Some ninth-inning heroics and big-time pitching highlighted a thrilling opening day from the 2020 Division I college baseball season. Let's take a look around the preseason top 25 at a few moments and performances that stood out.
Matt Schmidt takes Tyler Brown deep in a CWS rematch
Opening night in the desert was one to remember. No. 2 Vanderbilt and No. 13 Michigan went head-to-head in a rematch of the 2019 College World Series. Last time we saw these teams, Vandy's Mason Hickman was dealing and Jeff Criswell was coming out of the pen as the Commodores took home their second title since 2014.
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Hickman looked sharp in his debut, leaving after five innings with just one unearned run scoring, but so did his counterpart. Jeff Criswell pitched 6.1 innings but left the game with two on and both runners came around to score, leaving him on the losing side late in the ball game.
Matthew Schmidt — Michigan's redshirt-senior first baseman — came to the plate with the often-reliable Tyler Brown on the mound and launched one over the left-field wall. It put the Wolverines out in front and despite loading the bases in the bottom half of the ninth, Isaiah Page made sure it stayed that way. Michigan handed the Vandy Boys their first loss of 2020, 4-3.
Niagara's three-run ninth stuns No. 12 Florida State
The Seminoles didn't open the Mike Martin, Jr. era as they had hoped. Well, it looked like they were going to until Niagara's Josh Marchese came to bat in the ninth.
Florida State's ace CJ Van Eyk and relievers Antonio Velez and Chase Haney silenced the Niagara lineup for eight innings. Combined, the trio tossed eight innings of shutout ball, allowing just two hits while striking out 14 and walking one. But the bullpen simply couldn't keep the Purple Eagles off base in the ninth.
Niagara executed small-ball at its finest, scoring three runs without an extra base hit. Four walks, a sacrifice bunt, and a Spencer Marcus single later, the Purple Eagles were up 3-1. Alex MacKinnon came on in the bottom of the ninth and secured the win, striking out five Seminoles over his two perfect innings on the night.
Cal State Fullerton shuts down No. 17 Stanford
In a battle at Sunken Diamond between two California teams with plenty of history on their side, the Titans struck first in a big way. Cal State Fullerton defeated the Cardinal 7-1 in a commanding victory.
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The Titans' Friday night starter Tanner Bibee was masterful through six innings, allowing just one run on six hits and striking out nine without issuing a walk. Freshman Evan Adolphus was initiated into college baseball against a top 20 team and hurled three innings of one-hit ball for his first save.
It was an evenly-dispersed attack by Fullerton. No hitter had more than one hit — although spark plug Zach Lew reached base three times and scored three runs — as seven Titans recorded a hit and five drove in a run. Kyle Luckham gave them the cushion they needed, driving in the first run of their season in the first and adding a two-RBI single in the fifth.
Virginia shuts out No. 24 Oklahoma, 6-0
This was one of our 11 games to watch on opening day, and for good reason. Virginia, part of a loaded ACC in 2020, needed a statement win. And the Cavaliers got just that.
Griff McGarry made his second-consecutive opening day start. Last season he had to contend with Vanderbilt and it did not go well, unable to escape the fourth inning after allowing five runs. It was the exact opposite against the Sooners: McGarry tossed five shutout innings, allowing one hit and striking out seven. Three relievers came on to secure the Cavaliers' first opening day shutout since 2009.
No. 5 Georgia survives in walk-off fashion
Entering the season, the Dawgs' ace Emerson Hancock was one of our 11 players to watch for Golden Spikes/Dick Howser Award honors. Hancock may have been a little excited on opening night because he didn't have that player-of-the-year stuff we know he does. Ryan Webb, however, flashed it big time.
Webb came on in the fifth inning with Georgia trailing Richmond 6-2. He went the final five innings, allowing just three hits, no walks and striking out 11. That allowed the Dawgs to chip away, scoring one in the fifth, one in the sixth, and one in the seventh. Garrett Blaylock got the comeback party started, tying the game in the ninth with a solo home run before Cole Tate walked it off with the winning RBI single to score Randon Jernigan. It was Tate's fourth hit of the night.
The Antelopes open in Grand fashion, defeating No. 22 Oklahoma State
Grand Canyon hosted nationally-ranked Oklahoma State and wasted little time rumbling to the opening day upset. The Cowboys struck first, with an RBI single in the top of the first inning, but then it was all Lopes from there on out.
By the end of the third inning, Grand Canyon was up 6-1, quickly erasing Oklahoma State's lead with two runs of its own in the bottom of the fist. Drew Smith drove in the first Lopes' run of the season, part of a six-RBI day for the second baseman. He and left-fielder Juan Colato combined to go 6-for-9 driving in nine of the Lopes' 10 runs. Not bad for a lineup with six new hitters, huh?
St. Joseph's stuns 2019 Big Ten champion Ohio State
The Buckeyes aren't in the D1baseball top 25, but have been ranked by plenty. The reigning Big Ten tournament champs came into the season with high expectations, but opening night didn't go that way, losing 10-3 in their home opener.
Jordan DiValerio set the tone for St. Joesph's tossing five innings of one-hit ball. One run scored, but it was unearned as he struck out nine Ohio State hitters. Two long balls — one by centerfielder Brendan Hueth and the other by left-fielder Langston Livingston — fueled the charge.