Strike One: Beavers Seal Pac-12 Championship
No team had a better Friday night than No. 1 Oregon State.
With a 5-4 win at Oregon, the Beavers not only clinched this year’s Civil War series against their rival but they also clinched the Pac-12 conference title at 23-3 in conference and 40-4 overall. But wait, there’s more: with the win, head coach Pat Casey became the 16th active coach to win 1,000 games.
Given the Beavers’ sheer dominance this spring, none of that should come as a surprise. It was yet another monumental win in a storybook season.
|How the Top 25 Fared|
|1. Oregon State: won, 5-4, at Oregon|
|2. Louisville: won, 4-2, at (11) Clemson|
|3. North Carolina: ppd., at Virginia Tech|
|4. Texas Tech: off|
|5. Texas Christian: won, 9-6, vs. (24) Oklahoma|
|6. Mississippi State: won, 9-3, at Georgia|
|7. Florida: won, 2-1, at Alabama|
|8. Long Beach State: won, 3-2, at Minnesota|
|9. Kentucky: won, 15-5, vs. Tennessee|
|10. Stanford: off|
|11. Clemson: lost, 4-2, vs. (2) Louisville|
|12. Virginia: ppd., vs. Miami|
|13. Auburn: lost, 5-3, at (15) Louisiana State|
|14. Cal State Fullerton: won, 8-4, vs. UC Santa Barbara|
|15. Louisiana State: won, 5-3, vs. (13) Auburn|
|16. Wake Forest: susp. at Florida State|
|17. Arizona: lost, 3-1, at College of Charleston|
|18. Arkansas: won, 4-3, vs. Vanderbilt|
|19. Southern Mississippi: won, 5-2, vs. Alabama-Birmingham|
|20. Texas A&M: won, 12-5, at Mississippi|
|21. Michigan: won, 2-0, at Purdue|
|22. St. John’s: won, 7-3, vs. Xavier|
|23. South Florida: lost DH, 2-1 in 10 innings and 6-2 at Connecticut|
|24. Oklahoma: lost, 9-6, at No. 5 Texas Christian|
|25. Nebraska: lost, 6-3, vs. Michigan State|
Of course, playing against the rival Ducks, it didn’t come easy. The Beavers had to go toe-to-toe against Oregon ace David Peterson, one of the top arms in the country this season. But unlike most teams this year, they found a way to solve him, dealing him his shortest outing of the year and scoring five against him in five innings. Outfielder Steven Kwan drove in three of those runs.
For Oregon State, the good news continued in that electric junior righthander Drew Rasmussen made his first start on the mound since having Tommy John surgery a year ago. Rasmussen threw just three innings and 58 pitches, but he allowed only one unearned run in that span and struck out five. His return makes the top team and top pitching staff in the country even stronger as it heads into the postseason.
The Beavers earned their fifth Pac-12 championship—locking it up two weekends before the Pac-12 season ends. The five titles are the most for any conference school since the conference unified.
Strike Two: LSU Eyes SEC West Crown
That win has created some separation in the SEC West standings, with Auburn falling to 3.5 games back of division leader Mississippi State and LSU sitting at just a 0.5 game. LSU will travel to Mississippi State next weekend in a showdown to decide the division champion—and perhaps overall conference champion. That series could very well have national seed implications, too.
As for Friday, LSU senior lefty Jared Poche’ outpitched Auburn righty Keegan Thompson, allowing two runs—one earned—over 6.2 innings after graduating earlier in the day. The Tigers tagged Thompson for all five of their runs, with the biggest blow coming on a two-run homer by catcher Michael Papierski in the seventh, which gave LSU the winning margin.
“Our kids really competed hard tonight against an outstanding pitcher, and he was competing hard right back, and that’s what made it so much fun,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri said. “Jared Poche’ knew he couldn’t give up much against a pitcher like Keegan Thompson, and Jared kept us right there and left the game with a lead.
“Auburn ties the game after we make an error, but Papierski comes through with a big home run in the seventh, and our bullpen does the job to secure the victory. It was a great team victory, our kids played with a lot of intensity and energy and they earned an important win.”
The series loss is the second straight for Auburn, who has ranked as high as No. 4 this season. The Tigers’ RPI has taken a precipitous dip to No. 43, although they still have a winning 14-12 SEC record and series wins against Mississippi State, Arkansas, South Carolina and a sweep of Florida on their resume.
Strike Three: Connecticut Sweeps Huge Twinbill
Connecticut was one of the last four teams in the latest Field of 64 projection, a team that had at times led the American Athletic Conference this year but whose inconsistency of late left it at No. 46 in the RPI heading into the weekend.
The Huskies needed do damage this weekend to firm up their at-large case—and damage they did.
Hosting a doubleheader against division leader South Florida, the Huskies swept both games, starting with a 2-1 10-inning win in Game One and finishing with a more comfortable 6-2 win in Game Two.
Starting pitching led the way for the Huskies, as it has for much of the season. Southpaw Tim Cate was dominant in the first game, striking out 14 to three walks in seven innings in a no-decision. In the second game, Mason Feole struck out eight to one walk and allowed just two runs in seven innings.
The doubleheader sweep once again tightened the AAC standings—which has been tight the entire season. Central Florida and Houston are tied for first place, while USF and UConn are both just 0.5 game back. The conference, as it has since its inception, well once again go down to the wire.
Nine newsmakers from Friday’s action.
Corey Julks, of, Houston: Speaking of AAC wackiness, how’s this for wacky: Houston scored 11 runs in the ninth inning Friday at Tulane to beat the Green Wave, 15-3. Julks drove in seven of those runs. Seven—in one inning. The junior outfielder hit a three-run shot and a grand slam in the ninth in an impressive display of offense.
Texas Christian’s Ninth inning: Going along with the theme of wild ninth innings, the Horned Frogs scored three in the ninth against Oklahoma to seal a 9-6 win and clinch at least a share of the Big 12 title. Connor Wanhanen started the inning with a double and scored on a single by Ryan Merrill. Then the Frogs added two more on a bases-loaded hit by pitch and walk.
Bailey Ober, rhp, College of Charleston: Hosting No. 17 Arizona in a unique non-conference cross-country series, the Cougars got the best of the Wildcats—thanks to Ober’s heroics. The senior went the distance against Arizona, allowing just one run on two hits and a walk, striking out 13 in a complete-game gem.
Noah Bremer, rhp, Washington: The Huskies have used Bremer in a variety of ways this season. Their Friday ace for three years, Bremer has also come out of the bullpen this year, pitching six or seven innings at a time. On Friday against Arizona State, Bremer had the ball from beginning to end, striking out 10 to one walk and allowing just a single hit in a complete-game shutout of Arizona State. The Huskies won, 4-0, and Bremer improved to 6-2, 2.29.
Luke Bonfield, dh, Arkansas: Bonfield both initiated the scoring and finished it for Arkansas on Friday night, as the DH homered in the first inning to get the Razorbacks on the board against Vanderbilt, and he hit the walk-off single in the ninth to score Jax Biggers and give Arkansas the 4-3 win.
Jay Schuyler, of, San Diego: With the Toreros fighting for a tournament bid, the sophomore Schuyler led the way against Sacramento State, homering twice. Junior catcher Riley Adams also homered in the 6-3 win.
Braden Shewmake, 2b, Texas A&M: Shewmake continued his stellar freshman year with another loud offensive performance in the Aggies’ 12-5 win against Mississippi. Shewmake homered twice, driving in three runs in the victory.
Chris Hudgins and Sahid Valenzuela, Cal State Fullerton: More of a pitching-first conference, the Big West isn’t known for its offensive fireworks, yet Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara combined for five homers Friday, with the Gauchos hitting three and the Titans hitting the two biggest. Valenzuela tied the game at 4-4 with a two-run shot in the third, and Hudgins broke the game open with a three-run shot in the sixth.
Kevin Smith, ss, Maryland: Trying to come on strong at the end of his draft year, Smith went 3-for-4 and hit two home runs Friday against Northwestern, leading the Terrapins to a 7-1 win.