ROGERS ON THE ROAD
Houston 4, Central Florida 3
Overview: Wherever I’ve gone this weekend, it seems like absolute craziness has accompanied me. That was the case again Saturday night at Cougar Field in Houston, Texas, where I caught the big American Athletic Conference series between red-hot UCF and highly-ranked Houston.
Terry Rooney’s Knights scored single runs in the first, second and third innings to take a 3-2 lead over Houston. After that, the two teams’ pitching staffs took care of business with Houston led by righthanded pitchers Jake Lemoine and Bubba Maxwell, and the Knights being guided by reliever Zac Favre, who showed excellent feel for his off speed pitches.
The Knights carried a 3-2 lead to the bottom of the ninth inning, and the Cougars appeared to be in big trouble and staring down the barrel of a series loss after a pair of quick outs to begin the frame. However, athletic outfielder Ashford Fulmer struck gold for the Cougars, taking a 2-2 offering over the left-field fence for a no-doubter home run that tied the game.
UCF became unraveled after the home run, and the Cougars proceeded to win the game on a two-out RBI single down the left field line from Kyle Survance.
Houston’s comeback win capped off a crazy 24-plus hours for me.
Prospect watch: Jake Lemoine, rhp, Houston
We’ve documented Lemoine plenty of times already this season, but it was nice to get another look at him. It’s evident Lemoine will be one of the top prospects for the 2015 Major League Baseball draft. In addition to a nice, sturdy, frame, Lemoine had his best velocity of the season against the Knights. He was 92-94 early in the game, touching 95 on a few occasions as well with his fastball. Lemoine also was still up to 93 later in the game. Lemoine’s 83-85 slider was a solid pitch as usual, while he went heavy with a 78-80 mph changeup toward the end of his performance. Lemoine finished the night with five strikeouts and one walk, while also allowing three runs on seven hits in seven innings ... Speaking of the Cougars, righthanded reliever Bubba Maxwell also showed some serious potential on the mound. He came out of the bullpen throwing 92-93 against the Knights.
TEAM OF THE DAY
Remember when there were some concerns about the Gators? Well, UF is on a big-time roll, improving to 17-6 in the Southeastern Conference with a series-clinching 4-3 win over Alabama. Florida used five pitchers in the winning cause, with relievers A.J. Puk and Dane Dunning each tossing 2 2/3 shutout innings. Meanwhile, offensively, Gators leadoff hitter Casey Turgeon went 3-for-3 with an RBI, and Taylor Gushue hit his fifth homer.
PLAYER OF THE DAY
John Coen, dh, Illinois-Chicago
The Flames captured an impressive 15-7 home win over Milwaukee with Coen leading the way at the plate. Coen went 4-for-4 with a pair of homers, three runs scored and five RBIs to lead the charge.
UPSET OF THE DAY
Alabama State over Miami
I said earlier this week to keep an eye on the weekend series
between the Hornets and Hurricanes. Though Alabama State clearly plays a rather weak conference schedule being in the SWAC, this team has earned some nice reviews from their non-conference foes. Well, ASU now has a chance to take the series from Miami after winning Game 2, 6-5, on Saturday. Normando Valentin struck out three and allowed a hit in 2 2/3 innings, while offensively, second baseman Einar Muniz went 3-for-3 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI.
Kansas: The Jayhawks fell out of the heavy at-large discussion last week, but are back in the mix after beating Texas Tech 6-4 to clinch a big series win. Kansas leadoff hitter Justin Protacio, Connor McKay and Ka’iana Eldredge each finished the afternoon with a pair of hits, while on the mound, reliever Drew Morovick held the Red Raiders at bay with a solid 3 2/3 innings of work. With the win, the Jayhawks improved to 29-20, 11-9 in the Big 12.
Louisiana-Lafayette: The Ragin’ Cajuns have been terrific in Sun Belt play, and continued their impressive ways Saturday afternoon with a 7-0 road win over Arkansas State to clinch a series win. ULL righthanded pitcher Carson Baranik faced one batter over the minimum, striking out seven, not walking anyone and allowing just two hits in a complete game shutout. Tyler Girouard led the way at the plate with three hits and an RBI.
Ryan O’Hearn, 1b, Sam Houston State: The Bearkats had a big day at the plate in a 12-1 run-rule win over rival SFA. O’Hearn had a huge afternoon at the plate, smacking a pair of homers and going 2-for-4 with three runs scored and six RBIs.
Bradley Strong, 2b, Western Carolina: The Catamounts won the series opener to Appalachian State, and won again Saturday afternoon with a 20-10 victory. Strong had a big day at the plate, going 4-for-5 with a pair of doubles, a home run, three runs scored and six RBIs.
Tennessee: Resiliency is the sign of a good club, and the Vols showed that Saturday afternoon in a 5-1 win over Kentucky to take the three-game series despite getting crushed in the series opener. UT lefthanded pitcher Andy Cox took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and struck out seven, allowing just a run on two hits in 7 2/3 innings of work. With the win, the Vols are now tied with Kentucky in the SEC standings at 10-14.
Mississippi State’s pitching: The Bulldogs have an important series at Auburn this weekend, and the pitching staff has risen to the occasion in a big way. After shutting out the Tigers in the series opener on Friday, State did it again Saturday, 3-0, to capture the road series. MSU lefthanded pitcher Ross Mitchell was terrific, striking out four, walking one and allowing just four hits in a complete game shutout performance.
Mississippi: The Rebels improved their national seed chances Saturday with a series-clinching 7-4 win over Arkansas. Ole Miss improved to 15-8 in the SEC with first baseman Sikes Orvis having a productive afternoon, going 2-for-3 with a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs. Meanwhile, Will Allen had three hits and Errol Robinson chipped in a pair of hits to aid the offense.
Texas A&M: After having a fierce comeback come up short on Friday, luck finally fell A&M’s way on Saturday as Cole Lankford smacked a walk-off RBI single to right field in the bottom of the ninth inning to give the Aggies a 3-2 win over LSU. Lankford finished the day 3-for-4 with a pair of RBIs, while the Aggies got a high quality start from righthanded pitcher Daniel Mengden, who struck out five, walked one and allowed just two runs on five hits in a complete game performance.
Oklahoma State: The Cowboys are heavily moving into the NCAA hosting discussion with a 6-5 series-clinching win over Arizona State at home. OSU improved to 34-13 overall with reliever Vince Wheeland being outstanding out of the pen with 4 1/3 shutout innings of work, along with three strikeouts and just two hits allowed. Offensively, first baseman Tanner Krietemeier had another big day with a home run (8th), two runs scored and two RBIs.
Tyler Schweigert, dh, Eastern Illinois: Schweigert had a big-time day at the plate as the Panthers captured a 15-3 road win over Eastern Kentucky. He went 4-for-6 with a double, home run, three runs scored and five RBIs to lead the offensive charge.
Joe Smith, of, Iona: What an impressive afternoon it was for Smith as the Gaels captured a 16-9 win over Saint Peter’s. He went a perfect 5-for-5 with a double, four runs scored and two RBIs to lead the offense.
David Speer, lhp, Columbia: The Ivy League is in the midst of its playoffs and Speer tossed a gem in a 4-0 road win over Pennsylvania. Speer struck out nine, walked two and allowed just five hits in a complete game shutout performance.
Tim Koons, rhp, Oakland: OU went on the road and captured a 1-0 win over Valparaiso with Koons leading the way. The veteran struck out seven, walked three and allowed just three hits in a complete game shutout performance.
UC Irvine: The Anteaters were easily in our field of 64 earlier this week with such a good conference record, and only are improving their postseason resume this weekend, beating UC Santa Barbara 3-2 to clinch a series victory. UCI lefthanded pitcher Elliot Surrey struck out four, walked one and allowed just two runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings, while Connor Spencer and Jonathan Munoz each had two hits to lead the offense.
Michael Suchy, of, Florida Gulf Coast: The Eagles hit the road and captured an impressive 17-5 win over Northern Kentucky. Suchy had a big night at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a pair of homers, four runs scored and five RBIs.
Loyola Marymount: Righthanded pitcher Patrick McGrath struck out six, walked three and allowed just a run on six hits in five innings, as the Lions captured a solid 3-1 win over Pepperdine to clinch an important West Coast Conference weekend series. Outfielder Austin Miller led the charge at the plate with three hits.
Illinois State: As an at-large team, the Redbirds can’t afford to accrue many bad losses down the stretch. However, they dropped a tough 13-12 decision to high RPI Western Illinois Saturday afternoon. Redbirds lefthanded pitcher Dylan Craig allowed nine runs on 10 hits in five innings, while veteran catcher Mike Hollenbeck went 5-for-6 with four RBIs.
Southern California: The Trojans’ postseason hopes took a hit on Saturday with a series-clinching 4-3 loss to Washington State. USC starting pitcher Brent Wheatley allowed three runs on five hits in six innings, but the offense was unable to do much against Washington State starting pitcher Jason Monda, who struck out six, walked one and allowed just two runs on six hits in eight innings.
Old Dominion: The Monarchs helped their postseason case earlier this week with a midweek triumph over top-ranked Virginia. However, they’ve taken a step back this weekend, dropping the series against Florida Atlantic with an 8-7 setback. ODU starting pitcher Brandon Rhodes was lifted after allowing two runs on three hits in just 2 2/3 innings of work.
Cal State Fullerton: Barring an impressive final couple of weeks to the regular season, it’s probably safe to start preparing for an NCAA postseason without the Titans. Fullerton dropped yet another series, this time to rival Long Beach State, with a 5-0 setback. Fullerton starting pitcher Justin Garza struck out just three and allowed five runs in seven innings, while the offense did little against LBSU starting pitcher Josh Frye, who struck out four, didn’t walk anyone and allowed just five hits in eight shutout innings.