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College Baseball Roundup: Loaded SEC Slate Produces Drama, Texas Tech Rides Again

Antoine-Duplantis
LSU outfielder Antoine Duplantis

A Dramatic Friday In The SEC

The depth of the Southeastern Conference, which has 10 teams ranked in this week’s Top 25, means that there are always intriguing matchups to be found. That is the case this weekend, and Friday night delivered a compelling night of baseball across the conference.

Friday night’s games included No. 16 Auburn scoring six unanswered runs at No. 2 Mississippi State to erase a 5-0 deficit and win, 6-5, at Dudy Nobel Field. No. 12 Louisiana State beat No. 11 Georgia, 1-0, in Athens in a classic pitchers’ duel between Zack Hess and Emerson Hancock. No. 5 Vanderbilt routed No. 9 Florida, 15-2, to clinch a key series win in Nashville. No. 17 Texas A&M came back to beat Kentucky, 5-3, in Lexington. Missouri upset No. 18 Mississippi, 2-1, in a taut pitchers’ duel in Columbia, and No. 15 Arkansas and Tennessee both rolled to blowout wins against Alabama and No. 24 South Carolina, respectively.

Auburn’s game at Mississippi State promised one of the best pitching matchups of the year with sophomore righthander Tanner Burns taking on junior lefthander Ethan Small. But the Bulldogs did what no one had done yet this season and got to Burns, scoring four runs off the Preseason All-American in the first inning. Burns settled into the game and held the Bulldogs to two hits and a walk over the next four innings, but with Small on the mound, mounting a comeback seemed unlikely.

But the Tigers did just that. Steven Williams and Rankin Wooley hit back-to-back solo homers in the sixth inning off Small, and the Tigers then continued to go to work against the Bulldogs’ bullpen, adding two more runs in both the seventh and eighth innings. Ultimately, it was freshman center fielder Kason Howell who struck the final blow with a two-out single in the eighth to drive in the go-ahead run.

Closer Cody Greenhill threw the final two innings for his fourth save of the year, and Auburn extended its winning streak to 15 games. The Tigers are now 20-2 (4-0 SEC) and have a chance to clinch a huge road series win with another victory over the next two days. Mississippi State (20-3, 2-2 SEC), meanwhile, will look to rebound quickly with freshman righthander JT Ginn on the mound Saturday and avoid its first series loss at the new Dude.

Auburn is one of four SEC West teams that are off to 4-0 starts in conference play. Arkansas and Texas A&M also reached the mark by winning a road game Friday, but it was LSU’s win at Georgia that will have caught the most eyes.

Hess, a Preseason All-American, and Hancock, a potential first-round pick next year, produced the pitchers’ duel that was expected from Burns and Small. Hess struck out nine and scattered eight hits in eight innings. Hancock held LSU to one run on two hits and two walks, striking out four.

The lone breakthrough came in the seventh inning, when senior outfielder Antoine Duplantis led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly from Daniel Cabrera.

The victory was LSU’s first on the road this season, and the Tigers (17-5, 4-0 SEC) will now look to close out a marquee road series win. The Bulldogs (19-3, 3-1 SEC), coming off a big road series win of their own last weekend at South Carolina, will need to bounce back quickly Saturday.

The third Top 25 matchup of the weekend didn’t provide nearly as much drama. After opening its series against Florida with a 5-0 victory Thursday, Vanderbilt clinched the series win Friday with a 15-2 rout.

The Commodores opened a big early lead, scoring eight runs in 3.2 innings against sophomore righthander Jack Leftwich, and senior righthander Patrick Raby (6 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 6 BB, 7 K) and a trio of relievers made sure it stood up. Seniors Stephen Scott (4-for-4, 3 R) and Ethan Paul (5-for-6, 3 R, 6 RBIs) led the offense.

Vanderbilt (18-5, 3-2 SEC) has a chance for a statement sweep Saturday, while Florida (16-9, 1-4 SEC) needs to find a way to salvage the finale to avoid slipping further behind in the division standings.

If Friday night was any indication, the rest of the weekend around the SEC should be must-see.

Texas Tech Captures Series with Michigan Behind Kilian, 11-Run Outburst

No. 23 Michigan has made their mark this season holding down opposing offenses. Coming into their weekend in Lubbock, Texas, where they will take on No. 13 Texas Tech for three games before playing Stetson, the Wolverines had yet to allow an opponent to score double-digit runs in any single game.

Now, Texas Tech has done it twice in two games against Michigan pitching, with a 10-3 win on Friday after taking an 11-2 win on Thursday.

Thursday, the Red Raiders (14-5) got to Michigan lefthander Tommy Henry for six runs in 4.2 innings of work, although all of those runs were unearned as part of a six-run fifth inning that saw the Wolverines commit two crucial defensive miscues.

On Friday, the Red Raiders got to Michigan (14-6) and righthander Karl Kauffman for six runs (five earned) on nine hits in five innings, with the last four of those runs coming as part of a five-run sixth inning that provided Texas Tech with some separation in what was a 2-2 game heading into that inning.

It’s the first time this season that Kauffman has given up more than two earned runs in a start, and the nine hits are the most he’s allowed all season.

First baseman Cameron Warren led the way for Texas Tech with a 3-for-4 showing with two RBIs, while DH Cody Masters, second baseman Brian Klein, right fielder Tanner O’Tremba and left fielder Max Marusak each added two hits.

This type of offensive output has to be a sight for sore eyes for Texas Tech coach Tim Tadlock, as his team has a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde act going offensively. Two weeks ago, the Red Raiders scored 42 runs in a three-game sweep against Wichita State, albeit against a Shockers pitching staff that might have been a bit overmatched.

Sandwiched around that weekend, though, they scored three runs in two games against Nebraska and Mississippi State in their tournament down in Frisco, Texas, and last weekend, they managed just six runs in series loss to Texas.

With the talent level present in the Red Raiders' lineup, their success this weekend is more in line with what you would typically expect.

Another bit of good news for Texas Tech was the performance of righthander Caleb Kilian, who threw six innings, giving up five hits and two runs (one earned) with no walks and six strikeouts.

That’s two good starts in a row for Kilian. Last week against Texas, he threw seven shutout innings, allowing just one hit. After going into the Texas series with an ERA of 9.19, Kilian now has that figure down to a much more palatable 5.34.

The Red Raiders came into the season looking for Kilian to lead a weekend rotation that had some question marks, and over the last two weeks, he’s been that guy. With Kilian now looking the part and an offense showing signs of coming around, things are looking up for Texas Tech.

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Ace Watch

Friday night is for college baseball's aces. Here we highlight some of the best pitching performances of the day.

Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville: Detmers has been a regular in this space this season as the sophomore has established himself as a premium arm in the 2020 draft. But he hasn’t had a night like he did Friday against Georgia Tech. In 7.2 innings, Detmers struck out 16 batters and held the Yellow Jackets to two runs on four hits and two walks. It wasn’t quite enough, however, as Georgia Tech upset No. 10 Louisville, 3-1.

Mason Feole, LHP, Connecticut: Feole began the year sidelined by injury and has worked his way back into the rotation in the last couple weeks. But Friday, in a 2-1 victory at Houston, he was back in dominant form. The All-American struck out eight batters and held the Cougars to one run (unearned) on three hits and five walks.

Tim Luth, RHP, North Carolina A&T: In a showdown between two of the best teams in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, Luth threw a three-hitter and A&T (12-9, 3-1 MEAC) beat Bethune-Cookman, 3-0. The senior struck out three batters, walked one and threw 112 pitches to improve to 3-1, 3.40.

Andre Pallante, RHP, UC Irvine: Pallante continued in his impressive form and threw seven scoreless innings against Washington State to run his consecutive scoreless innings streak to 25, breaking the program record of 23 set in 2014 by Andrew Morales. Pallante finished the night with five strikeouts and held the Cougars to two hits and two walks. He improved to 4-1, 2.02 with 40 strikeouts and 11 walks in 35.2 innings.

Walker Powell, RHP, Southern Mississippi: In an 11-0 victory against Old Dominion, Powell threw a three-hit shutout. He struck out six batters, walked none and threw just 97 pitches for the first complete game of his career. Southern Miss (13-6, 4-0 CUSA) has won nine of its last 10 games, and Powell improved to 2-0, 2.12.

Around The Horn

—  Virginia Tech lefthander Ian Seymour took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against No. 8 North Carolina (16-7, 2-5 ACC) on Friday afternoon, and while he lost the no-no on a Danny Serretti single, he did finish off a complete-game effort in the Hokies’ 4-1 win over the Tar Heels, allowing three hits and one run along the way. Offensively, DH Luke Horanski connected for a two-run home run in the fifth inning to give Virginia Tech some breathing room. At 16-6 overall and 4-3 in ACC play, the Hokies have proven they are much improved in 2019, and they’ll look to add their first marquee series win of the season by grabbing one more win this weekend.

Georgia Tech (15-7, 4-3 ACC) took home a 3-1 victory over No. 10 Louisville (17-5, 5-2 ACC) behind an outstanding outing from righthander Xzavion Curry, who threw eight innings, giving up just one hit and one run with two walks and nine strikeouts. The Yellow Jackets scored a run in the seventh on a Colin Hall sacrifice fly and another in the eighth on a Kyle McCann RBI double, prior to Baron Radcliff adding insurance on a solo homer in the ninth. Georgia Tech has claimed big series-opening wins twice this season in what would have been marquee series wins, against UCLA at home and against Miami on the road, but has eventually come up short in each. The Yellow Jackets will look to turn the tide this weekend.

Texas Christian (14-6, 1-0 Big 12) got its Big 12 slate off to a dramatic start with a 3-2 walk-off win over No. 4 Texas (16-9, 2-2 Big 12). Trailing 2-0 going into the bottom of the ninth, the Horned Frogs got to righthander Bryce Elder, who had been fantastic to that point, for a run, and then added two more against righthander Kamron Fields, with the winning run touching home on an Adam Oviedo RBI single. Lefthander Nick Lodolo added another big-time performance to his season resume, throwing eight innings, giving up nine hits and just one run with two walks and nine strikeouts. TCU has been lying in the weeds a little bit after getting bounced from the Top 25 rankings a few weeks back, but it would make a huge statement with a series win over the Longhorns.

— No. 20 Arizona State stayed undefeated at 21-0 with a 12-2 win over Oregon (11-8, 1-3 Pac-12). Center fielder Hunter Bishop stayed hot, going 2-for-4 with two home runs, his 13th and 14th of the season. First baseman Spencer Torkelson added a home run of his own, his third of the season. On the mound, lefthander Alec Marsh walked five in 6.2 innings, but he danced around those free passes and three hits to hold the Ducks scoreless. Oregon, meanwhile, continues to look for answers on the mound. Righthander Cullen Kafka surrendered six runs in 3.1 innings of work, and with Kenyon Yovan still on the shelf due to hand discomfort, that’s a concern.

— No. 14 East Carolina (16-6, 1-0 AAC) captured a 13-8 win over Central Florida (15-7, 0-1 AAC) in a pivotal first game of American Athletic Conference play for each team. The ECU offense blitzed Knights’ righthander Chris Williams for 10 runs (seven earned) in three innings of work, and even as UCF worked to get back into the game, the Pirates kept them at arm’s length. Spencer Brickhouse led the way with a 3-for-5 day that included a double, a triple and four RBIs. Two-way standout Alec Burleson started the game at first base before moving to the mound for two key innings of relief. He’s yet to allow a run in his eight innings since moving into a bullpen role.

Arkansas State (15-7) moved to 4-0 in Sun Belt play with an impressive 6-0 win over visiting South Alabama (11-9, 2-2 Sun Belt). A-State righthander Zach Jackson threw 6.1 shutout innings to hold the Jaguars’ offense at bay, and first baseman Kyle MacDonald showed signs of breaking out with a 2-for-4 day with three RBIs. No. 19 Coastal Carolina (17-4-1, 4-0 Sun Belt) is the clear frontrunner in the Sun Belt this season, but with traditional league powers South Alabama and Louisiana-Lafayette (10-13, 2-2 Sun Belt) off to somewhat sluggish starts, perhaps there is an opening for the Red Wolves to compete at the top of the league with the Chanticleers.

— You may remember earlier this season that New Mexico State and their prolific offense made life tough on Texas Southern pitching, at one point scoring 38 runs in one game against the Tigers. On Friday, it must have felt nice for TSU (5-15) to be able to do the same to someone else, and doing it against rival Prairie View A&M (5-16) had to make it even sweeter. The Tigers took home a 34-2 victory over the Panthers, enjoying a six-run first inning, a seven-run third inning, a nine-run fourth inning, and a nine-run sixth inning in what ended up being a shortened seven-inning contest. Five different Tigers had three or more hits, led by third baseman Keanu Van Kuren, who went 4-for-6 and right fielder Olajide Oloruntimilehin, who only had two hits, but had seven RBIs to his name.

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