College Roundup: Virginia Tech Topples Florida State

Connor Coward pitched four scoreless innings and Virginia Tech rallied (Photo courtesy of Virginia Tech Athletics)

SEE ALSO: Top 25 Coverage

SEE ALSO: Weekend Preview Coverage


Strike One: Virginia Tech Capitalizes On Rain Delay

HOW TOP 25 FARED
(1) Louisville: won, 6-4, vs. Boston College
(2) Florida State: lost 13-12, at Virginia Tech
(3) Texas Christian: won, 5-1, vs. Kansas
(4) Oregon State: won, 4-0, at Arizona State
(5) Florida: lost, 2-1, at Auburn
(6) Louisiana State: won, 5-1, vs. Georgia
(7) Cal State Fullerton: won, 5-4, vs. New Mexico
(8) East Carolina: off
(9) Clemson: won, 7-6, vs. (15) Virginia
(10) South Carolina: won, 6-4, at Tennessee
(11) Texas Tech: won, 2-1, at Texas
(12) Arizona: won DH at UCLA, 19-4, 4-3
(13) North Carolina: lost, 4-2, at Georgia Tech
(14) Louisiana-Lafayette: lost, 12-4, vs. Appalachian State
(15) Virginia: lost, 7-6, at (9) Clemson
(16) Baylor: lost, 6-5, vs. West Virginia
(17) Stanford: off
(18) Mississippi: lost, 6-2, vs. Vanderbilt
(19) St. John's: won, 6-3, vs. Massachusetts-Lowell
(20) Coastal Carolina: won, 4-3, at Texas State
(21) Florida Gulf Coast: won, 13-4, vs. Rutgers
(22) Texas A&M: lost, 7-6, vs. Kentucky
(23) Oklahoma State: won, 7-2, vs. Northwestern State
(24) Michigan: lost 8-5 vs. Northern Illinois
(25) Washington: won DH vs. Utah, 3-1, 4-3

The Hokies had lost their Atlantic Coast Conference opener Friday night to Florida State 9-2 and things looked bleak Saturday as they trailed 10-4 in the fourth inning. Luckily, something slowed the Seminoles’ momentum: rain.

A 90-minute delay complete with lightning sparked a Virginia Tech rally that culminated in a 13-12 win over the No. 2 Seminoles, tying the series at 1-1 with the rubber game Sunday in Blacksburg.

When the fourth inning began, Tech was down 10-2 before senior Mac Caples homered and redshirt sophomore Jack Owens had an RBI double to make it 10-4. When play resumed, redshirt junior Tom Stoffel followed a walk to senior Ryan Tufts with a three-run homer to right center, and suddenly it was 10-7.

Florida State coach Mike Martin said the conditions seemed to aid some of the Hokies’ big hits.

"One of the windiest games I've ever played in," head coach Mike Martin told seminoles.com. "Balls that were hit 260 feet were going 360 feet. It was one of the games in which you think you have everything under control with an eight-run lead, but it's baseball, and anything can happen . . . and it did."

Virginia Tech took the lead for good with four runs in the sixth, highlighted by redshirt junior Sam Fragale’s two-run double. The Hokies added two runs in the eighth to make it 13-10, which was fortunate because Rhett Aplin hit a two-run homer in the ninth to cut the final margin to one.

Redshirt Aaron McGarity closed out the win by getting JC Flowers to fly out for his fourth save, but the real hero was junior righthander Connor Coward, who pitched four scoreless innings after the delay to improve to 4-0.


Strike Two: Huskies Happy To Wait It Out

It’s fair to say the Huskies had been looking forward to this series against the Utes since dropping the final two games of the 2016 regular season to Utah, giving the Utes the Pac-12 title.

So a one-day delay on the start of the series didn’t dampen their enthusiasm when they completed a doubleheader sweep Saturday.

Junior Levi Jordan walked with the bases loaded in the 10th inning to force in the winning run as Washington beat Utah 4-3 to win the nightcap after taking Game One 3-1.

Junior Joey Morgan doubled with one out and an after an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Nick Kahle, pinch-hitter Josh Cushing walked. Jordan fouled off the first pitch of his at-bat before Dylan Drachler (0-1) threw four straight balls to end it.

Alex Hardy (4-0) pitched a perfect 10th inning to pick up his fourth win in five appearances. The Huskies’ bullpen was the key to the sweep, throwing 15 scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts and just six hits allowed.

In Game One, junior righthander Noah Bremer, who had made 35 consecutive starts and was expected to start Friday’s game, pitched seven scoreless innings in relief of Chris Micheles and senior Jack Meggs hit a two-run homer in the first to key the win.

Bremer’s relief appearance–his first since his collegiate debut on Feb. 16, 2015—was a strategic move for the Huskies and worked to perfection.


Strike Three: Mountain Men

West Virginia was expected to make some noise in the tough Big 12 Conference this season after getting agonizingly close to ending its 20-year NCAA tournament drought when it lost in extra innings to Texas Christian in the conference title game last May.

But the season began in inauspicious fashion with consecutive losses at Charlotte. Six straight wins was a salve, but series losses to Tulane and Old Dominion—a week before Big 12 play opened—certainly did not portend good things ahead.

So of course, the Mountaineers go on the road to Waco, Texas, to face a Baylor team that had won 15 of 17 to start the season—and win the first two games, clinching the series with a 6-5 win Saturday.

"All the games we play early in the season on the road kind of hardens you a little bit," WVU coach Randy Mazey told wvusports.com. "It toughens your team up a little bit. We lost some of those games, but that's experience nonetheless. Playing in a lot of tight games late as the road team and you just learn how to win them. Every time they scored, we answered. It got late in the game, we made some big plays defensively and came out with a win."

WVU improved to 4-0 against ranked teams and tries for its second weekend sweep of the season on Sunday at noon ET.

West Virginia took an early 3-0 lead, but Baylor tied it at 5-5 in the seventh. The Mountaineers broke the tie in the ninth on a two-out RBI single from sophomore third baseman Cole Austin, who had four hits, tying a career high. The series loss is Baylor’s first of the season.

Sophomore righthander Michael Grove got the start and pitched five innings, allowing two unearned runs on three hits with five strikeouts and two walks. Sophomore righthander Braden Zarbnisky got his second win, pitching the final two innings and allowing just one hit.

Even with the wins, West Virginia is just 10-7, with games against Oklahoma State, TCU and Texas Tech looming. But a series win over Baylor—the No. 6 RPI team according to warrennolan.com—can only boost the Mountaineers’ chances for an at-large bid if they fall short again in the Big 12 tournament.


The Lineup

Newsmakers from Saturday’s games

The Yellow Jackets celebrate Kel Johnson’s game-winning homer (Courtesy of Georgia Tech Athletics)

Jared Poche, lhp, LSU. The senior lefthander saw his season-starting, scoreless-innings streak end at 32 when he gave up a home run to Georgia’s Keegan McGovern in the fourth inning. The shutout streak ranks second in school history to the 44 thrown by Ben McDonald in 1989. It was the only run Poche allowed in seven innings as he improved to 5-0, 0.25.

Cal State Fullerton. The Titans beat New Mexico 5-4 and have won nine of 10—eight of which came against teams that made regionals last year.

Kade McClure, rhp, Louisville. The sophomore righthander did not allow a baserunner against Boston College through the first 5.1 innings Saturday and ended up allowing just a run on four hits in a 6-4 win. Louisville improved to 18-0, its best start ever.

Casey Mize, rhp, Auburn. The sophomore righthander allowed just an unearned run over seven innings as the Tigers again knocked off No. 5 Florida 2-1 to claim a series win to start SEC play. The Gators are 0-5 on the road this season.

Kentucky. The Wildcats erased a pair of two-run deficits in the final three innings and beat Texas A&M in College Station 7-6 to clinch the series. It is the first road series victory for UK over a ranked Southeastern Conference opponent since April 2015 at No. 5 Florida.

Kel Johnson, 1b, Georgia Tech. The junior slugger ripped a two-run, walk-off homer in the 12th inning as Georgia Tech upended No. 13 North Carolina 4-2. The Yellow Jackets had been shut down over the first eight innings by freshman phenom Luca Dalatri (5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 SO).

Oregon State. The Beavers blanked Arizona State behind redshirt junior righthander Jake Thompson, but perhaps most importantly, they rank No. 1 in RPI, according to WarrenNolan.com. Arizona ranks second, which portends well for the teams out West this season. Quite a turnaround from 2016.

Nick Rivera, dh, Florida Gulf Coast. The redshirt senior—who got a medical hardship to return to school after breaking a hamate bone last March—had a monster game Saturday against Rutgers. Rivera, a 38th-round pick of the Astros in 2015, had four hits, including a triple and homer, and nine RBIs—which tied a program record since FGCU moved to Division I—in a 13-4 win.

Appalachian State. The Mountaineers hit four homers—only the fourth time they’ve done that since 2010—to beat No. 14 Louisiana-Lafayette 12-4. The bulk of the damage came against sophomore righthander Nick Lee, pinning him with his first loss this season.

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