GREENVILLE, N.C.—Four of the five top college pitching prospects for the 2014 draft went head-to-head Friday, and we’ll get to those showdowns in a moment. The fifth pitcher in that group, East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman, struggled for the second straight week in a 7-2 loss to Tulane. I was on hand for that one getting my first look at Hoffman this year, and it was not a great look. Hoffman’s defense did him no favors, struggling in the outfield and behind the plate, but he was hardly overpowering anyway, allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings, while striking out five.
Hoffman did not have his best velocity, working mostly at 93-94 mph and reaching back for 97 in the first and once in the fifth. He did a good job jamming righthanded hitters with his 91-92 mph two-seamer, which had good arm-side run, but he left too many four-seamers out over the plate, and Tulane squared a handful of them up. His curveball ranged from 74-80 and showed some sharp bite, but it did not have the kind of power it had in the Cape Cod League, where we heard reports of it ranging from 79-84. Even in his season debut, he threw some curveballs at 80-83. He mixed in a short slider at 84-86, but his most impressive secondary pitch Friday was his 84-86 changeup, which he threw effectively against righthanded hitters to get multiple swing-throughs.
Top 25 Showdowns
(21) Mississippi at (1) South Carolina: Auston Bousfield (3-for-5) hit a sixth-inning grand slam off Jordan Montgomery (6 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 5 K), turning a 4-2 deficit into a 6-4 lead for the Rebels, who held on to win by that score, handing the Gamecocks their first loss. Aaron Greenwood, Wyatt Short and Josh Laxier combined to work 3.2 perfect innings of relief to nail down the win for Chris Ellis (5.1 IP, 10 H, 4 R, 3 ER). Ole Miss improved to 17-2
(5) North Carolina State at (2) Florida State: Luke Weaver (6.1 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) out-dueled Carlos Rodon (6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 12 K), and Florida State broke it open late against the N.C. State bullpen to win 6-1. Justin Gonzalez hit an RBI triple and scored on D.J. Stewart’s single to put FSU up for good in the fifth against Rodon, who fell to 2-3 on the year.
(8) Louisiana State at (7) Vanderbilt: Aaron Nola (6.2 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 K) tied a career high for strikeouts, and LSU took advantage of two Vandy errors and a wild pitch to erase a 2-0 deficit with four runs in the eighth en route to a 4-2 win. Tyler Beede (7.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) was very strong in a tough-luck loss. Andrew Stevenson’s two-run single off Brian Miller put LSU ahead, and the Tigers scored their final two runs on Danbsy Swanson’s throwing error—the second two-out throwing error of the inning by the VU infield. Despite the sloppy eighth, the duel between two potential top-10 picks lived up to its billing.
“In my eight years at LSU, that had to be one of the greatest games I’ve seen,” LSU coach Paul Mainieri told reporters afterward. “Nola and Beede were both brilliant on the mound, and we made a tremendous comeback late in the game. It was a complete team victory—we used every position player we had in the dugout to win the game.”
Top 25 Upsets
Kansas at (10) Texas: Connor McKay (4-for-5, RBI) led KU’s 10-hit attack in support of Wes Benjamin (8.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER), as the Jayhawks won their Big 12 opener 3-2. Kansas jumped on Parker French (6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K) for two runs in the first and held on for the win. The Jayhawks are 13-4 overall, though Friday’s win snapped a three-game losing streak.
Southern California at (12) Oregon: Wyatt Strahan (7.2 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) earned his first win of the season, as the Trojans beat Tommy Thorpe (7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) and the Ducks 3-2 in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.
(14) Clemson at Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons came from behind with two runs in the eighth, capped by Ben Breazeale’s go-ahead RBI double, to win 4-3. Jack Fischer (8 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 5 K) was strong for the resurgent Deacs, who improved to 13-6 overall and 3-1 in the ACC (they won a road series at Georgia Tech last weekend). Chris Okey has a three-run homer in a losing cause for Clemson, and Daniel Gossett (6 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K) was solid in a no-decision.
(16) Indiana at Long Beach State: The Dirtbags scored the winning run on a ninth-inning passed ball by All-American Kyle Schwarber to win 4-3. Ty Provencher (2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R) earned the win with strong relief of Nick Sabo (6.2 IP, 7 H, 3 ER). Joey DeNato (6 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) was solid in a no-decision for the Hoosiers, who fell to 8-7.
(20) Kentucky at Alabama: Spencer Turnbull (7.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 5 BB, 3 K) and Thomas Burrows combined on a four-hit shutout against the high-powered Wildcats, as Alabama beat A.J. Reed (7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 K) and UK 3-0. Will Haynie hit a solo homer and drove in two for the Crimson Tide, which has won seven straight.
(22) Tennessee at Missouri: The Tigers overcame a 2-0 deficit with three runs in the seventh against the Tennessee bullpen, then added two more in the eighth to win 5-2. Brett Graves (7 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) picked up the win for Mizzou, while Nick Williams (6 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K) was strong in a no-decision for the Vols.
(24) Mississippi State at Georgia: Jess Posey (3-for-4, R, 2 RBI, 2B) led a 10-hit attack behind Ryan Lawlor (7.2 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) in Georgia’s 7-1 win. MSU got a poor start from Ben Bracewell (2 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER). Scott Stricklin’s UGa. club has caught fire after a slow start, winning 11 straight games to improve to 13-6.
Other Top 25 Results
Boston College at (3) Virginia: Kenny Towns (3-for-3, 2 R, 3 RBI, 2 2B) spearheaded Virginia’s 14-hit assault behind Nathan Kirby (6.1 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K), as the Cavaliers cruised to an 8-1 win. With Derek Fisher sidelined with a hamate injury, Mike Papi slid from first base to left field, Nick Howard took over at first, and John La Prise started at DH (and had three hits). No team in college baseball has more quality depth than UVa., which shouldn’t miss a beat even with one of the nation’s most talented hitters (a first-team preseason All-American) sidelined.
(4) Oregon State at Utah: The Beavers won their Pac-12 opener 6-1, as Kavin Keyes (3-for-5, 2 RBI) and Michael Conforto (2-for-3, 2 R, HR, RBI) led the OSU offense in support of Ben Wetzler (8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K). Wetzler carried a no-hitter into the eighth inning; he has allowed just seven hits and five walks in 23.2 innings in his first three starts, going 3-0, 0.76.
(6) Louisiana-Lafayette at Louisiana-Monroe: Austin Robichaux (9 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 10 K) was outstanding again, as the Cajuns won their Sun Belt opener 4-1. It marked the second time in three weeks Robichaux has recorded double-digit strikeouts in a complete-game victory (he also did it against Alabama).
St. Mary’s at (9) Cal State Fullerton: Preseason All-American J.D. Davis had four hits, including a walk-off two-run single in the 13th to lift the Titans to a 7-6 win. Koby Gauna (4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER) earned the win with strong relief of Thomas Eshelman (9 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 0 BB, 9 K).
Wagner at (11) Cal Poly: Matt Imhof (8 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 14 K) struck out 14 or more batters in a game for the third time in five starts, as the Mustangs cruised to an 8-1 win.
(13) Miami at Georgia Tech: Tyler Palmer (4-for-6, 2 R, 4 RBI) and Dale Carey (2-for-5, 3 R, 2 RBI) homered, as the Hurricanes outslugged the Yellow Jackets 10-8. Palmer’s two-run single in the ninth broke an 8-8 tie, providing the final blow in a back-and-forth affair.
(15) Rice at Florida International: Michael Aquino’s RBI single in the 13th lifted the Owls to a 3-2 win in the Conference USA opener for both clubs. Zech Lemond (8 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) was solid in a no-decision for Rice, and Matt Ditman (5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K) was brilliant in relief to pick up the win.
Samford at (17) Louisville: Grand Kay and Lucas had five RBIs apiece as part of Louisville’s 16-hit attack in a 20-10 victory. Lucas hit a pair of two-run homers, helping Kyle Funkhouser (6 IP, 9 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K) earn the win.
(18) Sam Houston State at New Orleans: Anthony Azar had three hits, including his first homer of the year, in support of Tyler Eppler (6.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) in SHSU’s 6-3 win.
(19) North Carolina at Maryland: Tom Zengel (3-for-3) hit a pair of solo homers in support of Trent Thornton (7 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 8 K), as the Tar Heels beat Jake Stinnett (6 IP, 5 H, 4 ER) and the Terrapins 7-0.
Wichita State at (23) UC Santa Barbara: Justin Jacome (8.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) carried a shutout into the ninth, and Dillon Tate got the final two outs to preserve UCSB’s 2-1 win. Woody Woodward and Andrew Calica had two hits and one RBI apiece for the 12-2 Gauchos.
(25) UCLA at California: The Bruins won their Pac-12 opener 3-2 behind James Kaprielian (8 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K). Christoph Bono’s RBI double in the ninth broke a 2-2 tie. Ty Moore led UCLA’s offense with three hits.
• Elon’s Lucas Bakker (9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K) shut down the nation’s highest-scoring offense in a 1-0 win against Georgia Southern and Sam Howard (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K).
• High Point’s John McGillicuddy needed just 90 pitches to complete a one-hit shutout in a 3-0 win against Coastal Carolina.
• T.J. White (3-for-5, 3 R, 5 RBI) and Dylan Ellis each hit grand slams in UNLV’s 18-2 blowout of San Jose State. The Rebels have won eight of nine since getting swept at Tennessee.
• UNC Wilmington snapped Indiana State’s 12-game winning streak with a 3-2 win on Josh Abshire’s walk-off single in the ninth. Mat Batts (6.1 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) was solid in a no-decision for the Seahawks.
• William & Mary obliterated Iona, 31-1. Charley Gould (5-for-7, 4 R) hit a pair of homers and set a school record with nine RBIs.
• Eric Skoglund struck out 11 in a three-hit shutout, leading UCF to a 10-0 win against Central Connecticut State.