College Baseball Takeaways: Leiter's Streak Ends But Vanderbilt Stays Hot
Jack Leiter’s Hitless Streak Snapped, But Vanderbilt Continues To Roll
Vanderbilt righthander Jack Leiter set college baseball—and beyond—abuzz in recent weeks with his remarkable hitless streak. He on March 20 threw a no-hitter against South Carolina in his SEC debut and followed it up the next week with seven hitless innings at Missouri.
Leiter carried that streak into his start Friday at Louisiana State. He again picked up where he had left off and held the Tigers hitless through four innings, recording 11 of the 12 outs via strikeout. But his latest no-hit bid came to an end in the fifth when Collier Cranford slapped a single through the right side of the infield.
After 20 hitless innings, Leiter’s streak had finally been snapped. It wasn’t enough to derail No. 2 Vanderbilt, however, as it cruised to an 11-2 victory to clinch a series win.
Leiter finished his night with a quality start, holding LSU to two runs (one earned) on three hits and three walks in six innings. He struck out 12.
Not only did Cranford come around to score in the fifth inning, but the Tigers added another run the following inning when Cade Doughty hit a solo home run. It was the first extra-base hit Leiter surrendered this season.
Even by Leiter’s incredible standards, it was a strong effort. He is now 7-0, 0.43 and leads the nation with 71 strikeouts in 42 innings.
While Vanderbilt (22-3, 7-1) continues to cruise behind its co-aces of Kumar Rocker and Leiter, LSU (17-10, 1-7) is struggling in a bad way. It has lost seven of its last nine games and is averaging just 2.88 runs per game in SEC play.
Adding to the Tigers problems, righthander Jaden Hill, a Preseason All-American, left Friday’s game in the second inning after just 37 pitches. Coach Paul Mainieri said while Hill didn’t have pain in his right elbow, something didn’t feel right. He will be examined Monday.
Arkansas, Ole Miss Bounce After Losses Thursday
No. 1 Arkansas and No. 3 Mississippi, the top two teams in the SEC West, both took tough losses Thursday in pitcher’s duels. On Friday, both the Razorbacks and Rebels bounced back to even their series against Auburn and Florida, respectively.
Arkansas needed a late rally at home in Baum-Walker Stadium to defeat Auburn, 6-5. The Tigers scored four runs in the first four innings and got a strong start from lefthander Jack Owen to carry a 4-0 lead into the final third of the game.
The Razorbacks (21-4, 6-2), who have shown a penchant for comebacks already this season, weren’t deterred. They took the lead with a five-run seventh inning as they batted around against four Tigers pitchers. When Auburn tied the game in the eighth, Arkansas came right back to take the lead in the bottom of the inning thanks to a bases-loaded wild pitch. Righthander Kevin Kopps blew Auburn away in the ninth for his third save of the season and set up a rubber game Saturday.
While Ole Miss’ 8-2 victory at No. 14 Florida was closer than the final score indicated. The Gators trailed for most of the game but tied the score at 2 in the seventh before the Rebels (21-5, 7-1) pulled away with six runs over the final two innings.
Shortstop Jacob Gonzalez led the way for Ole Miss, going 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBI. He was at the front of an impressive offensive outburst for the Rebels, who collected 11 hits, including three hits and a home run.
A day after Florida’s new tandem-starter strategy worked to a T with righthanders Franco Aleman and Tommy Mace stifling Ole Miss, the script flipped Friday. Righthander Christian Scott threw five strong innings, holding the Rebels to two runs, but they got to righthander Jack Leftwich for six runs on five hits and three walks in 3.1 innings.
With a showdown between Arkansas and Ole Miss looming next week, both SEC West heavyweights will on Saturday be looking for a strong finish to the weekend.
Washington Clinches Series At UCLA
After an 0-6 start in Pac-12 play, Washington deserves a ton of credit for getting off the mat and winning back-to-back games at No. 15 UCLA to secure its first conference series win. A six-run sixth inning, which featured a three-run double off the bat of shortstop Ramon Bramasco, made the difference for the Huskies in a 7-6 win.
But the continued struggles of UCLA (15-9, 4-4) are just as big a story, because the Bruins continue to be one of the toughest puzzles to solve in college baseball this season.
There have been times when UCLA has looked like the team it was expected to be as the Pac-12 favorite, like when it won a series with Arizona two weekends ago and when it came back from a Friday loss to secure a series win against crosstown rival Southern California last weekend.
But there have been just as many instances where the product on the field was unrecognizable from what we usually see with UCLA, and Friday’s loss to UW was another example.
Righthander Jesse Bergin gave up three runs in 5.1 innings, and furthermore, with just one strikeout, he really struggled to miss bats. Righthander Nick Nastrini, who has moved out of the rotation and into a bullpen role, came on in relief of Bergin and gave up three more runs in one-third of an inning, pushing his season ERA to 5.19. And while six runs isn’t a bad scoring output, UCLA did so on just six hits, one day after it did the exact same in an 8-6 loss.
Nothing for UCLA has gone cataclysmically bad this season, but it’s safe to say a lot of things haven’t gone quite as well as hoped. A team ERA of 3.51 is objectively pretty good, but through the lens of what we expected from UCLA this season, it’s high. The same can be said about a .271 team batting average, especially when you see that just two regulars, Kevin Kendall and J.T. Schwartz, are hitting above .300.
There is still plenty of time for the Bruins to straighten everything out, and perhaps that’s the safe bet to make, but with each passing week, it gets harder and harder to know what to expect with this team.
Arizona Clinches Rivalry Series Against Arizona State
For the second straight night, No. 16 Arizona came back to win a wild game against archrival Arizona State. On Friday, the Wildcats’ 7-6 victory clinched the series win.
The Wildcats (18-7, 5-3) fell behind three times Friday—3-0 in the first, 4-3 in the fifth and 6-4 in the seventh. But every time they had an answer and finally took the lead for the first time with a three-run eighth inning. Freshman DH Jacob Berry, the team’s leading hitter, delivered the go-ahead run with an RBI single.
Righthander Vince Vannelle and lefthander Preston Price combined to finish the game with two scoreless innings to make that slim advantage stand up. The Wildcats’ bullpen was impressive throughout the game, holding the Sun Devils to two runs on five hits and no walks in five innings.
Again Friday, Arizona’s offense won the battle against the Arizona State pitching staff. The Sun Devils came into the series with the second-best team ERA in the Pac-12, but the Wildcats have shown why they have the best offense in the nation. They have scored 17 runs in two games, already more than the Sun Devils allowed in any of their first six series.
The Pac-12 standings are still taking shape this early in the season, but on a weekend when UCLA, the preseason favorite, took a series loss, Arizona made a strong statement.
Kansas State Upsets Texas Tech
With a 7-2 win over No. 4 Texas Tech, Kansas State evened its series with the Red Raiders at home.
For the first time this season, a lineup was able to get to Texas Tech lefthander Patrick Monteverde. The Wildcats put three runs on him in the first on a solo home run by left fielder Cameron Uselton and a two-run shot from first baseman Dylan Phillips. They tagged him with three more runs in the third on an RBI single off the bat of right fielder Zach Kokoska and a two-run single from Phillips.
On the mound, righthander Carson Seymour put together his second consecutive solid start, holding the Red Raiders to just two runs in 5.2 innings despite allowing seven hits and five walks. Righthander Tyler Eckberg was unhittable in relief, giving up just one hit in 3.1 shutout innings with six strikeouts to close out the win. A win in the rubber game on Sunday could go a long way toward getting K-State headed in the right direction after a tough start to Big 12 play.
Missouri Baseball: Five Questions to Answer Entering 2022
Coming off of a tough 2021 season, Missouri has hit the reset button.
Ohio State Downs Indiana Behind Burhenn
One week after throwing seven shutout innings in a win against Iowa, Ohio State righthander Garrett Burhenn continued his run of good form. He threw six innings, giving up three hits and two runs in a 3-2 win against Indiana, which came to Columbus as the early leader in the Big Ten standings.
The Ohio State offense, which has really struggled outside of freshman outfielder Kade Kern this season, did a really nice job putting together good at-bats against Indiana lefthander Tommy Sommer. They touched him up for three runs on five hits and five walks in five innings of work. Leadoff hitter Sam Wilson led the way with a 3-for-3 day with two doubles and an RBI single.
It’s been an uneven start to the season for Ohio State (9-7), so parlaying Friday’s win into a weekend of success against a Big Ten title contender in Indiana (11-4) would be a massive result.
Wichita Sweeps Doubleheader At Houston
Wichita State made a huge statement in a quest to be thought of as a contender in the American Athletic Conference alongside No. 8 East Carolina with a doubleheader sweep of Houston on the road.
Wichita State righthander Preston Snavely did a nice job in game 1, giving up three hits and two runs with seven strikeouts in seven innings, which was enough to keep the Shockers in a 2-2 tie going to the top of the ninth. In that half-inning, third baseman Paxton Wallace lifted a solo home run to left field, putting his team up for good 3-2.
In the second game, righthander Jace Kaminska was even better than Snavely, as he threw seven shutout frames. A first-inning Wichita State run on a Garrett Kocis RBI double was the only run scored until the eighth, when the Shockers tacked on a second run on a Corrigan Bartlett RBI single.
As it turns out, that was a textbook definition insurance run because Houston scored in the bottom of the eighth, but righthander Aaron Haase was able to close it down in the ninth for his seventh save of the season in a 2-1 Wichita State victory.
To truly establish themselves as contenders, however, the Shockers (14-9, 2-1) could use a win in Saturday's finale to secure a big series win on the road.
Team Effort On The Mound Pushes Georgia To Victory
In a 5-3 win against No. 11 South Carolina, Georgia sent eight pitchers to the mound. Lefthander Luke Wagner got the start and threw three innings, giving up one hit and one run. From there, none of the other seven pitcher threw more than 1.1 innings, with the final six pitchers combining to hold the Gamecocks scoreless on three hits over the last five innings.
A three-run homer for first baseman David Mendham in the fourth put South Carolina on top 3-0, but Georgia clawed its way back in from there.
Right fielder Connor Tate hit a solo homer in the fourth. DH Corey Collins singled home a run in the sixth. Left fielder Riley King gave the UGA its first lead of the day on a two-run single in the seventh, and an insurance run came home in the eighth thanks to an error on South Carolina shortstop George Callil. Second baseman Josh McAllister also contributed with a 3-for-4 day.
After losing series to Tennessee and Texas A&M to begin SEC play, Georgia (18-7, 3-4) will undoubtedly be eager to come out Saturday and clinch its first conference series victory of the season.
Dixie State, Merrimack Throw No-Hitters
There were two no-hitters in Friday’s action, both thrown by Division I newcomers. Righthander Riley Sorenson threw a no-hitter in Merrimack’s 2-1 victory against Sacred Heart and righthander Jimmy Borzone threw a seven-inning no-hitter in Dixie State’s 5-1 victory against Tarleton State. Merrimack is in its second season in Division I, while Dixie State is playing its first year at the level.
Sorenson struck out eight batters, walked three and threw 98 pitches. The sixth-year senior retired the final 17 batters he faced. Sorenson is 4-1, 2.59 with 22 strikeouts and 12 walks in 31.1 innings this season.
As good as Sorenson was, the game was tied at 1 until the eighth inning. With two outs and runners on the corners, an error allowed the go-ahead run to score. Sorenson retired the Pioneers in order in the ninth to complete the third no-hitter in program history.
Across the country, Borzone threw the Trailblazers’ first no-hitter as a Division I program. He struck out eight, walked one and threw 97 pitches. The fourth-year junior retired the final 14 batters he faced to earn his first win of the season. Borzone’s gem came six years to the day after the only other no-hitter in program history, thrown by John Conquy against Fresno Pacific.
Dixie State (8-16, 6-9) swept the doubleheader against Tarleton State, a fellow Division I newcomer. After losing the opener Thursday, the Trailblazers have a chance Saturday to earn their first series win as a Division I program.
Will Dion, LHP, McNeese State: Dion threw a three-hit, seven-inning shutout in a 5-0 victory at Southeastern Louisiana, the Southland Conference leader. He struck out nine batters and walked one in his second shutout of the season. Dion improved to 3-3, 3.38 with 53 strikeouts and eight walks in 40 innings.
Trey Dombroski, LHP, and Dan Klepchick, RHP, Monmouth: With Dombroski and Klepchick leading the way, Monmouth swept a doubleheader against Sienna with a pair of shutout. Klepchick threw a three-hitter in the seven-inning opener, a 6-0 victory. He struck out nine and walked none. Dombroski followed with 10 strikeouts in seven scoreless innings in a 5-0 victory. As a team, Monmouth has won nine straight games and has a 24-inning scoreless streak.
Michael McGreevy, RHP, UC Santa Barbara: McGreevy threw a three-hit shutout in UCSB’s 3-0 victory at Hawaii. He struck out 10 batters, walked none and faced just two batters over the minimum. McGreevy is now 4-0, 2.42 with 51 strikeouts and five walks in 44.2 innings this season.
Brandon Petersen, LHP, Western Michigan: Petersen threw a one-hit shutout in a 10-0 victory against Akron that was shortened to seven innings due to a run rule. He struck out 12 batters, walked one and faced just one batter over the minimum. Petersen, a fifth-year junior, has been limited by injury over the last three years and on Friday made his first career start.
Nick Sinacola, RHP, Maine: Sinacola struck out 15 batters and threw a three-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory against Binghamton in a seven-inning game. Sinacola has been sensational this season. In four starts, he is 4-0, 1.01 with 54 strikeouts and nine walks in 26.2 innings – a strikeout rate of 18.22 per nine innings.