As the Foo Fighters would say, there goes my hero. On the last Saturday of the regular season for most conferences, today was full of heroes as games went down to the wire and regular season titles were up for grabs.
For example: Senior 1st baseman Carlos Lopez launched a gorilla-swing solo shot home run to the arboretum beyond the right field fence at Goodwin field, giving Cal State Fullerton an epic 3-2 win in the bottom of the 9th for the Titans. The solo salvo gives Fullerton a 2-0 lead on UC Irvine in their Big West rivalry weekend showdown.
Not that they needed it to secure a National Seed, but with the win tonight Cal State Fullerton secured a share of the Big West title and a slot in the NCAA tournament, due to 2nd place Cal State Northridge losing up at Cal Poly tonight. This marks the fourth straight season that the Titans have won the Big West Conference crown and 11th in the last 15 years.
An oddity: All American Michael Lorenzen came in from centerfield to the mound, but suffered his third blown save of the season. But in each of those blown saves, he and his cohorts have rallied to give him the win on the mound. Some guys have all the luck.
The best of the best.
Wahoo Wah! The Cavaliers pull out the series win at No. 4 North Carolina with a wild 8-7 win in 11 innings. But it wasn’t without a lot of blood, sweat and tears. Here’s the first-hand account that the Doctor of College Baseball relayed to me tonight:
Low scoring affair initially, tied 1-1 after seven innings. UVA scores three runs in the top of the 8th to seemingly put the game away at 4-1. But UNC comes back with two runs in the bottom of the 8th and gets an RBI single by Colin Moran in the bottom of the 9th to tie it.
After a scoreless 10th, UVA again erupts with four runs in the top of the 11th.
UNC started the bottom of the 11th down 8-4 and had a single, single, fielder’s choice and error before Moran again singled to make it 8-6 with one out and runners on the corners. Mike Fox pinch ran for Moran since he was the tying run, and Skye Bolt came up and hit a shot to LF that looked off the bat like it would be a 3-run homer to win the game. However, the ball kind of died and UVA LF Michael Papi went up and made a leaping catch at the top of the wall. The pinch runner had come all the way around to 3rd not expecting the catch to be made, and he was doubled up at 1st to end the game, 8-7.
2- KANSAS STATE.
As Bill Snyder would say, “Every man a Wildcat.” The Purple Crew took down Oklahoma for the second day in a row and posted a 5-2 win, clinching their Big 12 regular season championship and making a major push to be a Regional host at Tointon Family Stadium. The Bat Cats live up to their name earning their 39th win and 37th game where they had double-digits in hit totals. They also set the program-record with 16 Big 12 conference wins. Senior starter Joe Flattery, making his first start on the mound since April 19th, retired the first 12 batters he faced, eventually working 5.1 innings of scoreless, three-hit, no-walk ball on the mound.
3- ANDREW MOORE, OREGON STATE PITCHER
The Civil War is heating up. And in the meantime, I’m checking out flights to see if there’s a way to get up there in time for first pitch on Sunday. But in the meantime, all hail the Beaver deliverer, Andrew Moore. Today he tossed a complete-game two hitter with one walk and facing three over the minimum as the Beavs tied the series in Eugene with a 9-0 win. Michael Conforto and Ryan Barnes added solo yard calls to provide enough offense for the Orange and Black. But Moore was THE story, tossing his second complete game shutout of the season – the 10th shutout for the Beavers this year. Moore now leads the pitching-heavy Pac 12 with 11 wins on the season.
The best of the rest.
- Cincinnati head coach Brian Cleary.
Having been “relieved of his duties” back on Thursday, coach Cleary finished up his coaching job today at Schott Stadium, won his final game as head coach of the Bearcats with an impressive 11-5 rout of Notre Dame, giving UC the weekend series win.
Coach Cleary’s twitter feed said, “Thanks to all who have been so supportive of me at UC. I will truly miss my time as your coach. Thank you is all I know to say.”
It will forever be known as the “Lincoln Assassination.” How big was THIS one? The Maize and Blue totally dismantled the Nebraska pitching staff to the tune of 23 hits and 19 runs in a much-needed 19-9 win. Why much-needed? Because had they not won today, hated rival Michigan State would’ve surpassed the Wolverines and kept them out of the Big 10 tournament field. But now, UMich will head to Minneapolis as the 6th-seed and will take on the Huskers in Game One on Wednesday.
- Billy Strode, Florida State reliever
Strode relieved Brandon Leibrandt and strode to the mound with the bases loaded of Clemson Tigers in the 6th inning and no outs to the ledger. But with the Noles clinging to a 3-1 lead, Strode got a strikeout of Tyler Slaton, a shallow flyout to right from Jay Baum and a sharp liner to 2nd base by Steve Wilkerson. Strode ended up going the final 4.0 innings, giving up four hits but not a single run to earn his first-ever save as a Seminole. FSU clinched the Atlantic Division with the win.
- Utah’s Mitch Watrous.
The Ute sophomore pitcher threw a complete-game two-hitter in UU’s 1-0 non-conference win over Kansas. Watrous raised his record to 4-3 on the season and also had five strikeouts and three walks.
- David Berg, UCLA relief ace.
The Bruin sidewinder came on top pitch the final 2.1 innings of today’s 7-6 win at rival USC, picking up his 15th save of the season, which ties the UCLA single season saves record. Berg also increased his scoreless innings streak to 33.1 innings. The Bruins have now won the seventh straight game vs. the Trojans and 22 of the last 27.
- Bryant, NEC champions.
Today’s 10-6 win at Wagner completed the four-game sweep of the Seahawks and made for the Bulldog’s 40th win of the season, against 15 losses and one tie. It’s the first time since Central Connecticut State for a Northeast Conference team to hit the 40-win plateau. The impressive part is that after the ‘Dogs opened the season going 0-6-1 on a spring break trip, they’ve gone 40-9 since then. BU now aims for the school record of 43-wins, accomplished by the 2008 team, which was the final season of Division II play for the program.
- Rider, MAAC Champions
With today’s doubleheader split with Marist, the Broncos earn the MAAC championship and No. 1 seed for the conference tournament starting on Thursday. This marks Rider’s first-ever MAAC title since joining the conference in 1988. In the 4-0 second game victory, starting pitcher Kurt Sowa went four of the seven innings on the hill, giving up just a single hit to improve his record to 11-1, tying the program’s high-water mark for wins in a season.
Bronco head coach Barry Davis said, “It’s a great accomplishment for the program. Winning the tournament is the most important thing, but every year you set out to be number one.”
Rider is now 34-19 on the season, making this the highest win total of any Bronco team in program history. In case you’re wondering, yes, this year’s team has already accrued more wins than Rider’s 1967 College World Series team which went 31-10.
- Stony Brook.
Facing a winner-take-all game with Hartford, the CWS alums came through in big time fashion, bashing the Hawks by a 10-2 clubbing and earning the fourth and final spot in the America East tournament next week. Not that I’m playing favorites here or anything, but it’d been a real shame if the defending AmEast champs didn’t even make the four-team field in Lowell, Mass. this week. Just sayin’.
- Fresno State’s Kevin Viers.
He musta been imitating teammate Aaron Judge, because the precocious frosh launched two solo home runs at Beiden Field today, allowing the Bulldogs to sweep Nevada with a 6-4 win. Fresno has gone just 21-31 this year, but enters the Mountain West tournament on its home field having won 11 of its last 13 home games. As the No. 4 seed, the Bulldogs will play the Wolf Pack on Wednesday in a first round matchup.
- Illinois State’s first outright Missouri Valley title.
In 2010 they shared it, in 2013 it’s all theirs. Time to gorge Redbirds. With today’s nail-biting 9-8, 10-inning win over Southern Illinois, ISU wins the MoValley with a 16-5 conference mark and first outright title in program history. And the even better news?… they were already slated to host the MVC tournament in Normal, so bully for the Birds. By the way, the 36 wins ties the school record for wins in the regular season with 2011′s squad.
The worst of the worst.
1- COPPIN STATE.
Dammit! The Eagles had raced out to a 2-and-0 mark in the MEAC tournament in Newport, Virginia, but today all those dreams of a shock-n-awe finish came crumbling down. CSU lost to both Savannah State and Bethune-Cookman to get eliminated from the tournament and end their season. With the losses Coppin ends the year 18-33, a far cry from 2012′s 1-52 season. So heavy, heavy kudos to coach Sherman Reed and his boys. Just wish it could’ve lasted into June.
Have the Gators had their bubble burst? Today’s 9-2 blowout loss was an ugly reminder that this team played some BAD baseball at times this year. Their overall record is now at a precarious 29-27. The Gators will now be the 8th seed at the SEC tournament and play a single elimination game vs. Texas A&M on Tuesday. The Gators have assured themselves of finishing above .500, but would a 29-28 or 30-29 record curry good favor in the NCAA selection committee?
3- MICHIGAN STATE.
The Spartans beat Penn State 2-1 to wrap up the regular season with a 33-17 record. This marks the fourth straight 30-win seasons for MSU, pretty good for a Big 10 team, considering their restricttions which make being consistent nearly impossible (ask Purdue). But with Michigan and Illinois both winning today, MSU finds itself out of the field of six for the Big 10 tournament. So yes, the reason they’re in the “Three Down” is because the winningest senior class in the history of Spartan baseball might not get a chance to finish in the NCAA tournament.
Even more worser than the first ones.
- Arrrrgh! .399
VMI senior Rob Dickinson (no, not the former lead singer for The Catherine Wheel) had a chance to end his final season as a Keydet hitting .400, but in his final at-bat he ground out to second to finish 1-for-4 on the day. Because of that, Dickinson will end the 2013 season with a .399 average. Obvsioudly, I’m being a little facetious here because Dickinson had an outstanding campaign. The last time a Keydet player hit .399 or better was in 1988. The player who did it? Now Old Dominion head coach Chris Finwood.
- South Alabama.
My boy Mark Etheridge has been touting the Jaguars as a possible NCAA Regional host site, and with good reason. USA entered the day with a No. 15 RPI and a chance to sew up the Sun Belt regular season title all to themselves. But today, they ran into a red-hot Troy team who gave the Jags a 6-3 thumping and now, the two programs will have to share the title. Worse yet, South Alabama falls to the 2-seed in the Sun Belt tournament and will have to hope their RPI doesn’t plummet out of the Top 16.
- CBS SPORTS NETWORK.
As you guys have heard me complain for years, the former home of the brilliant CSTV (College Sports Television) was bought out by CBS a couple years ago and has spiraled since then. Today was another example as the now CBS Sports Network cut away from the Notre Dame-Cincinnati game in the 6th inning for an Arena Football game. And earlier, at the conclusion of the LSU-Ole Miss game, the graphic came up and the announcer said “For more scores, highlights and analysis, go to CBSSports.com” So I went there, and for the fifth straight year I didn’t see any college baseball news, highlights or analysis.
HOW THE BUBBLE TEAMS FARED
Here’s a quick snapshot of the Baker’s Dozen of Bubble Teams I discussed in my weekend preview posted earlier on Thursday and how they did today.
Dammit! These dudes could’ve used a win or two in Cassius Clay-town, but lost 7-4 today to suffer their third straight loss to Louisville on the weekend. Today’s loss was especially tough, as the Panthers out-hit the Cards 10-to-9, but bounced into three double plays and also stranded 11 baserunners. The Panthers entered the day with an RPI at No. 65 and a win would’ve allowed them to tie UofL for the Big East title.
- MICHIGAN STATE
As mentioned above, this was a dark day for Sparta, despite pulling out a 2-1 win over Penn State. Let’s see if they get favorable treatment from the selection committee like they did last season.
From the Michigan State twitter feed, MSU coach Jake Boss said, “It’s very disappointing. Give our guys credit for battling back today and at least giving ourselves a shot. It’s tough when you can’t control your own destiny. We didn’t take care of business when we needed to. It’s something that we’re going to have to live with. We have to get ready for next fall and make sure it never happens again.”
- UC SANTA BARBARA
Bad loss. The Gauchos drop game two of the weekend series to Pacific, 3-2. UCSB’s RPI ranking dropped from No. 48 to No. 50 with the Friday WIN, so you have to figure losing to the No. 249th-ranked team.
A crusher. The Big Red came away big red-faced with an embarrassing 19-9 loss to Michigan. Eight Cornhusker pitchers gave up a combined 23 hits as a 4-4 tie in the 5th inning quickly turned into a laugher… or in this case, a cryer. As you Stitch-Heads know by now, the RPI ain’t exactly the problem – at No. 34 – but the 25-28 record is a huge thorn. Looks like it’s Big 10 tournament title or bust for UNL.
Won 5-4 in 10 innings vs. Boston College. Terps RPI at No. 32 going into today.
The Bad News: The Sooners lost to Kansas State for the second straight day, this time by a 5-2 count. The Good News: The Sooners actually gained two RPI places – up to No. 59 – after Friday night’s loss. So that means, despite the second straight loss on Saturday night, the Sooners could still gain despite their second straight loss.
- SAN DIEGO.
Again, did not play. But get this, in the last two days of sitting idle, the Toreros have seen their RPI go from No. 50 to 53 to 57. C’mon USD, hurry up and schedule a game. See if Point Loma Nazarene will play you.
See above, blown out by Georgia 9-2.
- NOTRE DAME
Wither the Irish? An 11-5 loss to the hands of Cincinnati might’ve been the last straw. They came into today’s game with an RPI of No. 43 and now sit at 31-23 overall, but even worse is the fact that they finish Big East play at just 10-14.
Won the series vs. No. 13 Arkansas with an 11-6 plundering of the Hogs. The Tigers finish the regular season 33-22 and 13-17 in the SEC. But the good part is that the Plainsmen have won three straight SEC series down the stretch, two of them against ranked opponents.
The Bluejays win the series vs. Missouri State with a 6-3 win on Saturday and finish the regular season with a record of 30-16. But the disturbing part is that CU dropped from No. 43 to No. 51 after Friday’s loss to the Bears. Also, quite impressively, the Bluejays finished the weekend with a total of 25,079 fans filed through the TD Ameritrade turnstiles in the three games.
- NEW MEXICO
Completed the sweep of San Diego State with today’s 11-7 win. Facing a 7-6 deficit, the Lobos scored five runs in the final two innings with the help of four walks, a wild pitch and four hits.
Hey, a win. The Wildcats salvage the series with Mizzou by nabbing a 5-1 win today in Columbia. With their RPI edging down into the 40s now it may be a case of too-little, too-late. But the good news is that UofK has reached the 30-win plateau and will play in next week’s SEC tournament. So the chances for more wins and RPI points does lay ahead.
- PLAY OF THE DAY:
Jameis Winston gunning down Garrett Boulware at 3rd base.
Clemente-like, the incumbent Florida State quarterback, took a grounder in the 7th inning and saw Boulware round 2nd and head to 3rd base. In one smooth motion, he threw a strike right to Jose Brizuela at 3rd base and made the tag.
ESPN’s play by play man Clay Matvick said, “Boulware just turned around to make sure that wasn’t Superman out there in right field.”
- BEST CHEER
Animals of Section B chanting “Ugly bat girl!” to the Clemson players who came out to retrieve the bats. As opposed to the attractive lasses that retrieve the bats for the Seminoles during their home games.
- BEST LINE:
Paul Byrd, the former LSU pitcher, during the LSU-Ole Miss game where Rebel reliever Brett Huber was obviously showing signs of tiring after a 50-plus pitch outing in the latter stages of their 11-9 win:
“His body language is telling me he’s totally worn out. Here’s the thing… if you’re tired out there, fake it. Because everybody is going to see that. Your infielders behind you, the catcher, the opposing batters. They’re all going to see that.”