ACC Opening Day Provides Thrills, While Unbeaten Ranks Thin
ACC Opens Conference Play With Action-Packed Friday
If the first day of ACC play was any indication, 2020 should be a thrilling season for the conference. The conference’s opening Day was action-packed around the conference, with all seven games providing excitement and close scores.
No. 6 Miami and Georgia Tech won on walk-offs. No. 16 Duke edged No. 14 Florida State, 2-1, behind another outstanding start from righthander Bryce Jarvis. Virginia knocked No. 15 North Carolina State from the ranks of the unbeaten and Notre Dame went on the road to upset North Carolina. Clemson scored in the eighth inning to edge Boston College, 4-3, and Preseason All-American lefthander Reid Detmers struck out 15 batters to lead No. 7 Louisville to a 4-1 win at Wake Forest.
The best game of the bunch was in Durham, where Jarvis took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Seminoles. He lost the perfect game on a strikeout/wild pitch with two outs in the inning and then lost the no-hitter the following batter when Elijah Cabell roped a single just in front of a diving Rudy Maxwell in left field. A walk followed, loading the bases, but Jarvis wriggled out of the jam to keep Florida State off the scoreboard and preserve what was at the time a 1-0 lead for the Blue Devils.
Jarvis, who threw a perfect game two weeks ago against Cornell, finished his day with 12 strikeouts in seven innings. Before his perfect game was broken up Friday, he had retired 49 straight batters at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, dating back to Opening Day against Army. His seventh-inning walk was also his first since Opening Day.
Jarvis has simply been sensational to start the spring. The junior is 3-1, 0.67 with 40 strikeouts and two walks in 27 innings this season.
“it’s just unbelievable,” coach Chris Pollard said. “I’ve never seen a guy over a four-week span throw the baseball the way he has. It’s been fun to watch.”
Duke (11-2) has been outstanding on the mound this season and came into the weekend with the nation’s best ERA (1.42). Friday only served to reinforce the Blue Devils’ reputation, as closer Thomas Girard followed Jarvis with five strikeouts in two hitless innings to earn his third save of the season.
Florida State (9-4) got a strong performance on the mound of its own, starting with Preseason All-American C.J. Van Eyk. The junior righthander held Duke to one run on three hits in six innings. But it wasn’t quite enough to outduel Jarvis.
Because Virginia isn’t ranked, its series against NC State may be flying a little more under the radar relative to Duke and Florida State. But the Cavaliers’ performance Friday in a 7-3 victory should serve to raise its profile.
The Wolfpack went into Charlottesville having won their first 12 games and ranked fourth in the nation in scoring at 10.4 runs per game. The Cavaliers’ pitching staff used a group effort to hold them to three runs, their lowest total of the season, and hand them their first loss.
Virginia’s offense had a strong day of its own. Jimmy Sullivan homered in the second inning, helping stake the Cavaliers to a 3-0 lead. From then on, whenever NC State threatened to come back, Virginia’s hitters had an answer in the bottom half of the inning. After losing a series against Oklahoma in Pensacola on Opening Weekend, Virginia (11-3) has played well and now has a seven-game winning streak.
The conference’s biggest surprise of the day came from Notre Dame, which never trailed in an 8-5 victory at North Carolina (10-5).
First baseman Niko Kavadas hit his sixth home run of the season for the Fighting Irish and they ran wild, stealing six bases. Center fielder Spencer Myers swiped two bases, adding to his total of 15, the most in the nation.
Notre Dame (8-2) has gotten off to a fast start under first-year coach Link Jarrett. Another win this weekend in Chapel Hill would be a loud statement as conference play begins.
Alabama, Florida Only Remaining Unbeatens
The weekend began with four undefeated teams in college baseball. But the unbeaten ranks were halved Friday as Virginia beat NC State and Wright State defeated Tennessee, leaving only Alabama and Florida.
No. 1 Florida rolled to a 9-1 victory against South Florida to run its record to 14-0, extending the program record for the best start to a season. Florida broke the record Tuesday with a win at Florida Atlantic that pushed it to 12-0, eclipsing the record set by the 1989 and 2002 team.
On Friday, Florida wasted no time, scoring six runs in the first inning against USF starter Collin Sullivan. First baseman Kendrick Calilao and catcher Nathan Hickey led the offense with three this and ahome run apiece. Righthander Tommy Mace struck out six batters in seven scoreless innings and scattered two hits and two walks.
Alabama is the more likely of the undefeated pair. The Crimson Tide defeated Lipscomb, 2-1, in 13 innings Friday night to improve to 14-0, one win shy of the program record for the best start to a season. They are already nearly halfway to last season’s win total (30).
Alabama’s competition hasn’t been stellar this season, but it hasn’t been a bunch of pushovers, either. It opened the season with a sweep of Northeastern, which is projected to be one of the best teams in the Colonial Athletic Association and has gone 7-2 since. A tricky trip to Nevada-Las Vegas followed the next weekend and Alabama then hosted Harvard, the reigning Ivy League champion. Lipscomb (8-4) is off to a solid start to the season, having won a series against Ohio State last weekend, and the Tide also own a midweek win against South Alabama, which won Friday at Arkansas.
The real test for Alabama will come in SEC play but this team could be ready to make a run at its first regionals appearance since 2014. Third-year coach Brad Bohannon has brought in back-to-back top-15 recruiting classes and that young talent is starting to pay off for the Tide.
Alabama’s offense has impressed at times this season and is averaging 8.5 runs per game. Four hitters have at least three home runs this season, led by redshirt-sophomore catcher Sam Praytor with five. Senior utility player Brett Auberbach led the Tide with four hits Friday
But on Friday – as likely will be the case during SEC play – it came down to Alabama’s young pitchers. Freshman lefthander Connor Prielipp struck out 11 batters in six scoreless innings and, on the season as the Tide’s Friday starter, is 3-0, 0.00 with 35 strikeouts, six walks and just five hits allowed in 21 innings. Sophomore righthander Chase Lee threw 5.1 scoreless innings in relief and is now 1-0, 1.64 with 19 strikeouts and two walks in 11 innings.
How long Florida and Alabama can continue their undefeated runs remains to be seen. But both have reached rarified air this weekend.
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Friday night is for the aces. Here we highlight some of the best pitching performances of the day.
Jack Dreyer, LHP, Iowa: Dreyer threw a shutout in a 10-0 victory in seven innings against Western Michigan at the Snowbird Classic in Port Charlotte, Fla. The redshirt-sophomore struck out seven, held the Broncos to three hits and only allowed two runners to advance past first base. With the victory, Dreyer improved to 2-1, 3.32 with 23 strikeouts and 11 walks in 21.2 innings.
Mason Erla, RHP, Michigan State: Facing Troy in the Cox Diamond Invitational in Pensacola, Erla threw seven scoreless innings to lead the Spartans to a 1-0 victory. Erla struck out 12 batters, walked one and scattered two hits. He outdueled Troy starter Lane Thomas on a night when the two teams combined for seven total hits. Erla improved to 2-0, 1.04 with 42 strikeouts and six walks in 26 innings.
Asa Lacy, LHP, Texas A&M: In a much-watched matchup of top-five prospects, Lacy and Texas A&M (12-3) got the better of Nick Gonzales and New Mexico State (12-2) in an 8-3 victory. Lacy announced his presence with authority, striking out the side to begin the game, and finished with 13 strikeouts in seven hitless innings. His only two blemishes were a pair of walks. With the win, Lacy improved to 3-0, 0.75 with 46 strikeouts and eight walks in 24 innings.
Kyle Nicolas, RHP, Ball State: Facing Sacred Heart in game two of of the day for Ball State at the Swig & Swine Classic in Charleston, S.C., Nicolas had a career night. He struck out 17 batters in seven scoreless innings, holding the Pioneers to one hit and one walk in 110 pitches. It wasn’t quite enough, however, as Sacred Heart went on to win, 1-0. Nicolas is now 0-1, 2.74 with 37 strikeouts and seven walks in 23 innings.
Doug Nikhazy, LHP, Mississippi: Even on a night of SEC aces eating up overmatched competition, Nikhazy stood out. The sophomore threw six hitless innings, struck out 12 batters and walked three in a 15-0 victory against Princeton. The Rebels (12-1) nearly produced their second combined no-hitter in three weeks but settled for a one-hitter after the Tigers’ Conor Nolan led off the eighth inning with a single off Greer Holston. Nikhazy is now 3-1, 2.35 with 31 strikeouts and nine walks in 23 innings.
Around The Horn
— South Alabama (8-7) got to Arkansas lefthander Patrick Wicklander for seven runs in 3.2 innings on the way to a 13-6 win. Left fielder Ethan Wilson had two home runs and five RBI for the Jags and center fielder Michael Sandle went 3-for-5. After starting the season 7-0, No. 13 Arkansas has lost five in a row to fall to 7-5.
— Pepperdine (11-2), a team just on the cusp of the Top 25, made a statement Friday with a 12-2 win against No. 10 Michigan (7-6). Righthander Wil Jensen gave the Waves a strong start (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 2 BB, 8 K) and the offense was paced by third baseman Aharon Modlin, who went 5-for-5, and right fielder Reese Alexiades, who was 3-for-3 with two walks and four runs scored.
— San Diego State (10-4) handled Oklahoma righthander Cade Cavalli better than anyone so far this season, scoring five runs off him in seven innings, including four in the second inning alone, on the way to a 5-4 win. Even still, they had to fight off a late rally from the No. 11 Sooners (11-4). Down 5-2 in the ninth, DH Brady Lindsley connected for a two-run homer to make it a one-run game, but righthander Casey Schmitt was able to retire the last two batters to close it out. In addition to closing the game, Schmitt, a Preseason All-American two-way player, went 2-for-4 and drove in three runs for the Aztecs.
— Junior righthander Gavin Stone threw a no-hitter against Southeastern Louisiana (5-8) to lead Central Arkansas (6-7) to a 2-0 victory to open Southland Conference play. Stone struck out 13 batters and faced just one batter more than the minimum, his only blemish a leadoff walk in the fifth inning. The no-hitter was the third in program history.
— UC Santa Barbara (11-2) started a big weekend at Oregon State (5-7) with a 6-0 victory. The Gauchos have won six straight games and are now 3-0 against Pac-12 schools this season, adding to victories against California and UCLA. This particular win was stranger than the rest, however. UCSB was one-hit Friday night, limited to a two-run triple from shortstop McClain O’Connor. But it was able to take advantage of nine walks and four errors by the Beavers. It also got a strong group effort on the mound, as Rodney Boone, Connor Roberts and Alex Schrier combined for a two-hit shutout.