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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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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Minnesota eliminates UCLA baseball from NCAA regional

UCLA got one stellar pitching performance to avoid elimination Sunday in the NCAA tournament, but the Bruins couldn’t piece together the bullpen arms needed for a second.

After sophomore pitcher Ryan Garcia starred in UCLA’s 10-4 win over Gonzaga, the Bruins allowed a season-high 13 runs in a season-ending 13-8 loss to No. 14 Minnesota in the Minneapolis Regional.

Starting pitcher Jack Ralston, UCLA’s typical Tuesday starter, didn’t make it out of the second inning. The redshirt sophomore allowed four runs in 1-1/3 innings, including a three-run homer in the second that chased him.

Playing in their fourth game of the weekend, the Bruins (38-21) turned to six pitchers against the Gophers (44-14), and only Holden Powell, who entered in the fifth with UCLA trailing 13-6, lasted longer than two innings. The team’s saves leader pitched three shutout innings with two strikeouts.

The Bruins out-hit the Gophers 12-11 but stranded nine. UCLA overcame the early struggles with a three-run third inning, jumping ahead 5-4 on an RBI single from center fielder Daniel Amaral.

The Gophers then tagged Nick Scheidler for three runs in the third and plated six more runs during the fourth against Michael Townsend.

UCLA, which entered the postseason as the best hitting team in the Pac-12, lost for just the fourth time this year when scoring six or more runs. The Bruins were 30-4 in such games, with one win coming Sunday afternoon against the Bulldogs to avoid elimination.

Freshman Garrett Mitchell drove in a team-high three runs as Garcia pitched a career-high 7-1/3 innings while striking out nine, which tied a career high. He took a no-hitter into the seventh, but was pulled in the eighth after allowing a two-run homer to Carson Breshears. He finished with just three hits, three runs (one earned) and two walks allowed.

The offense produced 13 hits, with two each from Kevin Kendall, Chase Strumpf and Michael Toglia. Eight of the nine starters had at least one hit.

Strumpf was 8 for 19 at the plate in the regional. Mitchell, making his postseason debut, was 5 for 15 with seven RBIs, six coming Sunday.

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Cal State Fullerton baseball fans back home gather to watch Stanford regionals

Cal State Fullerton students, alums and other fans gathered Friday, June 1, at two venues in Fullerton to watch the baseball team take on Big 12 champ Baylor in the NCAA tournament Stanford regional.

The Big West Conference champion Titans defeated Baylor 6-2 and beat Stanford 2-1 on Saturday. Cal State Fullerton plays again Sunday against the winner of the Baylor-Stanford elimination game.

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fans cheer for the team after pitcher Colton Eastman retires the side against Baylor during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fans cheer for the team after pitcher Colton Eastman retires the side against Baylor during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • A Cal State Fullerton fan cheers for the team playing against Baylor during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    A Cal State Fullerton fan cheers for the team playing against Baylor during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

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  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fans watch the team take on Baylor at Stanford during a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

  • Cal State Fullerton baseball fan Tommy Falvai celebrates after Brett Borgogno hits a two-run double in the team’s game against Baylor on Friday afternoon at Stanford. Fans gathered for a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

    Cal State Fullerton baseball fan Tommy Falvai celebrates after Brett Borgogno hits a two-run double in the team’s game against Baylor on Friday afternoon at Stanford. Fans gathered for a viewing party at BIGS in Fullerton on Friday, June 1, 2018. (Photo by Kyusung Gong/Contributing Photographer)

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Cal State Fullerton pitcher honored for no-hitter, team wins six in a row

Cal State Fullerton junior Colton Eastman made history on March 29 and was rewarded for it on April 2 when he was named the Big West Conference Pitcher of the Week after he tossed the fifth no-hitter in program history at UC Santa Barbara.

And on April 3, the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named Eastman the National Pitcher of the Week.

The Fresno native pitched easily his best game of his collegiate baseball career, tossing nine shutout innings, without allowing a run or hit, while striking out seven and walking just one. Before his no-hitter, Eastman had never pitched more than seven innings.

The no-hitter marked Cal State Fullerton’s first since Justin Garza also recorded one in a 3-0 win over Cal State Northridge on May 24, 2014.

Eastman joined Longo Garcia (1987), Ted Silva (1995), Kirk Saarloos (2001) and Garza in the Titan no-hitter club.  Eastman was the first among that five to throw the no-hitter on the road.

He also lowered his Earned Run Average to 2.47, No. 4 in the Big West. Through April 6, Eastman had lowered his ERA again to 2.11 after  tossing 5.2 innings of no-hit baseball that day against Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to help CSUF to a 13-5 win. Eastman through April 6 was 4-2 this season.

With a six-game winning streak, Cal State Fullerton is 16-15 and 4-2 in the Big West Conference after a Tuesday night win against Pepperdine (3-2).

Next up for the Titans are three games Friday through Sunday at San Diego State.

Sources: Big West Conference, Cal State Fullerton Athletics

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