Virginia sophomore lefthander Nathan Kirby was a premium recruit who posted a 6.06 ERA as a freshman. He has made a quantum leap to stardom as a sophomore, making good on his talent. On Saturday, he delivered the best individual performance of any player in college baseball this season, striking out 18 in a no-hitter against Pittsburgh, as the Cavaliers won the series opener 4-0.
Kirby faced two batters over the minimum, allowing just one walk. He finished one strikeout shy of the school record of 19, set by Harry Thomas in 1974 (that is also tied for the ACC record with two other players). The longest outing of Kirby’s career before Friday was 6 2/3 innings.
“Obviously you look at the stat line and he threw a no-hitter, which is really special for him and our team,” Virginia coach Brian O’Connor said. “We made a lot of great plays behind him. The poise he showed tonight, the calmness and the presence he showed, was truly impressive. I’m really proud of him. It’s a great accomplishment for him and our team.
“The velocity on his fastball was really overpowering. He had a great fastball with location and he worked ahead in the count. He had that devastating curveball that he could throw with two strikes underneath those righthanded hitters. It was just special.”
Kirby is having an All-America-caliber season. With Friday’s win, he improved to 6-1, 1.03 with 55 strikeouts and 10 walks in 53 innings.
Before we get to the Top 25 action, here are a few other individual highlights from Friday.
• John Manuel, Clint Longenecker and I all hit the road to watch other live-armed aces Friday, and none of us were disappointed. John and Clint saw Evansville lefthander Kyle Freeland strike out 15 in a 97-pitch, complete-game gem at Charlotte, as the Purple Aces won 3-2. John and Clint both came away raving about Freeland, who ran his fastball up to 95 and showed excellent command; they’ll have more on him soon. Clint then swung by Wake Forest to catch Maryland ace Jake Stinnett, who struck out 10 in a 6-4 loss to the Demon Deacons. Stinnett ran his lively fastball up to 97 in the seventh inning.
• I drove to Knoxville to see another first-round talent, Vanderbilt righthander Tyler Beede, take on Tennessee. The Volunteers jumped on Beede for three runs in the first on Taylor Smart’s RBI double off the left-field wall, but Beede was outstanding from the second inning on, and Vandy came from behind to win 6-4. Vince Conde hit a two-run double in the fourth to tie it, and back-to-back RBI doubles by Rhett Wiseman and Xavier Turner in the fifth put Vandy ahead for good.
“I told myself this game to throw the first inning in the bullpen, just because I normally have a little bit of trouble in the first inning,” Beede said. “Certainly I got punched in the face in the first inning there, and I just needed to come back and battle from there.”
Beede wound up pitching a career-high eight innings, allowing four earned runs on five hits and two walks, striking out six. He sat mostly at 92-93 mph throughout his outing, touching 94-95 regularly, even in the eighth. He located his fastball well, and his 81-83 mph changeup was very effective as usual, but he did not have his best feel for his 79-81 curveball, which he tended to yank out of the zone often. He did use the curveball for a pair of strikeouts in the eighth inning.
I’ll have plenty more on Beede in the coming week or so.
• Eastern Illinois’ Demetre Taylor hit for the cycle in a 10-9 win against Murray State in 13 innings. He is the second Ohio Valley Conference player to hit for the cycle in two weeks, as Tennessee Tech’s Brandon Thomasson did it last Wednesday against Miami (Ohio).
• San Diego State sophomore righty Bubba Derby struck out 16 in a complete-game, three-hitter, as the Aztecs beat Air Force 5-1. Derby threw 140 pitches in his gem, and despite striking out 16, he fell seven short of Stephen Strasburg’s school record for strikeouts in a game.
Top 25 Showdowns
(17) UC Santa Barbara at (5) Cal Poly: The Gauchos got to Matt Imhof (3.1 IP, 5 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K) for four runs in the third and three more in the fourth, then held on for the 8-6 win. Robby Nesovic (3-for-5, 3 RBI) and Tyler Kuresa homered for UCSB, which got strong relief work from Greg Mahle (3 IP, 3 H, 0 R) and Dillon Tate (1.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R).
(9) Mississippi State at (20) Louisiana State: Aaron Nola (8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K) dazzled as usual in LSU’s 3-0 win. The Tigers went ahead for good in the third, when Mark Laird tripled home a run and scored on an RBI single by Alex Bregman (2-for-4), chasing MSU starter Trevor Fitts (2 IP, 4 H, 2 ER).
(13) Florida at (22) Kentucky: A.J. Reed (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R) improved to 6-1 on the mound and went 3-for-4 at the plate with his SEC-leading 10th homer of the year, helping the Wildcats pound the Gators 17-1. Austin Cousino hit a grand slam, while Michael Thomas and Max Kuhn added three-run homers for the Wildcats, who pummeled Eric Hanhold (3 IP, 8 H, 10 R, 9 ER).
(19) Oregon at (14) Washington: Mitchell Tolman and Kyle Garlick combined for five hits and five RBIs in support of Tommy Thorpe (5.2 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K), as the Ducks won the series opener 10-3. Jared Fisher (5.1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 5 BB) took the loss for UW, which saw its winning streak snapped at 10 games.
Top 25 Upsets
(2) South Carolina at Arkansas: After Thursday’s series opener was postponed by rain, the Gamecocks won the first game of Friday’s doubleheader 2-1, but Arkansas leveled the series with a 4-1 win in the nightcap. Jordan Montgomery (7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K) was outstanding in the opener, and the Gamecocks got to Trey Killian (7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER) for two runs in the eighth on Tanner English’s RBI double and Marcus Mooney’s RBI single. The two teams combined for seven errors in Game Two, and South Carolina’s proved costly, as Jack Wynkoop (6.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER) took the loss. Jalen Beeks (9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) shined in that one for the Hogs.
East Carolina at (12) Rice: Jeff Hoffman (8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K) picked up his second win of the year, as the Pirates broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the top of the ninth and held on for a 3-2 win. Zech Lemond (6.2 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) was solid in a no-decision, but he left after getting a visit from the trainer in the seventh, and Rice coach Wayne Graham told Perfect Game’s Kendall Rogers that he left with arm tenderness. The Pirates, meanwhile, have won nine straight weekend games to improve to 18-12 overall, and 7-3 in Conference USA.
UC Davis at (18) Cal State Fullerton: The Aggies beat the Titans for the first time in six years (and 16 games), 3-1 at Goodwin Field. With 11 losses, Fullerton has now exceeded its 2013 loss total. UCD’s Harry Stanwyck (7.1 IP, 6 H, 1 ER) stifled Fullerton’s struggling offense, and Thomas Eshelman (7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K) took his first loss of the year.
Other Top 25 Results
Notre Dame at (1) Florida State: Gage West led off the 12th inning with a triple and scored on Casey Smit’s walk-off RBI single, giving the Seminoles an 8-7 win. FSU spotted Luke Weaver (7.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 8 K) a 5-1 lead through five innings, but the Irish chased him with five runs in the eighth. Smit had four RBIs to lead the Florida State offense.
(4) Louisiana-Lafayette at Troy: Caleb Adams (3-for-4, 3 R, 2 RBI), HR) led ULL’s 19-hit barrage in support of Carson Baranik (6.1 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 7 K), as the Cajuns cruised to a 15-4 win. Baranik started in place of Austin Robichaux, who will take the weekend off with what Lafayette media describe as “slight tendinitis.”
Stanford at (6) Oregon State: Ben Wetzler (9 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER) earned his 30th career win, tying Ken Noble’s school record, as the Beavers won 4-1. Wetzler, the Pac-12 ERA leader, improved to 6-0, 0.32 on the season. Michael Conforto (2-for-3, 2 R, RBI) hit his second homer of the year for the Beavers.
Baylor at (8) Texas: The Longhorns came from behind with three runs in the ninth, winning 5-4 on Mark Payton’s three-run, walk-off double. Brad Kuntz (8 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER) had kept Texas at bay until the ninth.
Memphis at (11) Louisville: Jeff Gardner’s two-run double highlighted Louisville’s four-run first inning in support of Kyle Funkhouser (6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 6 BB, 5 K), as the Cardinals won 5-4.
(15) Alabama at Texas A&M: Mikey White had three hits to lead the Alabama offense behind Spencer Turnbull (7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K), who bested Daniel Mengden (8 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 9 K), as the Crimson Tide won 5-1.
(21) UCLA at Long Beach State: The Bruins earned a 1-0 win in 11 innings, as Kort Peterson reached on a hit-by-pitch, stole second, reached third on a passed ball and scored the game’s only run on a throwing error. James Kaprielian (9 IP, 3 H, 0 R) was outstanding in a no-decision for the Bruins.
Auburn at (23) Mississippi: In perhaps the most bizarre finish of the season, Ole Miss won 8-5 on Austin Anderson’s three-run walk-off homer in the 13th—on an attempted intentional walk. With runners at second and third, the Tigers tried to intentionally walk Anderson for the third straight time, but Auburn reliever Jay Wade missed badly with a floater right over the plate, and Anderson crushed it over the right-field fence, making the Rebels 4-0 in extra-inning games at home this year. The Rebels won despite making five errors, leading to four unearned runs against Chris Ellis (5.2 IP, 6 H, 5 R, 1 ER).
(25) UNLV at Fresno State: Erick Fedde (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 11 K) improved to 6-1 in UNLV’s 6-0 victory against Jordan Brink (6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER) and the Bulldogs.