— Teddy Cahill (@tedcahill) April 14, 2017
Strike One: Mississippi State Stays Hot At South Carolina COLUMBIA, S.C.—For six innings, No. 13 Mississippi State had held the upper hand at No. 17 South Carolina. Brent Rooker homered again—his 16th of the season, the Bulldogs built a five-run lead and ace Konnor Pilkington had stymied the Gamecocks offense.
|How the Top 25 Fared|
|(1) Oregon State: won, 5-2, at Washington|
|(2) Louisville: won, 10-1, at Georgia Tech|
|(3) Texas Christian: lost, 5-4, at West Virginia|
|(4) North Carolina: won, 7-2, vs. North Carolina State|
|(5) Clemson: off|
|(6) Texas Tech: won, 7-4, at Kansas State|
|(7) Arizona: won, 5-4, vs. (22) Oregon|
|(8) Cal State Fullerton: won, 13-5, vs. Southern California|
|(9) Louisiana State: lost, 4-1, vs. Mississippi|
|(10) Auburn: lost, 5-4, in 10 innings at Tennessee|
|(11) Oklahoma: lost, 14-4, at (23) Michigan|
|(12) Long Beach State: won, 4-0, vs. Cal State Northridge|
|(13) Mississippi State: won, 7-4, at (17) South Carolina|
|(14) Virginia: won, 3-2, in 10 innings at Virginia Tech|
|(15) Kentucky: won, 5-2, at Missouri|
|(16) Florida: lost, 2-0, at Vanderbilt|
|(17) South Carolina: lost, 7-4, vs. (13) Mississippi State|
|(18) Stanford: won, 5-3, vs. UCLA|
|(19) Arkansas: won, 5-4, in 10 innings vs. Georgia|
|(20) Wake Forest: won, 4-3, vs. Notre Dame|
|(21) Southern Mississippi: won, 15-4, at Rice|
|(22) Oregon: lost, 5-4, at (7) Arizona|
|(23) Michigan: won, 14-4, vs. (11) Oklahoma|
|(24) St. John’s: won, 5-3, at Butler|
|(25) Connecticut: lost, 3-1, at Tulane|
But in the seventh, things began to unravel. South Carolina started the inning with four straight hits, Mississippi State made an error, had one blown call cost it an out and saw what would have been a makeup call overturned on replay. The Gamecocks, all of a sudden, had cut the lead to two runs and had momentum and the 7,281 fans at Founders Park on their side. But then the bullpen door opened as coach Andy Cannizaro called for Riley Self. The freshman wriggled out of the jam with just one more run scoring and threw 2.1 scoreless innings before handing the ball off to closer Spencer Price, who got the final two outs of Mississippi State’s 7-4 victory. It was the Bulldogs’ fourth in a row and 12th in their last 14 games. Mississippi State (23-13, 9-4) is 19-2 when leading after six innings this season in large part thanks to Self and Price, who have become a lockdown tandem at the end of games. “I love being able to get to the seventh inning with the lead because I know we’ve got Self and Price in the pen,” coach Andy Cannizaro said. “Those guys have the makeup and the mentality that once they come in the ballgame, they’re not losing. It’s a lot of fun to watch them get after it.” Neither Self nor Price is overpowering, but they pound the strike zone with their fastball and can throw their breaking balls for strikes. Self is 4-0, 2.08 with 34 strikeouts and six walks in 26 innings this season. Price is 3-1, 1.61 and leads the Southeastern Conference with 12 saves. The reliability of Self and Price also has allowed Cannizaro and pitching coach Gary Henderson more freedom with when they bring Price into the game. Entering in the middle of an inning, as he did Friday, is not atypical for the sophomore. “It’s different from what I’m used to, but it’s still just going out there and pitching to me,” Price said. “If there’s runners on base or a clean inning, it’s just throwing strikes and getting people out.” Self and Price followed Pilkington, who finished with seven strikeouts in six innings. He allowed four runs (two earned) on six hits and a walk, but for much of the game showed why he could be a first-round pick next June as he dueled with Gamecocks ace Clarke Schmidt, who looked every bit like a first-rounder in this year’s draft. Pilkington’s fastball sat 90-91 mph, touching 93, and the 6-foot-3 lefthander gets good leverage on the pitch. Schmidt ran his fastball up to 95 mph and threw his whole arsenal for strikes. He struck out 11 and held the Bulldogs to five runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk. Aside from giving up the home run to Rooker at the end of a long at bat in the first inning, Schmidt made very few mistakes. He finished his outing retiring the final 19 batters he faced. After winning the series opener, Mississippi State will now go for its fourth straight SEC series win. South Carolina (21-12, 7-6), meanwhile, has lost four of its last five games and is trying to avoid losing its third consecutive conference series and second straight at home.
Strike Two: Michigan Makes A Statement
Tonight’s win featured a season-high 17 hits… And six were for extra bases!
With a top-15 nonconference opponent coming to Ann Arbor for a three-game series, Michigan had a chance to make a statement this weekend. The No. 23 Wolverines did not miss their opportunity, defeating No. 11 Oklahoma, 14-4, Friday to clinch the series. After Oklahoma scored three runs in the top of the first, Michigan (28-7) immediately answered, scoring four runs in each of the first three innings to take control of the game. The Wolverines collected a season-high 17 hits and three walks, while striking out just twice. Ako Thomas, Johnny Slater, Michael Brdar and Drew Lugbauer, the top four hitters in their lineup, combined to go 10-for-17 with 11 runs and nine RBIs. After their three-run first, the Sooners could muster just one run against a quartet of Wolverines pitchers. Ryan Nutof turned in a quality start and picked up the victory to improve to 4-1, 4.78. Keith Lehmann, Tory Miller and Grant Reuss combined to hold Oklahoma to one run on one hit and one walk in three innings of relief. Michigan has had just one losing weekend all year, a series loss at Maryland on opening weekend of Big Ten Conference play. Since losing the first two games of that series, the Wolverines have won 12 of their 13 games.
Strike Three: Coastal Takes Control in Sun Belt When the schedule for Coastal Carolina’s first season in the Sun Belt Conference was released last fall, one nine-day stretch immediately jumped out. On back-to-back weekends in April, the defending national champions were scheduled to host Louisiana-Lafayette and travel to South Alabama, the conference’s two regional teams last year. Coastal split its series against Louisiana and will finish that stretch Saturday with the series finale at South Alabama. But after beating the Jaguars, 11-9, Friday to clinch the series and move into first place in the Sun Belt’s East Division, the Chanticleers (22-12-1, 10-3-1) have already passed the test. They have also vaulted 21 spots in the RPI this week, climbing to No. 55. Coastal won the first two games at South Alabama in very different ways. Thursday was a classic pitchers’ duel that required a Kevin Woodall home run in the 10th to decide. Friday’s game was much more wide open with both teams lighting up the scoreboard. The Chanticleers are capable of winning either way, as both its offense and pitching staff have found their form as the second half of the season begins. Leadoff hitter Billy Cooke (3-for-3, 3 RBIs) led the Chanticleers’ offense, but they got at least one hit from seven of their starters and Woodall again homered, his 14th of the season. On the mound, righthander Andrew Beckwith threw six innings in relief of Zack Hopeck before Austin Kitchen came on for a perfect ninth to earn his third save of the season. Regardless of Saturday’s result, Coastal will leave Mobile, Ala., in first place in the division and with a winning record against the conference’s only other teams with top 100 RPIs. After something of an up-and-down first half, Coastal has positioned itself well for the stretch run.
The Lineup Kyle Wright, rhp, Vanderbilt: This was the Kyle Wright Vanderbilt and scouts had been waiting to see. After Florida rallied in the ninth inning to defeat Vanderbilt in the series opener Thursday, Wright pitched his best game of the season to lead the Commodores to a bounce-back 2-0 victory. The Preseason All-American threw a three-hit shutout, struck out 13 and walked none. Wright threw just 99 pitches and improved to 2-4, 3.98. Matt Stemper, of, Minnesota: In an 11-0 victory at Indiana, Minnesota pounded out 20 hits, including nine that went for extra bases. Stemper (3-for-5) doubled, homered and drove in five runs to help lead the Golden Gophers (21-8, 7-0) to their 12 straight win and stay undefeated in the Big Ten. Anthony Paulsen, of, Winthrop: With Paulsen (5-for-6, 4 R, 3 RBIs) leading the way offensively, the Eagles (19-16, 7-4) defeated Liberty, 11-4, to move into a three-way tie for first place in the Big South with the Flames and Presbyterian. Paulsen is hitting .333/.423/.553. Zach Jarrett, of, Charlotte: After losing back-to-back Conference USA series against Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic, Charlotte (19-16, 8-6) bounced back with a series win against Western Kentucky, clinching it Friday with a 16-5 victory. Jarrett (4-for-6, 3 R) led the offense from the leadoff spot, finishing the night a home run shy of the cycle. Ethan Roberts, rhp, Tennessee Tech: Roberts, Tennessee Tech’s closer, got the final 10 outs, all by strikeout, in a 6-4 victory against Murray State. The sophomore issued one walk before striking out the final nine batters of the game for his 10th save of the year. Oliver Dunn, 2b, Utah: Led by Dunn (5-for-6, 2 2B, 4 RBI), Utah defeated California, 16-8, to clinch the series. With his big day at the plate Friday, the freshman snapped out of a 1-for-26 skid in his last six games. Tate Blackman, 2b, Mississippi: Blackman hit a leadoff home run and added another solo shot in the sixth inning to lead Mississippi to a 4-1 victory at No. 9 Louisiana State. The junior is now hitting .274/.372/.444 with four home runs this season. Zac Michener, of, Stephen F. Austin: Led Michener (2-for-4, 2B, HR), Stephen F. Austin defeated Sam Houston State, 5-1. The loss snapped the Bearkats’ 18-game conference winning streak that dated back to May 13, 2016. Stephen Sensely, dh, Louisiana-Lafayette: In a 13-2 victory against Arkansas State, Sensley homered in his only two at bats and walked and was hit by a pitch in his other plate appearances. He scored four times, drove in five runs and is now hitting .314/.378/.500 with four home runs.