College Baseball Takeaways: Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State Strike First Blows in Pivotal Series
No. 9 Virginia Tech Beats No. 5 Virginia, Takes First Game of Commonwealth Clash
For the first time since 2013—and in the John Szefc era—No. 9 Virginia Tech has secured a 30-win season. The Hokies did it in style, traveling to Charlottesville and playing crisp defense and making the most of their opportunities in a 5-2 win over in-state rival No. 5 Virginia.
Righthander Griffin Green went seven innings of one-run ball for Virginia Tech (30-9, 13-7), working around seven hits and four walks while striking out two. Both teams struggled to make the most of their chances, combining to leave 15 runners on base, but the Hokies avoided baserunning mistakes and pushed across enough offense.
Carson DeMartini opened the scoring in the third inning against Virginia (32-11, 13-9) starter Nate Savino, crushing a solo home run to right-center. Savino extended the inning with a two-out walk, setting the table for Jack Hurley to poke an RBI single into center.
Cavaliers’ right fielder Casey Saucke got a run back in the bottom of the fourth on a single, and the tying run was eventually 90 feet away when Virginia Tech’s Tanner Schobel made an impressive defensive play. The Hokies shortstop dove to snag a low line drive from Max Cotier and threw the runner out at third before he could get back.
That proved to be a massive moment in the game as an inning later, Virginia Tech tacked on two insurance runs. With two outs and a runner on first, Virginia went to its bullpen and brought on Jay Woolfolk. The two-sport star was greeted by back-to-back RBI doubles from Conor Hartigan and Lucas Donlon, pushing the lead to three.
Both teams homered in the ninth inning, with Virginia Tech’s Nick Biddison and Virginia’s Chris Newell going deep. Graham Firoved, who earned a save with two innings of relief, set down the side quickly after Newell led off the inning.
The Hokies are now in the driver's seat in what is a pivotal ACC Coastal Division clash. Virginia Tech hasn’t won a series against Virginia since 2015, but will send talented freshman starter Drue Hackenberg out on Saturday to try and seal the deal.
Oklahoma State Wins Slugfest with Texas
No. 8 Oklahoma State and No. 18 Texas played an informal game of home run derby in Austin Friday night, with the teams combining to hit seven home runs. The Cowboys out-homered the Longhorns 4-3, and more importantly, won the actual game 8-6 to strike the first blow in a pivotal Big 12 series.
Oklahoma State (29-13, 11-5) got two home runs from first baseman David Mendham and one each from left fielder Jake Thompson and third baseman Nolan McLean, while the Longhorns (31-14, 9-7) got two homers from third baseman Skyler Messinger and one off the bat of first baseman Ivan Melendez, his 22nd of the season.
Given the offensive nature of the game, it’s no surprise that neither team’s ace had his best day. Oklahoma State righthander Justin Campbell gave up four runs on eight hits in five innings, while Texas lefthander Pete Hansen surrendered six runs on nine hits in seven innings.
The big hit for Oklahoma State, as it turns out, wasn’t a home run but instead was a two-run double for outfielder Zach Ehrhard in the top of the ninth, breaking a 6-6 tie that Texas had fought for with single runs scored in the seventh and eighth innings.
With the win, Oklahoma State keeps pace in the Big 12 standings with Texas Christian, which is out of conference play this weekend. Meanwhile, Texas finds itself in need of wins the next two games to stay within striking distance of the league leaders.
Utah Upsets Oregon State with Late Rally
In a game where runs were at a premium, Utah upset No. 2 Oregon State 2-1 to begin a series in Salt Lake City.
If the Utes were going to win Friday, they were going to have to figure out Beavers starting pitcher Cooper Hjerpe and that took quite a while, as the lefthander took a perfect game into the seventh inning, having struck out eight batters along the way and with OSU holding on to a 1-0 lead.
But that’s precisely when Utah (25-15-1, 10-9) came alive. Leadoff hitter and right fielder Kai Roberts started the seventh with a single to give the Utes their first runner of the day. Behind him, second baseman Landon Frei doubled into the left field corner, scoring Roberts from first to tie the game 1-1.
After Hjerpe got third baseman Chase Anderson to line out to second base and struck out left fielder TJ Clarkson, DH Jayden Kiernan came up with the biggest hit of the day, a single to left-center to score Frei and give Utah a 2-1 lead. Within the span of a few minutes, the Utes went from not having a single runner on base to holding a lead with six outs to get.
Pitching played just as big a role, especially within the context of Oregon State (32-9, 13-6) having one of the most dangerous offenses in the country. Righthander Matthew Sox started for Utah and threw seven innings, giving up six hits and one run, which gave the lineup enough time to figure out Hjerpe.
Righthander Zac McCleve also deserves credit for his Houdini act late in the game. After Utah grabbed the 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh, Oregon State loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the eighth, but McCleve wiggled out of the jam by getting a double play ball and a grounder to short. In the ninth, he set OSU down with three straight fly outs.
Don’t look now, but Utah is close to elbowing its way into the postseason conversation. At 10-9, it’s over .500 in Pac-12 play for the first time since it won two of three against Washington to begin conference play and the win pushed its RPI inside the top 70.
There’s still work to be done for Utah to actually be a postseason team, but clinching this series over the next two days would swing the door wide open for the Utes to pull it off.
Tennessee Runs Away From Auburn Late
No. 1 Tennessee and No. 21 Auburn played an extremely tight game through the seventh-inning stretch on Friday night.
At that point, Auburn led 4-2, with Tennessee having scored two runs in the second inning on an Auburn throwing error and a sacrifice fly off the bat of catcher Evan Russell and the Tigers having scored all four in the sixth on an RBI single for second baseman Cole Foster and a three-run homer for third baseman Blake Rambusch.
But then Tennessee did what it does best and scored runs in bunches in the blink of an eye. The Volunteers scored eight in the bottom of the seventh, including four runs on a grand slam for second baseman Jorel Ortega and three on a Russell three-run blast. Then, they scored seven more in the eighth, including runs on a solo homer for pinch-hitter Blake Burke, a solo shot for Ortega, a two-run homer for third baseman Trey Lipscomb and a two-run homer for Russell.
When it was all said and done, what looked like it might be an upset win for Auburn ended up being a runaway 17-4 victory for Tennessee.
The story beyond what the Tennessee offense did late in the game is the attrition that Auburn suffered on the mound. Lefthander Hayden Mullins left the game after just 1.2 innings, and while being checked out by the trainer immediately prior to his removal was seen shaking his throwing arm out and wiggling his fingers in discomfort.
Then, in the middle of an at-bat against Ortega in the seventh, the trainer came out to check on righthander Blake Burkhalter after he appeared to be battling a hamstring issue. Burkhalter successfully lobbied to remain on the mound, but he was removed after allowing a grand slam to Ortega at the end of said at-bat.
Auburn will obviously hope to have good news on one or both of the injured pitchers in the coming days, as this is the time of year when pitching depth is at its most valuable.
No. 24 Florida State Pummels No. 7 TCU
With Parker Messick reaching his full potential on the mound and the bats firing on all cylinders, No. 7 Texas Christian didn’t have much of a chance in Tallahassee against 24th-ranked Florida State. FSU struck for six runs in the first two innings while Messick took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of a convincing 10-0 series-opening win.
The reigning ACC pitcher of the year struck out 14 over seven innings, allowing just two hits in a dominant outing. Messick retired the first 13 batters he faced before hitting a batter in the fifth, but quickly erased the baserunner with a double play. TCU’s Luke Boyers broke up the no-hitter in the sixth inning, but the lefthander struck out the next three batters and tacked on another scoreless inning after that for good measure.
He was followed by Ross Dunn, the former Sunday starter, who struck out five of the six batters he faced. In total, TCU fanned 19 times, five more than its previous season high, and the mere two hits matched the team’s season-low against Texas’ Pete Hansen.
The Seminoles jumped on Horned Frogs’ starter Riley Cornelio right out of the gate. After not playing a midweek game, FSU showed no signs of rust as James Tibbs and Reese Albert both hit RBI doubles in the first inning to chase Cornelio after just 16 pitches. Treyton Rank drove in a run against reliever Cam Brown, who then gave up two more on an Albert single in the second.
FSU tacked on four more runs late via a two-run homer from Alex Toral and a two-run double from Albert. Albert finished 3-for-4 with five RBIs. Jordan Carrion added a 3-for-5 day out of the leadoff spot and scored a pair of runs.
It was a statement win for the Seminoles, who have had an up-and-down season. After dropping a weekend series to Clemson, Friday night’s win was an energizing one. The pitching was unhittable and the lineup churned out an efficient 10 runs on 10 hits.
Georgia Tech Pitching Leads Way in Win Over Miami
Georgia Tech on Friday upset No. 3 Miami, and in a reversal of type, did so with an outstanding pitching performance in a 3-1 win.
As the Yellow Jackets (26-17, 11-11) continue working to find answers on the mound in real time, they turned to righthander John Medich against the Hurricanes to make his fourth start of the season and to start on back-to-back weekends for the first time this season after he was solid against Duke last time out.
He answered the bell by throwing six innings, giving up three hits and one run with four walks and six strikeouts. Behind him, righthander Dawson Brown threw 1.2 scoreless innings of relief, and when Brown got in a jam in the eighth, righthander Zach Maxwell came on, stranded the bases loaded to end the eighth and then retired the side in the ninth to close out the win.
The Hurricanes (31-11, 16-6) also got good work on the mound from lefthander Carson Palmquist, who gave up five hits and two runs in seven innings, but Georgia Tech got to him for two solo home runs, one by first baseman Andrew Jenkins in the fourth and the other off the bat of catcher Kevin Parada in the sixth. Parada’s home run gives him 22 on the season—more round trippers than he has strikeouts (19)—and he also delivered an RBI single in the eighth to add an insurance run, all of which helps him continue to build a case for national player of the year honors.
It’s unlikely that Georgia Tech completely flips the script and becomes a different team from a pitching standpoint with a month left in the regular season. Rather, it’s probably always going to be a bit of a roller coaster experience, but with the goal being to find as many trustworthy arms as possible going into the postseason, Friday’s result was a step in the right direction for the Yellow Jackets.
Ole Miss Takes Down No. 10 Arkansas
It hasn’t been a good few weeks for Ole Miss. The Rebels entered a matchup with No. 10 Arkansas having lost three straight conference series—and were six games under .500 in SEC play—but a three-run fifth inning and a strong outing from righthander Dylan Delucia lifted them to a surprise 4-2 victory in Fayetteville.
DeLucia pitched into the eighth inning, eventually exiting after giving up a two-run home run to Arkansas’ (32-10, 12-7) Brandon Webb. The long home run to left, on DeLucia’s 105th pitch of the night, shouldn’t put a damper on what was a third straight excellent start from the junior college transfer.
He finished having allowed two runs on eight hits and two walks while striking out nine. DeLucia has now pitched into the eighth in each of his last three outings for Ole Miss (24-17, 7-12) and allowed just five earned runs in 23.2 IP with 19 strikeouts.
DeLucia got all the run support he would need in the fourth and fifth innings. Arkansas starter Connor Noland was able to work out of trouble in the first three innings, thanks to an outfield assist, a double play, a caught stealing, and a batter’s interference. In the fourth, Kevin Graham doubled down the right field line and scored on Kemp Alderman’s single to right.
The Rebels worked some two-out magic in the fifth inning. Singles from Hayden Dunhurst and Justin Bench put runners on the corners with two outs and Tim Elko came up clutch. The first baseman doubled in a run, then Graham laced a single through the right side to score two more.
The four runs stood up despite Ole Miss leaving seven runners on base and hitting into three double plays. Noland pitched eight innings, allowing 11 hits and issuing four walks while striking out three. Rebels’ reliever Brandon Johnson earned a six-out save, striking out three batters.
For Ole Miss, which topped the polls back in March, it was a strong way to start the weekend. Winning at Baum-Walker Stadium is never easy, especially when you’re a team that’s been reeling. A series win against a top-10 Razorbacks side could be just the recipe for a late-season push.
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Washington Pitching Stifles Stanford Bats
Washington’s pitching staff on Friday pulled off one of the toughest tricks on the west coast in holding No. 4 Stanford’s prolific offense to just one run in a 4-3 Huskies win.
Righthander Jared Engman got the start for Washington (17-22, 7-15) and threw six shutout innings, giving up six hits and no walks with seven strikeouts, and upon his exit from the game, the Huskies were leading 1-0 thanks to an RBI single off the bat of third baseman Michael Snyder in the second inning.
Stanford got to Washington reliever Stefan Raeth for a run in the top of the eighth on an RBI double for catcher Kody Huff, tying the game 1-1 in the process, but the Huskies answered back for three runs in the bottom half of the frame. A pair came home on a two-run single for center fielder McKay Barney, and Barney capped the scoring later that inning by coming home on a wild pitch.
Stanford made one last push in the ninth. After Raeth recorded two quick outs, center fielder Brock Jones hit a solo homer to make it 4-2. First baseman Carter Graham followed with a single, third baseman Brett Barrera walked and right fielder Braden Montgomery singled home Graham to make it 4-3. But with the tying run at third and the go-ahead run at first, Raeth got Huff to fly out to center to end the game.
Ultimately, it’s not that Washington pitching completely silenced Stanford hitters. The Cardinal did manage 12 hits, after all. But going 2-for-17 with runners in scoring position hamstrung Stanford’s efforts to break through.
With Pac-12 leader Oregon State taking a loss Friday, there was an opportunity for Stanford to make up some ground, but instead it’s in position to have to scramble the next two days to leave Seattle with a series win.
Maryland’s Ramsey Throws Perfect Game Against Northwestern
Starting pitching has been such a calling card for No. 20 Maryland all season, but no performance has stood above what Ryan Ramsey did on Friday, as the lefthander tossed a perfect game in a 13-0 win over Northwestern.
It goes without saying that Ramsey controlled the game for the Terrapins (34-8, 10-3). He struck out 10 batters, eight of them swinging, and threw 118 pitches.
Every standout pitching performance has good defensive work behind it, and this one was no exception, as Terrapin defenders took away a couple of bids for hits for Northwestern (19-18, 6-7) in the eighth inning.
With one out in the eighth, second baseman Kevin Keister charged a slow chopper off the bat of Northwestern catcher Bennett Markinson and threw him out by a couple of steps. One batter later, third baseman Vincent Bianchina hit a hard line drive to right field on a full-count pitch, only to have Maryland right fielder Troy Schreffler, Jr. run back on a sprint and reach up and snag it just shy of the warning track.
The Maryland offense isn’t the story here, but it should be said that it was a very good day for the Terrapins’ lineup, as they scored 13 runs on 17 hits, led by a three-hit game with a home run for center fielder Chris Alleyne.
LSU Uses Long Ball to Sink No. 16 Georgia
Three home runs and a bend but don’t break mentality on the mound was enough for Louisiana State, as the Tigers opened a big SEC series with a 6-2 win over No. 16 Georgia.
Tyler McManus, Cade Doughty, and Dylan Crews homered for LSU (28-13, 11-5) while starter Ma'Khail Hilliard moved to 5-0 on the year with six innings of two-run ball. Hilliard outdueled Georgia (29-13, 11-8) righthander Nolan Crisp, who was tagged with five earned runs in three-plus innings and wasn’t able to replicate his strong outing last weekend against Alabama.
The Tigers took a 2-0 lead in the second against Crisp thanks to a two-out home run from McManus, who worked a full count before launching one to left-center. Georgia answered just five pitches into the next inning, with Cory Acton hitting a leadoff single and coming home on Connor Tate’s two-run blast.
The tie game only lasted until Crisp returned to the mound in the home half of the inning. With two outs and Josh Pearson on first after a single, Doughty stepped up and broke the tie with a two-run homer to left, his ninth of the year.
LSU tacked on another run in the fourth, with back-to-back singles and a bunt setting up a sacrifice fly from nine-hole hitter Josh Stevenson. The insurance runs ultimately proved unnecessary, with Hilliard settling in for three scoreless innings after the third before turning it over to the bullpen.
The trio of Eric Reyzelman, Riley Cooper and Paul Gervase saw out the win for the Tigers. It wasn’t without drama, as two Georgia batters reached in both the seventh and the eighth, but LSU’s staff was able to escape the jams.
Georgia will be kicking themselves after leaving 13 runners on base and going 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position. The Bulldogs also had three chances with the bases loaded—including in the first inning—but went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and a lineout. At the end of the day, LSU made the most of its chances and navigated effectively through trouble to claim a big series-opening victory.
Alabama-Birmingham Scores Upset Over Southern Mississippi in Comeback Fashion
Alabama-Birmingham scored runs like few have this season against a stout Southern Mississippi pitching staff on the way to a 10-6 upset win at home over the No. 6 team in the country.
It started with the Blazers (24-16, 9-10) getting to USM righthander Tanner Hall for seven hits and four runs in five innings of work, which is the most runs Hall has given up in his last five starts.
Still, as the game headed to the seventh inning stretch, USM held a 6-4 lead, putting UAB in need of a late comeback against a talented Golden Eagles bullpen. The Blazers got it with a three-run bottom of the seventh on a two-run single for right fielder Caleb Floyd and a run-scoring error to take the lead. In the eighth, they added three insurance runs courtesy of a three-run blast for first baseman Josh Sears.
Floyd led the way offensively with a 4-for-5 game that included a home run and three RBI, while Sears had two hits, including his homer. On the mound, righthander Aidan Moza held USM (33-9, 16-3) scoreless over the final two innings to make sure that late lead held up.
Boston College Upsets No. 13 Notre Dame
The ACC’s ERA leader heading into the weekend, No. 13 Notre Dame’s John Michael-bertrand/' class='player-linker-link mce-player-linker'>John Michael Bertrand, was roughed up for six runs as Boston College pulled off a surprising 7-4 victory.
Few would have predicted what the Eagles (17-26, 4-18) managed on Friday night in South Bend. BC had lost seven straight conference games and had seen its offense go cold, averaging under three runs per game over its last 10.
Against the lefthander Bertrand and the Irish (26-10, 11-8), though, the Eagles broke out. Bertrand set down the first nine batters he faced, but the second time through the order was much more difficult.
Barry Walsh led off the fourth inning with a solo home run. Then, after a pair of singles, Cameron Leary clubbed a three-run shot to right field. In the fifth, two quick baserunners chased Bertrand, then the Eagles’ tacked on three more runs against the Irish bullpen via hits from Travis Honeyman, Joe Vetrano, and Leary.
Meanwhile, BC’s veteran righthander Joe Mancini was effective and was able to escape plenty of jams. He gave up a run in the fourth on a bases-loaded single from Jared Miller, but a great throw from Walsh in center field caught a runner at the plate. Mancini benefitted from a replay overturned interference call that secured an unconventional 1-2-3 double play in the sixth.
Mancini finished having allowed one run on 10 hits across seven innings, his third start of that length. The Irish got two runs in the eighth, but Brendan Coffey closed the door with a five-out save. The loss knocked Notre Dame out of the top spot in the Atlantic Division as the Irish fell a game back of No. 12 Louisville.