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College Baseball Takeaways: Arkansas Rallies, Oregon State Wins Rivalry

Arkansas Scratches, Claws Way to Victory Against Auburn

Despite it not always looking pretty and it feeling like a bit of a high-wire act at times this season, No. 5 Arkansas just continues to find ways to win games, and it did so again Friday in an 11-8 victory at No. 21 Auburn.

Auburn got to work against Arkansas righthander Connor Noland early, eventually scoring five runs (three earned) on six hits and three walks in four innings against him. Noland has been incredibly solid this season, but the five runs Friday are the most he’s given up in any start this season.

The Tigers (31-15, 12-10) led 5-0 after four innings, but then the Razorbacks' offense came alive, scoring two runs in the fifth, two in the sixth, four in the seventh, which gave them their first lead of the game, and three in the eighth. After scoring its first two runs against Auburn starter Mason Barnett, the bulk of the Arkansas scoring came against relievers Carson Skipper and Konner Copeland, who gave up a combined nine runs in 2.1 innings.

Arkansas catcher Michael Turner had three hits, second baseman Robert Moore and DH Kendall Diggs had a home run and three RBIs and right fielder Jace Bohrofen had a homer and two RBIs.

That kind of offensive production should be taken as very good news for the Arkansas lineup. Turner has been a key piece all season, but perhaps Moore’s standout game provides evidence that he’s rounding into form down the stretch after something of a sophomore slump of a season so far, and Diggs and Bohrofen would be two nice complementary pieces in the order if they can both get going.

Diggs has been a role player thus far, but with a walk-off home run against Mississippi last weekend and another round-tripper Friday, he appears to be hitting his stride, and Bohrofen has missed significant time with injury this season and could be getting comfortable at just the right time.

And therein lies the value in what Arkansas (35-11, 15-7) has been able to do this season. It hasn’t been easy, but the Razorbacks have muddled through it, and now they might be putting things together as the regular season nears its end.

Oregon State Stymies Oregon

No. 2 Oregon State defeated No. 24 Oregon, 5-1, to open the in-state rivalry series behind a strong start from ace Cooper Hjerpe and a patient approach at the plate.

Hjerpe struck out 11 batters in six innings and held the Ducks to one run on four hits and a walk. The lefthander was in control throughout his start and improved to 9-1, 2.08 with 120 strikeouts in 73.2 innings. Friday was his sixth straight quality start.

Righthander Ben Ferrer followed with three scoreless innings to earn his second save. He struck out six batters and has now thrown 15 straight scoreless innings, a streak that dates to April 14.

Oregon State's patient approach yielded 11 walks on the night. The Beavers took advantage of the wildness of the Ducks' pitchers to push ahead for good in the fourth inning when they scored two runs without collecting a hit. Four walks and a hit batter led to two runs, giving them a 3-1 lead that was more than enough for Hjerpe and Ferrer.

The Beavers improved to 3-0 this season against their in-state rivals (they previously played two mid-week games that don't count toward the Pac-12 standings). The Ducks average more than seven runs per game this year, but Oregon State has held them to three runs in three games. Solving the Beavers' pitching staff will be critical to Oregon getting something from this weekend in Corvallis.

Oregon State (36-9, 16-6) pushed its lead in the Pac-12 standings to 1.5 games ahead of second-place UCLA. Oregon (28-17, 13-9) is tied for third, three games back.

Boston College Upsets Florida State

After a pitcher’s duel between Boston College’s Joe Mancini and Florida State’s Parker Messick, the Eagles walked off with a 3-2 victory against the No. 15 Seminoles.

Messick was excellent for eight innings, holding BC to two runs on five hits and striking out 12 batters, but Florida State couldn’t solve Mancini. He threw nine innings and limited the Seminoles to two runs on five hits and no walks.

As good as Messick was, however, he exited the game after throwing 109 pitches in eight innings. With the Florida State ace out of the game, BC went to work. A hit batter, a single and a walk loaded the bases with no outs. Davis Hare, Florida State’s third pitcher of the inning, entered with the bases loaded and got a strikeout, but Daniel Baruch drew a bases-loaded walk to bring home the winning run.

Mancini has been hot for the last month for BC (19-28, 5-20), delivering four straight quality starts against North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and, now, Florida State. Friday night was his best start of the season, however, and he's now 4-3, 4.33 on the year.

For Florida State (26-17, 11-11), Friday’s loss was especially tough. The Seminoles last weekend swept an abbreviated two-game series against Texas Christian to push their RPI into the top 15 and into the range needed to host a regional. But losses to Stetson and BC have undone that work and now Florida State has fallen back to .500 in ACC play. The Seminoles will look to bounce back Saturday and need to finish the weekend strong.

Clemson Routs Georgia Tech

Using a combination of an early onslaught of runs and a good day on the mound for starter Mack Anglin, Clemson took down No. 23 Georgia Tech handily, 9-3.

Georgia Tech righthander John Medich came into Friday having turned in back-to-back solid starts the last two weekends, but Clemson got to him early and often this time around, and he exited after four innings of work, having given up eight hits and five runs.

Fully, the Tigers (29-17, 7-14) scored at least one run in five of their first six innings at the plate, taking a 9-0 lead to the seventh inning. To answer, the Yellow Jackets (27-19, 12-13) scored three runs in the top of the seventh, but that was all the damage they could do against Anglin.

The Clemson righthander threw seven innings, giving up five hits and three runs—three of the hits and all of the runs coming in the seventh—with one walk and eight strikeouts. It was Anglin’s longest outing of the season, the only time this season he’s issued just one walk and the eight strikeouts were his highest total since also punching out eight against North Carolina State on April 1.

Offensively, first baseman Bryar Hawkins led the way by going 3-for-5, while shortstop Benjamin Blackwell, left fielder Cooper Ingle and second baseman Blake Wright had two hits, and catcher Jonathan French homered.

Clemson is just about out of margin for error if it’s going to win enough ACC games to earn consideration for an at-large bid to regionals, so this win is obviously huge in that regard.

Georgia Tech also needs to pile up conference wins, but for a different reason. It has its eyes on hosting a regional, and its RPI has been an asset in that regard all season. But the up-and-down nature of the Yellow Jackets this season has made it so that it’s not clear if they are going to win enough games to let their RPI work for them, and with the loss to Clemson, their RPI is now outside the top 20, likely outside of hosting range.

This series might be more off the radar than most this weekend, but the stakes over the next two days are actually quite high for these two teams.

Vanderbilt Outslugs Georgia

Vanderbilt has been inconsistent offensively this season, particularly in SEC play, but on Friday, its lineup put together a complete performance in an 11-9 win at No. 22 Georgia.

The Commodores collected 16 hits and took nine walks on the way to scoring 11 runs, led by a 4-for-5 day with three stolen bases for center fielder and leadoff man Enrique Bradfield Jr., three-hit days for right fielder Spencer Jones and DH Javier Vaz, and homers for Vaz and first baseman Dominic Keegan.

The teams traded blows all night, almost in a literal sense, as they both scored runs in the same inning five different times, but Vandy (30-14, 11-11) first nosed ahead with a three-run top of the third that featured a Jones RBI double and a Keegan two-run homer, and it stayed out front the rest of the way despite Georgia continually applying pressure.

Three of the four Vanderbilt pitchers who took the mound surrendered runs, but righthander Thomas Schultz came on in the eighth and retired all five batters he faced to close out the win.

Georgia (31-15, 12-10) had a similar issue on the mound, as five of its six pitchers had runs scored against them, with only righthander Will Pearson, who recorded the last out for Georgia pitching, getting off the mound without a tally against him.

These two teams are in similar places as they come down the stretch. Both have RPIs that will make them locks to host if they can win enough SEC games the rest of the way. The next two games in this series will be massive for both sides for that reason.

ECU Beats Memphis In Duel Of No-Hitters

East Carolina lefthander C.J. Mayhue threw nine hitless innings and Memphis righthander Landon Gartman threw eight hitless innings in an incredible pitcher’s duel Friday. In the end, ECU defeated Memphis, 4-1, in 13 innings.

Mayhue faced just one batter more than the minimum in nine innings. A leadoff walk in the fourth inning was the lone blemish in his night, as he struck out nine batters and threw 101 pitches. He overmatched the Tigers and went to a three-ball count just twice after the walk in the fourth.

Mayhue, a third-year sophomore, was making just his sixth start of the season (and his career). He’s mostly been a reliever for the Pirates and Friday was by far his longest outing, surpassing last week’s four innings and 67 pitches against Cincinnati.

While Mayhue worked on his gem, Gartman was matching him zero for zero. Gartman threw eight hitless innings before turning the game over to the bullpen. He struck out 10 and walked four batters. He wasn’t as efficient as Mayhue, as he threw 131 pitches, but he was as effective.

Once the game was turned over to the bullpens, both offenses found easier sledding and broke up the no-hit bids. Both teams recorded their first hit of the night in their first at-bats against a reliever but still couldn’t push any runs across until the 13th inning.

ECU finally broke through, stringing together two walks, three singles, a sacrifice fly and an error. Memphis tried to start a rally in the bottom of the inning as Chris Swanberg hit a lead off home run, but righthander Carter Spivey retired the next three batters to end the game.

With the win, ECU (28-18, 12-4) maintained its one-game lead in the American Athletic Conference standings. Houston and UCF are just off the pace with eight games left in the season.

Harney, Sean (Kentucky Sarah Caputi)

Alabama, Kentucky Keep NCAA Tournament Hopes Alive With Crucial Wins

At the SEC Tournament on Wednesday, Alabama and Kentucky both won games critical for keeping their NCAA Tournament hopes alive.

Old Dominion Tops Southern Miss

Despite a strong start from Southern Mississippi ace Tanner Hall, Old Dominion defeated the No. 13 Golden Eagles, 4-1.

Hall struck out 14 batters in eight innings and held the Monarchs to three runs on eight hits and no walks. His 14 strikeouts were a season high, and it was a strong bounce back after a tough start last week against Alabama-Birmingham.

Hall’s performance wasn’t enough for a win in part because ODU lefthander Blake Morgan nearly matched him. Morgan held Southern Miss to one run and scattered seven hits and a walk over seven innings. Closer Jason Hartline followed with two scoreless innings, working around three walks to earn his fifth save of the season.

First baseman Matt Courtney went 3-for-5 with a home run and a double to lead the Monarchs (30-12, 12-10) offensively. Outfielder Robbie Petracci added a homer of his own, as ODU made use of the long ball as it has all season. The Monarchs have hit 97 home runs, trailing only Tennessee on the national leaderboard.

It was an important win for ODU, which is trying to work its way into the NCAA Tournament picture. Finishing off a series win in Hattiesburg would be a big boost.

Southern Miss (35-11, 17-5) now has lost three of its last four Conference USA games after starting conference play 16-2. It remains in first place, two games ahead of second-place Texas-San Antonio, and in position to host a regional, but a second straight series loss would be a blow. The Golden Eagles need to bounce back Saturday.

Austin Peterson Dazzles In UConn Win Against Creighton

In a series likely to determine the Big East regular-season champion, Connecticut struck first with a 3-1 win against Creighton behind a strong effort on the mound by Austin Peterson.

The righthander threw eight innings, giving up three hits and one unearned run with one walk and nine strikeouts. After giving up the only run he allowed in the fifth inning, which was scored on an RBI groundout in addition to being unearned, Peterson retired the final 12 batters he faced, including going three up and three down in each of his final three innings before turning the ball over to Justin Willis, who stranded the tying run on first base in the ninth for his 12th save of the season.

Peterson’s numbers for the season are quietly among the best among any starter in college baseball. He’s 9-0 with a 2.66 ERA, 103 strikeouts compared to 11 walks and a .221 opponent batting average in 81.1 innings.

As it turns out, UConn (38-8, 12-1) needed every bit of that performance from Peterson, because Creighton (25-13, 10-3) got a start nearly as good from righthander Dylan TeBrake. He threw eight innings—a complete game, given that the Huskies didn’t bat in the ninth—giving up seven hits and three runs with two walks and 13 strikeouts.

The big blow for the Huskies offensively came in the bottom of the seventh inning in the form of a two-run homer for catcher Matt Donlan to break a 1-1 tie.

The win puts UConn two games up on Creighton in the Big East standings, but that still leaves much to be decided this weekend. Should the Bluejays come back to win the final two games of the series, they would be tied with the Huskies and would own the tiebreaker. But if UConn wins at least one more game this weekend, it will be very much in control of the conference title race.

Rain Washes Away Several Key Games Friday

Across the country, but especially on the East Coast, weather played a big factor in Friday's lineup. Several key games were postponed or suspended, leaving a lighter slate of games.

Perhaps the biggest game to be impacted by the weather was No. 1 Tennessee at Kentucky. The Wildcats upset the Volunteers in 13 innings in Thursday's opener and were up 4-2 in the eighth inning Friday, just five outs away from clinching a massive series win, when the game went into rain delay. It will resume Saturday.

A first-place showdown in the Big Ten between No. 19 Maryland and Rutgers was pushed back a day, and the rivalry series between North Carolina and North Carolina State was also delayed. All the delays and suspensions will make for a busy Saturday—if the rain stays away.

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