HIGH POINT, N.C.—Just a few minutes down the road from Greensboro, where Florida State and Virginia were meeting in a game that had no ramifications on the ACC tournament outcome, Coastal Carolina took on Liberty for the Big South title at High Point.
It was a familiar result: Coastal won 4-1, winning its 15th straight Big South tournament game and its 17th straight game against Liberty to capture its sixth straight Big South tourney championship. But this Coastal team isn't a steamroller like the other recent Chanticleer teams have been, and this team had to grind its way to a championship. That made Sunday's win even more gratifying for Chanticleers coach Gary Gilmore.
"We've had more adversity—our two top freshmen never threw a pitch all year for us, we lose (ace Josh) Conway halfway through the year, and our starting pitching has been iffy down the stretch," Gilmore said. "But the two submarine guys and the rest of that bullpen have been lights out. We've found ways, we've gotten better defensively the majority of the time. And our older guys have just carried us offensively—it's just been wonderful."
Coastal's two submarine righthanders, Aaron Burke and Ryan Connolly, were the story of the tournament. Burke came out of the bullpen to get the win in Coastal's opener (5.1 IP, 1 ER) and third game (4.1 IP, 0 R). Connolly earned the win in relief in games two (6 IP, 0 R) and four (5.1 IP, 0 R). All told, the duo combined to allow just one run in 21 innings over four games. [...] Continue Reading »
The following teams clinched automatic bids Saturday:
Big South: Coastal Carolina
Big Ten: Purdue
CAA: UNC Wilmington
MAC: Kent State
Missouri Valley: Creighton
Mountain West: New Mexico
Summit League: Oral Roberts
The wins by Coastal Carolina, Purdue and UNC Wilmington were good for bubble teams, as those teams would have earned at-large spots if they hadn't won automatic bids. Instead, the Big South, Big Ten and CAA will be one-bid leagues. New Mexico's blowout of San Diego State earned the Lobos a trip back to regionals for the third straight year. TCU's exit earlier meant the MWC was already going to be a two-bid league, just as we've had it all week, so no change there. So none of the 10 teams that clinched automatic bids Saturday snapped up additional at-large bids. [...] Continue Reading »
A sixth team punched its ticket to regionals Friday, as top-seeded Stony Brook completed a 3-0 run through the America East tournament with a 13-6 win against Maine. Three of Stony Brook's stars—Travis Jankowski, William Carmona and Maxx Tissenbaum—combined for eight hits and nine RBIs to lead an 18-hit attack, and all nine starters recorded at least one hit. Stony Brook (46-11) will head to its third regional in five years as the No. 4 seed that nobody wants to see in its bracket, thanks to an offensively potent, experienced lineup, a strong one-two pitching punch (Tyler Johnson and Brandon McNitt) and a quality bullpen anchored by Frankie Vanderka (1-2, 2.22). The biggest arm on the staff, James Campbell, delivered four innings of two-hit, shutout relief to pick up the win Friday.
Don't make the mistake of dismissing Stony Brook because it dominated weaker Northeast competition. A number of Seawolves proved they can handle themselves very well against college baseball's best with standout summers in the Cape Cod League last year, as we wrote about last August.
Onto the Mini Stock Report. Here's a look at how Friday's action impacted the races for national seeds, regional hosts and at-large spots. We'll reference WarrenNolan.com RPI figures rather than the more accurate Boyd's World rankings because the Warren Nolan figures have been updated to reflect Friday's action, while the Boyd's figures won't be updated until Saturday morning. The Warren Nolan figures are accurate enough to suit our purposes.
NATIONAL SEED RACE
We wrote Thursday that the battle for the final national seed is probably a two-team race between South Carolina and Stanford. The Gamecocks were knocked out of the SEC tournament Friday by Florida, 7-2. After a 1-2 showing in Hoover, South Carolina should now turn its attention to the West Coast, where Stanford lost an 18-inning epic to California on Friday, 5-4. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Day Three at the ACC tournament featured a pair of walk-off home runs, but Clemson's victory over Florida State was considerably more compelling than Georgia Tech's walk-off win against Virginia.
When Jake Davies launched his wind-aded three-run homer over the right-center-field wall in the day's first game, it gave the Yellow Jackets a mercy-rule-shortened 17-5 win, improving Tech to 2-0 in pool play.
"That's what you call a good old-fashioned butt-kicking," Virginia coach Brian O'Connor said.
Clemson's walk-off win was more conventional, and more dramatic.
The Tigers clawed their way back from deficits for most of the game but couldn't quite catch up with Florida State until the ninth. The Seminoles took control with four runs in the third inning, then led 5-2 after tacking on another run in the fifth. Clemson answered with two in the bottom of the frame to get within a run—and FSU again extended its lead to three runs with two in the eighth. Again, Clemson responded, scoring two in the bottom of the inning to get back within a run.
Florida State closer Robert Benincasa took the mound to close it out in the ninth, but after a pair of singles, Jon McGibbon delivered a game-winning homer to right-center on a Benincasa breaking ball that hung up a little too long. The Tigers mobbed McGibbon at the plate, celebrating a 9-7 win. [...] Continue Reading »
Here's a quick look at how Thursday's action impacted the postseason picture. We'll reference WarrenNolan.com RPI figures rather than the more accurate Boyd's World rankings because the Warren Nolan figures have been updated to reflect Thursday's action, while the Boyd's figures won't be updated until Friday morning. The Warren Nolan rankings are close enough to suit our purposes here.
NATIONAL SEED RACE
South Carolina avoided an 0-2 showing in the SEC tournament with a 5-3 win against Auburn, which was probably necessary to keep its national seed hopes afloat. As we wrote yesterday, the Gamecocks are likely competing for the last national seed with Rice and Stanford, with Texas A&M in the discussion. The Owls and Aggies were also in action Thursday and both lost, as Rice was knocked off by red-hot Memphis, 3-2, while A&M fell to Missouri, 5-3.
Memphis, which has won 14 of its last 17 games (including three road series wins, one of them at UCF), improved to 2-0 in pool play at the C-USA tournament. The Tigers clinched a berth in Sunday's C-USA championship game; even if they lose to Houston on Friday and Rice beats Southern Miss, the Owls and Tigers would finish 2-1 in pool play and Memphis would have the head-to-head tie-breaker. So Rice cannot couple its regular-season title with a C-USA tournament championship, which deals a significant blow to its national seed hopes. Rice still has at least a chance if South Carolina loses Friday and Stanford loses its series against Cal, but more realistically this is probably now a two-team race between the Gamecocks and Cardinal, who each have 11 wins against the top 25 in the RPI, compared with Rice's five. [...] Continue Reading »
Here's a quick look at the postseason ramifications of Wednesday's action in college baseball. We'll break it down by the races for national seeds, hosts and at-large spots.
NATIONAL SEED RACE
As we wrote in Tuesday's Stock Report, we see four candidates battling for the final national seed, and this week's action might determine whether South Carolina, Rice, Stanford or even Texas A&M gets it. We'll throw Kentucky into the mix as a fifth candidate (the Wildcats need a deep run in Hoover to make up for their sluggish finish to the regular season, but they got off to a good start with Tuesday's 2-0 win against Ole Miss; they were off Wednesday). Stanford is off until Friday, when it opens a three-game series against California.
We pegged the Gamecocks as a slight favorite Tuesday, but their recent struggles in the SEC tournament continued with a 3-2 loss to Vanderbilt. If South Carolina loses to Auburn in Thursday's elimination game to finish 0-2 in Hoover, they seem likely to get passed over by one of the other contenders, assuming they have strong weeks. Rice got off to a good start in the Conference USA tournament, winning their pool-play opener against Houston, 7-4, despite getting just two-thirds of an inning from No. 4 starter Andrew Benak. Rice's top three starters remain fresh, however, and the Owls did not use J.T. Chargois out of the bullpen Wednesday.
Texas A&M also won, 10-4 against Kansas, but the Aggies have more work to do to make up for their 1-6 record against the top 25 in the RPI and second-place finish in the Big 12 (four games out of first place). The Aggies probably need a Big 12 tournament title to have a chance, and getting a win Wednesday with No. 4 starter Daniel Mengden on the mound was a great start. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.—After North Carolina used six pitchers in a dominating 6-0 win against Wake Forest on Wednesday night, an entertaining UNC coach Mike Fox had some fun with the media about his bullpen usage.
"As we've done all year long, we go to our bullpen, and kind of mix and match, and drive y'all crazy, but we don't really care about that," Fox said with a playful smile.
He returned to the topic a little later.
"We've got guys down there we haven't used in a while, and we like to use our pitchers," he said, explaining UNC's two pitching changes in the ninth inning, which might have induced a few groans in the stands and press box but also helped the Tar Heels escape a bases-loaded jam unscathed. "We feel like our guys have worked hard and they want innings. I know it's late, I know what the score is, I get all that. I'm just going back to the hotel, so it doesn't really matter to me. I enjoy being in the dugout. I know you guys are on a deadline, so I thought about that a little bit at the end. (Another grin.)
"I like to give our guys an opportunity. We have a reputation for that—I like it. I like that guys know they can pitch. We didn't have the right guy in at the end, but we could have gone to a number of guys there. If they had gotten another hit, we'd have made another pitching change. It's just what we do. No apologies."
Nor should Fox make any apologies. UNC puts a winning team on the field year after year, partly because the coaches know how to make the best use of their roster and put players in position to succeed. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.—It's easy to see why Eilliott Avent has so much affection for his 2012 team. Sure, winning breeds happiness for coaches, and North Carolina State is 39-15.
But this Wolfpack team has a certain character that makes Avent gush above and beyond the standard praise a coach has for his winning team. That makeup was on display Wednesday against Miami, when ace Eric Erickson and the Miami bullpen frustrated the 'Pack for eight innings, but N.C. State hung around and strung together five straight quality at-bats in the ninth to push across two runs and win 3-2.
"I'm just so proud of our guys," Avent said. "Wow, the lefty, Erickson, he's been good in this league for a long time, he was really, really good today—we knew we'd have trouble scoring off him. He was as good as I'd seen him. We just battled and battled and battled. And thank goodness for Ethan Ogburn. Ethan was just unbelievable today. He gave us a chance, that's what you have to do against a guy like Erickson."
The two starting pitchers mixed speeds and locations effectively to keep the game scoreless through five innings. Ogburn, who also pitched well in defeat last week at Florida State, spotted his 86-87 mph fastball and kept hitters off balance with his mid-70s curve and 80-82 cutter. The Hurricanes got to him for a pair of runs in the sixth, as Chantz Mack launched his first homer of the year, then chased him in the seventh. [...] Continue Reading »
GREENSBORO, N.C.—Georgia Tech knew what was at stake in its ACC tournament opener Wednesday against Florida State. After going 12-18 in the league, the Yellow Jackets needed to make a statement in Greensboro to bolster their at-large chances. A game against the nation's top-ranked team would be Tech's best opportunity to do so.
Georgia Tech's veterans carried them to a 5-4 win, as Jake Davies mashed a pair of two-run homers behind Buck Farmer, who went six solid innings.
"I would certainly hope it enhances our cause, let's put it that way," Georgia Tech coach Danny Hall said.
Davies, a senior first baseman, made it sound like the Jackets came out with a chip on their shoulder. A fighting spirit will come in handy this week for a Tech team with its back against the wall.
"When they came to our place, we played them tight Friday," Davies said. "On Saturday we had the lead through six innings, so we felt like this was a game we could win, especially with them throwing a midweek guy—we didn't feel like they took us very seriously. We feel like we were a strong 8 seed—we can score runs."
FSU coach Mike Martin made it clear that the Seminoles weren't taking Georgia Tech lightly, adding that Scott Sitz is his No. 3 starter and was the best-rested option. But Davies had Sitz's number. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—Tyler Wilson threw his hands in the air and spiked his glove just before John Hicks wrapped him in a hug. Wilson had just struck out Florida State center fielder Mike McGee to give Virginia a 7-2 victory Sunday and its third ACC tournament championship, all of them coming at the expense of the Seminoles in Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
All seven of Virginia’s runs came on home runs over the “Blue Monster” in left field. While the Cavaliers are one of the nation’s best offensive teams, ranking 19th in runs in the regular season, they are not known for their power. Virginia had just 17 home runs entering the day, led by third baseman Steven Proscia with six.
So if the Cavaliers were going to become a bomb squad for the day, it only made sense for Proscia to deliver the most important blast. After Florida State tied the game at two in the top of the sixth, Proscia came up with runners on first and second and two outs. Seminoles starter Hunter Scantling threw Proscia a slider that he would later say was a good pitch. But Proscia made a better swing and lofted a fly ball that went just deep enough to clear the 32-foot-high left-field wall. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—Unable to hold a two-run lead in the sixth inning against Clemson, North Carolina State fell short in its improbable bid to reach the ACC tournament championship game when Clemson rallied for a 6-3 victory.
The loss, however, did little to dampen Wolfpack coach Elliott Avent’s enthusiasm for his team going forward. North Carolina State was on a six-game winning streak before losing 6-5 to Georgia Tech on a straight steal of home in the 15th inning Thursday. That loss, Avent said, was still affecting the Wolfpack’s relievers Saturday.
Lefthander Grant Sasser was unavailable, Avent said, and he was wary of going to closer Chris Overman in the sixth inning to face Clemson first baseman Richie Shaffer after Overman had pitched two innings against Georgia Tech. Instead, Nick Rice tried to pitch around Shaffer, but he hit a three-run home run that gave the Tigers their first lead of the day. [...] Continue Reading »
HOOVER, Ala.—It's hard not to root for Georgia, a team that has had two players confined to wheelchairs by horrific accidents in the last two years.
But as Bulldogs coach David Perno pointed out after his team was blown out by Vanderbilt on Wednesday, rooting for a team is not the same as respecting a team.
And earning respect is not the same as earning a spot in the NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs already proved that they were a team worthy of our respect by the way they responded to outfielder Johnathan Taylor's injury, suffered in an outfield collision with Zach Cone on March 6. They proved it again this week in the Southeastern Conference tournament, rebounding from the Vanderbilt debacle by winning two straight elimination games against Auburn and South Carolina.
On Saturday, Georgia went one step further, essentially clinching a spot in regionals with an emotional 4-3 win against Florida. Georgia improved to 31-29 on the season and ensured it will finish with a winning overall record, a requirement to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament. Georgia's robust ranking in the Ratings Percentage Index (No. 16), winning record in Southeastern Conference play (16-14 in the regular season) and bevy of quality wins will almost certainly earn it an at-large bid on Monday, assuming the Bulldogs don't ride their piecemeal pitching all the way to the automatic bid (which seems unlikely).
"They deserve to play," Perno said after the win. "We've done enough." [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—Florida State righthander/center fielder Mike McGee doesn’t like to be surprised. So when rain all but washed out Friday’s games at the ACC tournament and pushed Florida State’s final pool play game against Georgia Tech back to Saturday morning, McGee had to set an early alarm.
“We had a wakeup call for 6:15,” McGee said. “But I went to bed before I found out what happened last night because I don’t really like to be surprised. If they didn’t play or something, I wanted to be sure I knew what was going on before the wakeup call came.”
Wide awake by the time he threw the day’s first pitch at 9:05 a.m., McGee baffled Georgia Tech for 5 1/3 innings and carried a no-hitter into the fifth inning. The offense and bullpen did their parts as well, and the Seminoles beat the Yellow Jackets 4-2 in a game that could weigh heavily in the race for a national seed. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—Virginia began playing Miami at 11:07 a.m. Friday. It wouldn’t walk off the field after the last out in a 6-4 victory until just after 10:30 p.m. In between the Cavaliers endured a seven-hour, 28-minute rain delay and an early two-run home run by Hurricanes left fielder Rony Rodriguez.
But when the game finally ended, Virginia controlled its destiny in the ACC tournament, while Miami would need help if it wanted to play for the ACC title.
The game began with storm clouds above Durham Bulls Athletic Park, and it didn’t take long before the rain began to fall. The game was halted in the bottom of the second inning with the Hurricanes leading 2-0. The rain only increased after the delay began and after about two hours the teams returned to their hotels and hoped for a 6 p.m. restart that was later pushed back to 7 p.m.
“We’ve had a lot of problems this year with the rain,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “We have dealt with a lot of things, a lot of doubleheaders, and they have come through all the time.” [...] Continue Reading »
HOOVER, Ala.—Georgia knew exactly what it needed to do at the SEC tournament in order to continue its season in a regional next week: win three games to ensure a winning overall record—a requirement to be eligible for an at-large bid.
Two down, one to go.
After getting embarrassed by Vanderbilt in Wednesday's opener, the Bulldogs have responded with back-to-back wins to stave off elimination. They jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the first inning Friday against South Carolina, then held on for a 4-2 upset against the nation's top-ranked team.
"Something we've been watching all these games in this tournament: The teams that have gotten off to the quick starts have had some success," Georgia coach David Perno said. ". . . We've done a good job when we have a lead of protecting it." [...] Continue Reading »
HOOVER, Ala.—Coming out of high school, Ryne Stanek was kind of a big deal.
An unsigned third-round pick from Stilwell, Kan., Stanek and Dominic Ficociello were the pillars of an Arkansas recruiting class that ranked eighth in the nation last October. Stanek, a 6-foot-4, 185-pound righthander, entered the spring as the nation's No. 4 prospect on BA's Top 50 Freshmen list.
It's hard to blame Arkansas fans if they wondered what all the fuss was about. A bout with illness early in the season helped cause Stanek to get off to a slow start, and inconsistent command led to a very inconsistent season. In his last start against Mississippi last week, Stanek recorded just one out before getting yanked in the first inning. He carried a 2-2, 4.75 mark into Friday—when he proceeded to show everyone exactly what the fuss was about.
Stanek allowed just one run on two hits in 7 2/3 innings, walking three and striking out five in the Razorbacks' 4-1 win in an SEC tournament elimination game against Alabama. His stuff was simply electric: His fastball ranged from 91-96 mph, and he was able to get swings and misses with his two hard breaking balls. [...] Continue Reading »
HOOVER, Ala.—One thing the three beasts of the SEC East have in common is that they each have deep, versatile, talented bullpens—three of the nation's best bullpens, in fact. Vanderbilt carried a 45-9 record into Thursday, and its bullpen is a big part of its success, but during its two series losses against Florida and South Carolina, it lost the battle of bullpens.
In a rematch against the Gamecocks on Thursday, Vandy won that battle convincingly, and won the game, 7-2, to stay out of the loser's bracket in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
Vandy's bullpen melted down during South Carolina's four-run seventh back on April 17. Florida beat Vandy closer Navery Moore twice two weeks ago, and in the Sunday game it got to Moore in the 12th after tying the game against lefthander Corey Williams in the eighth. In Vanderbilt's next game, Georgia broke a 4-4 tie with a run in the seventh against righty Will Clinard.
But on Thursday, Williams, Clinard and Moore all made big pitches in big spots, while South Carolina's bullpen struggled in Vanderbilt's four-run ninth, turning a 3-2 game into a 7-2 affair.
"We went into this thinking that that was something we were going to have to rectify," Vandy pitching coach Derek Johnson said of his bullpen's recent struggles. [...] Continue Reading »
SAN DIEGO — Losing a high fly ball in the sun isn’t all that uncommon. Turning it into an unassisted triple play? Well, that’s another story.
Brigham Young shortstop Andrew Law completed an unassisted triple play Thursday under such circumstances in the Cougars’ 8-2 win over San Diego State in a Mountain West Conference Tournament game at Tony Gwynn Stadium.
The unassisted triple play is one of the rarest occurrences in baseball, which probably explains why there is no listing for it in the NCAA record book. There have been 15 unassisted triple plays in the major leagues, five fewer than the number of perfect games pitched in the majors.
This had not been one of the most fundamentally sound games by the Aztecs, who, among other things, allowed opposing runners to take the extra base, misplayed a rundown and swung at questionable pitches. But, trailing by six runs, SDSU had the makings of a rally when it loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh.
That’s when it happened. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—After an uninspired performance in a loss to North Carolina State on Wednesday night in the ACC tournament, Florida State knew it would need to play better Thursday afternoon against Clemson.
“Guys knew going in we had to put together one of our best performances,” right fielder James Ramsey said. “We had our back against the wall a little bit, especially after getting shut out last night and making a couple errors.”
The Seminoles played clean baseball and lefthander Sean Gilmartin beat the Tigers for the second time in the last week. The win keeps Florida State alive for the ACC championship and helps the Seminoles as they make their case for a national seed.
“Every game at this point of the season is important,” coach Mike Martin said. “A lot of questions still to be answered in the minds of the committee members.”
Ramsey gave the Seminoles a big lift Thursday, going 2-for-3 with four RBIs and a home run. The home run came in the sixth inning, and gave Gilmartin a three-run cushion. [...] Continue Reading »
HOOVER, Ala.—Kevin O'Sullivan had it almost right.
"I think it all started and ended with Hudson Randall on the mound—he was outstanding today," the Florida coach said. "Typical outing for him: eight innings, four hits, one walk."
That's where the "almost" part comes in: in a "typical" outing, Randall doesn't issue any walks. He did not walk any in nine of his previous 13 starts this season, and he had just six walks in 84 innings all season.
Certainly, though, O'Sullivan was right to call Randall's outing "outstanding." The sophomore righthander carved up Alabama for eight innings in Florida's 6-0 win, getting 13 groundball outs (including three double plays) and retiring 12 straight at one point in the middle innings. He finished with two strikeouts.
"He's Greg Maddox," Alabama coach Mitch Gaspard said. "Everything moves, the ball stays down, he never elevates anything. So even when you get in an advantage count, he makes a quality pitch. That pitch is down, at the knees or on the black, and he's got good sink on it . . . He makes pitches. Even though he may not have that dominant, overpowering fastball, it's still 88-91, occasionally 92, with sink and with location. He's good, and that's why he pitches on Friday nights for one of the best pitching staffs in the country." [...] Continue Reading »
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