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Conference USA Weekend Recap (March 25th-27th)

By: John Lockwood
This past weekend marked the opening of conference play for CUSA, with Houston the odd-man out taking on in-state rival #11 TCU. Down in Hattiesburg, MS, #30 Southern Miss kicked off conference-play by exploding for 43 runs against visiting Tulane. The Golden Eagles notched 45 hits, reached double-digit scores in all three games, and capped off the series by run-ruling the Greenwave 12-0 in 7 innings. The ‘Wave pitching staff didn’t help their own cause, giving up 19 free passes and having no pitcher go longer than 4 innings (which was their closer RHP Nick Pepitone in Game 2), while the defense managed three errors in each game. Southern Miss LF Tyler Koelling, led the onslaught by hitting .500 (6-12) belting 2 homeruns and driving in 11 runs. Not to be outdone, Golden Eagles 1b Adam Doleac notched 9 hits on the weekend, elevating his average on the season to .378.

Meanwhile in Houston, the UCF Knights won their first series against Rice in program history, taking two from the #23 Rice Owls. The Knights’ timely hitting and a strong performance from their bullpen (notably closer Joe Rogers), were enough to eke out a 5-4 win on Sunday to take the series. Last year’s National Player of the Year Anthony Rendon was walked four times in game 1, but managed 3 hits in game to raise his average on the year to.351. East Carolina took the series from visiting Memphis thanks to a two-run walk-off homerun by Junior Zach Wright, lifting the Pirates in Game 3 over the Tigers 5-3. Meanwhile UAB engaged in a low-scoring—albeit dramatic—war of attrition with Marshall, with each game being decided in the victor’s last at-bat.

CBD Conference USA Players of the Week:

Southern Miss – LF Tyler Koelling, 6-12 (.500), 2 HR, 3 2B, 11 RBI, 3 BB
Southern Miss – RHP Geoffrey Thomas, CG (7 IP), H, 2 BB, 6 K

# 11 TCU vs. Houston: TCU Wins Series 2-1

The Houston Cougars (12-13) traveled to Fort Worth to take on #11 Texas Christian (15-8) this weekend for a final tune-up between conference play begins for them next weekend. In the series opener, the Cougars staged a dramatic comeback, scoring six runs in the top of the ninth inning to beat TCU 7-6.

Houston loaded the bases on consecutive walks and a single to start off the ninth before scoring four runs on back-to-back singles, a fielder’s choice and a ground out. With two-outs, Junior Matt Creel lined a clutch double into the right center field gap to score the tying and go-ahead runs for the Cougars.

Sophomore RHP Dakota Dill pitched a scoreless ninth—striking out two—to pick up his third save of the season. However, the tables turned in game 2, as the Cougars’ bullpen blew a 9-2 lead, allowing TCU to score 14 runs over the last four innings (including a seven-run seventh) to take the second game of the series by a score of 16-10. The Cougars’ lack of defense didn’t help matters much either, as Houston registered five errors resulting in six unearned runs. TCU right-fielder Brance Rivera had a four hit game, including his sixth homerun of the season.

In the rubber game of the series, TCU scored seven runs in the second inning and never looked back—winning by a score of 9-1. With one run already in, TCU designated hitter Zac Jordan knocked in two more with a triple into the left-centerfield gap. After the Horned Frogs loaded the bases, CF Aaron Schultz followed up with a grand slam to take a commanding 7-0 lead. This was more than enough for TCU starter Steven Maxwell, who went six innings, surrendering only one run on three hits, and stuck out ten while walking five.

Houston will play at Rice on Tuesday in a non-conference game as part of the Silver Glove Trophy series, before heading to New Orleans for its first conference series against Tulane.

Notables:

Houston – SS Chase Jensen, 6-11, 2B, 2 R, 5 RBI
TCU – CF Aaron Schultz, 7-14, GS (3), 2B, 4 R, 6 RBI, SB

Memphis at East Carolina: ECU Takes Two from Memphis

Memphis (12-10, 1-2 C-USA) traveled to Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville, NC, for the first weekend of conference play to take on East Carolina (18-5, 2-1). Game 1 saw ECU Senior RHP Seth MaNess (4-1) polish off his second complete game of the season, winning by a score of 3-2. Maness threw only 96 pitches in the win, surrendering 2 earned-runs on 5 hits, 1 walk and five strike-outs. It was the 32nd career win for Maness—a mark which leads all active NCAA pitchers. Senior CF Trent Whitehead broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth on an RBI ground-out to give ECU a lead which Maness would not relinquish.

In the first game of Saturday’s double-header, Memphis relied on 3.2 innings of hitless relief from Junior RHP Ben Paullus (1-0)—who picked up the win while striking-out 5—to even the series with a 3-2 win. After a Zach Wright sac fly tied the game 2-all for ECU in the fifth, Memphis SS Chad Zurcher scored on T.J. Rich’s RBI fielder’s choice to give Paullus all the lead he would need to pick up the win.

Game 3 finally saw some offensive output—culminating with some late-inning heroics on the part of ECU’s Zach Wright. Memphis jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead off a solo shot from Rich in the top of the second. ECU regained the lead in the fourth on a Tim Younger RBI single, only to give it back to Memphis in the seventh, when lefty starter Kevin Brandt (2-0) ran into some control issues (one passed ball, three wild pitches) resulting in a 3-2 lead for Memphis. Facing a 3-2 deficit in the bottom of the ninth, ECU mounted a two-out rally. John Wooten singled in pinch-runner Josh Lovick to tie the game at three-a-piece, setting the stage for Junior Zach Wright to belt a rocket over the left field fence for a walk-off two-run homerun. It was the fourth walk-off win for the Pirates this season.

ECU plays at in-state rival UNC Wilmington on Tuesday, March 29 at 6 pm.

Memphis starts a 10-game home-stand Wednesday with a twin-bill against Mississippi Valley State, starting at 3pm.

Notables:

ECU – RHP S. Maness (4-1) CG, 5 H, 2 R, BB, 5 K
Memphis – SS C. Zurcher 4-7, 2B, 2 R, 6 BB

Tulane vs. # 30 Southern Miss: USM Scores 43 Runs to Take Series 2-1

Tulane (18-6, 1-2) started off their conference play on the wrong foot, dishing out 9 walks while committing 3 errors, in their 16-4 game 1 loss at Southern Miss (18-5, 2-1). Tulane starter Conrad Flynn (2-3) only last 2.2 innings, while on the other side USM’s Todd McInnis went 7, giving up only 1 earned run, with five punch-outs to become Southern Miss’ all-time wins leader. Southern Miss 1-2 hitters Kameron Brunty and Tyler Koelling knocked in 3 runs each, while first baseman Adam Doleac and third baseman Mark Ellis combined for 5 RBI on four hits.

Game 2 fared slightly better for the Green Wave, as this time their offense was able to off-set their pitching troubles in a 16-15 win in 10 innings. A run was scored in every inning (except for the first), with the two teams combining for 38 hits and 17 walks. Schaffer, Schneeberger and Woodson each contributed with homeruns for Tulane, while B.A. Vollmuth and Tyler Koelling (his second in as many games) did the same for the Golden Eagles. Tulane coughed up an early 7-0 lead, surrendering six runs in the bottom of the third. The Greenwave eventually gained a 14-8 lead in the top of the sixth, before giving up 7 unanswered runs and the lead within the next three innings. Schaffer tied up the game with his solo shot off Southern Miss closer Collin Cargill in the top of the ninth, and then knocked-in the go-ahead RBI the following inning on an RBI groundout. In one of the few bright spots for the Tulane staff, RHP Alex Facundus pitched 2.2 scoreless innings of relief to pick up the win.

Game 3 only saw more pitching troubles for the Greenwave staff who—although coming into the game the best team ERA in C-USA—have been plagued by injuries, most notably to Freshman starter Randy LeBlanc. The Golden Eagles run-ruled Tulane 12-0 (Final/7). Greenwave starter Robbie Broach lasted only 3 innings, surrendering 9 runs (6 earned). Right-handed reliever D.J. Ponder fared little better—getting tagged for two runs on two hits and three walks. Koelling added to his already stellar weekend with 4 RBI, while SS B.A. Vollmuth went 2-4 with an RBI triple to give the Golden Eagles the lead in the bottom of the 1st. Going somewhat unnoticed amongst the offensive eruption was Sophomore righty Geoffrey Thomas’ quietly stellar start. Thomas went all 7 innings, allowing only 1 hit, while striking-out 6 and giving up only two base-on-balls. After this weekend, USM is hitting .317 as a team, tops in Conference USA.

Notables:

Southern Miss – 1b Adam Doleac, 9-16 (.562), 3 2B, 5 RBI
LF Tyler Koelling, 6-12 (.500), 2 HR, 3 2B, 11 RBI, 3 BB
RHP Geoffrey Thomas, CG (7 IP), H, 2 BB, 6 K

UCF vs. #23 Rice: UCF First Series Win against Rice

The UCF Knights (18-6, 2-1) looked to surprise No. 23 Rice (16-11, 1-2) in their conference opener in Houston. UCF Freshman righty Ben Lively (5-0) was erratic (8 BB, 0 K), but repeatedly pitched out of jams before handing the reigns over to the bullpen for 3.1 scoreless innings of relief to secure the 7-2 win for the Knights. DH D.J. Hicks went 3-4, including a timely 2-out RBI double in the top of the eighth to give the Knights’ bullpen a little room to breathe in the form of a 4-2 lead. The Owls were able to capitalize on some UCF miscues to score two in the bottom of the 4th, but were unable to put any more runs across despite having runners on base in each of the last four innings. National Player of the Year Anthony Rendon was 0-0 with a run scored and four walks. In Game 2, Senior LHP Abe Gonzalez went 6.1 innings for the Owls—the longest outing of his career—giving up only 1 run on four hits and striking out two in the Owls 6-2 win. C Craig Manuel and RF Ryan Lewis each contributed two RBI to the offensive effort.

Sunday’s rubber match went down to the wire as UCF was determined to leave Houston with their first series victory against the Owls in program history. Rice took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth on a sac fly by Craig Manuel and a 2-out, 2 RBI single by Derek Hamilton which chased Knights’ starter Ray Hanson from the game. UCF RHP Brian Adkins took over throwing 3 scoreless innings to stem the Owls’ offense. After tying the game on an RBI groundout in the fifth, UCF took the lead on a suicide-squeeze in the top of the 6th. Rice added one more in the bottom of the 8th on a Michael Aquino RBI groundout, going into the 9th with their 2, 3 and 4 hitter coming up. Knights’ closer Joe Rogers pitched a 1-2-3 inning, including getting Rendon to ground out to shortstop to end the game, and secure the series, 5-4. In addition to their first series win against Rice, it was the first time UCF won its C-USA opening series since 2006.

UCF plays a two-game set against Stetson before a 3-game series against visiting Southern Miss next weekend.

Rice plays a non-conference game against neighboring University of Houston, part of the Silver Glove Trophy series, Tuesday 6:30pm CST.

Notables:

UCF – RHP Joe Rogers, 2 SV, 3.2 IP, 4H, 1 ER, 3K
Rice – SS Derek Hamilton 7-11, 2B, 3 RBI, R, BB

Marshall vs. UAB

UAB (13-10, 2-1) took on Marshall (9-13, 1-2) in Charleston, WV, to open conference play, with UAB taking two out of three in a tightly contested series in which each game was decided by one run. In Game 1, UAB starter Dillon Napolean (3-1) gave up two runs in the first inning before following-up with seven more scoreless innings. After tying the game in the top of the ninth, UAB third basemen Patrick Palmeiro scored on a wild pitch form Marshall reliever Ian Kadish to give the Blazers a 3-2 lead. Reliever Ryan Nance pitched a scoreless 9th for his fifth save of the season. Game 2 saw another 3-2 score, but this time with the Thundering Herd on the winning side. UAB starter Ryan Woolley (3-3) went eight innings, allowing only two-runs, and striking out a career-high 12. In similar fashion to the previous game, Marshall scored the walk-off win on a wild pitch by UAB reliever Ben Bullard to tie up the series at 1 game apiece. Game 3 kept with the theme of escalating drama as UAB won the battle of attrition by a score of 2-1 in 14 innings. Ryan Nance, who moved from LF to pitcher, drove in the go-ahead run in the form of Palmeiro to take the 2-1 lead, and then pitched a scoreless bottom half to pick up save number six.

Marshall takes on Eastern Kentucky for a mid-week matchup, before heading to Reckling Park in Houston to play Rice next weekend.

UAB hosts the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday, and then welcomes East Carolina for the second week of conference play.

Notables:

UAB – RHP Ryan Woolley L, 8.1 IP, 2 H, 3 R (2 ER), 1 BB, 12 K
Marshall – RHP Austin Pratt W, 4.0 IP, 2 H, 5 K

  • hr2000

    Brian, I didn’t know SMU had a baseball program. Now USM has a very good program.