CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Zack Collins, one of the top hitting recruits in the country last year, was one of Miami’s best hitters during the fall and early spring before the season started. But his Miami career got off to an ignominious start, as he went hitless in his first four games and was benched for Friday’s series opener against Florida.
“I can tell you (Friday), he was very disappointed,” Miami coach Jim Morris said. “He didn’t start, it was probably the first time in his life he didn’t start, and it was probably the first time in his life he got pinch-hit for on top of it, after he got in. But to his credit, he was the first guy out yesterday, he was the first guy out today. He came in and watched some video and did some early hitting with Gino (DiMare). You can pout or you can take it and go, ‘You know what, I’m going to prove these guys wrong.’ And that’s what he did.”
Collins was back in the lineup Saturday, hitting in the 5-hole. With the score tied 2-2 in the sixth inning, Collins came to the plate with two runners on base, and the Gators brought in lefthander Danny Young to face the lefthanded hitter. Morris admitted he considered pinch-hitting for Collins again—but thought better of it.
“I walked up and talked to him and said, ‘I know you can hit, man. I’ve got a feeling you’ll get it done,'” Morris said. “He said, ‘I’ll get it done.'”
Collins jumped on Young’s first pitch and crushed it into the palm trees beyond the right-field fence for a three-run homer, snapping his 0-for-17 skid to open his career. He became the first Hurricane to homer for his first hit since Yonder Alonso in 2006, and he propelled Miami to a 5-2 victory, clinching its first series win against the Gators since 2009.
“I was pretty confident in myself that I was going to come through right there,” Collins said. “To be honest, the only thing I was thinking was, ‘Don’t hit into a double play.’ I guess they thought I was going to take a pitch to see the pitcher, but they threw a fastball right down the middle.
“I was pumped. To go up three runs against Florida, it’s awesome. That’s the thing I need right there.”
For the second straight day, veteran catcher Garrett Kennedy also homered for Miami, which already has six home runs in six games after hitting 14 all of last season. The ‘Canes also got strong pitching from lefty Bryan Radziewski (5.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K) and three relievers. Freshman sidewinder Cooper Hammond entered in a bases-loaded jam in the fifth and got A.J. Puk to fly out to left to end the threat. And fellow freshman Bryan Garcia worked 1 1/3 perfect innings to collect his second save in two days.
But the big story was Collins.
“The player of the game had to be Zack right there, getting his first hit and first home run, a game-winning hit against the Gators in a tie ballgame—it’s huge,” Morris said. “The coaches, I can tell you, we all feel that Zack is one of our best hitters. We felt like it all along. He just started out a little slow, and I think started pressing . . . But I’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”
• In the other showdown series between ranked teams, No. 22 Cal Poly evened its series at No. 12 UCLA with an 8-0 win behind freshman righthander Slater Lee (9 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K), who also stymied Kansas State’s potent offense last week. Mustangs coach Larry Lee said in last week’s Weekend Preview that Lee’s mental game is very advanced for a freshman, and he isn’t afraid to throw four pitches in any count, making his mid-80s fastball play up. Nick Torres and Brian Mundell each hit three-run homers to lead the Poly offense, as the Mustangs handed Grant Watson (4 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 5 ER, 3 BB, 7 K) his first loss.
• Mississippi State slugger Wes Rea homered three times in a doubleheader split against Holy Cross. He went deep twice in an 8-4 win in the opener, and Daniel Garner went 4-for-4 in support of Trevor Fitts (5.2 IP, 7 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K). But the Crusaders, playing their first series of the year after escaping snowbound Worcester, Mass., came from behind with two in the eighth against MSU’s heralded bullpen to win the nightcap 7-6. Anthony Critelli (4-for-4, 3 RBI) sparked the late rally with a one-out single, which was capped by Andrew Barry’s go-ahead RBI single. Rea went a combined 5-for-8 with eight RBIs in the two games for MSU, which is off to a a 4-3 start.
• UC Irvine beat Arizona State 5-2, dropping the Sun Devils to 2-4—their worst six-game start in program history. Andrew Morales (7 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) was characteristically sharp for the Anteaters, who rapped out 10 hits and scored and four runs against Ryan Kellogg.
• Jack Wynkoop (7.1 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 10 K) was dominant again for South Carolina in a 2-0 win against Eastern Kentucky. The Gamecocks have thrown four consecutive shutouts, tying a school record set in 1972.
• Like the Gamecocks, Vanderbilt has allowed just six runs in six games, as the ‘Dores got another strong start from Jared Miller (7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 K) in a 2-0 win against Illinois-Chicago.
• Ole Miss pitching has been even stingier, allowing four runs through its first six games. Christian Trent (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 6 K) was strong in Saturday’s 9-1 win against Georgia State, whose high-powered offense has mustered just one run in two games in Oxford.
• Houston’s pitching has been stingiest of all, allowing just three runs in six games during the Cougars’ 6-0 start (which includes a midweek win against No. 15 Rice). Jake Lemoine (7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K) was stellar in a no-decision against Michigan on Saturday, and Evan Hill (7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 7 K) was similarly strong for the Wolverines, but the Cougars broke a scoreless tie with a run in the 10th to win 1-0.
• There were a couple of upsets at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in Arizona. Michigan State handed No. 2 Oregon State its second loss in two days, coming from behind with two runs in the ninth to win 8-7. OSU’s infield defense has been surprisingly suspect early on, and freshman shortstop Trever Morrison made a crucial error in the ninth behind normally reliable closer Max Engelbrekt (1 IP, 3 H, 2 R). Joel Fisher (3-for-5, 2 R, 5 RBI, HR) powered the offense for the 4-1 Spartans.
• No. 10 Indiana also lost Saturday, falling in 15 innings to Utah, 5-4. The Utes got stellar relief from Nick Green (7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K) and won it on Cory Hunt’s walk-off RBI single in the 15th. IU All-Americans Kyle Schwarber and Sam Travis went a combined 2-for-13 in the game; its murderer’s row of Schwarber, Travis, Scott Donley and Dustin DeMuth were 2-for-24.
• Top-ranked Virginia clinched its series against East Carolina with a 4-0 win behind Josh Sborz (5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K) and relievers David Rosenberger and Connor Jones, who worked two shutout innings apiece. Mike Papi, Joe McCarthy and Derek Fisher contributed two hits and one RBI apiece.
• Cal State Fullerton bounced back from Friday’s 19-inning loss with a convincing 11-0 win against San Francisco. Jr. 3B Matt Chapman (4-for-5, 2 R, 2 RBI, HR) led the Fullerton offense in support of Justin Garza (7 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 K), who returned to his usual dominating form after a rocky season debut last week.
• Florida State broke open a 4-4 game with four runs in the seventh en route to a series-clinching 10-4 win against Georgia. D.J. Stewart, Ben DeLuzio and Danny De La Calle combined for six hits and seven RBIs in support of Brandon Leibrandt (5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K).
• Louisiana-Lafeytte swept a doubleheader against Southern Mississippi, 8-5 (12 innings) and 9-5. Chase Compton (2-for-5, R, 4 RBI) powered the Cajuns’ offense in the first game, and leadoff man Caleb Adams (4-for-5, R, RBI, 3 2B, 3B) was the sparkplug in Game Two. After completing the three-game sweep on the road (Sunday’s game was moved up to Saturday because of impending weather), the Cajuns improved to 7-1.
• North Carolina evened its series against Xavier with a 2-1 win behind Trent Thornton (6.2 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K).
• Alabama and Texas A&M leveled their series against Stephen F. Austin and Sacramento State, respectively. Casey Hughston (3-for-5, 2 R, 3 RBI) led the Bama offense behind Justin Kamplain (6 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K) in an 8-0 win.
• Logan Nottebrok (2-for-5, 4 RBI) homered twice for Texas A&M, highlighted by a walk-off two-run shot in the ninth, lifting the Aggies to a 7-5 win. Parker Ray (6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER) was solid in a no-decision.
• Logan Jernigan (6 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K) bounced back from a poor season debut with a strong outing in North Carolina State’s 7-0 win against Appalachian State. Jake Fincher had two hits and three RBIs for the Wolfpack.
• Matt Krook (6.1 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 11 K) was strong in Oregon’s come-from-behind 5-3 win at Loyola Marymount, clinching the series. Krook threw just one wild pitch, a week after throwing seven in his debut at Hawaii. The Ducks overcame a 3-0 deficit with five runs in the final three innings, led by Kyle Garlick (3-for-4, R, 2 RBI).
• Two coaches earned their 900th career wins Saturday. George Mason’s Bill Brown did it in a 5-4 victory in 13 innings against Wichita State in Myrtle Beach. The Patriots are 5-2, with quality victories against Illinois and WSU. And Alabama-Birmingham’s Brian Shoop picked up his 900th victory in a 4-0 win against Youngstown State, as Chase Mallard (7.1 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K) was dominant. The Blazers are 7-0, albeit against three teams that are a combined 3-16.