Strike One: LSU Wins West, SEC Title Up For Grabs
Don’t miss any of the highlights of the Tigers’ 11-5 win on Friday night in Starkville! LSU and MSU return to action at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. pic.twitter.com/RAh4XuglJJ
-- LSU Baseball (@LSUbaseball) May 20, 2017
A few weeks ago, the SEC West crown seemed as though it would belong to Auburn or Mississippi State. Meanwhile, Louisiana State was slowly but surely climbing up the standings, readying to strike.
On Friday, the Tigers clawed their way to the top, defeating Mississippi State on the road, 11-5, to clinch the West. The overall conference title is still up for grabs between LSU, Florida and Kentucky.
"I’m sure there aren’t too many people who predicted a month ago that we would be the SEC Western Division champions," LSU coach Paul Mainieri told lsusports.net. "We’re finishing strong. I told everyone that with 11 games left in the season we were going to finish strong. I think we are. We have one championship in our pocket and tomorrow we get to go for another one. The players want it bad, and they will be fired up tomorrow.
"We clinched the SEC West, and I’m really proud of that. We’ve now won six SEC West championships, and we’ve won all of them on the road. As well as we play at Alex Box Stadium, we are such road warriors."
The Tigers didn't score in explosive fashion Friday. It was more of a slow burn, as the veteran Tigers lineup drew 11 walks and got the big hit when needed. Catcher Michael Papierski hit his seventh homer of the season and drove in two, and first baseman Nick Coomes doubled and drove in three.
Jared Poche' wasn't at his best (5 IP, 8 H, 4 R), but he gave the Tigers a chance to win, giving way to freshman Zack Hess, who threw 3.2 scoreless innings and struck out six to earn the save.
Elsewhere in the SEC, Florida responded to Thursday's blowout loss against Kentucky with a blowout win, beating the Wildcats, 14-3, to force a rubber game--the winner of which will win the SEC East. As for the overall conference title, the Gators and Tigers are both 20-9 in SEC play, while Kentucky is 19-10. The Gators have the easiest path to the title, as they beat LSU head-to-head earlier this season; they'd just need to win today's game. The Wildcats would need an LSU loss in addition to a win against Florida to win the title. LSU would need a win and a Florida loss.
Rounding out the SEC, South Carolina lost its eighth straight conference series Friday to visiting Georgia, which likely squashes the Gamecocks' at-large hopes. South Carolina is now 12-17 in the SEC and No. 37 in the RPI. Auburn, on the other end of the spectrum, clinched a series win against Mississippi and firmed up its at-large resume.
Strike Two: FSU, N.C. State Win Huge Series
-- NC State Baseball (@NCStateBaseball) May 20, 2017
On Friday, both teams left little doubt.
Riding a stellar outing by sophomore southpaw Tyler Holton, the Seminoles defeated Louisville, 8-2, on the road, becoming the first ACC team to win a series against the Cardinals at home since they joined the conference in 2015.
"It was a definite challenge," head coach Mike Martin told seminoles.com. "This is undoubtedly one of the toughest places to play in our league. With the success Louisville has had, for us to come in and win the first series they have lost all year, is quite an accomplishment.
"But we’re not satisfied. We want to play well tomorrow and get it done."
Holton threw eight strong innings, allowing one run on five hits and striking out 11. Both Taylor Walls and Quincy Nieporte drove in two runs each to help lead the offense. The series win elevated Florida State to No. 14 in the RPI--a sizable jump.
In Raleigh, N.C. State pulled off a similarly impressive feat in winning a series against Clemson, holding off a late comeback to win, 12-10.
The game had a wild finish, as the Wolfpack scored seven runs in the bottom of the eighth to blow the game open, and Clemson responded with an eight-run ninth. The series win vaulted N.C. State to No. 30 in the RPI and moved the Wolfpack into a tie with Clemson in the Atlantic Division at 16-13.
The Tigers continued their recent struggles, losing their third straight ACC series. They'll try to avoid their third straight ACC sweep today--a sweep that could hurt their hosting chances.
Strike Three: Red Raiders Eyeing Big 12 Crown
-- Texas Tech Baseball (@TTU_Baseball) May 20, 2017
Coming into the weekend, Texas Tech needed to sweep visiting Kansas in order to supplant Texas Christian for first place in the Big 12. The Red Raiders are off to a strong start, winning Friday, 16-4, to clinch the series and give themselves a shot at the title today.
The Red Raiders pounded 16 hits in support of starter Ryan Shetter, who struck out 11 and allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings.
Third baseman Josh Jung hit a three-run homer and drove in four to pace the offense, while center fielder Cody Farhat went 4-for-5 and scored three runs. Texas Tech did most of its damage in the fifth and sixth, scoring 10 runs between those two innings. Should the Red Raiders win today, it would mark their second straight Big 12 conference title.
For Kansas, today marks the Jayhawks' last stand. Kansas is on the bubble as a tournament and could use the RPI jolt a win on the road against Texas Tech would provide.
At No. 59 in the RPI and 11-12 in the conference, Saturday's game is Kansas' last stand.
Nine newsmakers from Friday's action.
Tyler Lynn, of, North Carolina: In a 10-inning, 3-2 win over rival Duke, the UNC senior hit the game-winning RBI single--a grounder to short. Lynn picked up the hit on his birthday, while also battling back from some early morning sickness that forced him to get an IV.
Kyle Wright, rhp, Vanderbilt: Wright, who is the No. 1 projected pick in Mock Draft 3.0, dealt once again on Friday, striking out 11 and allowed just one run on five hits in 7.1 innings against Alabama. Wright has built up his draft stock with his late-season resurgence--and he makes Vanderbilt dangerous come tournament time.
Cameron Ming, lhp, Arizona: The closer-turned-starter turned in another gem Friday, leading Arizona to a 3-1 win over Arizona State. The lefty went the distance, allowing just one run on six hits in a 110-pitch, nine-inning effort.
Mark Kolozsvary, c, Florida: Playing in place of the injured Mike Rivera, Mark Kolozsvary had a huge performance against Kentucky, going 3-for-4, homering and driving in five runs as the Gators evened their series with the Wildcats.
Rylan Thomas, 1b, Central Florida: Thomas homered and drove in three runs in the Knights' 9-1 win over South Florida. That victory evened the series and forced a rubber game, the winner of which will win the American Athletic Conference crown.
Omar Salinas, 1b, Texas-Arlington: Salinas homered twice and went 4-for-5 in UTA's 12-5 win over Texas State, which clinched the Sun Belt Western Division. With a No. 91 RPI, the Mavs will have to win the Sun Belt tournament to earn a bid.
Pavin Smith, 1b, Virginia: The sweet-swinging lefthanded hitter homered and drove in four runs in Virginia's 16-3 dismantling of Georgia Tech. The four RBI pushed Smith to 65 on the year--two-shy of the program's single-season record.
Darren McCaughan, rhp, Long Beach State: Another Friday, another strong outing from the Long Beach ace, who has been a key part of the Dirtbags' success this season. McCaughan threw eight scoreless innings, striking out eight and scattering seven hits against Hawaii.
Michael Brdar, ss, Michigan: Brdar went for 4-for-5 and picked up a pair of RBIs in the Wolverines' 11-6 win over Michigan State, keeping Michigan in contention for the Big Ten crown, which will be decided today.