Mississippi State routs Vanderbilt to send College World Series finals to Game 3

By ERIC OLSON The Associated Press

OMAHA, Neb. — Mississippi State’s first three wins in the College World Series were one-run games. The Bulldogs’ fourth was a blowout, and it was well-timed.

Houston Harding and Preston Johnson combined on a four-hitter and MSU capitalized on struggling Vanderbilt pitching in a 13-2 victory on Tuesday night that forced a deciding third game in the College World Series finals.

The easy win allowed Bulldogs coach Chris Lemonis to hold back rested pitchers, including star reliever Landon Sims, for the winner-take-all Game 3 on Wednesday night.

“We’re ecstatic because, one, we’re still playing, and, two, we used two arms tonight,” Lemonis said. “We have an opportunity to use some different guys tomorrow now because of the score. It was nice after the game. I grabbed Landon, I said, ‘Man, it was sure nice not having to pitch you tonight’ because I feel like in every win for the last month he has been out there.”

The Commodores (49-17) will be going for their second straight national title and third since 2014 after their most lopsided loss in their 29 all-time CWS games.

“Just got to have a short memory,” Vandy’s CJ Rodriguez said. “I think we need to wash it out as fast as we can and get it done tomorrow.”

The Bulldogs (49-18) will be playing for their first championship.

“This game is done, and we’re going to remain cool, calm and collected and bring the same energy out tomorrow,” MSU’s Scotty Dubrule said. “Tomorrow is a new day and we’re going to have to face some tough arms.”

The start in this one was delayed two hours because of rain, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of another pro-MSU crowd that included Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott in a pinstriped “State” baseball jersey and former NFL QB Jay Cutler and basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse representing Vandy.

Like Game 1, when Vanderbilt scored seven first-inning runs on its way to an 8-2 win, this one was over early as Mississippi State broke things open with a four-run third inning.

“Big bounce-back game from our guys, just a resilient group,” Lemonis said after MSU’s biggest winning margin in Omaha since beating Georgia Southern, 15-1, in 1990. “We’ve had our back against the wall feels like all year long and they just keep responding.”

The Commodores issued a season-high 10 walks, including three in a row by 17-year-old starter Christian Little (3-2) that fueled Mississippi State’s big fourth inning.

The Bulldogs turned an error into a run in the first, and the decisive third inning started with shortstop Carter Young fielding Tanner Allen’s grounder but unable to get the ball out of his glove. It was scored a hit, but probably should have been an out – and was a sign of things to come.

Little’s three straight walks forced in a run and brought on reliever Patrick Reilly. Dubrule’s hard comebacker deflected off Reilly’s leg and scored two runs, and the Bulldogs got another on a bases-loaded wild pitch.

Mississippi State scored five times in the seventh to push its lead into double digits.

“We haven’t played a game like that, but whether it’s 13-1 or 2-1 – if you lose 2-1 it might have more of an effect than a 13-1 game,” Vandy coach Tim Corbin said, shorting his team a run in his comment. “It’s embarrassing.”

The Bulldogs finished with 14 hits, with light-hitting shortstop Lane Forsythe leading them with three hits out of the No. 9 spot in the lineup after going 1 for 11 in his first five CWS games.

Johnson (4-0) allowed two hits and struck out seven in five innings of relief of Harding.

Prescott, MSU’s two-time All-SEC quarterback in 2014-15, got big cheers during an in-stadium interview when he gushed over a Bulldogs’ fan following in Omaha that far exceeds Vandy’s in numbers and volume. When an MSU fan caught a foul ball and tossed it up to the section behind him where Prescott was sitting, Prescott signed it and tossed it back.

The all-SEC finals could come down to a pitching matchup between stars Kumar Rocker of Vanderbilt and Will Bednar of Mississippi State.

Rocker, the 2019 CWS Most Outstanding Player, is coming off four days of rest. Bednar, who struck out 15 against Texas in his CWS debut on June 20, would have three days of rest since throwing 97 pitches in the bracket final against the Longhorns.

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NC State out of College World Series due to COVID-19 issues; Vanderbilt to finals

OMAHA, Neb. — Vanderbilt will advance to the College World Series finals after North Carolina State was forced to drop out because of COVID-19 protocols, the NCAA announced late Friday night.

NC State had only 13 players available during its 3-1 loss to the Commodores on Friday. The teams were scheduled to meet again Saturday afternoon in a winner-take-all Bracket 1 final.

The NCAA Division I Baseball Committee declared that game a no-contest.

“This decision was made based on the recommendation of the Championship Medical Team and the Douglas County Health Department,” the NCAA said in a statement. “As a result, Vanderbilt will advance to the CWS Finals.

“The NCAA and the committee regret that NC State’s student-athletes and coaching staff will not be able to continue in the championship in which they earned the right to participate. Because of privacy issues, we cannot provide further details.”

Vanderbilt returns to the finals for a second straight time. The Commodores won the 2019 CWS. There was no tournament last year because of the pandemic.

The Commodores will meet Mississippi State or Texas in the best-of-three finals beginning Monday.

NC State players and coaches gathered at home plate to take pictures around the CWS logo late Friday night, after the rain-delayed Texas-Mississippi game was completed,

NC State was missing four starting position players and had only 13 of its 27 players available for its Friday game, which was delayed an hour after the NCAA said it needed time to complete “health and safety protocols.” NC State said “several players” had entered the COVID-19 protocol.

After the game, North Carolina State coach Elliott Avent grew frustrated and wouldn’t answer directly when asked if he or the baseball program encouraged players to be vaccinated.

“My job is to teach them baseball, make sure they get an education and keep them on the right track forward,” he said. “But I don’t try to indoctrinate my kids with my values or my opinions. Obviously, we talk about a lot of things. But these are young men that can make their own decisions and that’s what they did.”

Avent rolled his eyes when asked if he’s been vaccinated.

“If you want to talk baseball, we can talk baseball,” he said. “If you want to talk politics or stuff like that, you can go talk to my head of sports medicine, Rob Murphy.”

NC State did not immediately respond to a request for an interview with Murphy.

The NCAA does not require athletes, coaches and other staff working closely with a team to be tested for COVID-19 if they are fully vaccinated and showing no symptoms. Those who are not vaccinated must be tested at NCAA championships. Tests are done every other day at the CWS.

Avent said he found out there was a problem 45 minutes to an hour before the game. He told ESPN during an in-game interview that players not with the team were getting tested Friday afternoon and, if the results were negative, would have a chance to play in the rematch Saturday.

The regulars in the lineup were Austin Murr, who moved from first to left field; Jonny Butler, who moved from left to center; Luca Tresh at his usual catcher spot; Devonte Brown in his usual spot in right field; and Vojtech Mensik, who moved from third base to shortstop.

Carson Falksken played second in place of J.T. Jarrett, Eddie Eisert was designated hitter instead of Terrell Tatum, DeAngelo Giles moved into Vojtech’s spot at third and Sam Highfill, the No. 2 starting pitcher, played first base.

Avent said he gave his available players the choice to play or forfeit Friday. They all wanted to play, he said.

Avent told reporters Monday an illness was running through the team but made no mention of it possibly being COVID-19. He said associate head coach Chris Hart had been sick for five or six days and that second baseman J.T. Jarrett and pitcher Cameron Cotter weren’t feeling well.

The pandemic heavily disrupted college sports over the past year and three teams dropped out of an NCAA championship event because of COVID-19: The VCU men’s basketball team, the Michigan men’s ice hockey team and the Rice women’s volleyball team.

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UCLA football receives commitment from three-star WR Braden Pegan

San Juan Hills receiver Braden Pegan announced his commitment to Coach Chip Kelly and the UCLA football program on Tuesday via Twitter.

Pegan’s announcement comes one day after tweeting that he received a scholarship offer from the Bruins.

He was on campus Monday to workout with receiver coach Jerry Neuheisel and the Bruins.

Pegan told 247sports that he was called into Kelly’s office and offered a scholarship.

He is the second recruit at the position to commit to the 2022 recruiting class in as many days.

As a junior, Pegan had 24 catches for 426 yards and three touchdowns in four games played for San Juan Hills in 2020. He also had an 84-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

Pegan has offers from Utah, Colorado and Boston College.

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USC women’s track team wins 2nd NCAA outdoor title in 3 years

EUGENE, Ore. — USC’s Anna Cockrell won the 100- and 400-meter hurdles on Saturday at the NCAA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, becoming just the second woman to pull off the double in those events and leading the Trojans to their second team title in three years.

“Ever since I came to college this was my dream honestly, to double. I know only one other person had done it before me,” Cockrell said. “I don’t think it has sunken all the way in yet, I finished my interview for 400 hurdles down there and then I burst into tears.”

USC had 11 athletes combine to earn 19 first-team All-America honors during the two days of competition, but the Trojans amassed all of their school-record 74 points on the second day.

USC’s 4×100 relay team of Jasmine Jones, Angie Annelus, Lanae-Tava Thomas and TeeTee Terry got the Trojans’ scoring started with a first-place time of 42.82 seconds, making USC the first team to repeat in the event since Texas A&M in 2013-14.

Next, Cockrell won the 100 hurdles title with a time of 12.58 (+0.4) to earn USC 10 points. She is USC’s first national champion in the event since Nia Ali in 2011 and also became the second Trojan to be a three-time All-American in the event, joining Virginia Crawford (Powell).

Terry took second in the 100 meters with a wind-aided PR of 10.79 (+2.2w) and Thomas was seventh with a time of 11.24 (+2.2w). Terry became USC’s highest finisher in the 100 since Angela Williams and Natasha Mayer went 1-2 in 2002 and joined Williams as the school’s only three-time All-American in the event. Williams won the event four years in a row from 1999-2002.

The Trojans then had Kyra Constantine finish third (50.87, PR), Nicole Yeargin fourth (51.02) and Bailey Lear seventh (51.36) in the 400, giving the Trojans 13 more points in the team competition.

Cockrell then defended her 2019 400 hurdles title by bettering her school record with a time of 54.68, becoming USC’s only four-time All-American in the event.

Terry then placed fifth in the 200 final with a time of 22.69 (+0.2) and injury-plagued Annelus took sixth with a time of 22.72 (+0.2) for seven more points.

Morgan Smalls placed fourth in the high jump with a collegiate-best clearance of 6 feet, ½-inches, the best finish ever by a Trojan in the event. Temi Ojora placed eighth in the triple jump at 44-4 (+1.00), a mark she reached twice during her attempts.

The Trojans had clinched the team title before the meet-ending 4×400 relay, but the quartet of Lear, Kaelin Roberts, Yeargin and Constantine ran the second-fastest time in school history (3:24.54) to earn eight more points.

Cambrea Sturgis of North Carolina A&T swept the women’s 100 and 200, taking the 100 in a wind-aided 10.74 seconds, the fastest all-weather time in NCAA history. She then ran the 200 in 22.12, a personal best.

North Carolina A&T was third in the 4×400 relay. The Aggies men also fared well at the meet, with Randolph Ross winning the 400 in 43.85 and a third-place team finish.

“We can go out there and do it if we put our minds to it,” she said about competing for the historically black college.

On Friday, LSU won its first men’s team title since 2002, while USC finished fifth. USC’s Isaiah Jewett (Cathedral High) set the school record (1:44.68) in becoming the Trojans’ first 800 champion. It was the fourth top-five team finish for the USC men in the seven NCAA championships with Caryl Smith Gilbert in charge of the program.

Davonte Burnett placed fifth in the 100 with a time of 10.19 (+0.4) and sixth in the 200 (20.55 (-0.4), while Cameron Samuel placed third in the 400 hurdles with a PR of 48.68. Earnest Sears III finished seventh in the high jump (7-2½).

USC’s 4×400 relay team of Nicholas Ramey, Brian Herron, Samuel and Jewett placed fourth in a season-best time of 3:02.49.

Other notable women’s performances on Saturday included …

• Texas A&M freshman Athing Mu won the 400 in 49.57, a national collegiate record.

• BYU senior Anna Camp won the 1,500 in a personal-best 4:08.53 ahead of a strong field that included Colorado’s Sage Hurta, the indoor mile champion who finished second.

“I knew Sage was crazy fast, so my goal was to sit on her shoulder for a lot of the 1,500 and win,” Camp said. “My legs felt good, I was just hopeful that I could outrun her through that push,” Camp said.

• Air Force’s Mahala Norris, who grew up in Roseburg, Oregon, won the steeplechase in 9:31.79. Also, North Carolina State’s Elly Henes won the 5,000 in 15:28.05, and Virginia’s Michaela Meyer took the 800 in a personal-best 2:00.28.

The NCAA championship was among the first major meets at Hayward Field since it underwent an extensive renovation. The U.S. Olympic team trials will be held there next week. Sturgis is among the college athletes hoping for a spot on the team for Tokyo.

🏆 𝐍𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍𝐀𝐋 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐌𝐏𝐒! 🏆

The women of @USC_Track_Field bring home their 3rd team title, the 133rd national title in USC history!#FightOn | #NCAATF pic.twitter.com/lfSSpM88Y0

— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) June 13, 2021

𝟒𝟎𝟎𝐌 𝐇𝐔𝐑𝐃𝐋𝐄 𝐍𝐀𝐓𝐈𝐎𝐍𝐀𝐋 𝐂𝐇𝐀𝐌𝐏!@AnnaCockrell48 becomes just the second female athlete to ever win the 100m and 400m hurdles at the same NCAA Championship!#FightOn | #NCAATFpic.twitter.com/N62Yi0Mgfl

— USC Trojans (@USC_Athletics) June 12, 2021

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DL Jay Toia commits to UCLA after spending spring with USC

Grace Brethren defensive lineman Jay Toia has flipped his commitment to UCLA, after spending spring camp with USC.

The 6-foot-2, 315-pound incoming freshman becomes the highest-rated recruit for the Bruins’ 2021 class. He first committed to the Trojans in 2018 and signed his national letter of intent in December 2020.

He entered the transfer portal after announcing his decision to leave USC in May. He enrolled early and found himself competing alongside the first- and second-team defense throughout spring practice.

“The 2020 pandemic was tragic to so many that lost so much,” Toia wrote in a Twitter post on May 31. “For me and especially my parents we felt forced to make a major decision signing with USC based on limited information because of COVID-19 restrictions. We were not able to take any official or unofficial visits to any of the other schools on our short list such as Michigan, Utah, UCLA, Miami among others.”

Following his departure from the Trojans, he made visits to Michigan and UCLA.

USC coach Clay Helton identified Toia as one of the standouts from the Trojans’ spring game in April.

“You’re talking about off the field the sweetest human being you will ever meet, but I don’t know who he becomes when it’s a competitive situation,” Helton said. “He is a different person and it has been really neat to see how talented he is but also what an unbelievable sense of urgency that guy has to be great and to help this team next year.”

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UC Irvine baseball doomed by rough start in season-ending loss to Stanford

No matter how good a baseball team might be, it is very hard to win after spotting a talented opponent a seven-run lead in the first inning.

That was UC Irvine’s reality on Monday night against Stanford in the championship game of the four-team Stanford Regional of the NCAA tournament. The Cardinal pounced on the Anteaters for seven runs and eight hits before the Anteaters had a chance to grab a bat and held on for an 11-8 win.

The loss ends UCI’s season at 43-18, with a Big West Conference record for wins in a season, their first regional appearance since 2014 and a determined effort against a solid Stanford team. The Cardinal (36-15) advance to a best-of-three super regional against Texas Tech next weekend in Lubbock, Texas, with the winner moving on to the eight-team College World Series.

Nathan Church hit a first-inning home run for UCI and went 4 for 6 on the night to punctuate a regional performance that saw him go 13 for 26 over five games. Dillon Tatum hit a two-run home run in the third to set the program record for single-season homers (15).

UCI head coach Ben Orloff knew he would use a lot of pitchers in the Anteaters’ fifth game in four days, but he was comfortable starting with Game 1 star Mike Frias, who threw a complete game two-hitter in a victory over Nevada on Friday night.

But Frias gave up four straight hits to start the game and was removed after the fifth batter. Eddie Park hit the first pitch for a single and Tim Tawa slugged a 3-and-1 fastball for a two-run home run.

Brock Jones hit a nubber to the triangle between the mound and third base for a single and Kody Huff doubled to left to put runners on second and third. Christian Robinson hit a deep fly to score Jones.

Orloff pulled Frias, but Stanford kept producing against reliever Gordon Ingebritson. Nick Brueser hit a sacrifice fly to center to make it 4-0. None of the next three batters got the ball out of the infield but loaded the bases regardless.

Drew Bowser reached on a Justin Torres fielding error, Tommy Troy beat out a slow roller to third and a bunt single loaded the bases. Park then singled up the middle to score two more runs, and Tawa singled to right for another and a 7-0 lead.

Church homered in the first and Tatum homered in the bottom of the second, but Stanford added single runs in the second and third to make it 9-3.

UCI scratched back but struggled with runners in scoring position – stranding two on with no outs in the third, stranding Torres after a leadoff triple in the fifth, and eventually leaving 12 runners on base. The Big West champions also committed four errors in the first three innings, and five of Stanford’s runs were unearned.

The Anteaters trailed 11-5 going into the bottom of the seventh. With two outs, Stanford relievers walked the bases load and Luke Spillane’s cue ball double to right field scored two to cut the margin to 11-7.

Stanford coach Dave Esquer’s plan was to tag-team the UCI lineup. Four of the first five hitters are left-handed, so the Cardinal started left-hander Drew Dowd.

Thereafter, the Cardinal flopped pitchers according to the Anteaters’ lineup – left-handers at the top of the order and right-handers at the bottom. They went through eight pitchers by game’s end, with closer Zach Grech facing 11 batters in two innings.

Grech got two quick outs in the ninth before Spillane had his third hit of the game. Left-handed pinch hitter Jake Palmer was then semi-intentionally walked by Grech.

Stanford went to left-hander Jacob Palisch to face the UCI lefties. Church lined a single to left to score a run and keep the inning alive, but Palisch retired Mike Peabody on a high fly to center.

The Anteaters scored 46 runs in their five games. Of the 30 runs they allowed, 14 came in two innings of play, and 11 of the runs allowed were unearned.

More to come on this story.

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UCLA can’t catch North Carolina in NCAA regional opener

LUBBOCK, Texas — Love was on the mound Friday at Dan Law Field and that wasn’t a romantic thing at all for UCLA in an opening-round game of the NCAA baseball tournament.

The Bruins’ offense sputtered and coughed for most of the night in a 5-4 loss to North Carolina at the Lubbock Regional, with UNC ace pitcher Austin Love setting the tone by striking out nine and allowing only six hits and three runs in 6-2/3 innings.

In a game that turned into a bullpen chess match in the final few innings, UCLA (35-19) never managed more than one run in an inning and struggled to produce in clutch situations, going 2 for 9 with runners in scoring position and 2 for 11 with two outs.

Love had plenty to do with that, locking in after a rocky start and mowing down 15 of 16 hitters during a key stretch to stymie the Bruins.

UCLA starter Jesse Bergin battled through 5-1/3 innings, allowing eight hits but only a pair of earned runs.

“I thought it was a hell of a game,” Bruins coach John Savage said. “Love did his duty, struck out nine. I thought Jesse competed hard and made some pitches.”

Meanwhile, the Tar Heels (28-25) chipped away early on Will Stewart’s productive groundout in the second inning and his clutch two-out, two-run single two innings later to open a 3-1 lead.

UNC’s Danny Serretti supplied what turned out to be huge – and somewhat shocking – insurance with a two-run home run in the seventh against UCLA reliever Adrian Chaidez on an 0-and-2 count. That was just the second long ball and eighth hit Chaidez has allowed all season and marked the first time he surrendered more than a single run in his 28 appearances.

“Chaidez has been outstanding all season, but he left a pitch up and you’ve got to give credit where credit is due,” Savage said.

“They did a great job extending innings and giving themselves a chance to score some runs.”

The Bruins finally snapped their drought against Love when Kevin Kendall began the sixth with a double down the right field line. He got to third base on a wild pitch and darted home on Matt McClain’s sacrifice fly to close the gap to 3-2. The homer extended the lead to set the stage for a significant UCLA threat in the seventh.

Mikey Perez gave the Bruins a leadoff man on for the second straight inning with an infield single and Love walked JonJon Vaughn before recording the second out. Kendall delivered again with an RBI single that ended Love’s night, but North Carolina left-hander Caden O’Brien came on and struck out pinch-hitter Michael Caulfield in a full-count check swing to keep the Bruins two runs down.

UCLA cut the deficit to one run in the eighth when McLain scored on a wild pitch, but that was all the Bruins could manage despite two hits and a walk in the inning.

Things began with plenty of promise for the Bruins when McClain’s double chased home Kendall, who led off with a base hit to center field.

Before UCLA could inflict any more damage, though, Love struck out cleanup hitter JT Schwartz and coaxed a fly ball out of Mikey Perez with two runners in scoring position to slam the door.

Now the Bruins will attempt to stay alive in the four-team event when they take on Army (28-24) in an elimination game on Saturday at noon PT. Army dropped a 6-3 decision to host Texas Tech (37-15) earlier Friday.

“That’s why they call it a double-elimination tournament,” Savage said. “Our backs have been against the wall all season, so this is no different.”

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Virginia Tech outplays UCLA softball in super regional opener

It’s just the second appearance in the NCAA softball super regionals for the Virginia Tech softball team, but the Hokies wasted no time making their presence known.

ACC Pitcher of the Year Keely Rochard held the second-seeded Bruins to three hits while striking out 12 and Virginia Tech capitalized on a handful of defensive errors to take the opener of the best-of-three series, 7-2, on Thursday night at UCLA’s Easton Stadium.

“Credit Virginia Tech, they came out, they executed, and I am very confident that that was not the team that we know who we are,” UCLA coach Kelly Inouye-Perez said.

It’s the first loss of the postseason for the Bruins (44-5), who won three consecutive games against Long Beach State, Fresno State and Minnesota in the four-team NCAA Los Angeles regional to advance to the final 16 of the bracket.

The Hokies (37-13) have been on a roll, beating Brigham Young and No. 15 seed Arizona State to win the Tempe regional, and they got on the board quickly at Easton Stadium.

Kelsey Brown and Cameron Fagan reached on singles, then Kelsey Bennett hit a two-run triple to right center field to get the scoring started for Virginia Tech.

Fagan added a two-run single in the fourth inning, then an RBI single from Addy Greene and a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch extended the Hokies’ lead to 6-0 in the fifth.

Given a lead before she entered the circle, Rochard came out dealing, striking out the first six UCLA batters and retiring 13 consecutive Bruins to start the game. UCLA got its first base runner when Maya Brady walked in the bottom of the fifth. Kinsley Washington followed with a double and pinch hitter Jenavee Peres drove both of them in to get UCLA on the scoreboard.

“It honestly felt really good to be able to be back out on the field and be able to produce for my team,” said Peres, a redshirt senior. “Obviously, it was a very tough game against Virginia Tech tonight, so being able to come through for them … was a really humbling and really good feeling.”

Megan Faraimo relieved UCLA pitcher Rachel Garcia, who was unbeaten going into game, in the fifth inning. Bubba Nickles, who was previously day-to-day with a wrist injury, also came into the game at center field.

“Bubba is a huge part of UCLA softball. She’s a big part of our confidence,” Inouye-Perez said. “If there’s an opportunity for her to play with us, that’s going to do nothing but build confidence for this team. So that was tonight, we’ll see what tomorrow brings.”

Garcia gave up nine hits while striking out seven in four innings. Faraimo pitched two innings, yielding one hit and striking out four.

Holly Azevedo entered the circle for the final inning and logged three strikeouts, but not before Brown drove in Greene with a single to cap the scoring for Virginia Tech.

The best-of-three super regional continues Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Easton Stadium.

📼 SUPER REGIONALS HIGHLIGHTS: @HokiesSoftball defeats (2) @UCLASoftball, 7-2, in game one of the Los Angeles Super Regional.#RoadToWCWS pic.twitter.com/artbx32tHV

— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 28, 2021

Ks for Days! 🔥 @_keelsss_#RoadToWCWS x @HokiesSoftball pic.twitter.com/m3rCAnwdmc

— NCAA Softball (@NCAAsoftball) May 28, 2021

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UC Irvine baseball on cusp of Big West championship

The UC Irvine baseball team defeated Cal State Bakersfield, 7-4, on Sunday afternoon and moved within one win of the Big West Conference title.

The 18th-ranked Anteaters (36-16 overall, 28-8 Big West) have a three-game lead over second-place UC Santa Barbara (35-18, 25-11) with four games left in the regular season. UCI, which took three of four at UCSB earlier this month to earn the tiebreaker advantage, hosts Cal State Fullerton (20-31, 13-19) in its final series, beginning Friday at 3 p.m. at Anteater Ballpark. The teams play a doubleheader on Saturday at noon, then play the regular-season finale on Sunday at 1 p.m.

UCSB concludes its season with four home games against Bakersfield (20-19, 17-15). Third-place Long Beach State (24-15, 22-14) closes with four games against last-place UC Davis (14-39, 8-28) at Blair Field.

“We’re just trying to get better, we’re trying to improve,” UCI coach Ben Orloff said. “I’m sure the team is aware of what’s at stake because of the internet, but we want to play for a while and beyond next weekend, and in order to do what we want to do, we’ve got to keep getting better. We’re trying our best not to scoreboard watch, we’re really trying to worry about ourselves, get better, and put together a really good weekend performance against Cal State Fullerton. We’re not worried about who beats who.”

The Anteaters put themselves in the driver’s seat by doing this weekend what they’ve been doing throughout conference play – winning another four-game series. UCI has won seven of its nine Big West series with a pair of 2-2 splits.

On Sunday, they erased an early 3-1 deficit. They tied the score in the third when Jacob Castro reached on a one-out walk and scored on a Justin Torres double, then Thomas McCaffrey drove in Torres with a single. Two pitches later, Dillon Tatum hit his 13th home run of the season to cap the four-run inning put UCI ahead to stay, 5-3.

While the UCI offense was taking control, junior Peter Van Loon was settling in on the mound. He retired the Roadrunners in order in four innings and stranded leadoff singles in two others in his second consecutive seven-inning outing. He allowed three runs, scattering six hits with six strikeouts and no walks, before Josh Ibarra and Jacob King pitched the last two innings to close out the win.

McCaffrey finished 3 for 5 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Torres also drove in two with a pair of doubles, as eight UCI players had at least one hit.

“It’s so fun to see how many guys are contributing,” Orloff said. “To score seven from a bunch of different guys was really good to see.”

Bakersfield starter Roman Angelo lasted just 2-1/3 innings, allowing five runs on six hits and two walks.

Long Beach State 4, Cal State Fullerton 1: Long Beach scored three runs in the top of the ninth to beat rival Fullerton in Sunday afternoon’s series finale. Toren Craig delivered what proved to be the game-winning RBI.

For the fourth straight game, Long Beach scored a run in the first inning, this time by rattling off three consecutive one-out hits. Isaac Ramirez drove in the run with a double down the left field line.

The Titans tied the score in the third inning on a solo home run from Josh Urps, but both starting pitchers shut down the offenses after that.

LBSU starter Jack Noble needed just 85 pitches to get through seven innings, holding the Titans to four hits and a walk while striking out six. He retired the final 14 batters he faced before handing the ball off to the bullpen. Fullerton starter Kyle Luckham went 7-1/3 innings, holding Long Beach to just five hits while striking out five.

Long Beach finally broke through and reclaimed the lead in the ninth. After a leadoff double from Calvin Estrada, Craig drove him in with a single into left for a 2-1 lead. Connor Kokx provided some insurance with a two-run home run – his sixth of the season.

Devereaux Harrison pitched two scoreless innings to earn the win and give Long Beach its first series victory over the Titans since the 2017 regular season.

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Chapman baseball defends SCIAC title, heads to Minnesota for NCAA regional

The Chapman University baseball program is back in the NCAA tournament, looking to defend its 2019 Division III national title.

Sophomore Grant Manning pitched a complete game five-hitter as top-seeded Chapman defeated second-seeded Cal Lutheran, 8-2, on Sunday at Hart Park in Orange to clinch its third consecutive SCIAC Tournament title.

Just as they did in 2019, the Panthers (13-4) swept their way through the SCIAC postseason event to earn the conference’s automatic berth in the NCAA Division III field, which has been reduced to 48 teams for 2021. Chapman outlasted fourth-seeded Redlands, 7-6, in 10 innings on Friday, then defeated Cal Lutheran, 5-2, on Saturday to reach the final.

Chapman next heads to a six-team, double-elimination regional at St. John’s University in Collegeville, Minn., where it will face UT-Dallas on Thursday at 12:30 p.m. PT in its opener. The Panthers are the fifth seed for the event, and UT-Dallas is the No. 2 seed. St. Thomas (Minnesota), is the top seed at the regional and will open against sixth-seeded Scranton (Penn.). Third-seeded York (Penn.) meets fourth-seeded Pacific (Oregon) in the other opener.

The tournament concludes May 31, with the regional champion advancing to the NCAA Division III World Series in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where eight teams will compete in another double-elimination tournament from June 4-9 to decide the national champion. There was no postseason in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just a week after Manning struck out nine Cal Lutheran hitters in a 10-inning victory, he came through with a 10-strikeout effort in the first complete game of his career.

The Kingsmen (9-12) struck first when Nick Fusari led off the game with a triple and scored on Kyle Reuser’s RBI single, and they added another run in the third inning, but Manning settled in after that. He struck out the side in the fourth and retired 10 in a row from the fourth through the seventh as Chapman took its first lead. Thanks to a pick-off and a double play in the later innings, Manning faced the minimum over the final five innings.

Trailing 2-1 in the fifth, Chapman senior Henry Zeisler singled to start the inning and then stole second. Senior Mack Cheli followed with a double to tie the score. A bunt single from Cooper Foard put runners on corners and Cheli scored the go-ahead run as Cal Lutheran turned a double play.

Drew Littwin’s RBI single in the sixth made it 4-2, then the Panthers broke the game open with a four-run eighth, highlighted by Kyle Joye’s three-run double.

Manning was named the SCIAC Tournament MVP.


The Chapman University baseball team celebrates after defeating Cal Lutheran, 8-2, to win the SCIAC Tournament title on Sunday at Hart Park in Orange. The Panthers are headed to a six-team, double-elimination NCAA Division III regional in Collegeville, Minn., where they hope to keep alive their chance to defend their 2019 national championship. (Photo by Larry Newman, courtesy of Chapman Athletics)

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