Thursday Roundup: Mississippi State Upsets No. 1 Florida
Bulldogs Upset No. 1 Florida
Coming into the weekend below .500 in the Southeastern Conference and on the bubble for the NCAA tournament, Mississippi State drew the unenviable assignment of facing the country’s best team.
Clearly, the Bulldogs were unfazed.
Mississippi State defeated No. 1 Florida, 6-3, Thursday night to move to 13-15 in the SEC and jumped eight spots in the RPI to No. 27, putting the Bulldogs in better position to earn an at-large bid.
The Bulldogs rode strong performances by ace Konnor Pilkington (6.1 IP, 3 R, 7 K) and righthander Riley Self out of the bullpen. And they rallied late against Florida’s all-time saves leader Michael Byrne in a four-run, game-deciding bottom of the eighth, when Jake Mangum hit a two-run triple and Tanner Allen hit a two-run home run.
With the No. 1 RPI and the SEC title already clinched, Florida has little to play for this weekend, although now the Gators will need to win the next two games on the road to avoid losing their first weekend series of the year. If the Bulldogs manage to tack on one more win, their tournament fate should be secure.
Big 12 Race Tightens
Though No. 10 Texas Tech can no longer win the regular season Big 12 title, a series win at first-place Oklahoma State could still impact the race.
Using a two-homer sixth inning, followed by a five-run seventh inning, the Red Raiders rallied late to win the series opener, 9-4, in Stillwater. That win, paired with No. 15 Texas’ 3-2 win over Texas Christian shrunk Oklahoma State’s first-place lead to just one game over the Longhorns, creating plenty of intrigue as both series continue concurrently.
As detailed in BA’s Weekend Preview, all four teams have something at stake, with the Cowboys and Longhorns looking to shore up hosting bids, the Red Raiders fighting for a national seed and Texas Christian making a last-ditch effort for a tournament bid.
The NCAA tournament complexion could change drastically depending on how these next two days unfold.
Wells Fuels FSU Walk-off
Needing another marquee series to lock in a hosting bid, Florida State got a huge lift from senior right fielder Steven Wells in Thursday’s 11-inning, Atlantic Coast Conference battle with No. 7 North Carolina State.
Not only did Wells making a diving catch in the 10th inning to preserve a tie game, but he hit a walk-off solo homer in the bottom of the 11th to give the No. 14 Seminoles a key 4-3 win over the Wolfpack.
With both teams jockeying for better postseason positioning, Thursday’s game was a tense, playoff-like affair, with N.C. State righthander Reid Johnston and FSU lefthander Drew Parrish matching each other pitch for pitch. Florida State built up an early lead, but the Wolfpack used a three-run sixth to eventually push the game into extras.
The Wolfpack has a two-game lead over FSU for second place in the Atlantic Division but has a slim chances of catching first-place Clemson with only two games remaining. The Tigers’ magic number is down to just one.
Bubble Watch: LSU, North Carolina Bolster Hosting Cases
As conference tournaments continue, we look at NCAA Tournament bubble winners and losers from Friday.
Mason Feole, LHP, Connecticut: Hosting No. 13 East Carolina in a huge season-ending American Athletic Conference series, the Huskies rode a stellar outing (6.1 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 4 K) by Feole to remain a factor in the hosting race.
Nick Sandlin, RHP, Southern Miss: The junior righthander pushed his record to a perfect 8-0, 1.25 with an eight-inning, two-run gem in No. 18 Southern Mississippi’s 10-2 win over Marshall. The win clinched the Conference USA title for the Golden Eagles for the second straight season.
Reggie Meyer, RHP, Minnesota: The No. 11 Gophers clinched at least a share of the Big Ten title thanks to a brilliant outing by Meyer in a 4-0 win against Rutgers. Meyer allowed just three hits and one walk, fanning five in eight scoreless innings.
Jeb Bargfeldt, RHP, Miami: With the Hurricanes battling to get back into the NCAA tournament in head coach Jim Morris’ final season, Bargfeldt delivered a gem in a 3-0 win over Boston College, throwing a two-hit shutout and striking out seven to put Miami above .500 (26-25, 15-13 ACC).
Cooper Criswell, RHP, North Carolina: The 6-foot-6 junior righthander has seized the ace role for No. 6 UNC in recent weeks, and he lived up to that title in a 9-1 win against Virginia Tech, throwing a career-high seven shutout innings, walking none, striking out six and scattering eight hits. With the win, UNC clinched the ACC Coastal Division title.