By: John Lockwood
Another exciting weekend of Conference USA play is in the books as some teams looked make a statement this weekend to with the CUSA tournament on the horizon. One of those teams was Tulane, whom despite all the disadvantages they’ve faced this season have just refused to give up, this time picking up a big series victory over hard-hitting Memphis at home. #19 Southern Miss also sent a message, one further underpinning their CUSA dominance as they swept a visiting UAB team this weekend in Hattiesburg. #21 Rice finished up its Silver Glove Trophy series against inter-city rival Houston, sweeping the Cougars to win the trophy for the 11th straight year. Elsewhere in conference play, UCF picked up a win against a formidable FSU opponent, on the road in Tallahassee nonetheless, while ECU escaped West Virginia this weekend with two wins against a Marshall team trying to make a run for the conference tournament at the end of the month.
CBD CUSA Players of the Week:
RICE – So. 2B Michael Ratteree, 9-15, HR, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 7 R, SB
TUL – Sr. RHP Conrad Flynn, ND; 9 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 5 K
UAB at #19 Southern Miss: Golden Eagles Sweep Blazers
The #19 Golden Eagles again showed why they are the team to beat in CUSA this weekend, sweeping the visiting UAB Blazers. USM actually came from behind in Friday’s opener, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to come back and beat UAB 4-2. Taking advantage of several USM miscues, the Blazers were able to squeeze out a run in the first inning and then add another in the fourth on a Coy Arrowood double to left field. But that was all the offense that UAB would muster on the day, as despite having the tying run in scoring position several times throughout the game, USM starter Todd McInnis always seemed to make the right pitch at the right time. McInnis (7-1) went six innings, bunching eight hits but only letting up two runs (one earned), while striking out four and allowing only one free pass. On the other side, UAB starter Ryan Woolley (6-5) was able to navigate the Golden Eagles’ line-up through the first four innings, but ran into trouble in the 5th, when a Tyler Koelling RBI single and B.A. Vollmuth sac fly tied up the game. Woolley would allow an RBI double to USM catcher Jared Bales the next inning to allow the go-ahead run to score. Bales and Koelling led the Golden Eagle attack with three hits a piece on the day.
The Golden Eagles followed up Friday’s win with a 13-4 rout of the Blazers Saturday afternoon. The offense came early and often as USM scored all thirteen runs by the end of the fifth inning, including a seven-run fourth in which Southern Miss hit four doubles—the biggest coming from Jared Bales who cleared the bases to extend the lead to 7-0. First baseman Adam Doleac and second baseman Isaac Rodriguez each had three hits and three runs batted in on the day. Starter Geoffrey Thomas improved to a conference-best 10-2 on the season, going seven innings allowing seven hits and three runs (all unearned). Patrick Palmeiro—son of former Texas Ranger Rafael Palmeiro—hit his team-leading sixth homerun of the season for the Blazers.
USM finished off the sweep in come-from-behind, walk-off fashion, beating the Blazers 8-5 courtesy of a Kameron Brunty three-run homer in the bottom of the ninth. For the second time in the series, the Blazers took the lead first, this time 5-0 by the end of six. The big inning for UAB came in the fourth when Palmerio and second baseman Keith DePew each tallied two-run shots to put the Blazers up 4-0. However, the Golden Eagles still had some fuel left in the tank, and rallied for eight runs in the last three innings to come out on top. In the seventh, B.A. Vollmuth put USM on the board with a two-run shot to left center, scoring Koelling who was hit by a pitch to be put on base. The following inning, Southern Miss tied it up thanks to RBI singles from Koelling and Marc Bourgeois (who plated two). In the bottom of the ninth, with one out and runners on first and second, left fielder Kameron Brunty lined the first pitch he saw down the right-field line, and off the foul pole, to clear the bases and give the Golden Eagles the series sweep. Palmeiro hit his second homer in as many days for the Blazers, while USM first baseman Adam Doleac hit two of his three triples this season over the weekend.
UAB – Jr. 3B Patrick Palmeiro, 3-12, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2 R
USM – Fr. C Jared Bales, 4-11, 2 2B, 5 RBI, 2 R
#21 Rice vs. Houston: Owls Sweep Cougars, Win Silver Glove Trophy
The Owls completed their season-sweep of Houston this weekend, taking all three games ‘on the road’ at Cougar stadium en route to winning the Silver Glove Trophy for the 11th straight year. Coach Wayne Graham picked up his 900th career win Friday night, as his Owls squad bested the Cougars 8-2 thanks to a 3 RBI day from second baseman Michael Ratterree. Coach Graham got another solid performance from his lightening armed freshman Austin Kubitza (4-3), as the Friday night phenom went 7.2 innings, allowing two runs on six hits while fanning eight. Ratteree made it a 4-0 game in the fourth inning thanks to a two-run homer to left field. The Cougars cut the lead in half in the fifth, courtesy of a Caleb Ramsey RBI single and M.P. Cokinos RBI ground out. But the Owls put the game out of reach the following half inning, as Ratteree doubled to left to make it 5-2, and Rice added two more to extend the lead to 7-2. Cougars’ starter Jared Ray (1-1), went 5.1, surrendering seven runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five.
Ratterree again swung the stick in Saturday’s game two, going 4-5 to lead Rice to a 12-6 victory. The Owls blew open a 3-2 game in the 5th, when Ratterree doubled home two runs, then scored on a passed ball to make the score 6-2. Already leading 7-2, Rice would extend their lead by three more runs in the 7th, when two hit batters loaded the bases for shortstop Derek Hamilton, who promptly doubled in two runs as part of a three-run inning. Ratterree finished the day 4-5, with three RBI, three runs scored and a stolen base.
The Owls (and Ratterree) finished the sweep strong, winning 5-2 behind the second baseman’s second three-hit game of the series. Rice took a commanding lead early in the game and never looked back, scoring four in the first three frames to give freshman starter John Simms all the run-support he would need on the day. Simms (3-1) went seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits and a walk, and tallying four Ks. Owls closer Tony Cingrani picked up his seventh save of the season with two innings to finish the game.
In addition, Ratterree was named the Silver Glove Series MVP after batting .542 (13-24), with 8 RBI, 8 runs scored, four doubles and a homerun.
Rice – So. 2B Michael Ratteree, 9-15, HR, 3 2B, 6 RBI, 7 R, SB
UCF at #7 FSU: ‘Noles Take Two of Three from Knights
Despite hurricane season not starting till June, UCF was blown away by Florida State lefty Sean Gilmartin, who simply overpowered the Knights in Friday’s 8-0 series opening win. Gilmartin (8-1), who only allowed one runner to move into scoring position against him, went seven innings, allowing just three hits (all singles) and a walk while punching out 11 Knights hitters. He was aided with plenty of offensive support as six Seminoles had 2+ hits. FSU only had a 3-0 lead from the third inning on, but blew the game open in the seventh by plating five more runners to finish their scoring on the day.
In a complete 180 from the day before, both teams combined for twenty-six hits, two grand slams, and twenty-four runs as the Knights came out on top of a slugfest game two, 14-10. Both teams traded runs until the seventh inning when senior first baseman Jonathan Griffin blew open a 6-6 tie with a towering grand slam, part of a seven run inning for the Knights. FSU followed up with a grand slam of their own from standout Mike McGee to pull within three, 13-10, but that’s all the scoring they would muster as Knights closer Joe Rogers settled down the final two innings to pick up his third win of the season.
Both teams would settle down in game three however, as FSU received a strong pitching performance McGee to propel the ‘Noles to a 6-1 victory and series win over UCF. McGee (2-2) went seven innings allowing just one hit (a solo homerun from Derek Luciano), three walks and seven Ks. As if that wasn’t enough, McGee continued his stellar series at the plate with a 2-2 day including a solo homerun, his second of the series.
UCF – Sr. 1B Jonathan Griffin, 3-13, GS, 4 RBI, 2 R, BB
FSU – Sr. P/DH Mike McGee, 7-12, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 4 R; W(2-2), 7 IP, H, ER, 3 BB, 7 K
Memphis at Tulane: Greenwave Steal Two of Three from Memphis
The ever-scrappy Tulane Greenwave jumped a spot in the CUSA standings this week after a big series victory over visiting Memphis at Turchin Stadium. Game one was a grueling pitcher’s duel that took thirteen innings to play out before Greenwave first basemen Nick Shneeberger doubled home Jeremy Schaffer for the winning run to walk-off with the win 3-2. In a season where he seemingly can’t buy a win, senior starter Conrad Flynn was outstanding for Tulane, going nine innings allowing just one earned run on three hits, two walks and five strike outs in the no-decision. Closer Nick Pepitone contributed to the cause with three scoreless innings of his own and reliever Alex Facundus (7-2) picked up the win by pitching a scoreless thirteenth. Tigers’ reliever Ben Paullus (4-3) took the loss despite going 5.2 innings of three-hit relief for his team.
Game two was another tightly contested match-up, as this time Memphis came out on top with a 7-6 win. The lead changed hands five times in this back-and-forth battle, as the action picked-up in the sixth inning when the ‘Wave scored three runs to take a 4-3 lead. Memphis responded with three of their own in the next half inning, but Tulane tied-up the score with two in the bottom of the seventh. Reliever Tyler Farley came in half way through the seventh inning, and after allowing the tying run to score, settled down to keep his opponents off the board and allow his team the chance to win the game. He didn’t have to wait long to pick up the lead, as in the top of the eighth, Drew Martinez doubled down the right field line and the errant cut-off throw allowed freshman Ethan Gross to score from first with what would be the winning run. Tulane would get the tying run into scoring position in both of the final two innings, but could not get the timely hit to cash in the runners.
The hits did fall for the Greenwave in game three however, as Tulane reached an uncharacteristic double-digit score to be blow by the Tigers 10-3, and pick up a huge series win in the process. After going down 1-0 after the third inning, the ‘Wave offense awoke with four consecutive innings of scoring, with the big blows coming via a two-run homer from second baseman Bowen Woodson in the fourth, and an RBI double and 2 RBI single from Schneeberger in the fifth and sixth innings, respectively. Schneeberger had a terrific game to cap off a solid series going 4-5, with 4 RBI.
TUL – Jr. 1B Nick Schneeberger, 6-13, 2 2B, 5 RBI, R, SB
Sr. RHP Conrad Flynn, ND; 9 IP, 3 H, ER, 2 BB, 5 K
East Carolina at Marshall: ECU Wins Series 2-1
ECU rolled into Marshall this weekend, hoping that its conference-best pitching staff could quell a resurgent Thundering Herd offense which dropped twenty-runs in a conference game last weekend. What ensued was a hard fought series, with both of ECU’s wins coming by just one run. Game one fit just that description, as the Pirates scored five two-out runs in the ninth to push Marshall into extra innings, winning 9-8 in 10. Marshall starter Aaron Blair was an enigma for the ECU hitters, going six scoreless innings, scattering seven hits and striking out six. But the Herd bullpen fell very short, blowing a 7-0 lead by letting the Pirates come back to tie the score at 8-all in the top of the ninth. Nine Pirates reached base in the top of the ninth, and ECU put together four straight singles to knock in five runs with two-outs to knot the score at 8. Catcher Zach Wright hit a solo home run to lead off the eighth and reliever Brad Mincey pitched a scoreless bottom half for the win. Kenny Socorro and Rhett Stafford had three hits each, while Stafford notched his seventh home of the season in the eighth inning.
Marshall rebounded nicely in game two however, as the Herd won decisively 7-1 to even up the series. Marshall received another strong performance from its starter, with Mike Mason taking his turn on the bump going six innings and allowing just one earned run to pick up his third win of the season. Catcher Thor Meeks (who also had two doubles on the day) and outfielder Nathan Gomez each went deep for the Herd.
Game three was another close battle, but the Pirates came out on top to escape Appalachia with a series win 5-4. Marshall was able to get out to a 4-2 lead by the eighth inning, but again the Herd bullpen collapsed in the home stretch, giving up three runs in the final two innings. Down 4-3 in the ninth, pinch hitter Jonathan Holt singled home Chase McDonald to tie up the game. After Holt stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, Philip Clark laid down the safety squeeze to score Holt and give the Pirates the lead for good. Sophomore righty Shawn Armstrong (3-1) was magnificent for the Pirates out of the ‘pen, going four innings, allowing just one hit and fanning seven.
ECU – So. RHP Shawn Armstorng, W(3-1); 4 IP, H, 7 K
MAR – Sr. SS Kenny Socorro, 8-14, 2B 3 RBI, 3 R
Jr. C Thor Meeks, 7-11, HR, 3 2B, 3 RBI, 3 R