College Baseball Takeaways: Louisville, Texas Score Big Wins Friday
Louisville Offense Explodes At Georgia Tech
The Louisville lineup has been inconsistent to begin the season, especially in surprising losses to Western Illinois and Morehead State, but on Friday it had no trouble scoring runs in a 13-6 win at No. 14 Georgia Tech.
With two runs in the first via a Cameron Masterman two-RBI single, five more in the second and then three runs in the fourth, the fourth-ranked Cardinals got off to a quick start and never looked back.
This was a textbook complete offensive performance for the Cardinals (7-2). Catcher Henry Davis and left fielder Trey Leonard both had two hits including a home run. Right fielder Luke Brown also had two hits. Eight different players had a hit, they drew 11 total walks and were hit a pitch three times. For good measure, they also swiped five bases.
Third baseman Alex Binelas, mired in a bad slump to begin this season, might not have had a breakout game, but he did get a hit and drove in a run with a bases-loaded walk, and perhaps that’s a step in the right direction.
With that type of run support, Louisville didn’t need any excellent pitching performances, but it got one from lefthander Michael Kirian, who threw six innings, giving up four hits and one run with no walks and three strikeouts. That will help the Louisville pitching staff throughout the weekend, as it is still without the services of Opening Day starter Glenn Albanese, who is out for the second straight weekend.
Meanwhile, questions about Georgia Tech’s pitching will continue. One week after delivering a standout start against North Carolina State, lefthander Brant Hurter surrendered seven runs in 1.2 innings and three different relievers were tagged with runs before it was all said and done. Offensively, Georgia Tech (6-3) will be able to compete with just about anyone on its best days, but it will need more on the mound moving forward.
Ty Madden Dominant For Texas
Righthander Ty Madden this fall took a step forward, impressing the Texas staff and scouts alike with his powerful arsenal. He was already the Longhorns’ ace but after what he showed, the hype only grew. He was voted a first-team Preseason All-American by major league scouting directors and the promise of a rotation led by Madden helped push the Longhorns into the top 15 in the Preseason Top 25.
On Friday, Madden delivered on that hype. Facing Houston on the road in the first game of a tricky series for No. 20 Texas, he put the Longhorns on his back. He threw a two-hit shutout, striking out 14, to lead Texas to a 1-0 victory.
Madden (2-1, 1.35) became the first Longhorn to throw a shutout since Nolan Kingham did so in 2017. His 14 strikeouts were a career high and all but two were swinging.
Madden, listed at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, was still throwing in the upper 90s in the ninth inning and he did a good job of commanding his three-pitch mix throughout the game. He walked just two batters and worked efficiently on the night, throwing 110 pitches.
Texas needed Madden’s gem because Houston lefthander Robert Gasser stymied its offense all night. He threw seven scoreless innings before the Longhorns finally broke the deadlock in the eighth inning thanks to four straight walks by reliever Derrick Cherry. The Longhorns managed just five hits and six walks on the night, but with Madden dealing on the mound, they didn’t need any more.
Since a disappointing 0-3 showing in the State Farm College Baseball Classic on Opening Weekend, Texas (6-4) has bounced back well. With another win in Houston this weekend, it will be building some real momentum going into a big series next weekend against South Carolina and the start of Big 12 play the following week. Madden, meanwhile, is building a case as a top-10 pick, which would make him the first Longhorn drafted in the first round in a decade.
But no matter how the rest of the weekend unfolds, Friday night was a pure show of force for the Texas ace.
Virginia Tech Rallies For Big Win
Virginia Tech and North Carolina last week scored upset series wins to open ACC play, setting up a top-20 showdown this weekend in Blacksburg. The No. 16 Hokies, on Friday playing their first game as a ranked team since 2013, overcame a slow start to claim a 10-6 victory.
The 17th-ranked Tar Heels opened a 6-1 lead in the fifth inning and appeared to be on the verge of breaking the game open. But lefthander Ryan Okuda allowed just one run before he escaped the bases-loaded, one-out situation he inherited, and the Hokies rode that momentum the rest of the way.
VT scored seven runs in the bottom of the inning and added two more in the sixth. Its bullpen, which has been the strength of the team so far, held UNC scoreless for the final four innings to finish the victory. Closer Shane Connolly got the final five outs – all by strikeout – to pick up his fourth save of the season. He anchors a bullpen that even after giving up two runs Friday has held opponents to just six runs in 29.2 innings (1.82 ERA).
The Hokies combined to strike out 21 batters Friday, the most for the program since it joined the ACC in 2005. Lefthander Peyton Alford struck out 10 batters in 4.1 innings before turning the game over to the bullpen, which saw Okuda, Jaison Heard and Connolly combine for 11 strikeouts. It was an impressive display for a staff that has quietly made steady progress over the last four years under pitching coach Ryan Fecteau.
The Hokies (6-1, 3-1) are off to a stellar start to the season and are just win away from opening ACC play with series wins against Miami and UNC, two of the perennial contenders in the Coastal Division. If VT can close out a series win this weekend, it will have laid down a clear marker as a contender for the conference title.
Parker Messick Gets Florida State Back On Track
Florida State last weekend was swept out of the Top 25 when it was stunned at home by Pittsburgh on the opening weekend of ACC play. It marked the first time the Seminoles had been swept in a three-game series since 2017 and left them just 2-4 on the season.
After its game Tuesday against Mercer was rained out, Florida State entered its series against No. 8 Virginia needing something to get it back on track. Lefthander Parker Messick delivered a start that was that.
The second-year freshman struck out 11 batters in eight scoreless innings. He held the Cavaliers to three hits and did not walk a batter (though he hit two). Righthander Hunter Perdue threw a scoreless ninth inning to earn his first save.
Messick was outstanding out of the bullpen during 2020 when he went 1-1, 0.77 over 11.2 innings. He hadn’t matched that success in his new role of Friday starter, however. He struggled on Opening Day against North Florida before rounding into better form against Pitt, but still taking a hard-luck loss in a 1-0 setback.
Messick showed what he’s capable of against Virginia, however. He didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and retired the last eight batters he faced – striking out half of them. Just two runners advanced to scoring position against him and the Cavaliers went 0-for-3 with a hit batter in those situations.
The Seminoles needed Messick at his best against an impressive Virginia pitching staff. Lefthander Andrew Abbott struck out 14 batters in 5.2 innings. Florida State had just two hits and four walks against the fourth-year junior, but made them count and scratched out two runs. On the night, Florida State struck out 18 times.
Messick’s start Friday made it clear that he has the talent to deliver on his potential and lead the Florida State rotation. With 10 more ACC series to play, that’s great news for the Seminoles.
Oral Roberts Shocks Louisiana State in Blowout Fashion
In Friday’s biggest head-scratcher, Oral Roberts routed No. 12 Louisiana State, 22-7.
Shocking event No. 1 in this game was that the Golden Eagles were all over LSU righthander Jaden Hill, a first-team Preseason All-American. They scored eight runs off him in just one-third of an inning. It wasn’t much of a surprise that the Tigers (8-2) got right back into the game, scoring seven total runs in the first two innings, but that just led to shocking event No. 2, ORU running away with the game thanks to an 11-run fourth inning and a three-run fifth.
For Oral Roberts (3-6), second baseman Ryan Cash, first baseman Jake McMurray and right fielder Caleb Denny all had three hits, with Denny also driving in six runs. On the mound, after LSU chased starting pitcher James Notary after one inning, righthander Evan Kowalski was excellent, throwing seven shutout innings, giving up two hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
Arkansas Survives Scare From Murray State
Given that each of the last two teams ranked No. 1 lost their series the following weekend, it was very on brand for the 2021 college baseball season that No. 1 Arkansas found itself in a fight Friday night against Murray State.
Had it not been for second baseman Robert Moore, the Razorbacks might have fallen to the Racers. Trailing 6-3 heading to the bottom of the sixth, Moore made it a 6-5 game with a two-run homer. Moore homered again two innings later to put Arkansas (8-0) on top for good, 7-6.
After an excellent start to the season, it was an uneven day for righthander Peyton Pallette, who struck out 10 in four innings, but also allowed two runs on four hits and three walks. It was a particularly tough day for veteran righthander Connor Noland, who allowed three runs in just one-third of an inning in relief of Pallette.
Really good teams are able to scratch out wins on the days when they’re not at their best, and Arkansas has clearly proven to be a really good team so far in 2021.
2021 Big 12 Baseball Stock Watch
After yet another thrilling finish in the Big 12 last season, we take stock of where things stand in the conference in the aftermath of the 2021 season.
Arizona Wears Out Oklahoma Pitching Again
One day after scoring 20 runs in a win against Oklahoma at the Frisco Classic, Arizona put 12 more on the board in a 12-1 win against the Sooners. In addition to collecting 11 hits, the Wildcats (8-2) also took advantage of seven walks.
Center fielder Donta’ Williams, shortstop Jacob Blas, first baseman Branden Boissiere and third baseman Jacob Berry all had two hits, with Blas getting the scoring started on a solo home run in the first inning. The Arizona offense, through 10 games, has been as advertised. The group is hitting .340/.464/.516, with Boissiere going 18-for-36 to begin the campaign.
Oklahoma’s pitching staff, meanwhile, has really struggled. When the Sooners (4-5) lost all three members of the weekend rotation to the draft, it was always going to be a season of change, but it would have been hard to predict that they would struggle to this degree. Through nine games, their pitchers have a 6.30 ERA, with Friday’s starter, righthander Wyatt Olds, sporting an 8.18 mark.
Boston College Stays Hot At Auburn
In the opener of a series that was only arranged this week following cancellations caused by Covid-19, No. 18 Boston College continued its hot start to the season with an 8-2 victory at Auburn.
In a matchup of Preseason All-American pitchers, BC’s Mason Pelio outdueled Auburn’s Richard Fitts, but the Eagles’ offense was truly the star of the show Friday. Preseason All-American outfielder Sal Frelick homered twice off Fitts and second baseman Luke Gold also homered twice. Infielder Cody Morrissette, another Preseason All-American, added three hits, including two doubles.
The Eagles did a good job of barreling up Fitts. Of their seven hits against the righthander, five went for extra bases and he struck out just two batters.
Frelick is hitting .472/.512/.833 with three home runs and three stolen bases and looking every bit like a first-round pick. Morissette got off to a slower start and is hitting .250/.429/.406, but has five hits in two games this week. With Gold (.394/.417/.879, 3 HR) and Jack Cunningham (.321/.462/.429) off to solid starts as well, the Eagles’ lineup is proving its more than just a couple stars.
Meanwhile, Pelio worked around four this and three walks over 5.2 scoreless innings to improve to 2-1, 3.68. Lefthander Joey Walsh followed with 3.1 innings to finish the game for his third save of the season.
BC is off to an outstanding 7-1 start and is already building an impressive resume. If it can finish off a series win on the Plains, it would carry a lot of momentum into a big series next weekend at Louisville.
NC State Bounces Back With Impressive Offensive Performance
North Carolina State was swept at home by Georgia Tech last weekend, but on Friday, in an 11-5 win against No. 6 Miami, the Wolfpack (4-4) showed why its offense provides plenty of optimism that it will continue to be a force in the ACC this season.
Trailing 2-1 after two innings, NC State scored four in the bottom of the third, four more in the bottom of the fourth and two in the bottom of the fifth to more or less put the game away. Tyler McDonough, Luca Tresh, Devonte Brown and Jose Torres all homered. For Tresh, who came into the weekend second in the country in homers, it was his seventh of the season.
The Hurricanes (3-4) scored five runs of their own against NC State starter Evan Justice, but Reid Johnston came on in the seventh inning and shut things down from there, throwing three scoreless frames with just one hit allowed. For Miami, there is some urgency to get back in this series to avoid dropping a second consecutive series after its emotional series win over Florida to begin the season.
Friday night is for the aces. We've already highlighted the work of the likes of Texas' Ty Madden and Florida State's Parker Messick, but here are five more of the best pitching performances of the night.
Tanner Bibee, RHP, Cal State Fullerton: Bibee celebrated his 22nd birthday Friday with a three-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory against Southern California. He struck out five, walked none and needed just 88 pitches to complete his gem. With the victory, Bibee improved to 2-1, 0.43 with 20 strikeouts and two walks in 21 innings.
Ben Casparius, RHP, Connecticut: In a 5-0 victory against Miami (Ohio) in Coastal Carolina’s Baseball at the Beach Tournament, Casparius threw eight scoreless innings. He struck out 11 batters and limited the RedHawks to three hits and three walks to earn his first career win for the Huskies. Casparius, in his first season of action with UConn since transferring from North Carolina in 2019, is 1-1, 2.61 with 24 strikeouts in 20.2 innings.
Geremy Guerrero, LHP, Indiana State: In a 13-2 victory at Florida International, Guerrero struck out 15 batters in eight innings. He held the Panthers to two runs on three hits and a walk. Guerrero was one strikeout shy of matching the program record, which has stood since 1965. No Sycamores’ pitcher had struck out 15 batters in a game since 1984 and when you consider the arms that have come through the program since then – a group that includes successful big leaguers Sean Manaea, Jake Petricka and Mitch Stetter – Guerrero’s night becomes even more impressive.
R.J. Petit, RHP, Charleston Southern: In its Big South Conference opener, Petit threw a four-hit shutout to lead Charleston Southern to a 7-0 victory against Longwood. He struck out six batters, walked none (though he hit two) and threw just 94 pitches. Petit is 1-1, 2.70 with 11 strikeouts and three walks in 13.1 innings this season.
Mason Studstill, RHP, Florida Gulf Coast: In an 8-0 victory against Florida Atlantic, Studstill threw eight scoreless innings for the win. He struck out nine batters and held the Owls, who entered the game seventh in the country in scoring, to two hits and three walks, throwing 108 pitches. Studstill improved to 1-0, 1.33 with 20 strikeouts in 20.1 innings this season.