Friday Roundup: Aces Go Wild

It has been a bad week for pitching injuries. Earlier this week, it was revealed that Rice ace Jordan Stephens (Tommy John surgery) and Indiana closer Ryan Halstead (torn ACL) would have season-ending surgeries. Saturday, Baseball America learned that South Carolina-Upstate righthander Chad Sobotka, the No. 36 college prospect for the 2014 draft, is likely to miss the season with a back injury. He will not be able to begin a throwing program until April or May, making it unlikely that the junior will be able to pitch this spring.

A lanky 6-foot-6 righty with projection remaining in his frame, Sobotka generated some buzz last summer in the Cape Cod League, where he ran his fastball up to 95-96 mph and showed a promising slider. He is still learning to repeat his delivery and refine his command, but his upside is tantalizing. But it looks like he’ll have to wait a little longer to show scouts he has harnessed his potential.

Ben Wetzler

Ben Wetzler (Photo by Andrew Woolley)

• Another ace returned to his spot as Friday starter and thrived. Oregon State lefthander Ben Wetzler returned from his 11-game suspension for violating the NCAA’s “no agent” rule last Sunday with 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball against Wright State. He outdid himself Friday, striking out a career-high 12 over eight innings of one-hit, shutout ball, leading the Beavers to a 6-0 win against Northern Illinois. Wetzler has won 12 consecutive decisions over the past two seasons. His focus in his first two outings has been awfully impressive, considering he found himself in the national spotlight after the Phillies reported him for violating NCAA rules when they failed to sign him last year.

“I’ve been getting myself into shape, getting myself ready for this,” Wetzler said afterward, per the Corvallis Gazette-Times. “To have two weeks to kind of not do anything and just throw bullpens, my arm is fresh. It feels ready to go.”

Micahel Conforto (2-for-3, 2B, 3 RBI) powered the Oregon State offense. He also drew two more walks, giving him 17 walks in 23 RBIs in 14 games.

On to the rest of the roundup. Weather continues to wreak havoc on the early-season college baseball schedule, and series across the Carolinas and Virginia were postponed Friday.

Top 25 Upsets

UC Santa Barbara vs. (12) Mississippi State; (12) Mississippi State at Arizona: The Bulldogs were soundly beaten twice Friday at the Hi Corbett Classic, losing 8-3 to UC Santa Barbara and 12-3 to Arizona. Ben Bracewell (5.1 IP, 8 H, 3 ER) started and took the loss against the Gauchos, who broke it up with four runs in the sixth and three more in the seventh against the MSU bullpen. Joey Epperson had four hits to lead UCSB’s offense in support of Justin Jacome (6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K). Arizona’s Trent Gilbert (5-for-5, 3 R, 6 RBI, 2 2B, 2 3B) went bonkers in the second game, leading a 17-hit barrage in support of James Farris (8 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K). Brandon Woodruff (4.1 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) started that one and continued to struggle for the Bulldogs. Freshman Austin Sexton (2 IP, 7 H, 5 ER) also got whacked around.

Pepperdine at (13) UCLA: The Waves chased James Kaprielian (5.1 IP, 4 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 7 K) in a five-run sixth inning, then held off UCLA’s late charge to win 8-7. Hutton Moyer and Bryan Langlois had two RBIs apiece for Pepperdine, which improved to 10-3. Shane Zeile (3-for-5, 3 R, 4 RBI, HR, 2B) led the offense for UCLA, which lost despite out-hitting Pepperdine 12-6.

(17) Indiana at Jacksonville: The Hoosiers fell back below .500 with a 4-3 loss. Josh Baker (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER) earned his first win of the season for the Dolphins, who improved to 4-7. Joey DeNato (7 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 5 BB, 4 K) took his first loss. Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis combined for five hits, but the rest of the Indiana lineup combined for just two more.

Miami (Ohio) at (19) Louisville: The RedHawks chased a wild Joe Filomeno (1.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 2 K) in the second and went on to win 6-4. Seth Varner (6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) earned the win for Miami (Ohio), which improved to 4-6. Grant Kay hit a three-run homer in a losing cause for Louisville.

Michigan State at (22) Texas Christian: Brandon Finnegan (9 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 12 K) carried a shutout into the ninth for TCU, but Blaise Salter tagged him for a two-run homer in the ninth to lift the Spartans to a 2-1 victory. Justin Alleman (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER) was strong in a no-decision for the Spartans, who improved to 6-6. The Frogs have scored two or fewer runs in four of their last six games.

Ball State at (23) Kentucky: The Cardinals scored two unearned runs in the 10th to win a back-and-forth affair 10-8. Three Kentucky errors led to six unearned runs in the game, as A.J. Reed (8 IP, 7 H, 5 R, 2 ER) took a no-decision. Ball State led 5-2 in the fifth, and Kentucky stormed ahead with five runs in the seventh, only to see the Cardinals tie it with three in the ninth. Alex Mahoney (3-for-3, 4 R) led the Ball State offense, while Michael Thomas has four hits and three RBIs for the Wildcats.

Other Top 25 Results

Maryland at (2) Florida State: D.J. Stewart (2-for-3, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2B) led the FSU offense in support of Luke Weaver (7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) in the Seminoles’ 15-3 win in their ACC opener. The ‘Noles beat Jake Stinnett (6 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 4 ER), who threw a no-hitter in his last start, and then poured it on against the Maryland bullpen in the late innings.

(4) Cal State Fullerton at Baylor: Leadoff man Austin Diemer (4-for-6, 4 R, 3 RBI, 2B, 3B) spearheaded Fullerton’s 13-hit attack in support of clinically efficient Thomas Eshelman (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) in an 11-0 rout. Eshelman needed just 87 pitches to get through the complete-game shutout.

Texas Southern at (7) Louisiana-Lafayette: The Tigers tied the game in the top of the ninth, but the Cajuns responded with a run on Jace Conrad’s sacrifce fly in the bottom of the frame to escape with a 5-4 win. Austin Robichaux (8 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 0 BB, 10 K) was strong in a no-decision.

Winthrop at (8) Vanderbilt: Dansby Swanson (4-for-4, 2 R, RBI, 3 2B) and Xavier Turner (4-for-5, R, 2 RBI, 2B) led a 15-hit attack behind Tyler Beede (7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K) in Vandy’s 9-1 win. Beede, a leading candidate for the national player of the year award and a likely top-five overall pick, improved to 4-0, 1.08 with 33 strikeouts and five walks in 25 innings. He has allowed just 11 hits.

Aaron Nola

Aaron Nola (Photo by Andrew Woolley)

Purdue at (9) Louisiana State: Not to be outdone, LSU ace Aaron Nola (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 12 K) was characteristically masterful in a 10-0 rout Friday. Nola’s season numbers are absurd: 4-0 0.00 with 36 strikeouts, two walks and 11 hits allowed in 27 innings. Alex Bregman led the LSU offense, going 3-for-4 with a three-run homer in the third that put LSU in firm control of the game.

Hawaii at (10) Texas: Parker French (7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) was strong in a no-decision, and Texas scored a run in the eighth to win 3-2. Mark Payton led off the eighth with a single and later came around to score the winning run on Jacob Felts’ RBI single.

(11) Cal Poly at Seattle:  Matt Imhof (8 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 15 K) was overpowering in the Mustangs’ 4-0 win. Imhof’s 15 strikeouts established a new Cal Poly record in Division I play, eclipsing the previous mark of 14, which he held with two other pitchers. His 14-strikeout game came in Poly’s season opener this year.

Ohio State at (14) Oregon: The Ducks broke open a 1-0 game with seven runs in the fourth behind Tommy Thorpe (7 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 10 K) and cruised to an 8-2 win.

Virginia Tech at (15) Clemson: The Tigers built a 5-0 lead through six innings before Virginia Tech chased Daniel Gossett (6 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K), in the seventh. The Hokies stormed back to tie the game at 6-6 in the eighth—with some help from four Clemson errors—but the Tigers escaped for a 7-6 win when Jay Baum doubled to lead off the ninth and scored the winning run on a fielder’s choice. Nothing is coming easy right now for Clemson, but it managed to snap its four-game losing streak.

Boston College at (16) Miami: Brandon Lopez (2-for-4, 4 RBI, 3B) powered the Miami offense behind Chris Diaz (7.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K), as the Hurricanes won their ACC opener 6-2. Diaz improved to 4-0, a resume that includes wins against Florida and Florida State.

Zech Lemond

Zech Lemond (Photo by Andrew Woolley)

Old Dominion at (18) Rice: The Owls opened Conference USA play with a 4-1 win behind Zech Lemond (6.2 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 10 K), who shined after moving from the bullpen stopper role into the Friday starter job to replace the injured Stephens. Matt Ditman (2.1 IP,2  H, 0 R, 0 BB, 3 K) picked up his second save, and he looks like a worthy replacement for Lemond at the back of the bullpen. Leon Byrd (3-for-4, 3 RBI, 2B) led the Rice offense.

Cal State Northridge at (20) Sam Houston State: Hayden Simerly and Colt Atwood combined for five hits and five RBIs behind Tyler Eppler (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 1 K), leading the Bearkats to a 6-0 win.

Arkansas-Little Rock at (25) Mississippi: Freshman Brantley Bell scored the tying run on an error in the ninth, then delivered a walk-off RBI single in the 10th to propel the Rebels to a 2-1 win. Ole Miss got strong pitching from Chris Ellis (5.2 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 7 K) and Josh Laxer (4 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K). The Rebels have five walk-off wins in their last seven games.