Hill, Montes de Oca Pitch Gems
Friday delivered another exciting day of college baseball around the country. We break down the top storylines of the day.
South Carolina Walks Off Against Clemson
Every season, the Reedy River Rivalry series between South Carolina and Clemson produces nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat thrillers, and Friday’s opener in Columbia was no exception.
Facing No. 10 Clemson for the first time with Mark Kingston as head coach, the Gamecocks walked off against their fierce rivals, 3-2, to the delight of an electric sell-out crowd of 8,242.
Center fielder T.J. Hopkins drove in the winning run with a sacrifice fly to deep left field against Clemson closer Ryley Gilliam, after Jonah Bride had walked to begin the inning and advanced to third on an errant pick-off attempt to first base.
The drama wasn’t limited to the ninth inning, however. Junior righthander Adam Hill was the story for most of the contest. After striking out 14 and throwing seven no-hit innings against Charleston Southern in his previous start, an electric Hill carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning against Clemson before Tigers slugger Seth Beer walloped a two-run home run to give Clemson a 2-1 lead.
Hill allowed just two hits in his seven innings and matched his previous outing—and a Founders Park record—with 14 strikeouts. The righthander’s fastball sat 90-93 and bumped 95 mph, and Hill featured a sharp low-80’s breaking ball and spotted a mid-80s changeup throughout the night. Hill has a whopping 34 strikeouts in 18 innings this season, and Kingston said he believes Hill is establishing himself as one of the best pitchers in the country.
Thankfully for Hill, he was able to avoid a tough-luck loss thanks to the heroics of senior Matt Williams, who hit a pinch-hit homer in the eighth to tie the game and set the stage for a ninth-inning walk-off.
The win pushed South Carolina to 7-3 on the season and dropped Clemson to 8-1. A series win for the Gamecocks would put them firmly on the Top 25 radar.
Mizzou No-Hits Maryland-Baltimore County
There have been a flurry of no-hitters to open the college season, and Missouri added another to the list Friday, using three pitchers to no-hit Maryland-Baltimore County in a 7-1 win.
The no-hitter was the 10th in Mizzou history and the first since Max Scherzer and Michael Cole combined to no-hit Texas Tech in 2005.
Electric 6-foot-7 righthander Bryce Montes De Oca shouldered most of the load, striking out 12 and walking two in his seven hitless frames. With his ace at 98 pitches, Mizzou head Steve Bieser elected to turn to the bullpen, and relievers Giovanni Lopez and Nolan Gromacki finished the job with a hitless inning a piece.
For Montes De Oca, a redshirt sophomore, Friday’s start was easily the best of his career. He set career highs in strikeouts and innings pitched and showed a clear example of how dominant he can be when his stuff is working.
Speaking of pitching performances, let’s check in on other Friday aces from around the country.
Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford. Beck has shown no ill effects from the back injury that wiped out his 2017 season. The righthander threw another gem Friday in a 7-0 win against Michigan, allowing just two hits and walking one while striking out eight in seven scoreless innings. Beck is off to a 2-0, 1.50 start and has been a key factor in The Cardinal’s 9-0 season-opening run—Stanford’s best start since 1998.
Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida. A candidate for first overall pick in the upcoming draft, McClanahan dealt yet again. The flamethrowing southpaw struck out a season-high 12 batters in six innings against Columbia, scattering three hits and allowing one unearned run. He has yet to allow an earned run through 18 innings this year.
Zack Hess, RHP, Louisiana State. After getting roughed up in his first outing of the year against Notre Dame, the closer-turned-starter has produced back-to-back brilliant outings as LSU’s new Friday ace. Hess became the first LSU pitcher to strike out 13 batters Friday since Alex Lange did it in 2015. In an 8-1 win against Toledo, Hess allowed one run on six hits and walked none.
Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut. The junior lefty earned his first win of the season Friday by twirling a seven-inning gem. Cate struck out 10 and walked just one against North Florida, allowing two runs on five hits, as the Huskies went on to win, 5-4.
Projected Field of 64 (3/20/19)
It's never too early to project what the NCAA Tournament will look like on Selection Monday.
Around the Bases
- With non-conference schedules heating up with several talent-packed tournaments, there were a number of Top 25 upsets around the country. In the Frisco College Classic, Louisiana Tech took down undefeated No. 9 Texas A&M, 4-2—a huge win for the Bulldogs before they enter Conference USA play. In a stunner, Northwestern defeated No. 17 Texas in Austin, 6-2, as the Longhorns dropped to 5-4 on the season. The Longhorns can’t afford to drop a series against Northwestern after losing a series at LSU last weekend and with red-hot Stanford on the docket for next week. Lastly, Sam Houston State rallied late against No. 18 Vanderbilt, using a pair of homers to tie the game in the ninth and winning on a two-run walk-off shot by Hunter Hearn.
- Few players in the country are as hot as sophomore outfielder Wil Dalton is for No. 1 Florida right now. Since moving to the leadoff spot, Dalton has picked up 10 hits in three games. And on Friday, Dalton had a night for the ages, as he homered three times and went 4-for-5 with six RBIs in a 12-5 drubbing of Stony Brook.