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Tennessee Pitches Its Way To Big Series Win, UCSB Starts Strong In Big West Showdown

Tennessee Stops Surging Georgia, Wins Key SEC Series

After beating No. 3 Georgia, 2-0, on Thursday night to open their series, Tennessee turned in another impressive all-around performance Friday. The Volunteers got a five-hit shutout from righthander Garrett Stallings and beat the Bulldogs, 3-0, to clinch the series.

Tennessee (26-10, 6-8 SEC) has pitched at a high level all season long—it didn’t allow a run until the fifth game of the season and threw five shutouts in its first six games—but its performance against Georgia (28-8, 9-5 SEC) is its best work yet. The Bulldogs hadn’t lost a series all year and came into this weekend as the SEC East favorites. All the Volunteers have done so far is hold them to 14 hits and four walks over two games.

On Friday night, Stallings turned in the best game of his career. The junior threw his first career shutout, striking out five batters and working around five hits and a walk. He worked efficiently, needing 102 pitches to finish his second career complete game.

Stallings, ranked No. 249 on the Top 300 Draft Prospects list, improved to 6-2, 1.88 with the victory. He has struck out 64 batters and walked 11 in 62.1 innings.

Stallings’ start Friday built on what a trio of Volunteers did Thursday night in the series opener. Sophomore lefthander Garrett Crochet made his first start of the season and threw five scoreless innings before handing the game off to righthander Andrew Schultz, who threw two scoreless innings. Closer Redmond Walsh finished the game with two scoreless innings of his own. The trio combined to beat Georgia sophomore Emerson Hancock, who has already this season made his case as a potential top-10 pick in the 2020 draft.

This weekend marks just the second time Tennessee has thrown consecutive shutouts in an SEC series. The Volunteers last accomplished the feat in April 1967, when they blanked Kentucky in back-to-back games.

Beyond the significance of winning a series against a top-five opponent, this weekend has already been hugely important for the Volunteers. They are trying to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005 and have the RPI to earn an at-large berth but were just 4-8 in the SEC coming into the weekend. The selection committee last year placed a large emphasis on having at least a .500 record in conference games, and with series against Georgia, at Arkansas and against Mississippi, all of which are ranked in the top 15, not to mention tricky road series at Florida and Kentucky, it looked like a tough road to 15 SEC wins.

But with two wins already against Georgia, that calculus changes for Tennessee. It has also moved up to No. 7 in RPI. If the Volunteers can push their way up the SEC standings, hosting a regional is not out of their reach.

Georgia now must show how it will respond to losing back-to-back games for the first time all season. The Bulldogs remain in first place in the SEC East, holding a half-game advantage on Vanderbilt. A win Saturday would guarantee it finishes the weekend still in that position.

But more than the broader implications, Friday was about Stallings' stellar performance. His emergence over the last year gives the Volunteers an ace that can match up with any in the SEC, as he showed again against the Bulldogs.

UC Santa Barbara Lands First Punch in Big West Showdown

A two-horse race between UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara has emerged in the Big West Conference, and on Friday, the Gauchos opened their series against the Anteaters with a 4-1 victory (21-7, 5-2 Big West).

The starting pitchers combined to make the game the type of low-scoring, West Coast-style pitchers’ duel you expect at this stage of the season, but UCSB lefthander Ben Brecht got the best of UCI righty Andre Pallante.

Brecht threw 7.2 innings, giving up three hits and one run with two walks and eight strikeouts. He hit a batter, walked a man, gave up a hit and allowed the Anteaters’ only run to score in the first inning on Brandon Lewis' RBI single, but he was basically untouchable after that point.

Pallante was solid, tossing seven innings with six hits and two runs allowed, but UCSB DH Thomas Rowan was a one-man wrecking crew. His RBI single in the first tied the game, and his solo home run in the third gave the Gauchos a 2-1 lead.

For good measure, he added another solo shot in the eighth off of righthandeder Jordan Bocko to give his team some breathing room, and then second baseman Andrew Martinez played add-on with an RBI double two batters later to make it 4-1.

Freshman righty Michael McGreevy closed things out with 1.1 scoreless innings for his fifth save of the season.

This series has huge postseason implications, no matter which team ends up winning it, as both badly need the quality wins on their resume.

Neither team has much going for it in their non-conference results. They’ve both been victimized by certain teams on their non-conference schedules not being as high in the RPI as you might have expected prior to the season. For UCI, that includes teams like Washington, Rice and Missouri State. For UCSB, that’s Tulane and, once again, Missouri State.

And they are just not going to get much help from the rest of the Big West, where they are the only teams with winning records overall.

As it stands right now, the Gauchos (25-5, 3-1 Big West) are in great shape for not just getting into the postseason, but to host a regional as well. They have a top-five RPI, and if they were to win this series, it’s easy to see them clearly establishing themselves as the best team in the Big West.

But UCSB’s RPI position is precarious due to its remaining schedule, which is heavy on teams that rank outside the top 200 in RPI and light on top-100 teams. If the Gauchos want to be in the mix for a host spot, they have to win this series, and sweeping it would be better.

UCI is in a similar predicament, but it needs this series just to push its RPI closer to the range it needs to host. The Anteaters’ schedule will help them more than the Gauchos’ down the stretch. They have a clear path ahead, but they have to start by bouncing back to win this series.

Beyond the hosting implications, this weekend will go a long way to deciding the Big West title. UCSB has taken an early advantage, but with two games still to play, everything remains on the table for both teams.

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2021 NCAA Baseball Tournament Friday Regionals Scores, Results, Analysis, TV & more

Baseball America's home for scores and analysis from the opening day of the 2021 NCAA Tournament.

Ace Watch

Friday night is for college baseball's aces. Here we highlight some of the best pitching performances of the day.

Justin Lasko, RHP, Massachusetts: Lasko threw a four-hit shutout and UMass beat George Washington, 8-0. The senior struck out seven batters and walked one, working efficiently to complete the shutout with just 96 pitches. It was Lasko’s second shutout of the year, and he is now 2-3, 3.40 with 52 strikeouts and 17 walks in 50.1 innings.

Nick Lodolo, LHP, Texas Christian: In a matchup of prominent pitching prospects, Lodolo got the better of Seton Hall righthander Ricky DeVito as the Horned Frogs beat the Pirates, 5-1, in seven innings in game one of a doubleheader. Lodolo struck out six batters and held Seton Hall to one unearned run while scattering two hits and two walks in seven innings. With the victory, Lodolo improved to 5-2, 1.34 with 74 strikeouts and 12 walks in 60.1 innings.

Alek Manoah, RHP, West Virginia: Manoah delivered the best performance of his career Friday, as he struck out 15 batters in a four-hit shutout in a 2-0 victory against No. 11 Texas Tech. The big righthander did not walk a batter and allowed just one runner to reach first base. Manoah extended his scoreless innings streak to 22 and improved to 5-2, 2.08 with 80 strikeouts and 15 walks in 60.2 innings.

Riley Ornido, RHP, San FranciscoKen Waldichuk, LHP, Saint Mary’s: In a matchup of two of the West Coast Conference’s best pitchers, Ornido and Waldichuk matched zeroes for seven scoreless innings before USF edged past SMC, 2-0. Waldichuk held the Dons to three hits and two walks and struck out nine batters. Ornido struck out seven and worked around seven hits and three walks.

Drew Parrish, LHP, Florida State: Parrish delivered just the start Florida State needed against No. 17 Clemson. The junior struggled in the first half of the season, particularly over the last few weeks as the Seminoles have slid, but he was at his best against the Tigers, throwing eight scoreless innings in a 6-2 victory. He struck out 12 batters, walked one and allowed just three hits, emphatically finishing his night by striking out the side in the eighth inning.

Ethan Small, LHP, Mississippi State: Small was electric in Mississippi State’s 6-0 victory against Alabama. The junior struck out 15 batters in six scoreless innings, working around three hits and three walks. He recorded 14 of the first 15 outs of the game via strikeout and at one point struck out seven batters in a row. Small is now 4-0, 1.83 with 94 strikeouts and 15 walks in 54 innings.

Around The Horn

No. 1 UCLA (25-6, 9-3 Pac-12) survived a scare against No. 10 East Carolina. The Pirates (25-8, 8-1 AAC) jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the fourth inning, but the Bruins came roaring back thanks to first baseman Michael Toglia. With his team down 5-2, he blasted a three-run homer in the sixth to tie it, and then hit a two-run double in the eighth to put his team ahead for good. UCLA righthander Zach Pettway gave up four runs in 3.2 innings, but the righty relief trio of Jack Filby, Nate Hadley and Holden Powell combined to throw the final 5.1 frames with just three hits and one run allowed.

No. 8 Arkansas and No. 6 Vanderbilt gave college baseball a classic Friday night SEC game. In a 3-2 win for the Commodores (26-8, 8-5 SEC), righthander Drake Fellows held the Razorbacks (25-9, 8-5 SEC) to seven hits and one run in seven innings. Arkansas righty Isaiah Campbell was really good as well, allowing six hits and three runs in 7.2 innings, but RBI doubles from Vanderbilt shortstop Ethan Paul and catcher Philip Clarke in the fourth and a sacrifice fly from right fielder J.J. Bleday in the sixth was just enough offense to get the job done.

— Righthander Alec Marsh was a workhorse in No. 13 Arizona State's 4-1 win against No. 7 Oregon State (23-8-1, 9-4 Pac-12). He threw a complete game, allowing three hits and one run with one walk and nine strikeouts. Beavers lefthander Brandon Eisert has been so good on Fridays in place of ace Kevin Abel, who is now out for the season, but Arizona State (27-5, 10-3 Pac-12) got to him for 11 hits and three runs in 5.2 innings. Sluggers Spencer Torkelson and Hunter Bishop both had just one hit and they were held homerless, but ASU countered that with a solid team offensive performance that saw eight of the nine starters collect hits.

— In what was the wildest game in the SEC on Friday, No. 12 Louisiana State (24-11, 9-4 SEC) captured an 11-inning, 12-11 win at Missouri (23-12-1, 5-7-1 SEC). The teams combined for nine runs in the first inning, with Mizzou taking a 6-3 lead. Then LSU scored five in the third and three in the fourth to come all the way back and then some. Missouri fought back and tied things up 11-11 after a two-run fifth and three-run sixth, with the big blow coming courtesy of a three-run homer from catcher Chad McDaniel. In the top of the ninth, LSU pushed across the go-ahead run when Josh Smith scored just ahead of the throw home on a slow infield chopper off the bat of Antoine Duplantis.

— Texas A&M lefthander John Doxakis outdueled Auburn righthander Tanner Burns in a 4-0 win by throwing eight shutout innings, giving up seven hits and two walks. Burns wasn’t bad for No. 22 Auburn (23-11, 7-6 SEC) in throwing six innings, giving up three runs, but the No. 14 Aggies (26-9-1, 8-4-1 SEC) were able to scratch two off of him in the fifth on a Mikey Hoehner two-RBI double and one more in the sixth on a Zach DeLoach sac fly to give them more than enough offense to get it done.

— When they’re swinging it well, the Oklahoma State offense can really bury a pitching staff, and that’s precisely what the Cowboys (21-11, 7-3 Big 12) did in a 27-6 win at Kansas (17-16, 2-8 Big 12). Oklahoma State launched 12 home runs in the game on the way to scoring at least one run in every single inning and at least two runs in seven of nine innings. Third baseman Christian Funk and center fielder Trevor Boone both hit three home runs.

Ohio State rebounded from getting swept at home by Northwestern last weekend with a 10-5 win against rival No. 24 Michigan. The Wolverines (23-10, 4-2 Big 10) got behind the eight ball early when the Buckeyes (19-16, 3-4 Big 10) got to lefthander Tommy Henry for eight hits and seven runs in just four innings, and Ohio State never looked back. After serving as one of the best stories of the first half of the season, Henry has struggled in Big Ten play. In three starts, he’s allowed 17 hits and 15 runs (all earned) in 18.1 innings, after allowing just two earned runs in non-conference play.

Arkansas-Little Rock won both ends of a doubleheader against Coastal Carolina by scores of 8-5 and 14-0. The Trojans (16-19, 9-5 Sun Belt) got off to a fast start in Game 1, scoring four runs in the first inning off CCU righthander Zach McCambley, which allowed their own starter, lefthander Chandler Fidel, to throw free and easy as he allowed four runs in 7.1 innings with ten strikeouts. In the nightcap, Little Rock got seven shutout innings from righty Hayden Arnold and then consecutive scoreless innings from righthanders Dillon Delgadillo and McKinley Moore to close it out. With the wins, the Trojans move into second place in the Sun Belt Conference West Division, just a half game behind Texas-Arlington. Coastal Carolina (23-13-1, 8-6 Sun Belt), which this season has been uncharacteristically inconsistent, drops into second place in the East Division, behind Georgia Southern.

— There might have been room for doubt before, but it’s looking more and more like San Jose State (18-16, 12-4 MWC) has staying power at the top of the Mountain West Conference. On Friday, it beat  Nevada-Las Vegas (20-16, 7-9 MWC), 7-3. San Jose State DH Blake Berry went 3-for-5 with two doubles and three RBIs, and center fielder Kellen Strahm added two hits, including a home run. At 12-4, the Spartans are now 3.5 games ahead of second place in the league standings, making this truly one of the underrated stories in college baseball right now.

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