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College Baseball Roundup: Texas, Nebraska Earn Marquee Wins, Duke Throws No-Hitter

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Duke Ellis (Photo by John Williamson)

Texas Strikes First

In the weekend’s marquee series, a matchup in Austin of No. 2 Louisiana State and No. 19 Texas, the hosts wasted no time making a statement. The Longhorns on Friday beat the Tigers, 8-1, handing them their first defeat of the season.

LSU came into the weekend 8-0 and riding high. But this weekend represents their first significant test after a relatively easy start to the season. The Tigers took an early lead, scoring a run in the first inning against new Longhorns ace Bryce Elder, but not much would go their way the rest of the night.

Texas scored eight unanswered runs to roll to a big victory at Disch-Falk Field. The Longhorns knocked Preseason All-American righthander Zack Hess out of the game after four innings, having scored three runs on six hits and four walks. They continued to beat up the Tigers’ bullpen, scoring five runs in the seventh inning to break the game open.

Every part of the Texas lineup got in on the fun, as they totaled 11 hits and nine walks. Center fielder Duke Ellis went 2-for-3 with a home run and two walks to lead the way, but every starter had at least one hit or walk.

Elder continued his impressive start to the season, as he held LSU’s potent lineup to one run (unearned) on four hits and three walks in 6.2 innings. Elder improved to 2-0, 0.44 with 22 strikeouts and six walks in 20.2 innings this season. His success has been a revelation for Texas, which lost two-thirds of its rotation from last year.

After losing several key pieces from last year’s College World Series team, including Golden Spikes Award finalist Kody Clemens and those starting pitchers, Texas came into the year with some question marks. It did its best to answer those questions in the first two weeks of the season, picking up quality series wins at Louisiana-Lafayette and against Purdue. But if the Longhorns can now close out a series win against LSU over the next two days, they would make their biggest statement yet.

Duke Throws Combined No-Hitter

Facing Penn State in Bradenton, Fla., three Duke pitchers combined for a no-hitter as the No. 22 Blue Devils routed the Nittany Lions, 14-0. It marked the first no-hitter for Duke since Tom Blackburn threw one against Rollins (Fla.) in 1955.

Preseason All-American lefthander Graeme Stinson started the game and went five innings, striking out five and walking two. Lefthander Matthew Dockman kept the bid going for one inning before turning the game over to freshman righthander Jack Carey, who threw the final three innings to seal the no-hitter.

Stinson improved to 2-0, 0.00 with 18 strikeouts and four walks in 12 innings. He has allowed just two hits.

Duke (8-1) was in front the whole game, as it opened the scoring in the top of the first inning. It added four runs in the third and then removed all doubt with a nine-run seventh inning. The Blue Devils took advantage of 11 walks and four Nittany Lions errors. Senior center fielder Kennie Taylor led the offense, going 2-for-5 with a home run, a triple, four RBIs and three runs.

While it is off to an excellent start, the level of competition will rachet up for Duke starting next week, when it opens Atlantic Coast Conference play at Virginia. No. 12 Louisville heads to Durham the following weekend.

Nebraska Bounces Back

The first day of action at the Frisco College Classic provided two exciting games, as No. 9 Mississippi State edged Sam Houston State, 5-4, and Nebraska upset No. 8 Texas Tech, 2-1, in the nightcap.

Nebraska’s win was a huge one, as it came to Frisco on the heels of getting swept by Oregon State in a four-game series last weekend in Arizona. The Huskers (4-5) snapped the Red Raiders’ six-game winning streak with an impressive pitching performance and a couple clutch hits in the seventh inning to produce two runs.

Senior righthander Matt Waldron made his first start of the season and held Texas Tech’s powerful lineup to one run on four hits and one walk in five innings. Righthander Chad Luensmann, who missed last season due to Tommy John surgery, came out of the bullpen to throw three scoreless innings. Colby Gomes slammed the door with a scoreless ninth inning.

Nebraska on Saturday takes on Sam Houston State before finishing the weekend against Mississippi State. Another victory would make for a successful weekend in Texas for the Huskers, who could use some momentum as they navigate a very difficult nonconference slate.

Texas Tech, meanwhile, has now lost two of its first three weekend openers. While its pitching staff seemed to be a work in progress the first two weekends, it got a strong start against Nebraska from lefthander Erikson Lanning, who struck out seven and scattered two hits and a walk in five scoreless innings.

Instead, it was the Red Raiders’ potent offense that went cold. They managed just four hits and five walks, while striking out 13 times. Josh Jung (2-for-4), Gabe Holt (1-for-4, BB) and Brian Klein (1-for-2, 2 BB) combined for all four hits and three of the five walks. The rest of the lineup combined to go 0-for-21 with two walks.

Texas Tech (6-2) will look to get back on track Saturday in a much-anticipated matchup against Mississippi State and blue-chip freshman righthander JT Ginn, before closing the tournament Sunday against Sam Houston State.

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Vanderbilt Clinches SEC Title, Stanford Starts Strong

Vanderbilt clinched the SEC title and Stanford opened a pivotal series against Oregon State with a win.

Ace Watch

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

Logan Allen, LHP, Florida International: In a 2-1 victory at Jacksonville State, Allen struck out 12 batters in five scoreless innings. The sophomore scattered two hits and three walks. Allen is 1-1, 2.25 with 31 strikeouts and seven walks in 16 innings this season.

Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn: Burns, one of the top prospects in the 2020 draft class, dominated Cincinnati in a 5-0 victory for No. 18 Auburn. The sophomore struck out 15 batters and threw a two-hit shutout. His 15 strikeouts matched a program record shared by five other pitchers, including Casey Mize and Tim Hudson. Despite all the strikeouts, Burns was very efficient, needing 104 pitches to finish his first career complete game. The Preseason All-American improved to  2-0, 0.92 with 29 strikeouts and three walks in 19.2 innings.

Isaiah Campbell, RHP, Arkansas: Campbell has pitched well this spring as he has moved to the front of the Razorbacks' rotation, but on Friday turned in his best start of the young season. In a 3-1 victory against Stony Brook, the America East Conference favorite, he struck out 13 batters in seven scoreless innings and held the Sea Wolves to three hits and one walk. Campbell, a redshirt junior, improved to 3-0, 3.12 with 23 strikeouts and three walks in 17.1 innings.

Tommy Henry, LHP, Michigan: Perhaps no pitcher has started the season better than Henry. The junior dominated again as Michigan beat Cal State Northridge, 2-1, to improve to 7-0. Henry struck out 12 batters in eight scoreless innings and held the Matadors to three hits and a walk. He is now 3-0, 0.00 with 34 strikeouts and two walks in 23 innings.

Kade Mechals, RHP, Grand Canyon: After beating Southern California, 4-2, on Friday, the Antelopes are now 3-0 in weekend openers with victories against Wichita State and Texas Christian. Mechals is a big reason for GCU’s Friday night success. At USC, he struck out seven batters and held the Trojans to two hits and two walks in six scoreless innings. The junior improved to 3-0, 0.49 with 22 strikeouts and five walks in 18.1 innings.

Around The Horn

— The Reedy River Rivalry between South Carolina and Clemson is one of college baseball’s best and is annually a tight, competitive series. This year’s opener didn’t disappoint Friday, as South Carolina beat No. 14 Clemson, 5-4. It is the fourth year in a row that the Gamecocks have opened the series with a win, but in the last three instances, the Tigers have come back to win the series. South Carolina did all its damage on two second-inning home runs, a two-run shot from Andrew Eyster and a three-run homer from T.J. Hopkins. The Gamecocks will look to break the Tigers’ four-year winning streak in the series with a victory Saturday as the series moves to Greenville, S.C., before continuing on to Columbia, S.C., for Sunday’s finale.

California first baseman Andrew Vaughn is on a tear. The 2018 Golden Spikes Award winner went 4-for-5 with two home runs in Cal’s 13-1 drubbing of Saint Mary’s in the nightcap of their doubleheader. Through nine games, Vaughn is hitting .500/.667/1.033 with five home runs, 15 walks and just five strikeouts.

— The Mountain West Conference opened league play Friday and the first game supplied a big upset. Air Force (6-3) beat San Diego State, 9-5, to run its winning streak to four games. The Aztecs (5-4), are the defending Mountain West Tournament champions, and are coming off a solid showing last weekend in the Tony Gwynn Classic. The Falcons have put together an impressive week, sweeping Navy in a Sunday doubleheader in Kinston, N.C., and then beating No. 11 East Carolina on Monday, before returning home for the start of conference play.

Maryland, coming off a disappointing 2018 season that saw it go 24-30 and miss the Big Ten Conference Tournament, started the season 0-2 with losses to Campbell and Coastal Carolina. Since then, however, the Terrapins are on a six-game winning streak, which they extended Friday with a 4-2 victory at Louisiana-Lafayette. Sophomore outfielder Randy Bednar, who came to school as a highly touted recruit but struggled as a freshman, produced a key RBI double Friday and is hitting .348/.462/.625 to lead the team.

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