College Baseball Takeaways: Ok State, Wofford Win First-Place Showdowns
Oklahoma State Routs TCU
There wasn’t much suspense in the opening game of the marquee series of the weekend, as No. 2 Oklahoma State put away No. 15 Texas Christian early on the way to a 13-2 win.
The Cowboys (27-11, 10-3) got out to a quick start and never looked back, scoring a run in the first on an RBI double for DH David Mendham, two in the second on a two-run single for center fielder Caeden Trenkle, three in the third on a three-run homer for third baseman Nolan McLean, four in the fourth, two of which came on solo homers for left fielder Jake Thompson and first baseman Griffin Doersching, and two more in the fifth to build out a 12-1 lead by the end of the fifth.
Considering the opponent, the importance of the game and the quality of the opposing pitcher in TCU righthander Riley Cornelio, it might constitute Oklahoma State’s best offensive performance of the season.
Six different OSU batters had at least two hits on a day in which the lineup had 17 as a group, but McLean was the clear star, going 4-for-5 with four RBIs.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma State righthander Justin Campbell was going about his business shutting down the Horned Frogs (25-13, 10-6). He tossed eight innings, giving up three hits and two runs (both on solo homers) with no walks and 14 strikeouts, which tied his career high.
The victory for the Cowboys pushed them 1.5 games in front of TCU in the Big 12 standings, and a series win this weekend to maintain that distance would be huge for an OSU team that still has series against Texas and Texas Tech looming.
Wofford Lands First Punch in Marquee SoCon Series
The series this weekend between No. 24 Wofford and Mercer is the series of the season in the Southern Conference and is likely to determine the league’s regular-season champion. To get it started, Wofford landed the first punch in the form of a 17-7 win.
The Terriers (29-9, 7-0) didn’t waste any time, as they put up four runs in the top of the first on a pair of two-run doubles for shortstop Jack Renwick and left fielder Trey Yunger. They pushed across another run in the second on a squeeze bunt by catcher Lawson Hill and one more in the fourth on an RBI infield single for third baseman Ryan Galanie to make it a 6-0 game.
In the bottom of the fourth, Mercer fought back for three runs to make it a competitive game again at 6-3, and that’s where the score stayed until Wofford broke it wide open with a 10-run top of the eighth inning.
The top three hitters in the Wofford lineup—right fielder Nolen Hester, first baseman John Dempsey and Hill—had three hits, with Dempsey and Hill both also driving in three runs.
The Bears (31-7, 6-1), outside of a three-run homer for left fielder Treyson Hughes in the fourth, weren’t able to get much done against Wofford righthander Matthew Marchal, who gave up just those three runs on three hits in six innings with three walks and nine strikeouts.
Vanderbilt Tosses Combined No-Hitter Against Kentucky
Vanderbilt righthanders Chris McElvain and Christian Little threw a combined no-hitter in a 10-0 win for the Commodores at Kentucky.
McElvain threw the first seven innings, giving up three walks and striking out nine, while Little walked one and struck out four over the final two frames. Although Vanderbilt has had individual no-hitters more recently, most notably Jack Leiter last season against South Carolina, this is the first combined no-hitter the program has had since 2003, Tim Corbin’s first season at the helm.
It’s just one game, and it’s just against Kentucky, which is one of a small handful of SEC teams outside of the postseason picture right now, but this being a breakout performance for McElvain at the front of the rotation would be a massive development for Vanderbilt, which has pitched well this season all things considered, but hasn’t often had that kind of performance.
The Commodores (27-10, 8-8) didn’t need much offensive production given how well McElvain and Little pitched, but they got plenty, as the team scored 10 runs on 12 hits and 12 walks issued by Kentucky (21-17, 5-11).
Five Vanderbilt batters had two hits, including right fielder Spencer Jones, who tripled and drove in three runs.
Grambling State’s Shemar Page Throws Perfect Game
Grambling State righthander Shemar Page on Friday threw a perfect game in a 16-0, seven-inning victory against Alcorn State. Page struck out 13 batters and threw 84 pitches.
Page started the game with back-to-back strikeouts and started six of the seven innings with a strikeout. He set a career high with 13 strikeouts. On the season, he is 5-4, 2.67 with 98 strikeouts and 29 walks in 64 innings. He’s a two-way player for the Tigers and is hitting .347/.438/.560 (he doesn’t hit on days he starts on the mound).
Gambling (16-21, 11-5) gave Page plenty of run support. The Tigers pushed two runs across in the first inning and broke the game open with a seven-run third inning. They are now one game behind Prairie View A&M for first place in the SWAC West Division.
Page’s perfect game is the first this season in Division I. The last perfect game thrown in Division I also was a seven-inning game, as Central Michigan’s Jordan Patty was perfect last year in a 14-0 victory against Miami (Ohio). The last nine-inning perfect game in Division I was thrown by Duke’s Bryce Jarvis in February 2020.
Extra-Inning Walk-Offs Make For Dramatic Night In Pac-12
It was a day of wild finishes in the Pac-12. Three of the five conference games Friday ended with walk-offs in the 10th inning.
The most dramatic walk-off moment came in Tucson, as Arizona defeated rival Arizona State, 7-6, thanks to a mammoth home run from Chase Davis. His home run completed a late comeback for the Wildcats. They needed two runs in the eighth inning to tie the game and then sent it to extras, setting the stage for Davis, who hit his team-high 12th home run of the season.
The win was a big one for Arizona (27-12, 12-7), which has lost back-to-back Pac-12 series. With the victory, it kept pace with the other leaders atop the conference standings and continued the momentum it built with a mid-week, two-game sweep at Creighton.
No. 10 Oregon also required a comeback before walking off Washington State, 8-7, in 10 innings. The Ducks fell behind, 7-0, in the first five innings and were still trailing by five runs going into the ninth inning. But Oregon batted around in the ninth to tie the game and send it to extra innings. The Ducks kept going in the 10th and Brennan Milone provided the game-winning single, his third hit and fourth RBI of the night.
Oregon (26-11, 11-5) remains on top of the Pac-12 standings after the wild win. The Ducks extended their winning streak to seven games and have risen to No. 2 in RPI. It hasn’t been easy—their last six games have been decided by one or two runs—but they’ve continued to find a way.
No. 3 Oregon State got another quality start from ace Cooper Hjerpe, but like Arizona and Oregon, the Beavers needed a late comeback Friday to beat Washington. The Beavers tied the game at 3 in the eighth inning and then walked off with a 4-3 win in the 10th inning on an RBI single from Garret Forrester.
The Beavers (29-8, 11-5) remain tied with Oregon for first place. Since losing a series against Stanford three weeks ago, they have won nine of their last 10 games.
Texas A&M Upsets No. 3 Arkansas
In a tense pitcher’s duel Friday at Olsen Field, Texas A&M edged past No. 4 Arkansas, 2-1, for a series-opening victory. The Aggies (24-13,9-7) had just two hits in the game, but they made them count and the combination of righthander Nathan Dettmer and lefthander Jacob Palisch made sure it was enough for the win.
Both of Texas A&M’s hits came in the fourth inning, when it pushed two runs across against Arkansas ace Connor Noland. The Aggies took advantage of an error and a pair of walks in the inning, including a bases-loaded walk to Kole Kaler that drove in the second run.
Two runs turned out to be all A&M needed thanks to Dettmer and Palisch. They combined to hold Arkansas (30-8, 11-5) to one run on five hits and two walks. Dettmer started the game and struck out seven batters in five innings. Palisch followed with seven strikeouts in four scoreless innings to finish the game.
Palisch twice pitched out of jams. In the sixth inning, he inherited runners on first and second and no outs and held Arkansas to one run. The Razorbacks then left the bases loaded in the seventh, following a hit batter, a double and a walk. Palisch finished the game by retiring seven straight batters.
The Aggies have now won eight of their last 10 games and their last four wins have all come against Top 25 teams. Their hot streak has pushed them into an advantageous position going down the stretch of the regular season and suddenly has them in the discussion to host regionals. For a team that was 11-6 going into SEC play with a home series loss to Pennsylvania, it has been a remarkable run.
Dettmer and Palisch have been especially good in SEC play. Dettmer is 3-0, 2.57 in conference play and has solidified the front of the rotation. Palisch is 1-2, 3.15 in eight appearances in conference play, becoming the Aggies’ top option out of the bullpen.
After a last-place finish last season in the SEC West led to a coaching change that brought Jim Schlossnagle to College Station, A&M has quickly regained its footing. Another victory this weekend would make three straight SEC series wins and would put it on a strong track toward a home regional for the first time since 2016.
Illinois Routs Maryland, Moves Into Tie For First Place
After a sluggish start to the season, Illinois has turned its season around in Big Ten play and came into this weekend’s series against Maryland in the mix at the top of the standings. But the No. 22 Terrapins represented the biggest test to date for the Illini.
On Friday, Illinois aced the test. The Illini routed the Terrapins, 19-1, controlling the game from start to finish. The win, combined with Rutgers’ loss to Iowa earlier in the day, meant that Illinois (19-15, 11-2) pulled even with the Scarlet Knights (31-8, 11-2) atop the conference standings.
Illinois on Friday took an early lead, scoring four runs in the third inning against Maryland righthander Nick Dean. The Illini built on that lead and knocked him out of the game in the fifth inning before ultimately going to work against the bullpen. Their 19 runs Friday represented both the most runs scored by the Illini and runs allowed by the Terps. Illinois hadn’t scored so many runs since 2015 (28, Rutgers).
The Illinois pitching staff, meanwhile, silenced the Maryland lineup. Cole Kirschsieper, Ty Rybarczyk and Ryan Kutt combined to hold the Terrapins to two hits and three walks on the night. Maryland did not have a base runner after the fifth inning, stifling any hope for a comeback.
Illinois was just 7-10 when Big Ten play began a month ago. Since then, it is 12-5 and has won seven of its last eight games. That midseason turnaround is one of the best in the nation and Illinois is showing no signs of stopping. If Illinois is able to close out a series win against Maryland with another victory this weekend, it should be considered the favorite to win its first Big Ten title since 2015.
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Georgia Tech Wins Wild Slugfest With Duke
Duke learned the hard way that when you jump ahead of Georgia Tech early, you have to keep your foot on the gas, because the Yellow Jackets’ offense can strike quickly.
After the Blue Devils grabbed a 4-0 lead after a half-inning, an 8-6 lead after four innings and led 11-6 at the seventh-inning stretch, the Yellow Jackets came all the way back to capture a 12-11 win in 10 innings.
When Duke (16-22, 6-13) got three runs in the top of the seventh to take the aforementioned 11-6 lead, things looked all but over, but Georgia Tech (25-14, 10-9) immediately punched back by scoring five in the bottom half of the frame on a grand slam off the bat of third baseman Drew Compton and a sacrifice fly for second baseman Chandler Simpson.
With the game in extra innings, the Yellow Jackets walked it off in the bottom of the 10th on a Compton RBI single.
The win for Georgia Tech gets it back over .500 in conference play, and that’s no small thing when you consider where the Yellow Jackets are in the postseason pecking order.
Although it has been a team that has gone through its fair share of struggles, Georgia Tech’s RPI has remained inside the top 10 for the duration of the season and it has played a staggeringly high number of games—28, to be exact—against RPI top 50 teams, and it seems clear with that resume that it will be able to host a regional if it can just win enough ACC games. Friday’s win was a step in that direction.
Miami Beats Pitt In Extra-innings Thriller
In one of the most entertaining games Friday, No. 5 Miami edged Pittsburgh, 2-1, in 10 innings. C.J. Kayfus delivered the game-winning hit for the Hurricanes (30-8, 15-4).
Miami held a 1-0 lead for most of the night after scratching a run out in the second inning. It looked like that lead might hold up until Brock Franks led off the ninth inning with a home run off Miami closer Andrew Walters—the first run Walters has surrendered this season. But Pitt wasn’t able to get any more runs, setting the stage for the Hurricanes to walk off with the win.
Pitt threatened throughout the game Friday. The Panthers outhit the Hurricanes, 11-7, and had several opportunities throughout the game to score. But they went 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on base.
Miami got a solid start from lefthander Carson Palmquist, who struck out 11 batters in 5.1 scoreless innings. He worked around six hits and a walk. From there, the Hurricanes’ bullpen did the rest, as Alex McFarlane, Gage Ziehl, Walters and Anthony Arguelles combined to hold the Panthers to one run in 4.2 innings. Despite blowing his first save of the season, Walters still struck out six batters in two innings and now has 47 strikeouts and four walks in 23.2 innings.
Friday will go down as a missed opportunity for Pitt (21-15, 9-9). The Panthers have been hot and have won four straight ACC series. They had the Hurricanes on the ropes at times but were unable to land the big blow. Still, they can be heartened by the way they played in a tough road environment at Mark Light Field.
Cal Uses Opener To Stifle UCLA
California has been flexible with its pitching plans at times this season, and Friday’s plan fit that bill on the way to an 8-3 win against No. 16 UCLA.
Lefthander Ian May was used as an opener, as has been his role this season a few times before, and he gave up one run in the first. Behind him, righthander Steven Zobac threw four scoreless innings, giving up two hits and two walks with five strikeouts, and righthander and former Friday starter Josh White finished it by striking out seven and giving up two runs over the final four innings.
Offensively, the Bears (19-18, 10-9) also did a really nice job of getting to UCLA righthander Jake Brooks for six runs on eight hits in his four innings, including back-to-back-to-back solo homers for first baseman Nathan Martorella, right fielder Dylan Beavers and second baseman Hance Smith to lead off the bottom of the first. Martorella and Smith both ended the game with two home runs, and Martorella drove in five.
The Bruins (25-12, 9-7) have been up and down this season, but have yet to have back-to-back losing weekends. They will need to win the next two games in Berkeley to avoid that fate this time around.