Arkansas Slugs Its Way To Win, Texas Tech Evens Key Series

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Arkansas Slugs Its Way To Key Series Win

The SEC West Division is college baseball’s most competitive and it got another shakeup Friday as No. 10 Arkansas defeated No. 3 Mississippi State, 12-5, to clinch the series. The Razorbacks have won six straight home series against the Bulldogs, a streak that dates to 2007.

The Bulldogs (32-8, 10-7) came into the weekend in first place, but now the Razorbacks (29-10, 11-6) and Texas A&M (28-11-1, 10-5-1) are locked in a virtual tie atop the division. Louisiana State (25-15, 10-7) and Mississippi (27-13, 10-7) are tied with Mississippi State, just off the pace.

Arkansas broke out its bats early Friday, pushing a run home in the first inning and adding four more in the second on a grand slam from Casey Martin. The Razorbacks’ offense never really slowed down, combining for 12 hits and 16 walks, their most since 2013, on the night.

Martin led the way for Arkansas, going 2-for-3 with a grand slam, three walks and three runs. After getting off to something of a slow start this season, the sophomore is now hitting .292/.366/.550 with eight home runs and eight stolen bases.

While Mississippi State struggled on the mound, particularly with strike-throwing, Arkansas was able to keep the Bulldogs’ potent offense in check. Mississippi State made the most of its opportunities, but it had just five hits and five walks on the night. It cut Arkansas’ lead to 7-5 in the fifth inning but couldn’t get any closer, as Kevin Kopps and Marshall Denton combined for four hitless innings.

The series win represents a strong response from Arkansas after it lost a series last weekend at Vanderbilt. And with series against Tennessee and at Kentucky, both of which are talented but are a combined 12-22 in SEC play, on tap, it may be able to hold onto its perch atop the division going down the stretch.

It has been a disappointing weekend for Mississippi State, which came to Fayetteville with a full head of steam and a six-game winning streak. But the Bulldogs got outdueled on the mound Thursday night by righthander Isaiah Campbell and outslugged Friday. With a tough week ahead, starting with Tuesday’s Governor’s Cup game against Ole Miss in Pearl, Miss., before a home series against No. 4 Georgia, Mississippi State will be eager to get back on track in Saturday’s series finale.

Texas Tech Walks Off Baylor, Evens Series

The first two games of the series in Lubbock between Baylor and Texas Tech have been air-tight.

On Thursday, Baylor claimed an 11-10 win in 11 innings. On Friday, the Red Raiders (24-13, 7-7 Big 12) walked off with a 3-2 win against the Bears (26-11, 9-4 Big 12) to even the crucial three-game set.

Texas Tech hasn’t gotten a ton of consistency in the rotation this season. Even the usually-steady duo of righthander Caleb Kilian and lefthander Erikson Lanning have had their ups and downs throughout the campaign.

And finding a third pitcher to team with those two has been a particular struggle, but with his effort Friday, perhaps freshman righthander Micah Dallas staked his claim to the spot moving forward.

He threw six innings, giving up five hits and two runs (one earned), which is easily his best outing of the season in conference play, when you consider the length of the appearance and the opponent. Previously, he had given up three earned runs to West Virginia in 4.2 innings, four earned runs in seven innings against Kansas, and three earned runs in six innings against Kansas State.

As good as Dallas was, and as important as that start was to allowing the Tech offense to get going against Baylor pitching, the effort of reliever Taylor Floyd was better.

The lefthander threw three scoreless innings, and it wasn’t without some stressful pitches being made. This was just the latest quality effort in what has been a season full of them for Floyd, who has emerged as one of the best bullpen weapons available to the Red Raiders. It’s the sixth time this season that he has worked at least 2.2 innings, and with the three innings on Friday, his ERA is down to 2.93 in 27.2 innings.

The zeroes from Dallas and Floyd gave the Texas Tech offense time to work, and it needed it, as it went into the bottom of the eighth inning trailing, 2-1.

But in the eighth, the Red Raiders were able to wait out Baylor pitching and force a run in. DH Cole Stilwell drew a walk with one out, pinch-hitter Cody Masters singled, and then catcher Braxton Fulford and shortstop Gabe Holt drew back-to-back walks to tie the game.

It was similar station-to-station offense in the ninth that got it done as well. Third baseman Josh Jung singled, moved to second on a walk by center fielder Dylan Neuse, moved to third on an infield single from new DH Dru Baker, and then scored the winning run on a single from Masters, who truly made the most of his two at-bats.

The preseason favorites in the Big 12, Texas Tech moves back to .500 in conference play with the win. That might make it seem like it is well behind the eight ball in the standings at this point, but because the league’s teams have beaten up on each other so much, it is actually just two-and-a-half games behind first-place Baylor.

Maine Caps No-Hitter With Walk-Off Grand Slam

Two weeks ago, Dartmouth and Pennsylvania set a very high bar for the wildest game of the year in college baseball. Maine and Massachusetts didn’t quite clear it Friday but in the first game of a doubleheader, they gave it their best shot.

Maine won the game, 4-1, when Ryan Turenne hit a pinch-hit, walk-off grand slam off UMass ace Justin Lasko. That was just half the story, however, as Maine righthander Nick Silva also threw a no-hitter in the game.

Silva walked two batters and struck out two. UMass took advantage of one of the walks and a passed ball in the fifth inning to scratch out a run against the senior, but that was all it could manage.

Still, the Minutemen (8-22) were leading the game going into the final inning, as Lasko had scattered three hits and a walk to that point. But the Black Bears (11-19) loaded the bases in the seventh and Maine coach Nick Derba called on Turenne, a freshman with one RBI to his name, to pinch hit.

Turenne delivered, unloading on a 1-0 pitch to drive it over the right field fence for his first career home run, one that won’t soon be forgotten in Maine.

Following that wild affair, UMass bounced back to win the nightcap, 7-5, and even the four-game non-conference series.

Around The Horn

— After a tough walk-off loss Thursday night, California bounced back to defeat No. 1 UCLA, 4-1, on Friday night, evening their Pac-12 series. Righthander Jared Horn was exccellent for the Golden Bears (20-13, 8-6). The junior threw 8.1 innings and held the Bruins (29-7, 10-4) to one run on three hits. Cameron Eden and Andrew Vaughn both homered for Cal, helping to lead its offense. The two teams are set for an intriguing rubber game Saturday at Jackie Robinson Stadium. Cal is looking for a marquee series win to boost its NCAA Tournament resume, while UCLA is trying to finish off its 10th straight winning weekend to open the season.

Oklahoma State has had no trouble with No. 20 Texas in the first two games of its series in Stillwater. After a 14-0 win Thursday, the Cowboys (24-13, 9-5 Big 12) collected a 10-2 win against the Longhorns (27-14, 5-8 Big 12) to secure the series victory. The Oklahoma State offense scored two runs in the first inning and then played add-on with a run in the fifth, but it was a five-run sixth inning that turned it into a relatively routine win. DH Carson McCusker went 4-for-5 with a double, a home run, and six RBIs. On the mound, lefthander Parker Scott scattered seven hits in seven shutout innings with one walk and eight strikeouts.

No.  2 Stanford (26-6, 12-2 Pac-12) unloaded for 20 runs on 24 hits in a 20-5 win at Oregon to clinch a road series against the Ducks (22-15, 7-7 Pac-12). The Cardinal had three big innings—a five-run first, a four-run fifth, and a seven-run sixth. First baseman Andrew Daschbach went 4-for-5 with a double, two homers, and four RBIs, catcher Maverick Handley was 4-for-5 with a double and a home run, and left fielder Brandon Wulff went 3-for-4 with a double, a homer, and three RBIs. It hasn’t always shown it this season, but a Stanford offense capable of doing things like this is one of the biggest reasons they are among the favorites to win the national title. 

No. 18 Mississippi (27-13, 10-7 SEC) evened its series at No. 24 Auburn (25-14, 9-8 SEC) with a 5-3 win. Ole Miss third baseman Tyler Keenan paced the offense with a 2-for-3 day with a home run and two walks, and DH Cole Zabowski added a homer of his own. The relief combo of Austin Miller and Parker Caracci combined to throw the final four innings, allowing one hit, one walk, and no runs with six strikeouts. A win in the finale would be huge for either team, as each is looking for ways to get a leg up in the hosting race.

— Perhaps it hasn’t lived up to its place in the Preseason Top 25, but there’s still time for Duke to make a move toward the postseason, and 9-8 win at No. 23 Clemson (25-13, 11-8 ACC) is a step in that direction. The Blue Devils (22-16, 9-10 ACC) trailed 8-7 going into the top of the ninth but took the lead in that inning thanks to RBI hits from shortstop Ethan Murray and catcher Michael Rothenberg. With the win, Duke is into the mid-60s in RPI. Finishing a series win at Clemson would be huge, and with series against Georgia Tech and Miami still to come, there’s time to build a postseason-quality resume.

Minnesota (17-18) grabbed an 8-1 win to begin a fun non-conference series at home against Oklahoma (25-14). Gophers righthander Sam Thoresen turned in his best outing of the season, throwing five shoutout innings with six strikeouts, and righthander Jake Stevenson closed it out with four innings, allowing just one run. Offensively, Minnesota jumped on Oklahoma righthander Cade Cavalli for four runs in the first, with the big blow coming on a three-run homer from third baseman Jack Wassel. The Gophers later scored three in the fifth, one of which came on an RBI double by catcher Eli Wilson, and the final tally, in the eighth, came courtesy of a solo homer by second baseman Riley Smith. This is an important series to the Gophers’ postseason hopes as they struggled early in non-conference play and dug themselves a hole they’re still working out of.

Central Arkansas won both ends of a doubleheader against Sam Houston State (22-14, 14-6), the leaders in the Southland Conference. The Bears (19-20, 10-7) got magnificent pitching in both games, as they held the Bearkats to two runs on 13 hits in 6-1 and 4-1 victories. Veteran righthander Cody Davenport threw a complete game in game 1, allowing four hits and one run with one walk and nine strikeouts. In game 2, freshman lefty Noah Cameron threw 6.2 innings, allowing six hits and one run, and righty Gavin Stone followed him with 2.1 scoreless innings to close it out.

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