With most conference tournaments kicking off in the middle of next week, a number of conferences are playing Thursday-through-Saturday series this week. Here are some highlights from Thursday's busy slate, starting with a look at the action in the power conferences.
• Patrick Johnson (9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 9 K) threw North Carolina's first shutout since Alex White in 2009, leading the Tar Heels to a 6-0 win against No. 1 Virginia. UNC broke a scoreless tie with five runs in the sixth against Cody Winiarski (5.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER). Johnson, who improved to 10-1 on the season, moved into fifth place on UNC's career strikeout list (280).
• No. 4 Florida State clinched its fourth ACC Atlantic Division title in the last six years with an 8-6 win against No. 18 Clemson. Sean Gilmartin (7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) took a line drive off his chest in the first inning but stayed in the game and battled his way to his 10th win of the season. James Ramsey (2-for-4, 3B, 3 RBI) led the FSU offense, which chased Clemson ace Dominic Leone (3.1 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER) in the fourth. Florida State is in strong position for a national seed, but one more win against Clemson would almost certainly wrap one up, regardless of what happens in the ACC tournament.
• Jacob Esch (4-for-6, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI) led a 14-hit attack in support of Mark Pope (7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 4 BB, 7 K), as Georgia Tech drubbed Virginia Tech 11-4. The Yellow Jackets drew within a game of Virginia in the ACC's Coastal Division.
• Bryan Radziewski (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) led Miami to a 4-1 win against Duke.
• North Carolina State clinched a spot in the ACC tournament with a 9-4 win at Boston College. Brett Williams and Harold Riggins combined for six hits and five RBIs.
• Taylor Jungmann (9 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 12 K) threw his fourth complete game of the season and won his 14th straight decision to lead Texas to a 4-2 win at Texas A&M, drawing the Longhorns even with the Aggies atop the Big 12 as the series shifts to Austin. Texas erased a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the seventh against John Stilson (6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 7 BB, 3 K), taking advantage of a wild pitch and an error in the frame.
• Baylor has played its best baseball with its season on the line in the last two weeks. The Bears ran their winning streak to four games with a 4-2 win against Oklahoma behind Logan Verrett (8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 8 K). The Bears rapped out 12 hits against Michael Rocha (4.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) and the OU bullpen.
• Austin Kubitza (8.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K) dominated Southern Miss in Rice's 4-0 win in Hattiesburg, drawing the Owls even with the Golden Eagles atop the C-USA standings. Rice took advantage of three straight Southern Miss errors to break open a 1-0 game with three unearned runs in the seventh against Todd McInnis (6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 1 ER).
• East Carolina won the opener of a big series at Tulane, 5-1, as Mike Wright and Brad Mincey combined on a two-hitter. Tulane needs to find a way to win the next two games of the series to keep its at-large hopes alive.
• Central Florida's probably safe for an at-large bid, but the Knights' momentum was stuffed Thursday, as they lost 6-0 to Marshall.
• Florida moved into sole possession of first place in the SEC East with a 9-6 win against Kentucky, while South Carolina and Vanderbilt lost on the road. Mike Zunino (3-for-4, 2 HR, 5 RBI) might have put the finishing touches on his SEC player of the year case, hitting his 14th and 15th homers of the season in support of Brian Johnson (6 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 6 K).
• Three of the four teams tied atop the SEC West lost Friday, leaving Alabama all alone in first place at 14-14. The Crimson Tide upset No. 3 South Carolina 2-1 behind a complete game from Nathan Kilcrease (9 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 K). Brett Booth hit a two-run single in the first against Michael Roth (5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 4 K), who lost his second straight start to fall to 10-3 on the year.
• Vanderbilt jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Michael Palazzone (9 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 6 K), but Georgia battled back against Sonny Gray (6 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 6 K), and Palazzone retired 19 of the final 20 batters he faced to lead the Bulldogs to a 5-4 win. Peter Verdin (3-for-4, HR, 2 RBI) led the offense to Georgia, which climbed two games above .500 with two games left in the regular season. If UGa. can split the last two games against Vandy, it will need just one more win in the SEC tournament to finish above .500 and be eligible for the NCAA tournament.
• Auburn, meanwhile, fell to 28-26 with its third straight loss, 5-2 at last-place Tennessee. The Tigers suddenly find themselves fighting to stay above .500 once again.
• Mississippi won the first game of a critical road series against Arkansas, 2-1. The Rebels came from behind with two runs in the seventh against D.J. Baxendale (8.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K), helping Matt Crouse (6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) improve to 7-4. The Rebels moved into the pack of four teams tied for second (13-15), a game behind Alabama. Arkansas needs to win the last two games of the series to avoid its seven series loss and preserve its regional hosting ambitions.
• Louisiana State exploded for 10 runs in the sixth en route to a 17-1 blowout of Mississippi State. Mikie Mahtook (3-for-4, 3 R, 4 RBI, HR) led LSU's 16-hit onslaught in support of Kevin Gausman (7.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K). LSU is just a game behind the four-way tie for second place in the West, and its SEC tournament and NCAA tournament aspirations are very much alive.
Around The Nation
• Less than a week after Dallas Baptist's Jason Krizan broke the single-season Division I doubles record, Air Force senior center fielder Nathan Carter broke the D-I record for career triples with his 33rd in a loss to Brigham Young on Thursday. It was Carter's seventh triple of the season (he had 11 as a junior in 2010). The previous record of 32 career triples was set by Indiana State's Bob Zeihen from 1985-88.
• Matt Purke (3 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K) was strong in his first start since April 16, and Texas Christian blanked New Mexico, 9-0. Purke's fastball reportedly sat in the 89-91 range and peaked at 92. Joe Weik (4-for-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 3 RBI) led the TCU offense.
• Matt Barnes (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 6 K) improved to 11-3 in Connecticut's 3-1 win at Cincinnati.
• Dallas Baptist jumped out to a 4-0 lead and held off Charlotte's late rally to win 8-6. The Patriots (38-16) need to win the series to keep their at-large hopes alive. Jared Stafford (6.1 IP, 6 H, 3 ER) improved to 7-4 for DBU.
• Stetson, fighting to host a regional, beat Belmont, 7-4, behind Lindsey Caughel (7 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 3 ER).
• The A-Sun's two bubble teams each took 10-8 losses on the road. Mercer knocked off East Tennessee State, while Kennesaw State beat Jacksonville.
• Fresno State won its makeup game against Nevada, 7-1. Meanwhile, Hawaii split a doubleheader at New Mexico State, as the Rainbows and Bulldogs moved into a virtual tie atop the WAC standings.
• Kurt Wunderlich threw a three-hit shutout, as Michigan State blanked Northwestern, 3-0, to maintain a one-game lead over Illinois in the Big Ten.
• Coastal Carolina clinched the top seed in the Big South tournament with a 9-3 win against Charleston Southern and a Liberty loss to Radford. Anthony Meo (7 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) improved to 8-3 for Coastal.
• James Madison blanked Northeastern, 5-0, to pull a half-game ahead of idle Old Dominion in the CAA.
• Creighton beat Missouri State, 3-2, in the opener of a showdown between the top two teams in the Missouri Valley Conference standings. The Bluejays now lead second-place Wichita State by a game with two game left in the regular season.
• Elon rallied from behind with four runs in the eighth to beat Furman, 8-7, and clinch a share of its third SoCon regular-season title in the last four years.
• Texas-Arlington rode a five-run second inning to a 6-5 upset of No. 25 Texas State. The Bobcats are right on the at-large bubble and can't afford another loss this weekend.
• Florida International stretched its unbeaten streak to 17 games with a 9-7 win in a Sun Belt showdown against Florida Atlantic. Phil Haig (7 IP, 9 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) improved to 9-3 for the Golden Panthers, who moved ahead of Troy for first place in the SBC. The Trojans were upset by South Alabama, 9-8. Troy ace Tyler Ray (6.1 IP, 10 H, 8 R, 7 ER) was knocked around in a no-decision, but Troy tied the game with two runs in the top of the ninth, only to see the Jaguars win it on Brad Hook's solo homer in the bottom of the frame. Like Texas State, Troy has found itself squarely on the at-large bubble, so the next two games are critical.
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