AUBURN 7, UCF 4
In the first round of the Tallahassee Regional, Auburn took down UCF 7-4.
Keegan Thompson was terrific on the mound for the Tigers. Thompson threw eight innings, while allowing only one earned run and struck out nine. He showed great control on the mound as well, allowing only two walks over that eight inning span.
Robby Howell, the American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, went six innings, allowing three earned runs on 10 hits for the Knights.
The story in this one was the dominance on the mound by Thompson. One of the SEC’s top pitchers brought it home for the Tigers and helped them move on to most likely play Florida State in the second round.
Auburn will now move on to play the winner of the looming FSU-Tennessee Tech matchup, while UCF will go on to play the loser of that game in an elimination round to decide their season.
VANDERBILT 13, ST. JOHN’S 4
Facing a 3-1 deficit in the fifth inning, the Vanderbilt Commodores dug deep and scored six runs in the stanza. From there, they would not look back again, as the Commodores won their opening round matchup 13-4.
The glut of Vanderbilt’s offensive production came from the 1-4 spots in the lineup. Will Toffey, Ro Coleman, Jeren Kendall and Julian Infante all brought their bats with them to Clemson, as the quartet combined to hit 11-17 on the day against the Johnnies. Toffey was arguably the best of the bunch, as the ‘Dores 3rd baseman hit a double and a home run to go along with two singles he racked up in the leadoff spot. Coleman, Kendall and Infante didn’t collect any extra-base hits in the win, but they did combine to score five runs and drive in seven. Toffey was able to rack up three RBI and four runs scored on his own.
Six other Commodores were able to register at least one hit in the romp.
Not to be outdone, Patrick Raby was solid on the mound, too. Raby pitched six innings and allowed six hits and three runs, tossing three strikeouts and one walk while allowing two doubles. Collin Snider pitched a clean inning of relief and Paxton Stover finished the job but didn’t do so cleanly, as he allowed a run to pass in the ninth. Luckily, the lead had already been built up to that point, so it was negligible in the end result.
Vandy now moves on to Saturday night, where they will face the winner of Clemson/UNC-Greensboro, which is set to go down later Friday night. St. John’s, meanwhile, will fight to keep their season alive against the loser of the aforementioned matchup between the Tigers and Spartans.
KENTUCKY 6, OHIO 4
The Kentucky Wildcats opened the Lexington Regional with a victory over their neighbors to the north the Buckeye State, picking up a 6-4 victory over the Ohio Bobcats.
Starting pitcher Sean Hjelle gave the Wildcats seven strong innings, striking out three and allowing three runs on eight hits. While Hjelle wasn’t perfect, he didn’t necessarily need to be, thanks to Kentucky’s hot bats.
Back-to-back singles from Luke Becker and Riley Mahan got the Wildcats out to a 2-0 lead in the very first inning, a score that would remain until Mahan drove in another run with another single in the fourth to push Kentucky’s lead to three.
In the fifth inning, it was Tristan Pompey’s turn to single home a run, which he did to extend the lead to four.
Finally, the sixth inning saw the patient Wildcats draw a pair of bases loaded walks to stretch their lead to a half-dozen.
As the Bobcats came to bat in the top of the eighth, Hjelle started to show signs of fatigue. After giving up two straight singles, he served up a three-run home run to Rudy Rott, cutting the lead in half. That was the end of Hjelle’s day, as Chris Machamer came in to finish the eight inning.
In the ninth, Kentucky turned to closer Logan Salow. Salow gave up a walk, and the runner eventually came around to score, but it ultimately didn’t matter. He closed the door and the Wildcats advanced in the winners’ bracket, where they’ll meet the victor of Friday evening’s North Carolina State/Indiana game.
LSU 15, TEXAS SOUTHERN 7
A back-and-forth tussle went down in Baton Rouge Friday evening. In the end, LSU pulled away from Texas Southern, as the Tigers defeated the other Tigers, 15-7, to advance along in the winner’s bracket.
TSU put three runs on the board before LSU had an opportunity to even tally one. The Fighting Tigers scrapped their way back into the lead with a four-run second inning, followed up by another run tacked on in the third. TSU wouldn’t go down without a fight, though, as they too would put a four-spot of their own in the top of the fifth.
But, LSU wouldn’t go away quietly, either. The Bayou Bengals retook the lead in the bottom half of the fifth, recording yet another four spot. With the score now 9-7 in their favor, the Tigers added to their lead with six combined runs in the seventh and eighth, including, you guessed it: ANOTHER four-run inning, this time in the seventh.
Cole Freeman and Antoine Duplantis combined to go 4-8 at the plate, as LSU’s 2 and 3 hitters were supporting the offense in big ways. Josh Smith and Zach Watson also combined to go 4-8 against TSU. Essentially, if you’ve got four guys on the team hitting .500 over the course of 16 at-bats, you’re gonna have a good day at the plate.
Smith amassed two doubles to count for his two hits on the day. Freeman also hit a double as well as a triple out of the two-hole. Watson, meanwhile, clubbed two home runs in the victory, and was joined by Michael Papierski in the HR club. Watson made a bit of history with his two long balls as well, to boot.
Jared Poché didn’t fare too well despite LSU’s prodigious performance at the plate. Poché went 4.1 innings, allowing seven runs (only one earned — LSU had five errors on the day), five hits, struck out eight and issued three walks. Eventually, LSU’s pitching settled down as Caleb Gilbert, Todd Peterson and Matthew Beck didn’t allow a single run in the final 4.2 innings pitched.
LSU now awaits either Rice or Southeastern Louisiana, who play later Friday. TSU will play the loser of that game in the elimination round.
TEXAS A&M 8, BAYLOR 5
In another back-and-forth affair, Texas A&M and Baylor convened in Houston. The two former Big XII rivals wasted little time in showing off their offensive firepower, and by game’s end, it was the Aggies who came away with an 8-5 win to advance in the regional round.
Braden Shewmake and Hunter Coleman chalked up two runs in the first inning on an RBI single and sacrifice fly. Aggies hurler Brigham Hill figured to be in good position with his offense backing him up in the first inning, but the Bears had other ideas. Aaron Dodson smacked a grand slam off Hill in the second inning to allow for BU to take a 4-2 lead. Such a lead was good enough to hold up for two full innings before the dam went and broke.
Shewmake muscled a two-run homer to tie the game and that was then followed by some #WildPitchOffense. Coleman would advance on a wild pitch and came around to score to put the Ags in front. Cole Bedford then followed with a sac fly and then Nick Choruby brought in a run with an RBI single.
After the Bears chipped away at the lead, A&M pushed it out further following a double from Choruby, who had himself a huge day out of the leadoff spot. The Aggies centerfielder went 4-5 at the dish, upping his average to .318. Shewmake meanwhile went 2-5 and raised his average to the already team-high .344.
FLORIDA 10, MARIST 6
The Florida Gators survived some defensive miscues to beat back a game opponent from Marist in the opener of the Gainesville Regional.
Marist struck first with an RBI single by Matt Pagano in the top of the 2nd to take a 1-0 lead, but in the bottom of the inning, the Gators plated four runs on a walk, an error, and three singles to take a 4-1 lead. Florida added another run to make it 5-1 on a Mike Rivera sac fly in the bottom of the 3rd.
But Marist didn’t go away, scoring three runs — all unearned — in the 4th inning to cut it to 5-4. The Gators got a couple of runs back in the next couple of innings thanks to Marist’s own miscues, though. But again Marist responded with a pair of runs in the 6th, chasing Florida starter Jackson Kowar — who went 5.1 innings and allowed five runs (three unearned) on eight hits and a walk while striking out four.
The game stayed at 7-6 until the bottom of the 8th, when JJ Schwarz put the game on ice with a three-run homer to make the final score 10-6.
Florida scattered eight hits, with Christian Hicks and Nick Horvath each going 2-for-3, and the Gators also drew eight walks. Florida now moves on to face South Florida on Saturday.
SOUTH ALABAMA 6, MISSISSIPPI STATE 3
Well, this certainly wasn’t ideal.
Brent Rooker and the Bulldogs couldn’t seem to get anything going against South Alabama’s Randy Bell in the 6-3 loss on Friday night in the Hattiesburg Regional.
South Alabama led the entire game, starting with Dylan Hardy’s solo home run on Cole Gordon’s first pitch. It was one of those days for the Bulldogs.
South Alabama would tack two more on in the first to go up 3-0 before Mississippi State even had a chance to bat.
A Hunter Stovall sac fly in the bottom of the first inning would get the Bulldogs on the board, but South Alabama would strike again in the fifth, as Travis Swaggerty unloaded a three-run homer to put them up 6-1.
Mississippi State would get two back in the bottom of the sixth, but that would be all they could muster en route to the defeat. They’ll look to keep their season alive Saturday afternoon against Illinois-Chicago.
ARKANSAS 3, ORAL ROBERTS 0
The Hogs finished out a fairly successful day for the SEC with a 3-0 win over Oral Roberts.
Chad Spanberger’s success has trickled into the NCAA Tournament after a ridiculous performance through the SEC Tournament. Spanberger laced a double and collected an RBI and went 2-3 at the plate on Friday evening. He was joined by Eric Cole and Jake Arledge in the RBI department, as Cole hit an RBI single in the seventh while Arledge hit an RBI single of his own in the eighth.
Much of the credit for the Razorbacks’ win on Friday can be given to Trevor Stephan. The Hogs hurler spun a gem, striking out 12 over 7.1 innings while allowing just four hits and no runs. While he walked three, damage was obviously proven minimal as ORU’s bats simply couldn’t best him. Kevin Kopps and Matt Cronin finished the job with a combined 1.2 innings of shutout ball and two strikeouts, one apiece.