Friday Roundup: Arizona Grabs Important Series Win
With its postseason hopes hanging in the balance, Arizona stepped up in a huge way this weekend by taking a series against No. 8 UCLA.
After a 2-0 win Thursday night, the Wildcats defeated the Bruins, 3-1, on Friday to move to 27-17 (10-11 Pac-12) on the season and up 12 spots in the RPI to No. 48.
The Wildcats jumped ahead early, as a sacrifice fly by shortstop Cameron Cannon and an RBI single by third baseman Nick Quintana gave Arizona a 2-0 lead in the first. Junior righthander Michael Flynn took the wheel from there, striking out 12 and allowing just one run across 6.2 dazzling frames.
The Pac-12 has been a top-heavy conference to this point, with UCLA, Stanford and Oregon State playing like Omaha contenders and the rest of the league grappling for separation. Arizona might have achieved that separation with this series win, improving the Wildcats’ chances of being the fourth Pac-12 team to earn an at-large bid.
They still have some work to do, and they’ll play two out of their last three series on the road, which will be no easy task. But the Wildcats’ postseason hopes look much brighter than they did before the weekend.
As for UCLA, the Bruins’ key mission now will be avoiding a sweep. UCLA is 30-12 on the season has fallen to second place in the Pac-12 behind Stanford at 14-6. With an RPI in the mid-20s, the Bruins aren’t yet a lock to host, but they’ll have at least one more huge RPI-building opportunity when they travel to Oregon State to end the season.
Clemens Leads Texas To Rout of Texas Tech
Junior second baseman Kody Clemens hit two home runs and went 4-for-5 with three RBIs to help fuel a huge 12-6 win for No. 20 Texas on the road at No. 9 Texas Tech.
The Longhorns hit four home runs in the slugfest, breaking the game open in a six-run third in which shortstop David Hamilton hit a three-run shot and catcher D.J. Petrinsky added a two-run bomb.
The series between the Longhorns and Red Raiders has sizable implications both in the Big 12 race and for the postseason in general. Though Texas (32-17, 13-6 Big 12) ranks ahead of Texas Tech in the standings (34-13, 11-8), the Longhorns’ mid-20s RPI puts them on the bubble in terms of hosting. A series win could go a long way toward securing a hosting nod.
Texas Tech, meanwhile, is now 4.5 games back of first-place Oklahoma State and will need some help to win its third straight Big 12 title. The Red Raiders’ top-five RPI keeps them in the hunt for a national seed, but the team would still be wise to keep its foot on the pedal, as Oklahoma State continues to surge—up to No. 19 in the RPI with a non-conference win at Iowa on Friday night. Those two teams will square off in the final weekend of the regular season.
Minnesota Draws First Blood In Key Big Ten Battle
Fighting for Big Ten supremacy and a hosting nod, No. 22 Minnesota defeated No. 18 Indiana, 4-1, on Friday to move into a tie with Michigan for first place.
Starter Reggie Meyer threw eight strong innings, allowing just one run on four hits and striking out six to lift the rising Gophers to a key win.
Minnesota and Indiana have been trending in different directions of late. The Gophers have steadily climbed up both the conference standings and the RPI. Sitting at No. 20 in the RPI now, Minnesota would be primed to host if it can win just one more game this series. The Hoosiers, meanwhile, have dipped to 9-6 in conference play after an outstanding 22-5 non-conference slate.
A Top 25 team all season, Indiana simply hasn’t been able to play its way to the top of the Big Ten standings, and with an RPI at 25, might be staring at a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. That can change quickly, especially if the Hoosiers can rally back to take this series, but it won’t be easy already down one game on the road against the red-hot Gophers.
Curtain Closes on NC Central Baseball at Durham Athletic Park
This weekend signaled the end of an era for NC Central baseball, but the Eagles hope the best is still yet to come.
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn: Mize has pitched his way to the top of draft boards this spring—and he’s only getting better. On Friday night against Vanderbilt, Mize matched a school record with 15 strikeouts in a sterling complete-game effort. Mize allowed just one run on four hits and walked none, leading Auburn to a 4-1 win over the Commodores. Struggling of late, Vandy slipped to 25-20 (11-11 SEC), while Auburn rose to 32-14 (11-11).
Brady Singer, RHP, Florida: Unintimidated by the atmosphere at Blue Bell Park in College Station, Texas, Singer had his way with Texas A&M. In a 9-0 Florida win, Singer went the distance, allowing just six hits, walking none and striking out five as the Gators continued to look unstoppable.
Nick Sandlin, RHP, Southern Miss: The junior righthander is up to 32 innings without allowing an earned run, moving to 7-0 on the season with his second straight complete-game shutout. Sandlin struck out nine and allowed just six hits as No. 13 Southern Miss defeated Alabama-Birmingham, 6-0.
Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian: The sophomore lefthander struck out 10 in a 7.1 scoreless against Lamar on Friday, as the Horned Frogs won their third straight game in shutout fashion. Playing a non-conference series this weekend, TCU is still on the outside looking in as far as the tournament picture goes and will have little margin for error going forward.
Adam Wolf, LHP, Louisville: Matching the longest outing of his career, the junior struck out 10 and allowed just one run on three hits in Louisville’s 6-1 win over Boston College. Primarily a reliever the first two years of his career, Wolf has allowed two or fewer runs in nine of 12 starts this season.
Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford: Allowing just one run and striking out five in six innings, Beck helped lead the Cardinal to a 12-1 win over Utah—moving Stanford into sole possession of first place in the Pac-12.
Around the Horn
Stunningly projected as one of the first four teams out in the latest Field of 64 projection, Louisiana State did itself no favors by dropping Game 1 to No. 4 Arkansas, 5-4, at home. A year after finishing as the national title runner-ups, the Tigers have dug themselves into a hole at below .500 in the SEC (10-12) and with an RPI hovering around 60. Granted, Arkansas is no easy opponent, but with a resume lacking marquee wins, the Tigers could use a strong showing this weekend.
South Carolina, meanwhile, has been trending in the opposite direction, winning back-to-back series against Vanderbilt and LSU. The Gamecocks continued the magic Friday, beating No. 3 Mississippi, 13-5, to move up to No. 42 in the RPI and (27-18, 12-10) overall. In his first year at the helm, Mark Kingston has the Gamecocks playing their best baseball down the stretch—and they look good to earn an at-large bid because of it.