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College Baseball Takeaways: Virginia Tech, UCLA Score Big Wins

Virginia Tech Clinches Series Against No. 2 Miami

For the second night in a row, Virginia Tech jumped right on No. 2 Miami and never looked back en route to a big win. After beating the Hurricanes, 12-5, on Thursday night, the Hokies clinched the series win with a 13-2 victory Friday night in Blacksburg.

Virginia Tech scored four runs in the first inning – all with two outs – to take the early lead. The Hokies kept piling on and by the end of the fifth inning, they led, 11-2, and were well on their way to a resounding series win. Virginia Tech (23-8, 9-6) handed Miami (27-8, 13-4) its first ACC series loss of the season and moved ahead of rival Virginia for second place in the ACC Coastal Division.

The Hokies pounded out 16 hits and 11 different players collected at least one hit. Nick Biddison and Tanner Schobel led the way with three hits each and combined to score five runs.

All the offense was more than enough for righthander Drue Hackenberg, who threw eight strong innings. He held the Hurricanes to two runs (one earned) on five hits and three walks. The freshman struck out seven batters and improved to 7-0, 2.21 with 49 strikeouts and five walks in 53 innings this season.

Virginia Tech hasn’t lost a series since getting swept at Georgia Tech on the first weekend of ACC play in mid March. Since then, the Hokies are 9-3 in conference play, a mark only exceeded by the Hurricanes (11-3). That hot streak has firmly put them on a path to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013 and they’re now also in the mix to host regionals. It’s been a remarkable rise for the Hokies.

Miami, meanwhile, this weekend took its first series loss since it lost to rival Florida in early March. It’s still in first place of the ACC, but having already seen its 14-game winning streak snapped and lost the series this weekend, it will be eager to win Saturday and avoid getting swept in Blacksburg.

UCLA Edges Stanford To Even Series

Friday night was a special night at UCLA’s Jackie Robinson Stadium, as the Bruins celebrated the 75th anniversary of Jackie Robinson becoming the first Black player to appear in the major leagues. The game on the field was a special one as well, as No. 13 UCLA defeated No. 11 Stanford, 5-4, to even the series.

The Bruins (24-10, 9-5) took an early lead on Michael Curialle’s two-run home run in the second inning, and they doubled the advantage with a two-run single from Jake Palmer in the fourth. But Stanford (19-11, 10-7) chipped away at the deficit. Drew Bowser homered in the fifth and Braden Montgomery hit a prodigious two-run homer in the sixth, his second in as many days. The Cardinal tied the game in the eighth, making the Bruins pay for their lone error of the night.

UCLA wasn’t done, however. Curialle led off the bottom of the eighth with a single and then came around to score the go-ahead run on a single from Darius Perry. A tense ninth inning followed, and Stanford got two runners on with one out for the dangerous duo of Carter Graham and Brett Barrera. But lefthander Ethan Flanagan struck out Graham and got Barrera to weakly ground out to end the game.

It was another one-run win for UCLA, which is now 10-2 in such games. It’s a sensational mark that speaks not only to the level of the Bruins’ pitching staff, which is one of the best in the country and ranked fifth nationally in team ERA (3.02) entering Friday, but also the whole team’s fortitude.

Having now split the first two games of the series, the teams are set for a rubber game Saturday. Both teams are in the thick of the Pac-12 title race – UCLA is a half-game out of first place and Stanford one game back – giving added meaning to the finale.

Florida State Clinches Series Win Against Louisville

Following the same script it used in Thursday night’s win, No. 19 Florida State jumped out to a big, early lead against No. 9 Louisville and held on for a big win. Friday night’s 9-4 victory clinched the series for the Seminoles.

Florida State (21-13, 9-8) scored five in the first inning against righthander Jared Poland, with Treyton Rank delivering the big blow with a two-out, three-run triple. It was the start of a big night for Rank, a freshman. He went 4-for-4 with a double, a triple and two runs.

The Seminoles continued to build on that early lead throughout the game, taking advantage of eight walks, five hit batters and two errors. It was plenty of run support for lefthander Bryce Hubbart, who held Louisville to one run in 5.2 innings. He struck out six, scattered five hits and two walks and improved to 6-2, 2.70.

Louisville did score three runs in the ninth inning, but it was too little, too late. The Cardinals so far have scored just five runs on 15 hits this weekend after coming into the series averaging 10 runs per game. Louisville remains in first place in the ACC Atlantic Division, but its lead has shrunk to just one game, and it has fallen out of the top 35 of RPI.

Having now lost two of its last three series – both on the road – Louisville will be eager to bounce back with a win Saturday and finish the weekend on a better note.

TCU Holds Off Texas Tech To Clinch Series Win

Texas Christian on Friday edged No. 4 Texas Tech, 4-3, to win a nailbiter and clinch a big series win.

The Horned Frogs scored two runs in the second inning and added two more in the sixth and took that 4-0 lead into the eighth inning. But the Red Raiders weren’t about to go quietly. They scored twice in the eighth to halve the deficit and then loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against TCU closer River Ridings.

Ridings walked in a run before getting the second out on an infield fly. Then, Texas Tech appeared briefly to tie the game when a balk was called. The umpires overruled that decision, however, and Ridings got pinch hitter Trevor Conley to ground out to end the game.

Ridings earned his 10th save of the season as he worked the final two innings. He and Caleb Bolden combined for four innings of relief of righthander Marcelo Perez, who struck out six batters in five scoreless innings to improve to 3-1, 2.88.

With the win, TCU (23-12, 9-5) pushed ahead of Texas Tech (27-11, 7-4) in the Big 12 standings and is just a game behind first-place Oklahoma State. Coming off a tough series loss last weekend at Texas and a loss Tuesday against Dallas Baptist, starting the weekend with two wins was key for the Horned Frogs.

Texas Tech, meanwhile, has now lost three straight and six of its last nine games. Its offense has been stymied so far this weekend at Lupton Stadium, as the Red Raiders have collected just five hits in each game. They’ve seen their RPI drop outside the top 25, leaving them with a lot of work to do in the season’s second half. Getting back on track Saturday with a win would be a big boost.

Kansas State Clinches Series Win Against Texas

For the second straight day, Kansas State beat No. 8 Texas, and after it took a comeback to get it done on Thursday, the Wildcats on Friday controlled the action from start to finish on the way to an 8-1 win.

K-State (17-16, 3-8) got the scoring started with two runs in the second, one thanks to an RBI double off the bat of catcher Justin Mitchell and the other on a sacrifice fly for right fielder Dominic Hughes.

And while it would add on runs later in the contest, it turns out that those two early runs were all it would need, because righthander Blake Adams was on his game. He threw seven innings, giving up three hits and one run—a solo homer for Texas catcher Silas Ardoin—with three walks and six strikeouts, a performance made all the more impressive when you consider that Adams was coming off two tough relief outings last weekend against Texas Tech.

The offensive attack for the Wildcats was led by second baseman Josh Nicoloff, who went 3-for-3, and left fielder Dominic Johnson, who drove in three runs and helped break the game open in the seventh with a two-run home run.

Texas (25-12, 5-6), meanwhile, continues to be an up-and-down club, and is in a position where salvaging the series finale on Saturday is important if it’s going to be a factor in the Big 12 race down the stretch.

Justin Campbell Dazzles As Oklahoma State Downs West Virginia

Runs were at a premium in the series opener between No. 3 Oklahoma State and West Virginia in Morgantown, and OSU righthander Justin Campbell made sure the few runs his team pushed across stood up in a 2-1 win.

Campbell threw seven scoreless innings, giving up six hits and one walk with eight strikeouts, and he saved some of his best work for his last inning. To begin the bottom of the seventh, WVU DH McGwire Holbrook singled and left fielder Braden Barry followed with an RBI double. Holbrook tried to score but was thrown out at the plate. Still, that left Barry at third with one out, and after pinch hitter Nathan Blasick walked, Campbell struck out the next two batters to get out of the toughest jam of the game.

It wasn’t a standout day at the plate for Oklahoma State (25-9, 8-2), but it did just enough with a run in the third on an RBI single for Caeden Trenkle and a run in the seventh on a solo homer for third baseman Nolan McLean, who would later come on to pitch in the ninth and record the save.

West Virginia (21-11, 5-2) made a late push, as right fielder Austin Davis singled, stole second, stole third and scored on a sacrifice fly for center fielder Victor Scott in the eighth to make it 2-1, but that’s as close as the Mountaineers would get.

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Pitt Stays Hot With Win Against Virginia

Pittsburgh has been one of the hotter teams in the country over the last month and it kept that hot streak going Friday, as it opened a series against No. 6 Virginia. The Panthers defeated the Cavaliers, 9-4, and have now won 10 of their last 12 games.

Pitt (20-12, 8-7) never trailed Friday, but it wasn’t until the Panthers scored six runs in the sixth inning that they took control of the game. They did so by taking advantage of a series of miscues by the Cavaliers in the inning. Two walks, a wild pitch and two errors helped the Panthers create a big inning and turn a 2-2 game into an 8-2 edge for the home team.

Tatem Levins (3-for-4, 2 R, HR) and Jack Anderson (3-for-5, 2B) led the way for the Panthers offense with three hits each. Levins, a transfer from La Salle, is Pitt’s leading hitter and is now batting .352/.434/.669 with 12 home runs this season.

The offense was plenty for Pitt with righthander Matt Gilbertson (6-2, 3.36) on the mound. He held the Cavaliers – which came into the day as the nation’s top-scoring offense – to four runs in eight innings. He struck out eight batters, walked none and scattered eight hits.

Pitt has made an impressive run over the last four weeks. On March 20, the Panthers lost a rubber game at Virginia Tech to fall to 10-10 on the season and 1-5 in ACC play. But at the time they had played just two home games, neither coming as a part of a weekend series. Since then, Pitt is 12-2and has won three straight ACC series against Clemson, Louisville and Boston College.

Pitt now has a chance to extend that streak to four straight ACC series wins with another victory this weekend against Virginia (26-8, 9-7). It would be the Panthers biggest series win yet and would be a big boost to their NCAA Tournament resume, as they are trying to reach regionals for the first time since 1995.

Virginia, meanwhile, has now lost five straight games after getting swept at Miami last weekend and losing Tuesday at Old Dominion. After a sensational start to the season, the Cavaliers have hit a mid-season lull and will be eager to snap out of it Saturday.

Duke Secures Series Win Against Notre Dame

Duke last season dug itself a big hole early in the season, only to make a torrid run through the back half of its schedule to get into at-large range and then win the ACC Tournament to leave no doubt about its postseason future.

If it’s going to do something similar this season, a series win against No. 10 Notre Dame would be a good place to start, and with a 4-3 victory in 11 innings Friday, the Blue Devils (15-20, 5-12) got it done.

Righthander Marcus Johnson kept Duke in the game by turning in a solid start. He threw six innings, holding Notre Dame (21-7, 8-6) to five hits and three runs with three walks and six strikeouts. And yet, the Blue Devils trailed 3-2 into the bottom of the eighth, right up until first baseman Luke Storm hit a solo home run off a light tower in right center field to tie the game, giving him three hits in the contest.

Then, in the 11th, after shortstop Alex Mooney walked and third baseman Graham Pauley was hit by a pitch with one out, left fielder RJ Schreck singled to give Duke the walk-off victory.

There’s still a lot of work to do for Duke to even think about being a postseason team, but this series win shows its capability to be that kind of team.

Georgia Southern Clinches Rivalry Series Win With Rout

After a comeback win Thursday night in the opener against rival Georgia State, Georgia Southern on Friday left no doubt. The Eagles won, 11-1, to clinch the series and knock the Panthers out of first place in the Sun Belt.

Georgia Southern (23-11, 10-4) pounded out 16 hits in the game with Jesse Sherrill (3-for-6, 2 R), Austin Thompson (3-for-4, HR, 2 R) and Kyler Hultgren (3-for-5) leading the way with three apiece. That trio also scored the first three runs of the game and then played a role in the seven-run sixth inning that blew the game open.

Righthander Jaylen Paden was the beneficiary of all the run support, but he was also excellent for the Eagles. He threw six scoreless innings, striking out nine batters and working around two hits and three walks. He improved to 4-0, 3.86 on the season.

Georgia Southern has now in successive weekends beaten Texas State and Georgia State, which both were in first place in the conference when they met the Panthers. Georgia Southern is now a game behind Texas State (27-9, 11-3) in the Sun Belt standings, but the Eagles have the best RPI (9) in the conference.

Their rise into the top 10 this week is particularly notable, as they are now putting themselves in the conversation to host regionals. Georgia Southern has never done that – it hasn’t even made the NCAA Tournament since 2014 – but with a strong finish to the season, it’s certainly on the table now.

First, however, Georgia Southern will look to finish its first sweep of Georgia State since the Panthers joined the Sun Belt in 2015.

Liberty Blows Out Kennesaw State, Wins Series

Kennesaw State went into the weekend leading the ASUN Conference and Liberty entered with a 7-5 record and some bumps and bruises on its resume, but after two days, it’s the Flames that once again look like the class of the conference.

After winning 9-2 on Thursday, Liberty won 18-3 in seven innings on Friday, securing the series win. KSU won, 9-8, in the nightcap to salvage one game of the series, but it was Liberty that made off with the biggest spoils.

Liberty (22-12, 9-6) got big games at the plate from catcher Gray Betts and right fielder Aaron Anderson, who both had four hits, and Betts and DH Drew Baughman had home runs. To really hammer home that it was a particularly big day for Betts, he also drove in five runs. All told, five Liberty hitters had at least two hits in a game when the team had 17 total.

On the mound, Liberty righthander Dylan Cumming held Kennesaw State (22-12, 11-4) to three runs (one earned) on five hits in seven innings.

This is just the first of two series to be played between these teams this season, but it’s Liberty that landed the first blow and made a statement that despite some of its struggles, it still might be the team to beat in the ASUN.

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