Trying to make headway in the tangled mass that is the Big 12 Conference race, Texas Christian was already trending up with series wins against West Virginia and Kansas the past two weeks. Now TCU's arrow is pointing way up after the Horned Frogs clinched a road series at No. 6 Texas with a second straight shutout, winning 2-0 on Friday.
Just a week ago, Texas scored 25 runs in a three-game sweep of Oklahoma, and the Horns hadn't lost back-to-back games since opening weekend, when they dropped two straight to California. But in a showdown of the conference's top two pitching staffs, TCU has come out on top two days in row. After getting shut down by Brandon Finnegan in a 3-0 loss Thursday, UT did no better against Preston Morrison (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K) on Friday. On the other side, TCU got an RBI single from Jerrick Suiter in the first and led wire-to-wire. Kevin Cron went 3-for-3 to lead the Frogs' offense and added an insurance run with an RBI triple in the seventh. Dillon Peters (6.2 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K) took the loss for Texas.
TCU moves into a tie with Texas for second place in the Big 12 with 9-5 conference marks. The reason those teams are in second is because Oklahoma State, for the moment, has surged to the top spot. The Cowboys, whose No. 78 RPI (per boydsworld.com) entering the day needs more work than most of the other Big 12 teams jockeying for at-large bids, knocked off Kansas 7-0 Friday in the opener of that series. OSU has won five straight conference games to take first place by a half-game over TCU and Texas at 9-4 in the league.
Heat In To See Rodon
Multiple general managers picking in the top 5 were in attendance for North Carolina State lefthander Carlos Rodon's start Friday against Boston College a day after seeing East Carolina righthander Jeff Hoffman's 16-strikeout performance. Although Rodon showed arguably his best stuff of the season last week, when he sat 94-96 mph for the first three innings, 91-94 throughout the rest of his outing and touched 98 with at least a plus-plus slider, his stuff Friday was similar to most of his starts this season.
Rodon sat 90-92 mph, touching 93 regularly in his first four outings before his fastball velocity ticked up slightly over the next two innings, touching 94 four times. Rodon, whose fastball has heavy glove-side run, worked to his glove side the majority of the time, regardless of hitter handedness.
"He had command of his slider tonight but he didn't have command of his fastball," North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent said.
Rodon walked three of the 32 batters he faced on the day (9.4 percent) and threw strikes on 63.9 percent of his 83 fastballs. When Rodon worked his fastball to his arm side he dropped his arm slot, creating heavy two-seam run to the outside corner of righthanded hitters. The lefthander garnered seven swinging strikes on his fastball, though the majority of them were out of the zone.
The 21-year-old threw significantly fewer sliders Friday compared to last week, when Rodon got 20 swinging strikes on the 55 sliders he threw. He threw his slider 28 times Friday and more than two-thirds of his sliders (67.9 percent) went for strikes, generating eight swinging strikes. It was at least a plus offering but lacked the depth and tilt of his offering last week.
He only sprinkled in four 82-83 mph changeups Friday.
Rodon struck out seven on the day (21.9 percent) with a 2:1 groundout-flyout ratio in eight innings. He allowed one earned run on six hits and threw 115 pitches Friday after throwing 134 last week. His next start will be against Georgia Tech.
Top 25 Showdown
(12) Louisiana State at (13) Mississippi: For the second straight week, the Rebels showed an impressive ability to bounce back from a gut-wrenching loss. They did it last week at Mississippi State and again here, getting up off the mat after an extra-inning defeat Thursday and knocking off LSU 5-1 Friday, leveling the series. The top two hitters in the Rebels' lineup, Braxton Lee and Auston Bousfield, combined to go 6-for-7, while Christian Trent (7 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) contained LSU's bats to improve to 5-0.
Top 25 Upsets
South Florida at (14) Houston: The Bulls scored four runs in the top of the first and held on from there, evening their series with Houston with a 4-3 win. Houston's Jake Lemoine (8 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K) did steady the ship after his rocky first, but UH couldn't quite climb out of that hole, stranding the tying run on second in the ninth.
(17) UC Santa Barbara at Long Beach State: Making just his fourth career start, Long Beach senior Josh Frye (9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 2 K) threw a shutout, needing just 91 pitches to do it, as the Dirtbags clinched the series with a 1-0 win. Austin Pettibone (6 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 3 K) took the hard-luck loss for UCSB.
(18) Vanderbilt at Arkansas: Tyler Beede (7 IP, 10 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 6 K) and the Commodores continued to scuffle, losing the series opener 6-2. Arkansas jumped on Beede for four runs in the first and never looked back, while Trey Killian (6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER) picked up just his second win. The Commodores drop to 7-9 in SEC play and have their work cut out to avoid losing a third straight series.
(20) UNLV at Air Force: The Falcons scored seven runs in the bottom of the first and went on to trounce the Rebels 14-4, clinching the series. John Richy (6 IP, 11 H, 10 R, 5 ER) was hit hard but didn't get much help—the UNLV defense made three errors that led to five unearned runs. It's a potentially disastrous series loss for UNLV, as Air Force resides outside the top 200 in the RPI. Saturday's finale is a must-salvage.
(25) Georgia Tech at Maryland: Maryland has lost its last three series, putting a damper on the Terps' regional aspirations, but it took a step back in the right direction with a 7-2 win against a hot Georgia Tech team. Terps ace Jake Stinnett (9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 10 K) went the distance, while Tech's Josh Heddinger (6.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER) kept Maryland at bay for six innings, but the Terps took the lead with a three-run seventh and put it away on Jose Cuas' three-run homer in the eighth.
Other Top 25 Results
North Carolina at (1) Virginia: The Cavs keep rolling. Nathan Kirby (7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 12 K) starred yet again as Virginia edged UNC 3-2. Brandon Downes (2-for-3) accounted for all three UVa. RBIs, hitting a two-run homer in the second and a sac fly in the sixth that broke a 2-2 tie.
(2) Louisiana-Lafayette at Texas-Arlington: The Ragin' Cajuns overcame a short outing from Carson Baranik (4.1 IP, 8 H, 4 ER), pulling away late to win 9-5. Caleb Adams' two homers powered ULL's 13-hit attack.
Cal State Fullerton at (3) Cal Poly: The Titans were just five outs away from what might've been a turning-point win, but Cal Poly rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth and eventually won 4-3 in 13 innings, clinching the series and delivering the latest blow to Fullerton's tumultuous season. Mustangs starter Slater Lee lasted just four innings, but Bryan Granger (1.1 IP, 0 H), Taylor Chris (3 IP, 1 H) and Reed Reilly (4.2 IP, 0 H) combined on nine innings of one-hit, shutout relief. Thomas Eshelman (7 IP, 8 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) pitched well for Fullerton, but the Mustangs tied the game against Phil Bickford and won it on Nick Torres' walk-off RBI double off J.D. Davis (4.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) in the 13th. Poly outhit Fullerton 17-5 for the game.
(4) Florida State at Wake Forest: Luke Weaver (9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) turned in his second complete game in his past four starts as FSU kept pace with Virginia atop the ACC with a 7-1 win. John Nogowski (2-for-5) and Jose Brizuela (3-for-5) led the Seminoles offense as FSU broke open a 3-1 game with a four-spot in the top of the ninth.
(7) Washington at California: The Huskies will remain perfect in Pac-12 series after clinching their road set at Cal with a 6-2 win Friday. Erik Forgione (2-for-3) and Trevor Mitsui (2-for-5) recorded multi-hit games for UW, which broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the seventh and added some insurance later. Tyler Davis (6 IP, 9 H, 2 ER) improved to 8-1.
(8) Alabama at Tennessee: The SEC-leading Crimson Tide upped their league record to 11-5 with an 8-5 win in Knoxville. The Alabama offense opened up an 8-0 lead through five innings, though Tennessee did make things interesting late. Spencer Turnbull (6.1 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 8 K) fought through some wildness but got his fifth win, while Thomas Burrows (1.2 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 3 K) extinguished the Vols' rally for his seventh save.
Georgia at (9) Florida: Rain wiped out the series opener. The Bulldogs and Gators will play a doubleheader Saturday.
(10) Louisville at Central Florida: Following Thursday's doubleheader, oddly, this series is already over. Jeff Gardner's two-run homer in the first gave Louisville a lead it would hold all night, as the Cardinals avoided a sweep with a 3-2 win behind a strong outing from Anthony Kidston (7 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K).
(11) South Carolina at Auburn: Another opener washed out by rain. Doubleheader Saturday.
Alabama-Birmingham at (16) Rice: Promising Rice sophomore Kevin McCanna (9 IP, 7 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 K) threw his first career shutout as the Owls staved off upstart UAB 2-0. The Owls managed to push across single runs in the third and sixth as McCanna outduled Blazers ace Chase Mallard (7 IP, 8 H, 2 ER), handing him his first loss of the year.
(19) Kentucky at Texas A&M: Back-to-back two-out RBI hits from Ka'ai Tom and Thomas Bernal (3-for-5, 4 RBI) keyed Kentucky's game-winning rally in the top of the ninth, as the Wildcats scored three times to break a 3-3 tie, downing A&M 6-3. A.J. Reed (8 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 4 K) improved to 7-1 with the win.
Michigan State at (21) Indiana: The Hoosiers improved to 9-1 in Big Ten play with a 7-0 shutout. Will Nolden (2-for-3, 4 RBI) opened the scoring with a two-run triple in the second, and the Hoosiers never looked back as Joey DeNato (8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 5 K) cruised.
(22) Clemson at Pittsburgh: Pitt scored twice in the first inning against Matthew Crownover (8 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K), but the Tigers lefty shut it down from there, allowing his team to tie the game and eventually win 3-2 in 11 innings. Shane Kennedy's RBI double in the top of the 11th brought in Steven Duggar with the eventual winning run.
Washington State at (23) Oregon: The Ducks extended their winning streak to eight with a series-clinching 6-3 win. Oregon's five-run fourth was the difference, highlighted by Austin Grebeck's bases-clearing double. Jeff Gold (7 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER) picked up his ninth win, tied for the national lead, and it was the 700th D-I win in the career of Ducks coach George Horton.
(24) Mississippi State at Missouri: Yeoman work out of the bullpen by closer Jonathan Holder (5.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R) allowed Mississippi State to outlast Missouri 3-2 in 11 innings. C.T. Bradford's two-out RBI single, his third hit of the game, brought in the winning run in the 11th.