Saturday Statements - Took some Pepto, not quite as upsetting of a day
Since day one of May-to-June Madness was all about the Earth-tilting upsets, I thought maybe we'd start our summation of today's action in the NCAA tournament by pointing out some of the surprising results from day two. But in the end, today started to bring a sense of normalcy to the tournament.
(Tommy LaSorda tells USD coach Rich Hill, "You know Rich, I've never told anyone this before, but I've always liked college baseball way more than pro baseball. Crazy huh?")
But there was still some stunning news, both on and off the field in college baseball today. Here's the best of the best...
TOP FIVE UPSETS ON DAY TWO:
1- UCLA tops Cal State Fullerton 11-4
After getting owned by the Titans for the last few years, including last year's Super Regionals, this was sweet revenge. Now the Bruins are in charge at 2-0. But the Titans have yet to use starters No. 2 and 3 available.
(This stat says it all about tonight's Bruin whitewashing. No wonder they're happy.)
2- Andrew Oliver, the Oklahoma State ace being declared ineligible just hours before the Cowboys' game with Wichita State. No details beyond that, but he would've started today. This means the Pokes are in trouble for coming out of this region.
3- Fresno shutting out USD, 6-0.
It's not a huge shock, but that the Bulldogs are playing so well is the upset here. Clayton Allison putting the clamps on the Torero offense to the tune of four hits is pretty awesome.
4- That Josh Romanski throws a 6-hitter against Fresno State and yet still suffers his first loss of the season.
5- Illinois-Chicago beat Dallas Baptist 9-5.
I'm starting to wonder if this was an upset after all. More on this below.
THINGS I'M not SURPRISED ABOUT---
1- Wichita State in the catbird seat in Stillwater.
After today's 5-3 win over homestanding Okie State, the Shockers prove their arm staff is perfectly suited to make a deep run in the post-season.
2- Arkansas going 0-2.
Not good. Not good for anybody involved.
3- UC Irvine unbeaten in Lincoln.
The 3-2 win is typical Anteater baseball. Close, nerve-wracking, all about pitching and defense. I had a feeling they'd be successful in the Lincoln Regional. But then there's leadoff man Ollie Linton, the bunt-and-steal machine, who hits the game-winning home run. What's next, ice bergs in the desert?
4- LSU crushing its way through the Baton Rouge regional.
Other than Barry Bowden, who Southern Miss used in game one against New Orleans, there's not a pitcher in this field that was going to be able to stymie the Bayou Bashers. Five more home runs today.
5- The Bison slapped back to reality.
But let's give Bucknell and Lipscomb some credit too. They both played pretty good baseball in losses to Tulane (4-1) and Georgia Tech (6-3), pushing both powers to a full nine innings of white-knuckleness (if that's a word... probably isn't).
THE SEC UPDATE---
I've received a handful of Emails and texts concerning the NCAA Selection Committee's inclusion of the nine SEC teams. So since it's a rather sticky subject in stitched-ball nation, let's look closely at how the southern boys did today. After yesterday's horrible showing, today was a little bit better.
Overall mark: 5-5
(including UK's continuation of the Michigan game)
Who crapped out:
Lost 17-11 to Florida State. I think after the 4th inning, both teams just started using a tee instead of pitchers.
Lost 5-1 to Stanford. Going back to where they belonged in the first place, at home.
Who bounced back:
Beat Louisville 9-8. Looked for a while that the Dogs were about to drop out in two at home, but a 7-run 7th inning helped them make a big comeback in this game.
Lost to Michigan 7-5, then beat Eastern Michigan 4-3. More on this below.
Beat Stony Brook 9-4. But you knew this was going to happen.
- Ole Miss.
Beat Bethune-Cookman 14-1. It was a relatively close game for the most part, until a 10-run 6th inning broke the Wildcats will. Michael Guerrero had two home runs in that inning alone. Hotty toddy!
Who dropped into the loser's bracket:
Lost 13-10 to Coastal Carolina. Had a lead most of the game. Now will face an angry East Carolina squad tomorrow.
- South Carolina.
Lost 5-4 to North Carolina State. Just eight hits by the 'Cocks against five Pack pitchers.
Who kept the foot on the pedal:
Obliterated Southern Miss 13-4. Five more home runs in today's game, two by Matt Clark. Gorilla ball/Arena ball is back in BR.
TO APPEASE JEFF FROM FRIDAY'S COMMENTS---
After going unbeaten in games against teams outside of its region on Friday, the West shone well again on Saturday, going 4-0 against better competition.
- Arizona won at Michigan 4-3.
Wasn't easy though, because as everyone knows, the Wolverines are way better than their RPI. Still, UofA didn't go all Vandy against them.
- Arizona State beat Oklahoma 15-3.
In the words of Jane's Addiction, nothing shocking. OU will face off with Vandy again tomorrow.
- Stanford beat Arkansas 5-1.
I think I've mentioned this one enough already.
- UC Irvine 3-2 over Nebraska in Lincoln.
Nobody should be shocked by this one either. The Anteaters are just plain good, especially doing this against Husker ace Johnny Dorn.
The rest of the West was feeding off other fellow Westerners today. So there you go. Speaking of, here's some of that info...
WHAT I SAW AT LONG BEACH TODAY---
Long Beach - 9 13 0
Cal-Berkeley - 2 4 1
WP- Brett Lorin (5-3)
LP- Craig Benningson (4-5)
Now THIS might be the real No. 1 seed Dirtbags. Four hits? Against THAT lineup? Wow. Brett Lorin, who wasn't much of a factor in the Dirbag rotation as of just a few weeks ago, set the tone with 5.0 innings of 4-hit, 5-strikeout ball. Relievers Adam Wilk, Nick Vincent and David Roberts no-hit the Pac 10's second-best batting order the ret of the way. Yikes.
After complaining last night that his team only had "three quality at-bats all game long" vs. Fresno State, it's a good bet that this is a little bit more to what Coach Mike Weathers had in mind. Both RF Jason Corder and C Travis Howell combined for five hits and five RBI pacing a hot offense today.
"I know I said we only had about three quality at-bats last night, but today was much better. I lost count." Weathers said.
Jason Tweedy provided the at-bat of the day in the 4th inning. Clinging to a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning, Tweedy came up with guys on 2nd and 3rd. On a 1-0 count, Tweedy sliced a bloop into right field, scoring both Corder, who had advanced on a dropped third strike, and Danny Espinosa. Both Corder and Espinosa added RBI singles in the 5th inning to account for an insurmountable 7-run lead.
(Dirtbag Danny Espinosa slides into home for one of the nine Beach runs)
And that, of course, was insurmountable due to the Beach arms, a trait their notorious for flashing when needed. "Just like anything else this time of year, it's all about pitching. At this stage of the game you have to have good pitching."
When asked about the difference between today's game and the three-game sweep they fell victim to up in Berkeley during the regular season, Weathers claimed it was how Lorin handled the potent left handed bats of Josh Satin and David Cooper. "We didn't handle their left-handed bats very well up there. I thought Lorin was the difference. he really stepped up against them today."
Now, what about the Dirtbag prospects for fighting all the way back? Don't count them out. Nobody scraps like Long Beach does. They also have a relatively deep staff as well. Only problem might be their inconsistent offense.
"This team is fully capable of coming back to win this thing." team leader Espinosa said in the post-game. "There was a big difference between our team last night and tonight. You could just sense we were all taking it much more relaxed today. We were back to playing our kind of baseball."
And that may signal a return of the real Dirtbags.
San Diego - 0 5 2
Fresno State - 6 6 0
WP- Clayton Allison (3-5)
LP- Josh Romanski (9-1)
Before the game, I was going back to the car to grab a long sleeve shirt and lo and behold, I hear, "Eric Sorenson..." There's San Diego coach Rich HIll walking up to the stadium. When I asked him about his team's psyche, he immediately steered me to say, "Look, this is a joke." He said, while pointing toward the stadium. "I'd feel better about our chances if we weren't playing these teams in this regional."
He went on to tell me straight faced, "Fresno is not a 4-seed. They're playing as good as anybody out there now." He went on to tell me some other interesting things, though it turns out most of them were "off the record" to use the industry vernacular (Damn, why did I agree to that?)
In the end he was prophetic. Because Fresno did indeed play "as good as anybody out there" tonight. The biggest story was easily Clayton Allison, the 6'5" senior righty who looked imposing on the mound, in the box score and in the Toreros' head tonight. He ended the night giving up just five hits , three strikeouts and no walks.
"Clayton kept everything down. He threw three pitches for strikes and mixed things really well." Coach Mike Batesole said about Allison, who improved to 3-5 on the season with the complete-game gem. "You know, his won-loss record doesn't show it, but he led the conference in ERA, we just didn't play well behind him. He won 10 games last year and would've won 10 this year if we had played well behind him. Tonight we did."
(The imposing figure of Clayton Allison held the Toreros to five hits.)
The other big story was the work of third baseman Tommy Mendonca. Last night, the stud infielder left the game in the 3rd inning with what were thought to be dislocated fingers. As it turns out, it was "just a sprain." So what did Menonca do with his merely sprained knuckles? He went 2-for-3 with four RBI, including a bases-clearing double in the 4th inning that turned out to be the most important hit of the night.
"My hand bothered me a little bit. I kind of jammed it when I dove for that ball in the 5th. But it was fine. I shook it off." Mendonca replied.
With the win, Fresno heads to the title round in control of this ultimately competitive regional. When asked who he would go with tomorrow night, coach Batesole stated flatly, "I don't know. I really don't. I know one thing, I wish we had Tanner Scheppers, I know that." He said, referring to his weekend starting draft stud that is injured and unavailable.
Who knows, with a healthy Scheppers, that would've made this 4-seed play like... oh, maybe a national seed. Coach Hill would agree with that today.
(Erik Wetzel and Alan Ahmady lead a confident Fresno State team into Sunday's title round.)
THE SORENSON JINX?---
Dallas Baptist - 5
Illinois Chicago - 9
After firmly planting myself on the Patriot bandwagon, maybe even going so far as to put on the conductor's hat for it, DBU bows out in two games. Sorry 'bout that guys. I knew going in that Jordan Meaker was a good staff horse, but the well was shallow after him. Sure enough, the Flames came back from a 5-2 deficit to plate five runs in the 5th inning alone to take the lead for good. DBU starter Victor Black got jumped for six runs in 4.2 innings. The top four in the UI-C order accounted for seven of the nine Flame hits, led by Ty Rubio, who went 2-for-2 with two RBI, two runs scored and two walks.
BEST NAME OF THE DAY---
Illinois-Chicago's winning pitcher today was a reliever named Peter Ifft.
BEST GAME OF THE DAY---
Missouri - 5
Miami - 6
It was a magic 8th inning for each team as the Tigers Steve Gray blasted a two-run home run to tie the game at five in the top of the inning. But that didn't last long as Frosh catcher Yasmani Grandal knocked in Dave DiNatale with the winning run in the bottom of the frame.
Still surprised that Kyle Gibson, the No. 2 starter most of the year, didn't get the start. Rick Zagone, who is an experienced arm, started instead. Gibson will now figure big in the Tigers comeback plans.
BEST GAME OF THE DAY II---
Oral Roberts - 8
E. Illinois - 7 (10inns).
Both teams traded runs in the 9th inning before Brendan Duffy hit the game-winning RBI in the top of the 10th. T.J. Kelly earned his 10th save of the year by tossing a perfect 10th inning. Have I typed "10th" enough here?
ORU now moves on to face Nebraska in an elimination game to see who will take on UC Irvine.
KENTUCKY SHOWS SOME SIGNS OF LIFE---
E. Michigan - 3
Kentucky - 4
After dropping the remainder of the Michigan game this morning by a 7-5 count, the Bat Cats fell behind Eastern 3-2 after two and a half innings. But from there, starting pitcher Greg Dombrowski and reliever Andrew Albers combined to make the Eagles go 20-up, 18-down the rest of the game. In fact, UK catcher Marcus Nidiffer threw out two attempted basestealers and also tagged a runner out at home. Good D and good arms. UK lives to see another day.
BEST WIN OF THE DAY?---
Nebraska - 2
UC Irvine - 3
The Anteaters pull out a white-knuckle pitching duel by pulling out the win against NU Friday ace Johnny Dorn. Now, in two games, the Huskers have used their No. 1 starter, No. 2 starter, No. 3 starter and relief ace already. Advantage Anteaters.
Daniel Bibona goes 8.0 innings, striking out seven and giving up all four Husker hits. Eric Pettis picks up his school record-tying 17th save. UCI also knocked out 11 hits in the game, stranding seven runners, compared to just two for the Cornhuskers. Looks like the road-tough 'Eaters have the Huskers where they want them now... playing Oral Roberts in a win-or-go-home game.
MOST IMPRESSIVE TEAM OF THE DAY---
Texas A&M - 22
Houston - 6
Five home runs on the day including a pair by Kyle Colligan and the Aggies have now scored 37 runs in their first two games of the College Station Regional.
North Carolina - 5
UNC-Wilmington - 1
Unlike their fellow ACC mates who have been either losing games (FSU) or pulling their hairs out from stress (Miami, N.C. State and Georgia Tech), the Tar Heels are on cruise control. Alex White went the distance for the blue and white, giving up just three hits and striking out eight. With UNC-W's Jeff Hatcher tossing a really good game as well (complete-game seven-hitter with 9Ks), this game lasted just 2:07.
(Alex White gets some congrats from catcher Tim Federowicz after holding the molten-hot bats of UNC-Wilmington to just three wispy hits.)
SHOULD'VE CLEARED THIS UP ALREADY---
I've received a few Emails and comments wondering if CBS College Sports was going to cover a regional and have a studio show between games as they've done the last few years during the Big Dance. Turns out that the big-wigs at CBS decided to put the studio "on hiatus" until mid-August in an effort to save a couple hundred thousand dollars. So that means, unlike the last two years, I wasn't going to be headed back to New York to do some in-studio work with Greg Amsinger and Adam Zucker during this opening weekend of the NCAA tournament.
Also, you'll note that the network is still televising the Lincoln Regional, but they aren't using any CBS College Sports staff for it, they're piggybacking Nebraska's N.E.T. coverage of the games. That's the same public broadcasting network based in Lincoln that televises a handful of Nebraska and Creighton games during the regular season.
And no, I'm not happy that the network that refers to itself as "the pulse of college sports" has decided to shut down just as the most important part of the season in the most important sport on the planet is upon us. Let's hope the CBS peeps treat our sport better in the future.
GAME TIME EXTREMES---
First pitch of the day:
8:01am Pacific time
For the continuation of the Kentucky-Michigan game from last night.
Last pitch of the day:
2:53am (Sunday) Eastern time
UCLA tops Fullerton 11-4 in the wee hours of the night.
All times local. All conditions intolerable.
- Highest Temperature:
Packard Stadium, Tempe, Arizona: 99 degrees at 3pm
- Highest Heat Index:
Alex Box Stadium, Baton Rouge: 104 degrees at 2pm
- Lowest Temperature:
Sunken Diamond, Palo Alto: 54 degrees at 8:30pm
(Alex Box Stadium has been hotter than the LSU bats this weekend. By the way, I withstood 61 degree temps at the end of tonight's second game in Long Beach. In a word, ahhhhhhh!)
- Biggest crowd for a home team:
Haymarket Park, Lincoln, Nebraska - 8,646
- Smallest crowd for a home team:
Foley Field, Athens, Georgia - 1,901
More seasons will end tomorrow. So, get your beauty sleep since the Fullerton regional will end at sometime around 2am again on Monday. Wicked!