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Off The Bat: Stanford, Texas Put On A Show On The Mound

The biggest action in college baseball’s second weekend could be found in Texas, where No. 1 Texas hosted Alabama, the Round Rock Classic produced a top-10 matchup and Pennsylvania delivered one of the biggest upsets of the weekend. As the Penn Baseball account tweeted Friday night, “Everything’s bigger in Texas, especially the wins.”

Here are 12 thoughts on the weekend that was in college baseball, including more on the Longhorns, that Round Rock showdown and, of course, the Quakers.

1. Stanford made the weekend’s biggest statement in sweeping the Round Rock Classic and allowing just one run in the process. The Cardinal (6-1) rolled through a solid field and couldn’t be slowed down even by the weekend’s cold weather. Stanford on Friday beat Louisiana, 2-1, before its showdown against Arkansas was postponed a day by poor weather. It routed Indiana, 13-0, in the first game of its Sunday doubleheader before taking down Arkansas, 5-0, in the finale.

Stanford came into the season as the Pac-12 favorite in large part because it returned a ferocious offense from last year’s College World Series team. That lineup has done its part so far this season, but what’s really stood out has been the Cardinal pitching staff. They’ve thrown four shutouts in seven games this season and after Louisiana scored a first-inning run on Friday, Stanford pitching responded with 24 straight zeroes (the Indiana game was shortened to seven innings).

Righthander Alex Williams (2-0, 1.12) has fared well while moving to the front of the rotation. Lefthander Quinn Matthews was excellent against Arkansas—he struck out 10 batters in six scoreless innings and limited the Razorbacks to two hits and four walks—an important bounce back after a tough Opening Weekend start against Cal State Fullerton. Lefthander Drew Dowd (2-0, 0.93) has stepped up in the rotation and righthanders Joey Dixon (9.2 scoreless innings) and Braden Montgomery (seven strikeouts in four scoreless innings) look like bullpen anchors.

If Stanford is going to pitch at this level, it’s more than just the Pac-12 favorite—it belongs on a shortlist of national title contenders. The Cardinal are now ranked No. 2 in the Top 25—their highest ranking since 2018.

2. Half an hour away from Round Rock’s Dell Diamond, No. 1 Texas was also putting on a show on the mound this weekend. The Longhorns (8-0) swept Alabama to remain undefeated and allowed just one run on the weekend. They opened the series with 22 straight scoreless innings and have already thrown four shutouts this season.

While Stanford’s dominance on the mound is something of a surprise, Texas’ run prevention was expected to be elite. And that’s exactly what it’s been so far this season. Opposing hitters are batting .162/.245/.225 and have scored just two runs off Texas’ rotation of lefthander Pete Hansen and righthanders Tristan Stevens and Tanner Witt—both runs coming on solo home runs off Witt.

Texas’ own offense was limited this weekend—the Longhorns managed just three runs on nine hits in the first two games of the series before a 6-1 victory Sunday—but its pitching staff is giving it a chance to grow into the season. The level of difficulty will step up this weekend, however, as Texas plays Louisiana State, Tennessee and UCLA in the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic in Houston.

3. Perhaps the two biggest surprises of Opening Weekend were Long Beach State, which upset Mississippi State in Starkville, and Bryant, which swept East Carolina in Greenville. Both got a comeuppance of their own this weekend. Long Beach State was swept at Blair Field by Sacramento State, losing all three games by one run, while Bryant was swept on the road at Davidson.

It all makes for another—much needed—reminder not to overreact to Opening Weekend in college baseball.

Sacramento State outfielder Cesar Valero (Photo courtesy of Sac State/Bob Solorio)

4. Sac State’s sweep of Long Beach State didn’t make as much noise as the Dirtbags’ series win at Mississippi State for a variety of reasons, starting with the fact Long Beach State isn’t the defending national champion and technical issues kept the series from being streamed all weekend. But that doesn’t diminish its impact for the Hornets.

Sac State is now 7-0 and off to its best start in its Division I history (dating to 1990). It won Friday night, 1-0, in 10 innings when Cesar Valero hit a leadoff home run in the 10th inning and righthander Eli Saul threw 7.2 scoreless innings to outduel Long Beach State ace Luis Ramirez. The Hornets came back with a 5-4 victory Saturday to clinch the series, pushing ahead in the eighth inning, and then stunned the Dirtbags by scoring five runs in the final three innings Sunday for a 5-4 victory. The final four runs came on a pair of home runs against Long Beach State’s star closer Devereaux Harrison—a three-run blast in the eighth by Valero to tie the game and the go-ahead shot in the ninth by nine-hole hitter Josh Rolling. To add to the drama, Harrison’s younger brother Griffin Harrison plays for Sac State.

Saul (0-0, 2.79) gives Sac State an ace at the front of the rotation. His fastball gets up to 95 mph and he mixes in good offspeed stuff. Freshman righthander Colin Hunter (1-0, 2.77) threw a seven-inning no-hitter on Opening Weekend and was solid again Sunday. Valero (.333/.419/.667, 3 HR) anchors the lineup, and the Hornets have solid depth around him. They also are expecting to get a few key players back from injury, which will only further deepen the roster.

Under coach Reggie Christiansen, Sac State has been one of the most consistent programs on the West Coast and has won at least 30 games for nine straight seasons. The Hornets have been to the NCAA Tournament three times in that run, winning the Western Athletic Conference Tournament every time. Could this weekend be the foundation for an at-large case for Sac State? It’s not out of the question, though the margin for error will be slim. At the least, it’s a reminder to the Hornets that they can beat anyone on their remaining schedule.

5. The Ivy League came back with a vengeance this weekend. After not playing for nearly two years (the league canceled all sports in the 2020-21 school year), the Ancient Eight made their return to the diamond and sprung several upsets.

Pennsylvania carried the flag for the conference, as it won a series at Texas A&M. The Quakers edged the Aggies, 2-1, in a Friday night pitcher’s duel. Poor weather forced the teams to play a Sunday doubleheader and Texas A&M won the first game, 5-0. The Aggies looked to be on their way to a series win in the nightcap before the Quakers scored seven runs in the final three innings—including five in the ninth—to clinch the series with an 8-5 victory. They were Penn’s first wins against a current SEC member since beating Georgia in 1923.

It wasn’t just Penn making noise, however. Harvard upset Miami, 11-6, on Friday and then pushed the Hurricanes in a 2-1 loss Saturday. Columbia beat Stetson, 8-3, on Friday and Dartmouth beat Louisville, 6-4, on Saturday. The Quakers were the only team from the conference to win a series but after nearly two years away, it was a memorable weekend for the Ivy League.

6. The legend of Tommy Tanks has fully taken off. After last weekend hitting five home runs, North Carolina State freshman Tommy White this weekend hit four home runs in a sweep of Quinnipiac. He’s hitting .588/.650/.1.412 with nine home runs and 29 RBI in eight games this season for the undefeated Wolfpack. The competition – Evansville, High Point, Longwood and Quinnipiac – has been lackluster so far, but you can’t argue with the results. The last time a freshman made such a significant impact not only on the diamond but in the college baseball discussion was when Seth Beer arrived at Clemson in 2016. If White can contribute in ACC play the way Beer did for the Tigers (he hit .369/.535/.700 with 18 home runs on the year), NC State would be delighted.

John Savage Photo By Stephen Dunn Getty Images 2 2

How Would UCLA, USC Moving To The Big Ten Impact College Baseball?

What are the effects on the diamond of such a significant change? We examine from a few points of view.

7. Coming into the year, I was skeptical about North Carolina, but the Tar Heels are doing their best to erase my doubts. UNC was 18-22 last season in games that ace Austin Love didn’t start and with Love now in pro ball, it needed to find some new answers. Through two weekends, UNC is 6-1 and this weekend won a series against East Carolina. The new answers have come from righthander Max Carlson (1-0, 0.00) who missed the second half of last season with an elbow injury, lefthander Brandon Schaeffer (2-0, 2.45), a junior college transfer, and lefthander Shawn Rapp (1-0, 0.00, 12 K, 6.2 IP), who has become an everyday option out of the bullpen. Meanwhile, the Tar Heels young lineup is producing at a high level, led by sophomore Johnny Castagnozzi (.458/.536/.708) and freshman Vance Honeycutt (.435/.552/1.000, 4 HR, 7 SB). Big tests still await—like how UNC will fare on the road, something it struggled with in 2021—but it’s been a very encouraging start.

8. Maryland swept Campbell to improve to 7-0 for the first time in program history. The Camels (1-6) are struggling out of the gate, but this should register as a solid series win for the Terrapins at the end of the year. Maryland is locked in on the mound and has a 1.71 team ERA behind a standout rotation of Nick Dean (2-0, 0.00), Ryan Ramsey (2-0, 2.08) and Jason Savacool (2-0, 1.80). The Terps are playing like the Big Ten favorites and have the talent to make even more noise this season.

9. Tulane (6-1) grabbed a big series win at Louisiana Tech. Both teams were undefeated coming into the weekend and the Bulldogs were fresh off a win Wednesday against LSU. The Green Wave took care of business with a doubleheader sweep Sunday and are carrying plenty of momentum into a big week, with Mississippi State coming to town on the weekend.

10. Brigham Young swept Arizona State in Tempe and is now 5-2 after losing its first two games of the season. The Cougars needed comebacks in their first two wins against the Sun Devils before completing the sweep with a 19-3 blowout Saturday. BYU is strong on the mound and can contend in the WCC, but it was a rough weekend for ASU (3-4). The Sun Devils need to get right in a hurry, as they will welcome No. 4 Oklahoma State to town this week for a pair of midweek games before traveling to San Diego State on the weekend.

11. Illinois-Chicago (3-3) won a series at California, beating the Golden Bears, 4-2, on Friday and then splitting a doubleheader Saturday. Cal got off to a nice start to the season last weekend at the MLB4 Tournament, but UIC came out on top in Berkeley. Lefthander Nate Peterson (1-0, 1.32) led the Flames to a win Friday against righthander Josh White, the Golden Bears ace and a potential top-100 draft pick. Wright State still figures to be the favorite in the Horizon League, but UIC can’t be ignored.

12. Virginia third baseman Jake Gelof celebrated his birthday in style this weekend (he turned 20 on Friday). He went 7-for-8 with two doubles, a triple, three home runs and scored seven runs as Virginia swept Cornell. He also hit for the cycle in Sunday’s victory, becoming the first Cavalier to do so since 2001. He is hitting .611/.655/1.722 with five home runs this season.

Eight For Omaha

Mississippi, Oklahoma State, Oregon State, Notre Dame, Stanford, Texas, Vanderbilt, Virginia

No changes to the field yet this season. These eight teams all took care of business this week and several did so in a big way. LSU has certainly put itself on the radar early and I’m eager to see how the Tigers fare this weekend in the Shriners College Classic—both because they will face better competition than they have to this point and because it’ll be their first weekend on the road.

Looking Ahead

The Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic again brings a standout field to Minute Maid Park. No. 1 Texas (8-0), No. 8 Louisiana State (7-1), No. 16 Tennessee (7-0), No. 23 UCLA (5-3), Baylor (3-4) and Oklahoma (5-2) this weekend head to Houston for college baseball’s premier regular season tournament. The Big 12 teams will take on the other three teams in the field, creating some exciting matchups. This will also be an important test for several teams in the field. For all but Oklahoma, this will be their first weekend away from home and it will come against high-level competition, creating what should be an excellent atmosphere.

This weekend is showtime for a trio of big ACC-SEC rivalries. Clemson vs. South Carolina, Florida vs. Miami and Georgia vs. Georgia Tech all meet this weekend for some of the best non-conference rivalries in the sport. Clemson (7-0) and South Carolina (6-1) are both off to strong starts and will be looking to prove something as they meet for a series that moves across the state from Columbia to Greenville to Clemson. No. 18 Florida (6-2) and No. 25 Miami (7-1) face off in Coral Gables with the Hurricanes looking for back-to-back series wins in the rivalry for the first time since 2008-09. No. 14 Georgia (7-0) and No. 19 Georgia Tech (7-1) meet for baseball’s version of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate in a series that pits the Bulldogs’ deep pitching staff against the Yellow Jackets’ powerful bats. The series opens at Georgia Tech, moves on Saturday to Georgia and concludes Sunday at Triple-A Gwinnett.

UC Irvine travels to No. 9 Oregon State for a big test for both teams. The Beavers (7-0) steamrolled their opponents the last two weeks in their home away from home of Surprise, Ariz., outscoring them 83-21. Now, Oregon State returns home to face UCI (4-3), the reigning Big West champion. The Anteaters have faced a tough slate to start the season—visiting Louisiana-Lafayette and hosting Grand Canyon—but this weekend will be a further step up. This could be a telling weekend for both teams.

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