DURHAM, N.C.—For the first time since 1967, Boston College will play in the NCAA tournament. Take it to the bank.
The Eagles are rolling over Miami in their final ACC tournament contest. BC leads 7-0 after five innings, and sophomore lefthander Pat Dean is in control, allowing just five hits through five scoreless. Honestly, I don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference between these two teams, and Boston College just looks much more crisp today. I get the feeling Miami just came out flat after the let-down of yesterday’s loss to Florida State.
BC helped itself a ton this week, earning wins against Georgia Tech and the Hurricanes. The Eagles won’t play for the ACC championship, but I’m confident they’ve done enough to earn an at-large bid. That’s bad news for Duke, which must win its last two games just to have a chance to earn an eighth bid out of the ACC. The ACC has never gotten eight bids, and it earned seven just twice (in 2006 and 2007).
Creighton freshman Brandon Koenigstein needed just 73 pitches to throw the first complete-game no-hitter in Bluejays history Thursday in an 11-0 win against Wichita State. The game was shortened to seven innings by the run rule. Koenigstein struck out a career-high seven and allowed just one baserunner, hitting Tyler Grimes to open the fourth. Grimes was later erased on a double play, and Koenigstein faced the minimum 21 batters in the game. The only other no-hitter in Creighton history was a combined no-no in 1980. The Shockers had not been no-hit since 1984.
Another of the day’s best pitching performances came in the Conference USA tournament, where Rice junior righthander Ryan Berry allowed just two hits in a nine-inning complete game against Alabama-Birmingham. Berry struck out seven and walked two in Rice’s 8-1 win. He threw 121 pitches, his most since returning in late April from a strained muscle in his shoulder, which sidelined him for four weeks. He is 3-0, 1.93 since his return, and the Owls have not lost a game Berry has started all season.
Elsewhere, Vanderbilt probably saved its NCAA tournament chances with a win against South Carolina, making the Commodores 2-0 at the SEC tournament. Vandy got a strong start from freshman righty Sonny Gray (7 IP, 4 ER, 11 K), and the ‘Dores broke a 4-4 tie with a bases-loaded walk in the ninth. Gray went toe-to-toe with South Carolina ace Sam Dyson (7 IP, 4 ER, 8 K).
DURHAM, N.C.—All 12 of Andrew Carraway’s appearances in 2009—and 25 of his 27 appearances over the last two seasons—have been starts. But Virginia coach Brian O’Connor did not hesitate to call on his senior righthander out of the bullpen in the fourth inning Thursday against Clemson.
Junior lefty Matt Packer started the gave for the Cavaliers and allowed four runs over the first three innings. Virginia gained some momentum in the fourth on John Hicks’ two-run homer over the Blue Monster in left field, but the Tigers stole some of the momentum back in the bottom of the frame, scoring a run on a sacrifice fly and getting at two-out baserunner on Packer’s walk to Ben Paulsen. At that moment, O’Connor decided it was important to stop the Tigers in their tracks. He summoned Carraway, who struck out Kyle Parker to end the inning, then dealt four more scoreless innings, allowing just one hit and no walks while striking out seven. Virginia rallied for four runs in the fifth to take the lead and never looked back, holding on for a 6-5 win. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—Sorry John Hicks: No soup for you. No salad or steak, either.
For years, the Baseball America headquarters were located right down the street from the Durham Bulls Athletic Park (I can see our old building from where I sit in the auxiliary press box in the party deck down the first-base line), so I’ve attended quite a few Bulls games over the years. Remarkably, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a home run off the iconic bull that sits above the Blue Monster in left field. You might remember the bull from the movie "Bull Durham"—it reads, "Hit bull win steak, hit grass win salad." (It didn’t have the salad part in the movie, but hey, that’s progress.)
Well, Virginia catcher Hicks hit a two-run homer off that billboard in the fourth inning against Clemson. It was tough to tell exactly where the ball hit, but the consensus is that is bounced off the sky background behind the bull, above the grass. An ACC official confirmed that the ball appeared to hit the sky, so poor Hicks wins neither a steak nor a salad. Maybe that’s a good thing, as I’m not sure he could accept either without committing an NCAA infraction.
Clemson leads 5-3 in the bottom of the fourth after sophomore leadoff man Chris Epps manufactured a run almost on his own. Epps doubled down the left-field line to lead off the frame, then stole third base and scored on Mike Freeman’s sacrifice fly to right field.
DURHAM, N.C.—Florida State has beaten Miami 4-2 to clinch a trip to the ACC championship game on Sunday. In all likelihood, Florida State has now wrapped up a national seed (leaving one national seed up for grabs between Florida, Rice and maybe Oklahoma). It’s also safe to assume that the Hurricanes will not be hosting a regional, since they will not have a crack at the conference tournament title.
Of course, Seminoles coach Mike Martin does not think his team has a national seed wrapped up, and Miami coach Jim Morris did not concede that his team is out of the hosting picture.
"We haven’t done enough to become a top-eight seed, and that’s our goal," Martin said. "I’m looking around the country when I say that. This ballclub has one goal, and that’s to be a top-eight seed. We feel like we know what we have to do in order to achieve that." [...] Continue Reading »
Following up on the four-hosts-in-the-Carolinas scenario I was musing about earlier, I decided to see if there were enough local teams for that idea to make sense. My conclusion: There are. Following is a look at some of the teams that might play in the Carolinas for regionals if there are four sites; all are easily within driving distance.
Hosts designated by ^
Bubble teams designated by ? [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—Georgia Tech continued its recent swoon in the first game here at Durham Bulls Athletic Park today, dropping a 7-3 decision to Boston College. The Yellow Jackets are now in serious danger of losing their grip on a regional host, especially if they lose Saturday to go 0-3 at the ACC tournament. Tech lost two of its final three conference series (to Clemson and Duke, sandwiched around a series win against Florida State) and has now lost four straight games overall. If South Carolina and East Carolina (which both won their tournament openers yesterday) keep winning, and Tech loses again Saturday, it’s conceivable that the Carolinas could get four hosts (along with North Carolina and Clemson), and Georgia could be shut out. In that scenario, Tech might be a No. 1 seed somewhere like Louisville, although the red-hot Cardinals might be playing their way up to a No. 1 seed.
Georgia Tech’s loss means Florida State clinches a spot in the ACC championship game with a win against Miami today (because the Seminoles already won the head-to-head game against BC). The Seminoles are off and running, having jumped on Miami ace Chris Hernandez for four runs in the first inning, capped by a two-run homer by Tommy Oravetz. It’s now 4-1 Seminoles in the fifth.
• Florida hammered Mississippi in an SEC elimination game, 12-2. I’d say that officially ends the Rebels’ national seed chances, though they are still very likely to host a regional. [...] Continue Reading »
Lower seeds are now 3-0 at the SEC tournament, as Vanderbilt toppled top-seeded Louisiana State 4-1 in Hoover, Ala. The Commodores got a brilliant performance from ace lefthander Mike Minor, who allowed just a run on six hits in a complete-game victory. Obviously, this is a huge win for Vandy, which needed a strong performance this week to bolster its regional hopes.
Here are a few lingering thoughts from the first day of the ACC tournament, which the poor Internet connection prevented me from posting earlier:
• I can’t imagine Boston College coach Mik Aoki has a ton of experience in crowded press conferences, but he had all the right answers in the press conference after BC’s 7-2 loss today against Florida State. In particular, Aoki perfectly fielded a question about his team’s at-large regional chances. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—I apologize for the infrequent updates, but the internet situation here at Durham Bulls Athletic Park has deteriorated as the crowd has swelled to see local rivals Duke and North Carolina go head-to-head. That’s because the wireless network is not password protected, and every Tom, Dick and Harry with a Blackberry or an iPhone is probably surfing the Web in the stands, eating up the bandwidth.
As you’d expect, this is the best crowd of the day—it’s the primetime matchup between two teams separated by just an eight-mile stretch of highway 15-501 (which runs directly behind the DBAP, as well). The seating bowl is mostly full from third base to first, and there are a number of fans down the lines as well. North Carolina fans out-number Duke fans by a wide margin, though Durham is technically the Blue Devils’ home town. There’s even a smattering of fans in the left-field bleachers, though UNC first baseman Dustin Ackley put their lives in danger in the first inning, launching a missile that landed to the left of the giant ACC tarp covering two of the bleacher sections. Then, in the sixth, Ackley homered again, a two-run shot into the second row of the left-field bleachers, closer to the line. That one tied Ackley for the ACC lead with 19 home runs. Ackley has stung the ball in all four plate appearances, singling to center field in his second at-bat and lining a ball off Duke starter Christopher Manno for a 1-4-6 fielder’s choice to drive in a run in the fourth. The Tar Heels lead 7-1 through six innings, as UNC senior righthander Adam Warren has limited the Devils to five hits.
San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg left his Mountain West tournament start today against New Mexico in the eighth inning with a cramp in his back. The Aztecs’ internet radio broadcasters suggested it was an oblique strain, according to friend of BA Kirk Kenney, but I just spoke with SDSU pitching coach Rusty Filter, who said it’s nothing serious.
"He just cramped up in his back," Filter said. "He was coming out in one more batter anyway. He threw one more pitch, and enough was enough. He’s fine—he’ll be ready to go. He’s back at the hotel bouncing around like college kids do."
Strasburg allowed just three hits over 7 2/3 scoreless innings in SDSU’s 2-1 win, striking out six (tying his season low). He left after just 90 pitches, following a four-pitch walk to Adam Courcha and one more pitch—a ball—to Daniel Gonzalez. That was Strasburg’s only walk of the game.
DURHAM, N.C.—Tony Sanchez, who is likely to be the first college catcher drafted in June, has put on a nice show here in the middle innings. He ended the Florida State fifth by throwing out Tyler Holt, perhaps the fastest player at this event, trying to steal second base. Then Sanchez smoked a line drive to center field in the sixth to drive in BC’s first run. But he was thrown out at the plate when he hesitated coming around third base on a dropped line drive by left fielder Mike McGee.
Here are a few other thoughts that come to mind looking at some of today’s scores:
• Baylor finally showed signs of life in the Big 12 tournament, upsetting top-seeded Texas 14-9. Baylor won despite a rough outing from freshman righty Logan Verrett (1.1 IP, 6 H, 5 ER), as Craig Fritsch (4.2 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 9 K) and Kendal Volz (3 IP, 2 ER) held the Longhorns at bay. With another win or two this week, Baylor might find its way into a regional despite a 10-15 finish in the Big 12 and a miserable stretch run. The Bears will have a strong enough RPI. [...] Continue Reading »
DURHAM, N.C.—Florida State outfielder Mike McGee just hit the first home run of the 2009 ACC tournament, a towering two-run blast over the Blue Monster in left field. The ball one-hopped the plexiglass window of the office building beyond the left-field fence. Prior to serving up the fourth-inning homer, Boston College starter John Leonard was cruising along; he didn’t allow his first hit until the fourth. This is my first look at Leonard, and I must say, I’m impressed. Scouts in the Northeast lauded him for his polish coming out of high school in Hanover, Mass., two years ago, and it’s evident that he can really located his fastball and breaking ball.
FSU starter Sean Gilmartin also looks very strong, and has given up just one hit through four shutout innings. It’s 2-0 Seminoles heading into the fifth.
DURHAM, N.C.—I’ve seldom seem Miami coach Jim Morris as giddy as he was after the Hurricanes pulled off an 8-6 win against Georgia Tech and ACC pitcher of the year Deck McGuire. In the postgame news conference afterward, Morris leaned back in his chair, wearing the easy smile of a man who knew he had just gotten away with one.
The ‘Canes countered McGuire with freshman righty Travis Miller, who had made just one start all year. Miller gave Morris two solid innings, and Sam Robinson pitched 1 1/3 more. Then David Gutierrez, who has struggled mightily in the second half and pitched his way out of the weekend rotation, threw three workmanlike innings, and Daniel Miranda built a bridge to closer Kyle Bellamy, who worked two shutout innings to earn the save.
"I think you could probably say we were rolling the dice, but with that said our bullpen’s been pretty good," said Morris, who manages a bullpen better than any coach in college baseball. "I knew we were probably going to have to piece it together somewhere . . . I felt it was the best opportunity for us to win in this tournament. It’s come out perfect—I couldn’t ask for it to be any better, that’s for sure." [...] Continue Reading »
The SEC tournament saw its first upset in its first game, as seventh-seeded Arkansas broke out of its funk to topple second-seeded Florida 8-5. The Razorbacks won even without a strong outing from ace lefty Dallas Keuchel (3.2 IP, 5 R), as righty Mike Bolsinger (4.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K) shut down the Gators in relief. Florida’s national seed chances are slipping away, unless the Gators can make a deep run through the loser’s bracket, but they’re still a lock to host a regional, even if they go 0-2.
Arkansas just needs to build some momentum heading into regionals to regain some swagger. Today was a good start.
Elsewhere, Kansas State evened the season series against Sunflower State rival Kansas, breaking a 4-4 tie with a run in the eighth inning to win 5-4. K-State is set up nicely to make a run, as the Wildcats got a solid start from Lance Hoge (4.1 IP, 1 ER) and now have A.J. Morris rested for either Baylor or Texas. I wonder if Brad Hill will try to save Morris for Texas, considering Baylor’s horrid play down the stretch. My guess is he probably starts Morris on normal rest tomorrow against the Bears.
DURHAM, N.C.—Greetings from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament, where Miami has broken open a close game against Georgia Tech with seven runs in the sixth inning. Remarkably, Yellow Jackets ace righty Deck McGuire (the ACC pitcher of the year) held the Hurricanes hitless through the first five innings and carried a 2-1 lead into the sixth before the floodgates opened.
All of a sudden, Miami began squaring up everything McGuire threw. Jason Hagerty got things started with a double down the right-field line, breaking up the no-no. The Hurricanes got three more hard doubles (from Chris Herrmann, Harold Martinez and Scott Lawson) to chase McGuire, and Hagerty added another double to drive in a run against reliever Andrew Robinson. Regarding that no-hitter, Bryan Adams summed it up best over the loudspeaker here at Durham Bulls Athletic Park just a moment ago: "I guess nothing can last forever."
The Yellow Jackets responded with two in the bottom of the seventh on Tony Plagman’s two-run double to left field, and it’s 8-4 Miami heading into the seventh.
It’s pretty interesting that Miami is leading this game after starting normal reliever Travis Miller against the league’s best pitcher, but Jim Morris’ gambit paid off. Now Miami has a real chance to win this pool, with ace Chris Hernandez fresh and ready to go against Florida State tomorrow.
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