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College Baseball Takeaways: Upsets Abound On Wild Thursday

Virginia Tech Hammers No. 2 Miami

Virginia Tech’s home run celebration totem is a sledgehammer that the slugger takes a swing with when he returns to the dugout. The Hokies have swung the hammer plenty this season, as they rank second in the nation in home runs (74), behind only Tennessee (79).

Virginia Tech turned its series opener against No. 2 Miami into hammer time. The Hokies hit three home runs, including two from Tanner Schobel, and defeated the Hurricanes, 12-5. The loss snapped Miami’s 14-game winning streak that dated to March 23.

Virginia Tech (22-8, 8-6) wasted no time jumping on Miami lefthander Carson Palmquist. The first four Hokies all collected hits, including a three-run home run from Schobel. From there, Virginia Tech just kept going. The Hokies knocked Palmquist out in the fourth inning, having notched six runs on 10 hits.

Schobel went 3-for-4 with three runs and Preseason All-American outfielder Gavin Cross went 4-for-5 with three runs and a double. Nick Biddison also added three hits and two runs.

Virginia Tech has lost just one ACC series this season and has won 12 of its last 14 games. The Hokies are aiming to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 and wins like Thursday night show how dangerous they can be.

TCU Upsets Texas Tech

The Texas Christian offense came alive in the middle innings, overcoming an early deficit, to push the Horned Frogs to a 7-4 win against No. 4 Texas Tech.

Texas Tech righthander Andrew Morris put up four zeroes to begin his start, and by that point, the offense had spotted him two runs with a two-run fourth inning. But it was at that point that the Frogs got to work.

They got on the board in the fifth on an RBI double off the bat of second baseman Hunter Teplanszky. In the sixth, three runs came across on a solo homer for shortstop Tommy Sacco, an RBI groundout for catcher Kurtis Byrne and an RBI double for right fielder Luke Boyers.

Then, after Texas Tech tied it 4-4 in the seventh on a two-run homer for left fielder Easton Murrell, TCU took control again with two runs in the bottom of the seventh on an RBI single for third baseman Braydon Taylor and an RBI groundout from DH Reed Spenrath, and a single tally in the eighth on a Gray Rodgers solo home run.

For TCU (22-12, 8-5) on the mound, righthander Riley Cornelio pitched better than his numbers show, as just one of the four runs he allowed in 6.2 innings were earned and he struck out nine.

Texas Tech (27-10, 7-3) will look to bounce back on Friday and avoid its first Big 12 series loss of the season.

Parker Messick Silences Louisville Offense

No. 9 Louisville came into this weekend’s series at No. 19 Florida State with the nation’s top scoring offense, averaging 10 runs per game. That offense on Thursday was stymied, however, as the Seminoles and ace Parker Messick defeated the Cardinals, 8-1.

Messick, the 2021 ACC Pitcher of the Year, struck out 14 batters in 6.2 scoreless innings. The lefthander scattered five hits, walked none and threw 121 pitches. His 14 strikeouts matched his career high.

Messick exited with a 5-0 lead and lefthander Wyatt Crowell and righthander Dylan Simmons combined for the final 2.1 innings. They held the Cardinals (24-9, 9-4) to one run (unearned) on two hits and a walk to close out the victory. Louisville’s one run in the game was a season low.

The win was a significant one for both Florida State (20-13, 8-8) and Messick. The Seminoles ace was hit hard last week at Georgia Tech, giving up six runs and getting knocked out of the game in the third inning. Thursday night was a much welcome return to normal for Messick, who improved to 5-2, 2.93 with 94 strikeouts and 12 walks in 55.1 innings.

For Florida State, the win built on momentum from beating rival Florida, 5-0, on Tuesday. After dropping back-to-back ACC series against Notre Dame and at Georgia Tech, Florida State had fallen into a mid-season funk. So far this week, it looks like the Seminoles are pulling out of their skid.

Five-Run Seventh Leads Kansas State To Upset Of Texas

No. 8 Texas had control of its series opener at Kansas State as the game moved to the seventh-inning stretch. The lineup had three home runs, which helped the Longhorns grab the lead early, lefthander Pete Hansen was pitching well, if not spectacularly well, and it led 5-3.

But in the bottom of the seventh, the Wildcats exploded for five runs to take over. DH Jeff Heinrich hit a solo homer to make it a 5-4 game. A fielder’s choice off the bat of first baseman Dylan Phillips tied the game at 5-5 and a three-run blast for shortstop Nick Goodwin gave the Wildcats their winning margin in an 8-5 game.

The Wildcats (16-16, 2-8) were led offensively by Phillips, who had two homers, further extending his K-State all-time home run record, and catcher Justin Mitchell, who was the other K-State batter with two hits.

The Wildcats’ bullpen came up big as well after righthander Griffin Hassall gave up five runs in 5.1 innings, as the trio of Tyson Neighbors, German Fajardo and Carson McCullough held the Longhorns (25-11, 5-5) scoreless on two hits over the final 3.2 innings.

Coming back to win the next two games is big for Texas, as it can’t afford to lose too much more ground to the conference leaders or else it will be in a situation where it will have to reel off a torrid run to end the season to repeat as Big 12 champion.

Stanford Routs UCLA

No. 13 UCLA came into this weekend with the second-best team ERA (2.84) in the nation, trailing only Tennessee. But on Thursday, No. 11 Stanford got to the Bruins pitching staff like few have this season.

Stanford defeated UCLA, 9-1, to open a critical Pac-12 series in Los Angeles. The Cardinal (19-10, 10-6) pounded out 15 hits and their nine runs matched the most any team has scored against the Bruins (23-10, 8-5) this season.

Carter Graham hit a three-run home run in the third inning to open the scoring for the Cardinal and they never looked back. Braden Montgomery added a three-run home run of his own in the seventh inning, a prodigious blast that broke the game open.

Graham has now hit a team-high nine home runs and went 2-for-4 with two runs and a walk. Preseason All-American outfielder Brock Jones added two hits and two walks for the Cardinal.

While the game wasn’t a pitcher’s duel, Stanford’s pitchers silenced the UCLA offense. Righthanders Alex Williams and Joey Dixon combined to hold the Bruins to four hits on the night. Williams threw five innings and struck out eight batters, while giving up one unearned run on two hits and four walks. Dixon followed out of the bullpen with four scoreless innings, holding UCLA to two hits and no walks.

Stanford is now 10-2 since losing its first two Pac-12 series. It’s already won a series at Oregon State and is now just one more win this weekend from adding a series win at UCLA to its resume. After a rocky start, the preseason Pac-12 favorites have very much rounded into form. And it’s certainly not too late—the Cardinal are just a game behind first-place Arizona in the Pac-12 standings.

Duke Blows Out Notre Dame 

If Duke is going to make a late-season run to get into the postseason much in the same way that it did last season, it’s going to have to get moving sooner rather than later, and it took a step in the right direction Thursday with a 15-5 win against No. 10 Notre Dame.

The offensive attack for the Blue Devils (14-20, 4-12) was relentless, as they scored six combined runs in the first three innings to jump out to a big early lead, and then blew the game open late with a seven-run bottom of the eighth. Seven different pitchers took the mound for the Irish (21-6, 8-5) and six of them left the mound having given up two or more runs.

Duke third baseman Graham Pauley and catcher Andrew Yu both went 4-for-5, with Yu homering and Pauley driving in three runs. Shortstop Alex Mooney went 3-for-4 with two doubles and three RBIs and left fielder RJ Schreck added a homer of his own.

Lefthander Jonathan Santucci started the game for Duke and threw four scoreless innings, with righthander Jimmy Loper closing it out with 2.1 scoreless innings and five strikeouts.

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Arkansas Edges LSU In SEC West Showdown

No matter the season, Arkansas and Louisiana State always seem to play close, tense games. That was certainly the case Thursday, as the No. 7 Razorbacks beat the No. 24 Tigers, 5-4.

Arkansas controlled the game early, as it pushed a run across in the first and another in the third. Righthander Connor Noland did the rest, as he was outstanding on the mound. He retired the first nine hitters he faced before issuing a leadoff walk in the fourth. He bounced back to retire the next six batters and carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning.

But LSU’s offense couldn’t be denied all night. With two outs in the sixth, Dylan Crews broke up the no-hitter with a single. It was the first of four straight hits for the Tigers, which turned into three runs and the lead. Despite that, Noland still turned in a quality start and struck out seven batters in six innings.

Arkansas scored three runs of its own with two outs in the seventh inning, with Robert Moore delivering the go-ahead, two-run single. LSU made another push, scoring a run in the eighth and threatening to at least tie the game before Moore started an inning-ending double play. Freshman Brady Tygart shut the door with two scoreless innings to earn his fifth save of the season.

Arkansas (26-7, 9-4) remains in first place in the SEC West and improved to 21-3 at home. The Razorbacks still need to close out the series with a win, which they couldn’t do last week at Florida, but remain in a strong position as the mid-point of the conference season fast approaches.

Nathan Dettmer Shuts Down Georgia In Texas A&M Win

Texas A&M righthander Nathan Dettmer was nothing short of dominant in the Aggies’ 8-1 win at No. 12 Georgia. In eight innings, he gave up five hits and one unearned run, which came in the first inning, with no walks and nine strikeouts.

It’s the third consecutive excellent start for Dettmer, as he gave up two runs (one earned) in 6.1 innings against Alabama two weekends ago and surrendered two runs in six innings last weekend against Kentucky, which has helped lower his season ERA to 3.54 from 5.14 before the Alabama start.

Offensively, the Aggies (21-12, 7-6) had eight different players record a hit, and first baseman Jack Moss and catcher Troy Claunch had two hits each, with Claunch adding a homer. Left fielder Dylan Rock had a three-run homer to his name as well.

The Bulldogs (25-9, 8-5) struggled on the mound in the second series opener that they have been without ace Jonathan Cannon. Nolan Crisp got the start and gave up two runs on three hits and three walks in four innings, reliever Garrett Brown had four runs go against his ledger in two-thirds of an inning and Bryce Melear surrendered two runs in 2.1 innings.

UC Irvine Silences Cal Poly Offense

Led by lefthander Nick Pinto, UC Irvine pitching largely shut down the Cal Poly lineup on the way to a 7-1 win to kick off a series between two of the top contenders for the Big West title.

Pinto threw seven innings, giving up three hits and one run with four walks and seven strikeouts on 97 pitches. He essentially got beat one time in the game, when Mustangs outfielder Brett Borgogno connected for a solo homer in the fourth inning. Righthander Gordon Ingebritson came on in relief and threw two scoreless innings after Pinto, lowering his ERA to 1.14.

Perhaps most impressive on its way to the win was UCI holding Cal Poly superstar shortstop Brooks Lee to an 0-for-4 day. It’s just the fourth time in 33 games that Lee has been held hitless.

The Anteaters (21-11, 9-4) were led offensively by left fielder Jose Torres, who homered twice and drove in three runs, and second baseman Woody Hadeen, who went 3-for-4. Cal Poly (20-13, 7-3), meanwhile, will go into the rest of the weekend looking to fight off its first Big West series loss.

Mississippi State, Ole Miss Get Big Wins

After both Mississippi and Mississippi State were swept at home last weekend—Ole Miss by Alabama, Mississippi State by LSU—both the Rebels and Bulldogs got key wins Thursday in this week’s series openers.

Ole Miss went to South Carolina and defeated the Gamecocks, 9-1. Righthander Dylan Delucia held the Gamecocks to one run in 7.2 innings and the Rebels offense gave him plenty of support. The Rebels (21-12, 5-8) were in control all game long, as they scored seven runs in the first four innings and never looked back.

Mississippi State scored twice in the ninth inning to walk-off with a 7-6 victory against No. 17 Auburn. The Bulldogs and Tigers played a back-and-forth affair and Auburn pulled ahead by a run in the eighth inning on a home run from Cole Foster. But Mississippi State (20-15, 5-8) took advantage of the wildness of Auburn closer Blake Burkhalter, as he walked four batters and threw a wild pitch in the ninth inning. Luke Hancock drove in the winning run on a bases-loaded walk.

Both the Rebels and Bulldogs got off to a tough start to conference play, leaving them in a precarious position going into the weekend. They both will have a lot of work to do in the second half of SEC play, but wins like Thursday night are critical to their postseason hopes. Finishing off a series win with another victory in the next two days would be even bigger for both teams.

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