#5 Memphis 5 – #8 UAB 4
Tigers hurler Ryan Holland struck out a career-high 11 batters and right fielder Robby Graham broke a 4-4 deadlock with an RBI-single in the bottom of the eighth as fifth-seeded Memphis defeated No. 8 seed UAB, 5-4, to open day three of the 2011 Conference USA Baseball Championship sponsored by Trustmark Friday morning at Trustmark Park.
With the win, Memphis concludes the 2011 season at 30-27 which is the Tigers’ best finish since making the NCAA Regionals in 2007. UAB, meanwhile finished 29-28 to finish with a winning record for third consecutive season. Holland’s punchout total was the second highest in C-USA Championship history, two behind the mark established by Tulane’s Jason Navarro in 1997.
The Tigers led 4-2 after five innings, but the Blazers cut the deficit in half with a run in the top of the sixth and tied things up two innings later. Memphis catcher Phillip Chapman got things going in the winning inning with a leadoff single and moved into scoring position on a wild pitch by UAB reliever Mark McKinley. From there, Graham fell behind in the count, 0-2, but ripped the third pitch he saw during the at-bat into right field to plate the winning run.
The Blazers put the tying run on base twice in the top of the ninth as centerfielder Coy Arrowood led off the frame with a single and first baseman John Frost sent a two-out single into center. Tigers’ reliever Jonathan Van Eaton, however, erased Arrowood with a double-play ground ball and punched out designated hitter Andrew Manning to earn the victory out of the bullpen.
#1 Rice 4 – #4 UCF 2
Owls centerfielder Michael Fuda went 2-for-3 and spot starter Abe Gonzales gave up just one earned run in 5.2 innings of work as top-seeded and regular-season co-champion Rice defeated UCF, 4-2, in day three of the 2011 Conference USA Baseball Championship sponsored by Trustmark Friday afternoon at Trustmark Park.
The Knights out-hit the Owls, 9-7, but three Rice hurlers – Gonzales, Jeremy Fant and Tony Cingrani – hold UCF to a 2-for-16 hitting performance with runners on base and 1-for-11 in RBI opportunities. Two of Rice’s hits were for extra bases, including a towering solo home run off the bat of first baseman J.T. Chargois in the fifth for the final run of the ballgame.
With the win, Rice improves to 40-19 on the year and earned the final spot in the C-USA Championship title game where the Owls will face cross-town rival Houston on Saturday at 7 p.m. UCF, meanwhile, fell to 38-21 and will await the announcement of the NCAA Selection Committee on Monday to learn of a possible postseason berth.
Rice’s trip to the conference championship game is the league-record third in a row dating back to 2009 and the Owls’ fifth overall berth in six seasons as a C-USA member. Both Houston and Rice have each won three C-USA championship games each and one of the squads will tie the league record of four which is held by Tulane.
#7 Tulane 7 – #6 Houston 1
Green Wave pitcher Alex Byo struck out a pair in a solid 7.0-inning start and Bowen Woodson came off the bench to spark a five-run sixth inning as Tulane defeated Houston 7-1 in day three of the 2011 Conference USA Baseball Championship sponsored by Trustmark Friday evening at Trustmark Park.
In victory, the Wave conclude the season with a 31-26 record. The Cougars, meanwhile, fall to 27-31 on the year but will be back in action on Saturday when they look to earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA postseason as Houston will battle cross-town foe Rice in the C-USA Championship title game. First pitch of that contest is slated for 7 p.m.
Byo gave up just one unearned run on six hits and a walk during his time on the hill to pick up his third win of the season. Woodson – who entered the game as pinch hitter in the sixth inning – led a 10-hit Tulane attack with two hits and three RBI in three trips to the plate.
After a pair of scoreless innings to open the game, both teams scored a single run in the third and it remained a 1-1 contest until Woodson entered the game in the sixth. Prior to the Green Wave reserve’s appearance, first baseman Matt Ryan opened the frame with a walk, right fielder Cody Robinson snuck a one-out double past third and left fielder Nick Schneeberger walked to load the bases.
#3 East Carolina 4 – #2 Southern Miss 0
Pirates ace Seth Maness struck out nine in a complete-game effort and his offense pounded out 11 hits as thirds-seeded East Carolina blanked No. 2 seed and regular-season co-champion Southern Miss 4-0 in the final pod contest of the 2011Conference USA Baseball Championship sponsored by Trustmark Friday evening at Trustmark Park.
ECU right fielder Philip Clark went 3-for-5 with a double and a pair of RBI to lead the Pirates’ offensive efforts. The game, however, belonged to Maness as the senior right-hander faced just four more than the minimum and never saw more than four Golden Eagle hitters in any inning.
With the win, East Carolina improved to 39-18 on the year and 2-1 in Pod 2 action while Southern Miss fell to 39-16 overall and 1-2 in pod play. While neither team will advance to Saturday’s C-USA Championship title game, which is slated to begin at 7 p.m. and televised live on CBS Sports Network, both have a chance to continue their seasons in next week’s NCAA Regionals. The selection committee will announce the 16 host sites on Sunday and the 64-team field will be released nationally on Monday.
Maness sat down the first eight batters he faced before giving up a two-out single in the third. He pitched his way out of a two-on, nobody-out jam in the fourth with a fielders’ choice ground ball and an inning-ending double play to start a streak of five consecutive batters retired.
After a leadoff double by Southern Miss centerfielder Justin Diliberto – the same guy who broke-up the no-hit bid back in the third – Maness tallied six consecutive outs and issued his lone walk of the day to first baseman Mark Ellis to open the eighth. That would be the final Golden Eagle to reach base safely as Maness sandwiched a pair of punchouts around a fielders’ choice groundout in the eighth and tossed a three-up, three-down ninth to wrap up his fourth complete game of the season and put the stamp on his second shutout of the year.