College Roundup: ACC Play Off To A Wild Start

J.B. Bukauskas

Three key storylines from around college baseball Friday night.

Strike One: Opening night in the ACC

The opening weekend of Atlantic Coast Conference play was headlined by No. 13 Virginia visiting No. 17 North Carolina, but the start of league play turned into a wild day. Boston College upset No. 2 Florida State, 8-5, and Miami knocked off No. 19 Georgia Tech, 10-8, to snap a three-game losing streak.

Boston College (6-6) went into Friday’s game on an 11-game losing streak to Florida State (11-3) and had not won in Tallahassee since 2009. But the Eagles scored five runs in the third off righthander Cole Sands and added two unearned runs in the seventh. Starter Jacob Stevens (6 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 5 BB, 5 K) made the early runs stand up and Donavan Casey earned his first save of the season with a perfect ninth inning. He also went 2-for-4 with a run and two RBIs at the plate.

(1) Texas Christian: lost, 11-2, at UC Irvine
(2) Florida State: lost, 8-5, vs. Boston College
(3) Florida: won, 8-0, vs. Seton Hall
(4) Louisville: won, 3-0, vs. Pittsburgh
(5) Oregon State: swept DH vs. Ball State, 5-0 and 5-1
(6) Louisiana State: won, 6-1, vs. Wichita State
(7) Cal State Fullerton: lost, 1-0, vs. Gonzaga
(8) East Carolina: lost, 2-0, vs. Charlotte
(9) Clemson: won, 4-1, vs. Notre Dame
(10) South Carolina: won, 3-2, vs. Michigan State
(11) Arizona: won, 21-5, vs. Hartford
(12) Washington: lost, 4-2, vs. Indiana State
(13) Virginia: lost, 9-4, at (17) North Carolina
(14) Texas Tech: won, 7-6, vs. Texas-San Antonio
(15) Louisiana-Lafayette: won, 10-0, vs. St. Peter’s
(16) Stanford: lost, 4-0, at Rice
(17) North Carolina: won, 9-4, vs. (13) Virginia
(18) Coastal Carolina: lost, 7-6, vs. Illinois
(19) Georgia Tech: lost, 10-8, at Miami
(20) North Carolina State: lost, 6-4, at Wake Forest
(21) Mississippi: won, 2-0, vs. Furman
(22) St. John’s: won, 5-4, at Liberty in 10 innings
(23) Oklahoma State: lost, 2-1, vs. South Dakota State
(24) Baylor: won, 2-1, vs. Houston
(25) Texas A&M: won, 6-4, vs. Brown

Miami, which beat BC in super regionals last year, also got a much-needed victory at the start of ACC play. The Hurricanes had scored just 13 runs in nine games since opening weekend, going 2-7 in that stretch, but got to Yellow Jackets freshman righthander Xzavion Curry for eight runs (five earned) in the first five innings.

Georgia Tech’s powerful offense didn’t go quietly and loaded the bases with no outs in the ninth. But closer Frankie Bartow held the Yellow Jackets (9-3) to one run in the inning, and Miami (5-8) snapped a three-game skid.

Meanwhile, in the conference’s only Top-25 matchup this weekend, North Carolina jumped on Virginia lefthander Daniel Lynch for nine runs (eight earned) in 4.1 innings, and went on to a 9-4 victory. First baseman Zach Gahagan (1-for-4, 2 R) hit a three-run home run and third baseman Kyle Datres went 3-for-5 to lead the Tar Heels’ offense.

Preseason All-American righthander J.B. Bukauskas delivered another strong start for North Carolina (11-3), holding Virginia (12-2) to one run in six innings. He struck out seven.

Bad weather is forecasted for much of the East Coast on Sunday, causing most ACC teams to alter their schedules and conclude the series with a Saturday doubleheader. As a result, Saturday’s games will be critical for teams looking to start conference play with a winning weekend.

Strike Two: Charlotte stays hot, knocks off East Carolina

GREENVILLE, N.C. – Coming off three straight losing seasons as it transitioned from the Atlantic-10 Conference to Conference USA, Charlotte won its first three weekend series of the season and carried a 9-4 record into this weekend’s series at No. 8 East Carolina.

The 49ers continued their strong start to the season with a 2-0 victory Friday against the Pirates (10-4). The loss snapped ECU’s 10-game winning streak.

Charlotte senior righthander Colton Laws struck out a career-high nine batters in 7.1 innings, the longest outing of his career. But the 49ers’ offense wasn’t able to break through until the ninth inning. They struck for two runs against relievers Sam lanier and Joe Ingle in the ninth inning, and closer Jonah Patten worked around two errors in the bottom half of the inning to seal the victory.

Charlotte (10-4) improved to 2-0 against Top 25 opponents this season, having already beaten North Carolina State earlier in the year.

Coach Loren Hibbs said the 49ers are seeing the benefits of their plan to improve the program as they moved to the more difficult Conference USA.

“We put a plan in place to play a lot of young guys those first couple years and we took our lumps,” he said. “I’ve said it a bunch, I wouldn’t go back and change it because those guys are now juniors and seniors. We’re getting dividends paid now.”

Laws is one of the older players who has grown up along with the program. His fastball sat in the upper 80s against ECU and he located the pitch well. He also effectively mixed in his changeup, often pitching backwards against the aggressive Pirates hitters.

Friday was Laws’ latest quality start this season. He is 1-0, 1.32 and has struck out 27 batters and walked three in 27.1 innings. Hibbs said Laws worked hard during the fall and has now taken a step forward.

“He’s always worked hard, but he’s taken it to another level now,” Hibbs said. “He’s done what we’ve asked him to do and really made a concerted effort to take care of his body.”

ECU played Friday without three key players. Friday starter Evan Kruczynski (leg) and outfielder Dwanya Williams-Sutton (hand) are both expected to be out for a few weeks with injuries. First baseman Bryce Harman has been out all season with a wrist injury, but could be back on the field soon. Freshman lefthander Jake Agnos started in Kruczynski’s place and threw six scoreless innings in his first career start.

Strike Three: Irvine’s offense explodes to upset top-ranked TCU

For the second week in a row, Texas Christian righthander Brian Howard ran into trouble in the first inning Friday night. But unlike last week against Louisiana State at the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic, Howard and No. 1 TCU were unable to escape against UC Irvine.

The Anteaters scored eight runs in the first to knock Howard out of the game after recording just one out. Irvine went on to win 11-2 to open a big home series. The Anteaters (8-4) have won five straight.

A week ago, Howard allowed four runs in the first, but managed to get out of the inning. TCU (11-2) responded with five runs in the top of the second to retake the lead and Howard bounced back with four scoreless innings. The Horned Frogs won the game, beginning a perfect weekend at the Shriners College Classic.

But at Irvine, the Anteaters sent 13 batters to the plate in the first, sparking a rout. Preseason All-American Keston Hiura went 2-for-3 with a home run and a double. The junior is now hitting .467/.544/1.022 in 12 games. Infielder Cole Kreuter added three hits and three RBIs.

Howard (2-2, 8.82) has taken both of TCU’s losses this season, with the first coming in the first game of its series against Arizona State. Righthander Jared Janczak (3-0, 2.66) started Opening Day for the Horned Frogs and is off to the best start of any of their starting pitchers. He has moved to starting on Sundays, but may be due for a return to Friday nights with Big 12 Conference play starting next week.

The Lineup

Nine newsmakers from Friday’s action.

Gunner Leger, lhp, Louisiana-Lafayette: The junior lefthander was one out away from finishing off a no-hitter against Saint Peter’s before giving up a single and exiting the game. However, Leger still spun a gem, striking out nine and only allowing one other baserunner—on a hit-by-pitch—in the game.


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