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Friday Roundup: Oregon State Rolls Against Stanford

Oregon State in recent years has dominated its series against Stanford. The Beavers have won the series for seven straight years and went into this weekend’s top-five showdown having won 19 of the last 21 meetings.

While No. 2 Stanford came into the weekend in first place in the Pac-12 Conference, No. 4 Oregon State on Friday wasted no time asserting itself. The Beavers scored three runs in the first inning against Cardinal ace Tristan Beck and went on to a 6-2 victory.

Oregon State lefthander Luke Heimlich outdueled Beck. Heimlich struck out 14 batters in eight innings and held Stanford to two runs on three hits and two walks.

The Beavers got to Beck early in the game, scoring four runs in the first two innings. Outfielders Steven Kwan (2-for-3, RBI) and Trevor Larnach (2-for-4, 2 RBI) led the offense with two hits apiece and infielder Michael Gretler produced a key two-run double in the first inning.

Beck settled in and threw seven innings, but the damage had already been done. He gave up six runs (four earned) on nine hits and no walks and struck out five.

Oregon State (37-7-1) needs a series win this weekend to keep the Pac-12 race interesting down the stretch. The Beavers’ victory Friday cut the Cardinal’s lead to 1.5 games and another victory over the next two days would turn the race into a six-game sprint. It would also go a long way to locking up a top-eight seed for the Beavers.

Stanford (38-7) has cruised through most of the year but is now 1-3 against Oregon State and UCLA, the two teams closest to it in the standings. Both series have been on the road, but the Cardinal must find a way to win the next two games in Corvallis to avoid being sucked back into a spirited conference title race over the final two weeks.

Another Wild Night In The American

The American Athletic Conference has routinely been one of the most unpredictable conferences throughout its five years of existence. Friday night was the latest example of just how quickly fortunes can change in the American.

First-place Houston last weekend lost a home series to Central Florida, bringing the trio of No. 25 Connecticut, No. 14 East Carolina and No. 23 South Florida into a tie for second place, 1.5 games out of first place. All three have hopes of hosting a regional and claiming the conference’s regular-season title would give their resumes a boost. The Cougars, meanwhile, have had RPI trouble all season and fell to the NCAA Tournament bubble after last week’s slipup.

Houston this weekend traveled to UConn for its final conference season of the year—the rest of the league finishes next weekend. A bad weather forecast for later in the weekend forced the teams to play a doubleheader Friday and the Cougars left nothing to chance. They swept the doubleheader, holding off a late rally by the Huskies for a 6-5 win in Game 1 and then rolling to a 10-1 victory in the nightcap.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati beat ECU, 4-3, and Wichita State routed South Florida, 17-2. Those results, combined with its doubleheader sweep, clinched at least a share of the conference title for Houston. Its magic number to win the championship outright is 1. The Cougars can take care of business themselves Sunday with a win in the series finale against the Huskies or it would need Cincinnati, ECU and South Florida to all lose one of their remaining five conference games.

The Cougars (31-19, 16-7) crushed four home runs on the day, including two from Joe Davis in the nightcap. The junior went 4-for-5, scored four runs and drove in four more in Game 2, while Lael Lockheart (3-for-4, HR, 4 RBI) and Jared Triolo (1-for-3, HR) provided the power in Game 1.

The sweep was particularly damaging to UConn’s hosting hopes. The Huskies (29-16-1) still have a top-20 RPI but have now lost series to Houston and South Florida and are 11-9 in the league. UConn still has a chance to host but will need to win Sunday’s finale and then win its series next weekend against ECU to keep its hopes alive.

Ace Watch

Friday night is for college baseball's aces. Here we highlight some of the best pitching performances of the day.

Jason Bilous, RHP, Coastal Carolina:  Bilous, making perhaps his last start at Springs Brooks Stadium, struck out 11 batters in seven scoreless innings in a 4-0 victory against Arkansas-Little Rock. The hard-throwing junior has struggled with his command at times, but held the Trojans to two hits and a walk. Bilous improved to 7-2, 3.00 with 90 strikeouts in 72 innings.

Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson: In a 4-2 victory at Florida Gulf Coast, Gilbert struck out 13 batters and held the Eagles to two runs on four hits and two walks in 6.2 innings. The junior broke the program’s single-season strikeout record, pushing his total to 134 in 93 innings and surpassing the mark of 132 set by Lenny DiNardo in 2000. Senior Brooks Wilson threw the final two innings to pick up his 18th save of the season, which ties the program’s and Atlantic Sun Conference’s single-season record.

Blaine Knight, RHP, Arkansas: Knight helped lead No. 5 Arkansas to a 9-3 victory against Texas A&M. The junior matched his career high with 11 strikeouts in seven innings innings and held the Aggies to three runs on five hits and no walks. Knight now ranks eighth in program history with 220 career strikeouts.

John Rooney, LHP, Hofstra: Rooney continued his impressive season with another strong start in a 4-1 victory against James Madison. The junior struck out nine batters and scattered three hits and two walks in eight innings. Rooney improved to 8-1, 1.01 with 99 strikeouts and 22 walks in 89 innings.

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Around the Horn

  • No. 5 Mississippi defeated No. 18 Auburn, 8-3, to clinch a key series in the Southeastern Conference West Division race. The Rebels won Thursday’s opener 5-4 before on Friday beating Casey Mize behind a strong start from righthander Brady Feigl. Ole Miss (38-13, 15-11) is closing in on clinching its status as a top-eight seed. Auburn (35-16, 13-13) needs a win in Saturday’s series finale to avoid what would be a damaging sweep as it tries to secure its spot as a regional host.
  • Not to be outdone by the American, the Big Ten Conference also delivered a wild night. Michigan State upset No. 15 Minnesota, 6-5, in Minneapolis, keeping the Spartans in a good position as they try to secure the eighth and final spot in the Big Ten Tournament. Michigan, which is tied with Minnesota for first place, also lost at home, falling 10-3 to Illinois to snap its 17-game winning streak in Ann Arbor. Ohio State beat Purdue, 4-1, to snap the Boilermakers’ 13-game winning streak, which had been the longest active streak in the country. Iowa, fresh off a big series win against Oklahoma State, lost, 7-6, in 10 innings at Northwestern. The Hawkeyes had played themselves off the bubble last week, but Friday’s loss undid all their RPI progress and returns them to the bubble for now. Indiana, which this week fell out of the Top 25 for the first time this season, lost at Nebraska, its ninth loss in its last 11 games.
  • Louisiana Tech beat No. 13 Southern Mississippi, 10-6, in the opening game of a key Conference USA series. The Bulldogs (34-17) are on the NCAA Tournament bubble and could use a marquee series victory. They are halfway there after Friday’s victory when they beat Golden Eagles ace Nick Sandlin and snapped a six-game losing streak against Southern Miss (35-13).

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