LOS ANGELES—Most of the sports world was buzzing about March Madness on Friday, but it was also a thrilling day in college baseball, where the SEC, Pac-12 and Big 12 schedules opened with a bang. Let's start the Friday Roundup with the game I attended between two of the top contenders in the Pac-12.
Top 25 Showdowns
(11) Arizona State at (9) UCLA: The sterling pitching matchup between ASU's Brady Rodgers and UCLA's Adam Plutko took some strange turns, but UCLA won it in walk-off fashion in the ninth, 6-5. The Sun Devils broke a scoreless tie with five runs in the third on Deven Marrero's two-run triple and Trever Allen's three-run homer, but Plukto retired the next 14 Sun Devils in order, and the Bruins tied the game with their own five-run outburst against Rodgers in the sixth.
"You're down 5-0 to Brady Rodgers, it feels like you're down by a lot more," UCLA coach John Savage said. "The guy is so good, he's so complete—four pitches for strikes, any count, competitive. He's as good as there is out there in terms of pitchability and competitiveness. I can't say enough about him. But our guys hung in there, we had some good at-bats in the sixth inning . . . You've got to give our guys a lot of credit; they battled back."
The Bruins took advantage of a leadoff error in that frame, then executed a perfect hit-and-run for a single through the right side, followed by a pair of infield singles, an RBI groundout, and three straight groundball singles. Maybe they didn't string together a bunch of hard liners or deep drives, but they did not let their big deficit stop them from having competitive at-bats.
"That inning got away from us," ASU coach Tim Esmay said. "A team like UCLA, you can't open the door. We opened the door. We let momentum get in their dugout, and they battled Brady."
In the ninth, ASU brought in hard-throwing closer Jake Barrett, who used his 93-95 mph fastball, 85 mph slider and 80 mph changeup to record two quick outs. He got two strikes on No. 9 hitter Kevin Williams, then left a 95 mph fastball up in the zone, and Williams crushed it over the left-field fence to end the game, giving UCLA its 12th consecutive win. It was Williams' second career homer (he hit his first on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium against Southern California).
"I had two strikes on me, and he was throwing the ball hard," Williams said of his at-bat against Barrett. "The pitch was elevated a little bit, and I put a good swing on it. I thought it might go out, and thought I hit it decently.
"It's a big team win for us . . . We never count ourselves out, and we always play for each other."
• (21) Mississippi State at (13) Louisiana State: The Tigers won an instant classic in Baton Rouge, 3-2 in 10 innings. Chris Stratton (8.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 17 K) made his first start of the year for MSU and recorded the most strikeouts by a Bulldogs pitcher since 1992. But Kevin Gausman (8.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 11 K) was similarly overpowering, and the Tigers answered MSU's run in the top of the 10th with two in the bottom of the frame against Caleb Reed, capped by JaCoby Jones' walk-off RBI single.
"The SEC is so competitive and every game is tight and intense; the team that gets the big hit or makes the big pitch at the critical point in the game is the team that's going to win," LSU coach Paul Mainieri said afterward.
"We competed LSU," Bulldogs coach John Cohen said, according to a Mississippi State release. "We out-worked LSU. We just had some things not go our way at the end."
Top 25 Upsets
• (3) South Carolina at Kentucky: The Wildcats trailed by three runs after six innings but rallied for two in the seventh and two more in the ninth, winning 4-3 on Luke Maile's two-run, walk-off homer against Evan Beal. South Carolina's Michael Roth (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) and Kentucky's Taylor Rogers (5.2 IP, 8 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) pitched well in no-decisions. The Wildcats improved to 19-0 but registered their first win of the season against a realistic NCAA tournament contender.
• Kansas State at (10) Texas A&M: The Wildcats jumped on Michael Wacha (5.1 IP, 11 H, 9 R, 8 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) for seven runs in the second inning, only to see the Aggies take an 11-9 lead after six innings, then bounce back to pull off the 15-12 upset. Wade Hinkle and Tanner Witt had three hits, three runs and four RBIs apiece to lead Kansas State's 20-hit onslaught.
• Washington State at (6) Arizona: J.D. Leckenby (6.1 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 4 K) and two relievers combined on a seven-hit shutout in Wazzu's 6-0 win in Tucson. Kurt Heyer (5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 3 ER) took his first loss of the year for Arizona.
• (14) Miami at Duke: Marcus Stroman (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 13 K) dominated in Duke's 5-1 upset in Durham. Eric Erickson (6.1 IP, 11 H, 5 R, 4 ER) was hittable for Miami.
• Texas at (22) Oklahoma: It was more of a showdown than an upset, but unranked Texas won a wild one against rival Oklahoma, 7-6 in 12 innings. The Sooners took a 4-0 lead in the first on two-run homers by Jack Mayfield and Caleb Bushyhead, but Oklahoma failed to hold a lead for the third straight game (they blew leads of seven and three runs in their last two losses). Texas took a 5-4 lead with three in the seventh, but Cody Reine tied the game with a solo homer in the ninth. As the Norman (Okla.) Transcript reported, Reine flipped his bat and gazed at the ball after he hit it, and shortly after he crossed the plate the teams started jawing at each other, causing both benches to empty (but there were no punches thrown and no ejections).
Oklahoma loaded the bases with one out in the 11th but failed to score. Finally, in the 12th, Jonathan Walsh delivered a two-run double just fair down the left-field line, and the Longhorns held on to win.
• (17) Oregon at Washington: The Huskies used a balanced 11-hit attack in support of Aaron West (6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER) to beat the Ducks 8-3. Alex Kuedell (6.2 IP, 8 H, 7 R, 4 ER) fell to 1-3 for Oregon.
• Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall picked up his 1,000th career victory in the Yellow Jackets' 12-3 win against Virginia Tech. Jake Davies (4-for-5, 5 RBI) and Paul Kronenfeld (4-for-4, 3 RBI) led the Georgia Tech offense in support of Buck Farmer (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K).
• Top-ranked Florida trailed 2-0 heading into the bottom of the fifth, then scored 10 unanswered runs to beat Vanderbilt, 10-2. Daniel Pigott and Preston Tucker combined for five hits and four RBIs in support of Hudson Randall (6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 K).
• In a back-and-forth affair, No. 4 Arkansas beat Alabama, 4-3, on Jake Wise's bases-loaded walk in the 12th. D.J. Baxendale (5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) was solid in a no-decision for the Hogs, and the teams traded single runs in the eighth and ninth innings to force extras.
• Kent Emanuel (7.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) led No. 5 North Carolina to a 4-3 win in the series opener at Maryland.
• Bobby Wahl (6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K), Dylan Chavez (2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K) and Brett Huber (1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) led No. 12 Mississippi to a 2-1 win against Auburn.
• No. 15 Cal State Fullerton swept a nonconference doubleheader from rival Long Beach State with twin 2-1 wins at Goodwin Field. Richy Pedroza's two-run single in the eighth propelled Dylan Floro (8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) to the win in the first game. The Titans did all their scoring in a two-run fourth inning in the nightcap, helping Kenny Mathews (7.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) improve to 2-0.
• Travis Ballew (7.2 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) moved into the Friday starter spot and shined in No. 20 Texas State's 6-1 win against Stephen F. Austin State.
• Ethan Ogburn (5.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER) took over the Friday starter job and earned the win for No. 23 North Carolina State, which handed Wake Forest its first ACC lostt, 9-5. Chris Diaz (4-for-5, 2 R, RBI) led the Wolfpack offense.
• No. 24 Purdue clinched a nice road series at Wichita State with a 10-5 win. Cameron Perkins and Sean McHugh homered and combined for six RBIs in support of Joe Haase (6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 5 K), as Purdue improved to 14-1.
• Clemson snapped its four-game losing streak and picked up its first Friday win of the season, beating Boston College, 6-4. Kevin Brady (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 9 K) picked up his first win of the season.
• Andrew Heaney (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 8 K) threw his second consecutive complete-game shutout in Oklahoma State's 14-0 win against Houston. Heaney, the Division I strikeouts leader, became the first Cowboy to record back-to-back shutouts since Matt Smith in 1998.
• Six Baylor starters recorded multiple hits in support of Josh Turley (6.1 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 K), leading the Bears to a 9-4 win against Texas Tech.
• In its first-ever Pac-12 series, Utah swept a big doubleheader at Southern California, 1-0 and 3-1. Joe Pond (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K) and Tyler Wagner combined on a three-hit shutout in the opener, as Andrew Triggs (9 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K) was the tough-luck loser. Brock Duke (7 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) turned in another strong start in the nightcap for the Utes, who improved to 6-11 overall.
• Five Georgia pitchers combined on a shutout, as the Bulldogs beat Tennessee, 4-0. Alex Wood threw four scoreless innings before an hourlong weather delay cut his outing short. Kyle Farmer had three hits (including a homer) for UGa.
• Kyle Zimmer (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 11 K) dominated in San Francisco's 3-0 win at Hawaii.
• Stefan Crichton (7 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) made his second straight Friday start in place of Andrew Mitchell and led Texas Christian to a 5-2 win at Nevada-Las Vegas. Mitchell is slated to return to action Saturday after missing last weekend with arm soreness.
• Before heading to UCLA on Friday, I caught the doubleheader between Indiana and Loyola Marymount, which the Lions swept, 7-4 and 9-0, to win the series. LMU's No. 23 recruiting class came up big in both games. Junior-college transfer Cullen Mahoney, LMU's No. 3-hole hitter, went 5-for-7 with four RBIs in the two games, leading the offense in support of Fr. RHPs Trevor Megill (6 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) and Colin Welmon 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K). The towering Megill worked downhill with an 88-91 mph fastball, a sharp downer curve at 75-76 and an occasional changeup in the low 80s. Welmon, who was perfect through four innings and allowed all three of his hits in the fifth, pounded the strike zone with an 88-90 fastball, a 78-81 slider and a 71-75 curveball. Megill, Welmon and Fr. 1B Kyle Raubinger make for a very exciting young core for the Lions.
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