat No. 17 Louisiana State, 4-3, to clinch a series against the Tigers for the first time since 2004. The two teams traded zeroes until the ninth inning, when the Tigers scored three in the top of the frame, only to lose on James McCann's massive walk-off homer in the bottom of the inning. Kevin Gausman (8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) was very strong in a no-decision for the Tigers, who broke the scoreless tie on Mason Katz's two-run triple off Hogs relief ace Nolan Sanburn. The Razorbacks trailed 3-1 with two outs and two on when McCann launched a three-run shot against Kevin Berry, who had temporarily wrested the closer spot away from Matty Ott. Arkansas clinched its first conference series win of the season in its fourth try, while LSU fell to 3-8 in the SEC—all alone in the West basement.
• Top-ranked Vanderbilt clinched a series win against SEC West-leading Alabama with a 7-0 win behind Grayson Garvin (7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K). Jason Esposito (2-for-4, R, RBI) led Vandy's balanced 11-hit attack. The 'Dores built a 5-0 lead over the first three innings against Adam Morgan (6 IP, 9 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K).
• No. 3 South Carolina finished off its road series sweep of Tennessee with a 2-1 win behind Forrest Koumas (7.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K). Closer Matt Price escaped a bases-loaded jam unscathed in the eighth, then worked a scoreless ninth for his third save in three days. The Gamecocks gave up just one run in the three-game series, which improved them to 10-2 in the SEC, while dropping Tennessee to 2-10.
• No. 4 Florida bounced back from Friday's loss at Mississippi State by clobbering the Bulldogs 18-0. Mike Zunino (3-for-4, 4 R, 5 RBI, HR) led Florida's 18-hit barrage in support of Brian Johnson (6 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K).
• Auburn and Georgia clinched road series wins. The Tigers bashed Kentucky, 15-8, as Tony Caldwell (5-for-7, 3 HR, 7 RBI) went bonkers to lead Auburn's 20-hit onslaught. Kentucky's in serious trouble at 2-9 in the conference—this series was almost a must-win, at home against a team that had been struggling.
• Michael Palazzone's breakout season continued in Georgia's 8-3 win at Mississippi. Palazzone (9 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 1 K) improved to 5-1, 2.28 with just 35 strikeouts, but just three walks in 55 innings. Amazing that Palazzone has transformed himself into a strike-throwing winner. That's a major reason Georgia has rallied from its rough start. The Bulldogs are now 8-3 in the SEC and 18-14 overall—and that much-balleyhooed (and then much-maligned) junior class is living up to its potential.
• No. 2 Virginia is a dynamo. The Cavaliers made it clear they are the best team in the ACC, clinching a road series win at No. 14 Georgia Tech with a 12-9 win. The Cavs are 13-1 in conference play, with a road sweep against Clemson and a home series win against Florida State to go along with their road series win against fellow Coastal Division power Tech. The Cavs whacked around a likely top 10 overall pick Saturday, chasing lefthander Jed Bradley (4.2 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) with five runs in the fifth, then holding off Tech's rallies in the fifth and ninth. John Barr (3-for-5, 3 RBI) led a balanced 15-hit attack for UVa.
• No. 16 North Carolina leveled its series at No. 7 Florida state with an 8-5 win. Starters Kent Emanuel (3.1 IP, 10 H, 5 R, 4 ER) and Scott Sitz (1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 4 BB) both struggled, but UNC won the battle of the bullpens, erasing a 5-3 deficit with four runs in the fifth, keyed by Jacob Stallings' RBI triple.
• Clemson cruised to a 7-0 win against Maryland, clinching a must-win series for the Tigers, who improved to 6-8 in the ACC.
• Miami also clinched an important home series, outslugging North Carolina State, 14-13 in 10 innings. The Hurricanes actually coughed up a 13-4 lead in the final two innings, as the Wolfpack scored eight times in the eighth and once more in the ninth to force extra innings, but Cade Kreuter doubled and scored in the 10th to win it for the 'Canes, who improved to 10-3 in the ACC—though all 10 of their wins have come against the bottom half of the conference.
• No. 19 Oregon State trailed 6-2 after six innings but stormed back for a 7-6 win against No. 5 Arizona State, clinching the series in Corvallis. Deven Marrero's three-run homer in the fifth put the Sun Devils up by four runs, but the Beavers cut into the deficit with three runs in the seventh against ASU starter Kramer Champlin (6 IP, 8 H, 5 ER). After the Beavers tied it with a run in the ninth, Brian Stamps drew a walk-off walk on four pitches against Mitchell Lambson in the ninth.
• Arizona State's two losses have helped UCLA move into first place in the Pac-10. The Bruins improved to 7-1 in conference play with a 10-3 win at Washington State, clinching the road series. Trevor Bauer (9 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 15 K) was characteristically dominant in a 134-pitch complete game. The 15 strikeouts are not a season high—he had 17 over 10 innings at Nebraska. The national strikeout leader with 97 in 65 innings, Bauer has fanned 10 or more in all but one of his starts this season. Washington State, meanwhile, looks like a long shot to make its third straight regional. The Cougars dropped to 12-14 overall, 1-7 in the Pac-10.
• Oregon's tailspin continued. The Ducks dropped a home series against Washington (which is still just 9-19 overall) with a 3-0 loss in 10 innings Saturday. Oregon's Madison Boer (9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 9 K) and Washington's Aaron West (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) traded zeroes for nine innings, but the Huskies got to struggling Oregon closer Scott McGough for three unearned runs in the 10th. The Ducks fell to 14-14 overall and 0-5 in the Pac-10. They have officially lost the benefit of the doubt when it comes to NCAA tournament projections—they're going to have to catch fire in the second half to make a run to regionals. Oregon simply had to win a home series against the team with the worst overall record in the Pac-10.
• Southern California upset No. 11 Stanford, 3-1, behind a stellar start from flame-thrower Austin Wood (8 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 8 K).
• The second game of the Arizona-Cal series was postponed by rain.
• Four of the five series on the Big 12 schedule are all square at 1-1 heading into Sunday. The lone exception is in Stillwater, where No. 23 Oklahoma State secured the series win against Missouri with a 4-1 behind Brad Propst (9 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K).
• Baylor, losers of seven of its previous nine, stopped the bleeding with a crucial 7-6 win against No. 8 Texas. Josh Turley (8 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) turned in a strong start for the Bears, who handed Hoby Milner (4.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER) his second loss of the year. Jonathan Walsh's three-run homer in the ninth made things interesting, but Max Garner retired Lucas Kephart with the tying run at second base.
• Adam Smith's three-run homer in the eighth inning broke a 2-2 tie and powered Texas A&M to a 5-4 win at Texas Tech. Michael Wacha (6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) was solid in a no-decision.
• Casey Johnson (3-for-4, HR, 4 RBI) leda 14-hit attack in support of Burch Smith (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 6 K), as Oklahoma blasted Kansas State, 14-3.
• Rice secured a road series win against East Carolina with a 5-3 win in 10 innings. Starter Matthew Reckling (3.2 IP, 0 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 5 K) was erratic for the Owls, but three relievers kept the Pirates in check, and Michael Ratterree's bases-loaded walk in the 10th put Rice ahead for good. ECU closer Seth Simmons was uncharacteristically wild, issuing four walks over 1.2 innings in his first loss of the season.
• Memphis clubbed No. 18 Southern Mississippi, 16-8, to clinch the series. Cleanup man T.J. Rich (4-for-5, 2 HR, 6 RBI) had a big game for the second straight day to lead Memphis' 18-hit barrage, and USM starter Geoffrey Thomas (3 IP, 9 H, 9 ER, 5 BB, 2 K) was blasted.
• Tulane won a huge series at Central Florida with a 6-5 win Saturday. Reliever-turned-starter Drew Zizinia (6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) turned in a solid outing for the Green Wave, and Jeremy Shaffer hit his third homer of the season. Tulane improved to 3-5 in C-USA.
• We've been telling you all season: Conference USA is deep. Memphis is an NCAA tournament sleeper, and Alabama-Birmingham is similarly frisky. UAB beat Houston, 6-1, and has won its first three C-USA series (at Marshall, home against ECU, at Houston). Ryan Woolley (9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) went the distance for the Blazers.
Around The Nation
• No. 12 Cal State Fullerton evened its series against rival UC Irvine with a 2-1 win behind Noe Ramirez (7.2 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K). I was on hand at Goodwin Field, and I thought it was a pretty typical Ramirez start—he located his fastball, racked up strikeouts with his changeup, threw his slider for strikes, and competed his tail off. I'll have more on Ramirez and the Irvine-Fullerton series in Monday's Three Strikes.
• Sticking in the Big West, UC Davis blew out Long Beach State for the second straight day to clinch the series—a significant setback for the Dirtbags, who fell to 15-14 overall and could ill afford to lose a home series to a team that entered the weekend 5-18. Not only did the Aggies win the first two games of the series at Blair Field, but they did so in dominating fashion, by a combined score of 19-2.
• No. 9 Fresno State split a doubleheader at San Jose State, as the Spartans took a 2-1 lead in the four-game series. Fresno lefty Josh Poytress (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 5 K) threw a seven-inning complete game in the opener, and Garrett Weber had two hits and two RBIs. San Jose's Esteban Guzman (7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 13 K) shut the Bulldogs down in the nightcap.
• It's time to start thinking about No. 20 Troy as a potential regional host. The Trojans won their sixth straight game and clinched a huge Sun Belt Conference series win against Florida International with a 9-5 win. T.J. Rivera (4-for-5, 3 R, HR, 2 RBI) and Logan Pierce (3-for-4, HR, 6 RBI) had huge days for the Trojans, who have a strangehold on the SBC at 10-1.
• Troy's biggest challenger in the Sun Belt now looks like Western Kentucky, which clinched a series win against Louisiana-Lafayette with a 2-1 win. Star catcher Matt Rice delivered a tie-breaking solo homer in the eighth for WKU, which improved to 8-3 in the conference, good enough for second place.
• No. 15 Texas Christian beat New Mexico, 11-4, to even the series. Matt Purke (5.2 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) improved to 4-1 for the Horned Frogs, and Jason Coats (2-for-4, HR, 3 RBI, SB) led the offense for TCU.
• No. 25 Stetson clinched a series win against Kennesaw State with a 10-2 win. Nick Rickles (3-for-5, 2 2B, 2 RBI) led a 16-hit attack for the Hatters, who lead the Atlantic Sun at 11-3.
• Sticking in the A-Sun, Jacksonville won a huge series at Mercer with a 9-6 win Saturday. Mercer, the league's preseason favorite, fell to 8-8, while the Dolphins improved to 9-5, just two games behind Stetson. East Tennessee State also clinched a series win against Lipscomb to improve to 10-5.
• Michigan State clinched a huge series win against preseason Big Ten favorite Minnesota with a 2-0 win behind Tony Bucciferro (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K).
• George Springer (2-for-5, HR, 2 RBI) went deep for the fourth time this season in Connecticut's 6-3 win against Notre Dame. The Huskies have won seven straight to improve to 17-10 on the season, and 7-1 in the Big East, good enough for first place by a game over Louisville, which clinched a road series against Cincinnati on Saturday.
• In a matchup between two of the nation's best eight teams in scoring, James Madison and Georgia State split a CAA doubleheader. National home run leader Jake Lowery clubbed his 17th long ball of the season in JMU's 9-6 in the opener. Georgia State homered four times in a 16-3 win in the nightcap.
• Creighton evened its series against fellow Missouri Valley Conference contender Illinois State with an 8-2 win. Wichita State also evened its series at Missouri State with a 3-1 win.
• The Citadel clinched a series against crosstown rival College of Charleston with a 17-14 win. The Cougars out-hit the Bulldogs 23-15, and both teams made four errors in the wild affair. The Citadel tied the game with five runs in the seventh, then surged ahead for good with five more in the eighth, capped by Nick Orvin's three-run double.
• Central Arkansas upset Texas State, 6-5 in 11 innings, to even the series.
• Gonzaga got a strong outing from Tyler Olson (7.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) in a 3-1 win against San Diego, clinching the series.
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