Who won in the College Baseball Top 5?
Tennessee stun Ole Miss and Texas Tech chalks up a win over the Longhorns on a unique walk-off play, the NCAA Top 5 is up for grabs in a massive shake-up
Rankings in college sports have always been a contentious subject. There is no unified national league, it would simply be too unwieldy with over a thousand schools currently competing under the NCAA umbrella. Weekly, these games are all pored over by the coaches and sports writers who, using a calculation called the Rating Percentage Index to balance wins and losses with the strength of schedule, will determine a national Top 25. It is the worst ranking system in existence, except for all the others.
Inter-conference play can alleviate some of the questions around the strength of schedule, but there are never enough games to balance it out fully. Eventually, the schools must move on to the competition within their own conferences. Now in the second week of conference play, the waters are certainly being muddied with some of the results that we are seeing.
Tennessee Volunteers @ Ole Miss Rebels
The real story is the Tennessee Volunteers, who have made a concerted run at the top five since entering the season at number 17. Their pitching has been outstanding, but they are making a lot of noise with their bats.
Ole Miss didn’t look terrible, just pedestrian. They were able to do some good things on the mound for most of the game, nine of Tennessee’s 12 runs coming in just two innings. Even if you discount those as anomalies, the bigger issue for the Rebels is the relative silence of their bats. For a top-ranked team, and one who is known for big hits, mind you, to score only one run is simply not good enough.
The fifth-ranked Vols came into Oxford looking not to knock on the door, but to kick it down. They jumped on top with a six run second inning and never looked back. If they can take either of the two remaining games in the series, it will be difficult to argue that they shouldn’t leapfrog into first place in next week’s rankings.
Final score: Tennessee 12 Ole Miss 1
Texas Longhorns @ Texas Tech Red Raiders
Ok, before I say a word, I need you to click on the video below and watch it. It is four minutes long and after you have seen it, we can discuss what it is that just happened.
Did you see that? Is your jaw still on the floor? If not, maybe you need to see it again. Go ahead. I’ll wait…
A walk-off… steal? Stealing home is rare enough. Doing it in the bottom of the 10th? I’ve never seen that. And I’m not certain that I ever will again. So how did that happen?
You hate to kick a man when he is down, but there is nowhere to lay this error, and it is an error, but at the feet of pitcher Aaron Nixon. It is a difficult pill to swallow for the young right-hander, but the endless foot-shuffling to get set, a trend that suddenly bloomed into existence in the last decade or so, has pitchers so concentrated on their rhythm that they are oblivious to what is going on around them. Like, oh I don’t know, maybe, let’s say… a baserunner on third taking off for home.
It is hard to blame a young pitcher for imitating what he sees going on in the big leagues. Earlier generations chewed tobacco because we watched our heroes do it. But no matter what the trend is at the time, no matter what you feel that you need to do to get in your groove, you have to be aware of the base runners. I’m sure that Nixon has learned from this event, but what a way to learn.
Final score: Texas 4 Texas Tech 5
Arkansas Razorbacks @ Missouri Tigers
The Razorbacks extended their winning streak to 12 consecutive games, as they improved to 4-0 in the SEC. In a tight contest, the Tigers put together some wonderful small-ball play to come very close to turning this game over several times.
In the second inning, Mizzou laid down back-to-back bunt singles to load the bases and then a solid single scored two. In the seventh, they put together a similar run of play with back-to-back-to-back singles to tie up the score at five, but the Razorbacks bats were always a step ahead.
With a win in the second game, the Razorbacks would have 13 consecutive wins, their longest streak in over a decade.
Final score: Arkansas 5 Missouri 4
Vanderbilt Commodores @ South Carolina Gamecocks
Speaking of streaks, Vanderbilt’s loss to South Carolina marks the end of their 18-game win streak, the second-longest in program history. The Gamecocks jumped out early, scoring seven runs in the first two innings, and Vandy steadied the ship but were never able to come back from that kind of deficit.
Vanderbilt managed to post a run in the fourth and another in the fifth, but with the Gamecocks adding another to their tally in the sixth, the scoring was locked in.
Freshman Vanderbilt southpaw Carter Holton gave up seven earned runs on seven hits, while striking out two. His relief came in the form of sophomore Patrick Reilly, who worked 5.2 innings out of the bullpen, giving up one earned run on four hits, while picking up 14 strikeouts.
Final score: Vanderbilt 2 South Carolina 8