Pinch-hitter Michael Busch clears the bases with a 3-run, two-out double. This place is the most electric I’ve seen it in some time. 4-1 UNC pic.twitter.com/2zFkxxR5nK
— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) April 29, 2017
SEE ALSO: Oregon’s Peterson Whiffs 20
SEE ALSO: Lodolo Fits on Friday
Strike One: UNC Takes Game One Vs. Clemson
But suddenly, with two outs in the 7th, after back-to-back strikeouts, it unraveled. UNC’s Brandon Riley and Cody Roberts both singled, and then a wild ball four to Tyler Lynn allowed the tying run to race home. After another walk to load the bases, No. 6 Clemson turned to sixth-year senior righthander Patrick Andrews, and the Tar Heels turned to freshman Michael Busch off the bench to pinch hit.
“They could say that (Andrews) was nervous,” Busch said, laughing, “but I was also a little nervous.”
|How the Top 25 Fared|
|(1) Oregon State: won, 3-1, vs. Southern California|
|(2) Louisville: won, 5-4, vs. Toledo|
|(3) North Carolina: won, 5-1, vs. (6) Clemson|
|(4) Texas Christian: won, 4-1, at (7) Texas Tech|
|(5) Auburn: lost, 5-2, at (8) Mississippi State|
|(6) Clemson: lost, 5-1, at (3) North Carolina|
|(7) Texas Tech: lost, 4-1, vs. (4) Texas Christian|
|(8) Mississippi State: won, 5-2, vs. (5) Auburn|
|(9) Long Beach State: won, 14-9, at UC Davis|
|(10) Kentucky: won, 19-1, at South Carolina|
|(11) Florida: won, 6-4, at Georgia|
|(12) Virginia: lost, 6-4, at Florida State|
|(13) Arizona: lost, 4-3, at (18) Stanford|
|(14) Cal State Fullerton: won, 5-3, vs. UC Irvine|
|(15) Louisiana State: won, 7-4, at Alabama|
|(16) Arkansas: split DH, lost 4-1, won 7-4 vs. Mississippi|
|(17) Wake Forest: off|
|(18) Stanford: won, 4-3, vs. (13) Arizona|
|(19) Texas A&M: won, 7-1, at Missouri|
|(20) Houston: won, 7-3, at South Florida|
|(21) Maryland: off|
|(22) St. John’s: won, 9-2, vs. Seton Hall|
|(23) Michigan: lost, 12-5, at Rutgers|
|(24) Mercer: lost, 8-4, vs. UNC-Greensboro|
|(25) West Virginia: susp. in sixth vs. Oklahoma, losing 2-1|
Busch saw six straight fastballs, and on the sixth, he ripped a double to right center to clear the bases. And his teammates came out and mobbed him on the field during the pitching change, as part of Friday night’s electric atmosphere at Boshamer Stadium
“That was I think a representation of our team chemistry,” Busch said. “That’s what we want to do is win and that’s just how much fun we have.”
The Tar Heels would tack on another run in that five-run seventh and win 5-1 against the Tigers in a huge Top 10 ACC series, besting Barnes and saddling the lefty with a tough-luck loss.
“(Barnes) really knows what he’s doing,” UNC head coach Mike Fox said. “He knows how to pitch, keeps the ball out of the middle of the plate. Doesn’t get in any kind of patterns. He pitches in just enough to keep you honest. He’s got that changeup for righties. It’s strike two before you can even blink.
“But we had a pretty good one out there matching him, too. Thank goodness.”
That pretty good one was junior righthander J.B. Bukauskas, who struck out five in just his first two innings—all on sharp, mid-80s sliders. After those first two innings, Bukauskas didn’t have his typical electric stuff, but he held Clemson in check until catcher Chris Williams pulled his 11th homer of the year over the left-field wall in the top of the sixth to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
“Towards the beginning I felt really sharp,” said Bukauskas, who allowed just the one run and struck out seven in as many innings. “In the four, five, sixth inning, I lost command of the slider a little bit. I think that had to do with them laying off of it more. In the seventh inning, I really locked back in and got after it again. Kind of sharpened up a little bit.”
After that seventh inning, closer Josh Hiatt entered the game for a six-out save, sealing an important series-opening win for the Tar Heels in front of a crowd of 3,720.
“I love being in those kinds of games, just seeing how your kids respond,” Fox said. “I mean, that’s an NCAA regional type game atmosphere opponent. And most of those guys out there, they haven’t been in that. So it’s good that they were in it and learn from it.
“It’s good when you learn—and also win.”
A few big homers, a few big punch outs, another big win #GoStanford
Highlights from win No. 7 in a row
— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) April 29, 2017
Strike Two: The Cardinal Wins Big Against Arizona
The balance of power in the Pac-12 appears to be shifting.
With a 4-3 win on Friday night, Stanford clinched a huge conference series against visiting Arizona. Coming off a road sweep of Oregon, the Cardinal (26-12, 10-7 Pac-12) has surged up the RPI rankings to No. 13. Though Stanford likely won’t catch first-place Oregon State, who won again Friday against Southern California and is 17-2 in the league, the Cardinal is in much better position to host a regional than it was a couple of weeks ago.
Arizona, on the other hand, continues trending in the exact opposite direction. The Wildcats have lost five straight Pac-12 games after getting swept at home against Utah last weekend. At one point the No. 2 RPI team in the country and a shoo-in for a national seed, the Wildcats aren’t necessarily a lock to host as they sit at No. 11 in the RPI but have a losing 9-11 record in conference play.
The reason for the Wildcats’ recent struggles? Their bats have seemed to have gone cold. At one point the top offense in the country, Arizona scored just 10 runs across three games against Utah and has scored just five runs in the first games against Stanford.
On Friday night, the Cardinal looked like the more powerful offense. First baseman Matt Winaker led off the game with a homer against lefty J.C. Cloney, then added an RBI single in the fifth. Dh Daniel Bakst added a homer of his own in the sixth, and Stanford took the lead on a Nico Hoerner single in conjunction with an error by Arizona left fielder Alfonso Rivas.
Stanford will look for its second straight sweep—and the Wildcats’ will look to avoid theirs—today.
Strike Three: SEC Shuffling
The SEC is so tightly packed, that just when you think a team might be out of the picture, it re-enters, and when you think you know who the top dogs are, they stumble.
This weekend has already presented more of the same unpredictability for the conference.
Arkansas, a team that had been steadily rising, dropped its second straight conference series, losing the first two games of the series against visiting Mississippi. The Rebels, in turn, raised their RPI to No. 31 after seemingly slipping over the last few weeks.
In the first game of Friday’s doubleheader, the Rebels scored four runs in the first inning—the big hit a two-run double by first baseman Nick Fortes—and starter Ryan Rolison threw six strong innings to hold the Razorbacks in check. Arkansas went on to win the second game of the doubleheader to avoid the sweep.
At the top of the conference, both SEC East leader Kentucky and SEC West leader Mississippi State asserted themselves in statement wins.
The Wildcats, up to No. 3 in the RPI now, dominated Wil Crowe and the Gameocks at South Carolina, winning the opener, 19-1. The Bulldogs, playing Auburn in one of three Top 10 battles this weekend, took the opener from the Tigers, winning, 5-2.
Nine newsmakers from Friday’s action.
David Peterson, lhp, Oregon: Peterson already had a 17-strikeout game on his resume this season, but he outdid himself against Arizona State on Friday, striking out 20 batters to just one walk in a nine scoreless innings. Josh Norris was on hand to see the masterful performance.
Kentucky Offense: With their 19-1 win over South Carolina, the Wildcats posted their largest margin of victory ever against an SEC opponent. Leadoff hitter Tristan Pompey homered and went 4-for-5 with four RBIs. Luke Becker, who entered the game in the sixth, homered twice in two at-bats, driving in five.
Nick Lodolo, lhp, Texas Christian: Throwing on Friday for the second straight weekend, the freshman threw his best outing of his career at just the right time, neutralizing Texas Tech with eight strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits. Teddy Cahill was there to see it.
Luke Heimlich, lhp, and Drew Rasmussen, rhp, Oregon State: Heimlich, who has filled in more than admirably for Rasmussen as Oregon State’s Friday starter this year, allowed just one hit against Southern California in eight stellar innings. Rasmussen, the Beavers’ top arm, made his season debut after having Tommy John surgery, coming out of the bullpen to record the final two outs and a save.
Drew Mendoza, 1b, Florida State: The talented freshman hit his second homer of the year in a key situation, giving the Seminoles a late lead in their series-opening win against Virginia. FSU is looking to continue its recent string of success after winning a series against Clemson and splitting two games with Miami.
Jeren Kendall, of, Vanderbilt: In a 1-0 pitcher’s duel between Vanderbilt’s Patrick Raby and Tennessee’s Hunter Martin, Kendall provided the difference, homering for the 13th time this year in the fourth inning for an early knockout blow.
Luke Lind, rhp, North Dakota State: The senior dominated South Dakota State, throwing an 11-strikeout, one-walk one-hitter to lead North Dakota State to a 3-0 victory.
Josh Stowers, of, Louisville: The first two home runs of Stowers’ career came at an opportune time, as the sophomore outfielder drove in a career-high four runs to lead the Cardinals to a comeback, 5-4, win against Toledo.
Carmen Sciafani, 2b, Rutgers: In a 12-5 upset of Michigan, Sciafani was the sparkplug, driving in four runs and homering twice. Rutgers used a sixth-run sixth inning to top the Wolverines.