Noah Davis (Photo by Mike Nesbit/UCSB)[/caption]
Strike One: Davis, Gauchos Sack Dirtbags
Just two games in, it’s too early to make any grand pronouncements about the Big West Conference race—you know Cal State Fullerton will have something to say about it sooner or later—but UC Santa Barbara has unquestionably made a loud statement on the opening weekend of conference play. The No. 18 Gauchos won their second straight low-scoring affair at No. 17 Long Beach State by a 3-1 count on Saturday, clinching the series between the Big West’s only two ranked teams.
HOW THE TOP 25 FARED
(1) Texas A&M: lost, 7-2, at (2) Florida
(2) Florida: won, 7-2, vs. (1) Texas A&M
(3) Miami: won, 7-3, vs. (9) North Carolina
(4) Louisville: won, 8-4, vs. Virginia Tech
(5) Mississippi State: won, 6-2, vs. (13) Mississippi
(6) Vanderbilt: won, 10-6, vs. (7) South Carolina
(7) South Carolina: lost, 10-6, at (6) Vanderbilt
(8) Texas Christian: won, 17-6, at Wichita State
(9) North Carolina: lost, 7-3, at (3) Miami
(10) California: won, 8-2, vs. UCLA
(11) Oregon State: won, 5-4, vs. Washington
(12) Florida State: PPD at Boston College
(13) Mississippi: lost, 6-2, at (5) Mississippi State
(14) Virginia: won, 5-3, vs. North Carolina State
(15) Houston: lost, 5-1, at East Carolina
(16) Oklahoma State: lost, 4-3, at West Virginia
(17) Long Beach State: lost, 3-1, vs. (18) UC Santa Barbara
(18) UC Santa Barbara: won, 3-1, at (17) Long Beach State
(19) Louisiana State: split DH, lost 8-5 and won 8-6, at Auburn
(20) Michigan: off
(21) Alabama: lost, 12-4, at Georgia
(22) Arkansas: lost, 8-5, vs. Missouri
(23) Georgia Tech: split DH, won 3-2 and lost 14-13, vs. Duke
(24) Kentucky: won, 5-4, at Tennessee
(25) Florida Atlantic: won, 3-1, at Old Dominion
UCSB coach Andrew Checketts spoke earlier in the season about how good freshman Noah Davis’ stuff is, and the righthander has backed that up by allowing two earned runs or less in five of his first seven collegiate starts, good for a 2.47 ERA. Pitching on the road in the biggest game of his young career Saturday, Davis’ starred, allowing only one run over eight innings of work, matching his season high, while whiffing five and walking only one.
The Gaucho offense didn’t get much off Long Beach State’s Darren McCaughan, but they managed to piece together a run in the fourth, capped by a J.J. Muno RBI single, and then took the lead for good on Billy Fredrick’s sac fly in the seventh. First baseman Austin Bush led the UCSB offense, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and scoring an insurance run in the top of the eighth.
Now 20-5 on the year, UCSB will shoot for its first sweep of Long Beach since 2004 on Sunday. Regardless of the outcome in that one, the Gauchos have already cleared a major hurdle in their pursuit of a conference title, particularly considering Fullerton has to come to Santa Barbara.
Strike Two: Gators Clinch Series With A&M
After a first inning to forget, Saturday turned into a night to remember for Florida sophomore Alex Faedo. The righthander worked six strong innings to improve to 6-0 as the No. 2 Gators clinched their showdown series with No. 1 Texas A&M with a 7-2 win on Saturday, extending Florida’s program-record 26-game home winning streak.
Faedo’s night got off to an inauspicious start. A&M’s J.B. Moss led off the game with a home run, and the Aggies tacked on another later in the frame to build a 2-0 lead, while it took Faedo 35 pitches to get through the inning. However, the Gators’ offense answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning against Kyle Simonds, and Faedo took it from there. He allowed the heavy-hitting Aggies just two more hits over the next five innings, and they never got another runner past second base against him. Faedo finished the evening with seven strikeouts against just two walks, dropping his ERA to 2.40. Dane Dunning relieved him and threw three shutout innings to finish the win.
"I don't want to overstate this, but that's probably as good of a pitching performance by anyone that I've ever coached by the way the first inning went,” Gators head coach Kevin O’Sullivan told floridagators.com. “Texas A&M came out ready to swing the bats. They were aggressive. I think Alex (Faedo) threw 35 pitches in the first, and then to really buckle down against a really good lineup for the next five innings—he competed. I think it's a valuable lesson for all of our pitchers.”
As it did on Friday, Florida took control in the middle innings, extending its lead with two in the fourth and one in the sixth. Peter Alonso was in the middle of it all, with a pair of RBI singles and a solo homer to highlight a 4-for-5 evening.
"It was a gritty performance,” O’Sullivan said.” You win last night, you go down 2-0 and A&M's excited and they're swinging the bat well in the first inning. It's hard to put their hitters away. It was a really odd first inning. Both offenses did a really good job coming out of the gates and battling and driving pitch counts up. It was a good team win for us."
Strike Three: Pirates Stifle Cougars Again
Houston came into the weekend with one of the country’s stingiest pitching staffs, ranking fifth in the nation in team ERA (2.24) through six and a half weeks of play. But on the opening weekend of American Athletic Conference play, it’s been East Carolina’s arms that’ve stolen the show as the two teams have faced off in Greenville, N.C.
After opening the series with a 3-1 win Friday, ECU clinched the series over the league favorites with a 5-1 win on Saturday, led by a stellar outing from senior righthander Jimmy Boyd (8.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 8 K), who turned in the longest outing of his career. All six hits Boyd allowed were singles, and he carried a shutout bid into the ninth before a two-out error helped Houston get on the board. Houston had gone 16 innings without scoring, dating back to Friday.
Talented Houston lefty Seth Romero matched Boyd early on, as the score was only 1-0 ECU through five, but the wheels came off for the sophomore in the sixth. A walk and a hit-by-pitch to start the inning opened the door for a four-run rally, highlighted by a two-run double for star ECU freshman Dwanya Williams-Sutton. Romero ended up with his first loss of the season, falling to 4-1, 1.72.
ECU will go for the sweep Sunday. Even though it’s only the first weekend of conference play, it’s a chance for the Pirates to get a significant leg up on the Cougars, the defending regular-season champs, in the AAC race.
The Lineup• Patrick Flynn, rf, Utah: After going just 3-12 in non-conference play, Utah has amazingly won its first three Pac-12 series, its latest triumph coming in the most improbable fashion. Trailing Arizona 6-2 going to the bottom of the ninth, the Utes scored five times—all with two outs—to steal the win and clinch the series, capped off by Flynn’s walk-off RBI single to left field.
• Mikey Diekroeger, 3b, Stanford: Utah wasn’t the only Pac-12 team with a wild comeback Saturday. Stanford scored eight unanswered runs over the final four innings to turn an 8-3 deficit into an 11-8 win against Southern California, tying that series. Diekroeger led the way, hitting the go-ahead home run in the bottom of the seventh, scoring four runs and going 3-for-3 overall.
• Marc Stewart, rhp, Florida Atlantic: Junior college transfer Stewart has been an invaluable addition for the Owls, improving to 4-0, 2.03 after a dominant start Saturday at Old Dominion in a series-clinching 3-1 win. He carried a no-hitter into the seventh against a good team in ODU and finished his afternoon allowing one run on three hits over seven frames, with no walks and five strikeouts.
• Michael Mediavilla, lhp, Miami: The other top-10 series in the Sunshine State has also gone decisively the way of the home team. Miami clinched its series with North Carolina behind Mediavilla’s (7.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 1 BB, 5 K) career-long outing, winning 7-3 after the sophomore shook off UNC’s two-run second inning to hand the Heels’ J.B. Bukauskas his first loss of the year.
• Jack Labosky, 3b, Duke: Labosky homered twice and had eight RBIs as the Blue Devils won a wild game at Georgia Tech, 14-13 in 10 innings to tie that series. The sophomore belted three-run homers in the first and sixth and added a two-run double in the seventh, finishing the game 4-for-5.
• Jeren Kendall, rf, Vanderbilt: Kendall had an RBI double in the fifth and the go-ahead homer in the sixth as Vandy overcame a 4-1 deficit to eventually outpace South Carolina 10-6 in the rubber game of that Thursday-Saturday series, dealing the Gamecocks their first SEC series loss.
• Austin Sexton, rhp, Mississippi State: Junior righthander Sexton (9 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 8 K) turned in the Bulldogs’ second complete game in as many days to clinch their rivalry series against Mississippi with a 6-2 win.
• Ross Vance, lhp, West Virginia: The Mountaineers clinched an impressive series win against previously red hot Oklahoma State with a 4-3 win Saturday, led by the senior Vance (7.1 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 K), who kept OSU to only one run through seven before running out of steam in the eighth, though the bullpen was able to hang on.
• Jack Anderson, rf, Oregon State:
Anderson’s go-ahead RBI single with two outs in the bottom of the eighth capped off the final big comeback of the day in the Pac-12, as the Beavers erased a 4-0 deficit at the seventh-inning stretch against Washington, winning 5-4. The last two of those runs came against Huskies closer Troy Rallings, who hadn’t been scored upon all season until Saturday.