Man, it’s great to have college baseball back in our lives. It was a full day of games with no shortage of notable moments and results. Here are some of my scattered thoughts and notes from our first day of action.
Oklahoma State over UT- Arlington: We got the first real upset of the college baseball season early on, as the UT-Arlington Mavericks defeated the 12th-ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys 3-2. There’s no real reason for worry, in my opinion, for OSU fans. Trey Cobb was solid (5 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K) in his start and Tyler Buffett was fantastic in throwing three scoreless innings of relief. They simply ran into a guy in UTA’s Joel Kuhnel (6 IP, 4 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) who threw the ball even better.
Old Dominion upsets North Carolina State: The next upset followed close behind, as the Monarchs beat the Wolfpack 5-0. It was alarming for NC State that Johnny Piedmonte couldn’t escape the third inning, and things didn’t get any better as the game grew old, as they never could mount any real semblance of an offensive attack. The great thing about college baseball weekends is that tomorrow is a new day, but it doesn’t get easier, as the ‘Pack are set to take on Coastal Carolina and Kent State over the rest of the weekend in the Caravelle Resort Tournament.
Duke, California put on a fun show: Cal came away with the win 5-2, but not before both teams gave fans their money’s worth. Duke starter Bailey Clark, a fast-rising prospect, sat in the mid-to-high 90s with his fastball and even touched 98 at one point on the way to giving up four hits and two earned runs in 5.1 innings. His mound mate, Cal’s Daulton Jefferies, another highly-regarded prospect, gave up five hits and two runs (neither earned) in six innings of work. In the end, the difference was that the Bears were able to touch up the Duke bullpen and the Blue Devils’ offense wasn’t able to return the favor.
MAC contenders come to play: Kent State didn’t get much done against Virginia’s Connor Jones (as few do), but they furiously rallied to score six runs in the ninth inning to nearly come all the way back in an 8-6 loss to the national champion Cavaliers. Central Michigan gave the Arkansas Razorbacks all they could handle as well. The Hogs led just 2-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth inning before breaking it open with four runs in that frame for a 6-1 win. Similarly, Ball State fought hard and just fell short against Oregon State by a 7-6 score. Of course, then Ball State turned around and lost 5-1 to Utah Valley.
Robert Tyler dazzles: If Georgia is going to get back into a regional in 2016, Robert Tyler is probably going to have to develop into a frontline ace. If his performance on Friday is any indication, he’s well on his way. The righty threw five innings, giving up just one hit and no runs with one walk and 13 strikeouts. That’s right folks. In his five innings of work, only two outs were recorded by way of something other than a strikeout. That’s ace stuff.
Mixed bag for marquee coaching debuts: Several new coaches at major programs made their head coaching debuts on Friday and there really was quite a mix of outcomes.
- Butch Thompson (Auburn)- After getting an early challenge from what is a pretty good Sacramento State team, Thompson’s Tigers pulled away for a 10-5 win.
- Monte Lee (Clemson)- This brand of Tiger didn’t fare so well, as they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Maine Black Bears.
- Matt Heath (College of Charleston)- Lee’s successor will go home with a loss in his debut as well, as his charges lost to Nebraska 4-0.
- Jay Johnson (Arizona)- The Wildcats took down 21st-ranked Rice 8-1 on the road in Houston.
- Steve Rodriguez (Baylor)- The Bears fell to the visiting Washington Huskies 7-2.
Tulane picks up where they left off, finds late magic: Last season, the upstart Green Wave made a habit of snatching victory from the jaws of defeat late in games and they picked up right where they left off by beating Illinois 6-5 in ten innings on Friday night thanks to a three-run walk-off home run by University of Texas transfer Jeremy Montalbano. Coming into the bottom of the tenth, they trailed the Illini 5-2. This was quietly one of the most interesting series on the schedule this weekend and it has obviously lived up to the billing so far.
Loyola Marymount pulls off upset over TCU: Missing staff ace Mitchell Traver due to injury, the Frogs sent Texas A&M transfer Rex Hill to the mound and the Lions got to him, plating three earned runs off of him in 4.1 innings. TCU got to LMU starter J.D. Busfield for three runs of their own, but reliever Blake Redman shut them down for the last 3.1 innings to hold on for the 5-3 win over 15th-ranked team in the nation.
Florida Atlantic rides big inning to win: With the game tied 2-2 heading to the seventh inning, FAU exploded for eight runs, enough to pull away for an eventual 10-6 win over 18th-ranked Mississippi State. In that big seventh inning, the Owls touched up four MSU pitchers for runs- Kale Breaux, Jacob Billingsley, Ethan Small, and Noah Hughes.
Alabama opens renovated stadium in style: It was a tough ask for the Crimson Tide to overcome Maryland and their ace Mike Shawaryn on opening night, but they did just that, riding a good start from Geoffrey Bramblett and 3.2 innings of scoreless relief from the trio of Jon Keller, Matt Carter, and Thomas Burrows to a 3-1 win.
North Dakota blanks Southern Cal: USC’s Kyle Davis spun a gem (8 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 10 K), but he was outdone by North Dakota’s Zach Muckenhirn, who tossed a complete game shutout, giving up three hits and no walks with nine strikeouts to lead UND to a 1-0 win over the 22nd-ranked Trojans.
LSU escapes against Cincinnati: The Bearcats held a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the eighth inning and then a 5-3 lead going into the bottom of the tenth inning, but LSU came back both times and eventually won 6-5 in walk-off fashion in the 12th thanks to a Jordan Romero bloop RBI single to right field.
UNC shuts out UCLA: Led by Zac Gallen’s fantastic start (7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 11 K), the Tar Heels downed the Bruins 4-0. UNC hung four runs on UCLA starter Grant Dyer in his five innings of work, and that is all that they would need.