Conference USA Weekend Preview (March 7th-9th)

Florida Atlantic (10-3) at UTSA (9-4)
FAU is 7-1 in their last eight games and are coming off a mid-week two game sweep over Boston College. The Owls have even gained some votes in recent polls after their current hot streak. Meanwhile, UTSA has been on a bit of a hot streak of their own winning four of their past five games including two mid-week wins.

Both teams are entering their first year in Conference USA, and this series will most definitely set the tone for the conference.

The Matchup
Both of these offenses have been very good this season, but the UTSA offense has been a beast through the early part of the season. As a team, the Roadrunners are hitting .304 putting up just over seven runs a game. FAU has been solid with the bat as well with a team average of .290, scoring just under six runs per game. The numbers on these two pitching staffs are eerily similar. UTSA’s staff has posted a 2.49 ERA through 123 innings, striking out 125 batters, while FAU’s staff ERA is at 2.42 through 119 innings, and they’ve struck out exactly a batter an inning.

Players to Watch
On offense, John Wellborn has been the man for UTSA. In 12 games he’s collected a team-high 21 hits, and is tied for the team lead in runs with 15. Jesse Baker has been the run producer for the Roadrunners, knocking in a team high 19, while also leading the team with 3 home runs. Horacio Correa III and Mike Warren are also batting well over .300 on the year. Brock Hartson has been amazing for UTSA, posting an ERA of 1.02 through three starts (17.2 innings), while striking out 19. Nolan Trabanino has been great as well with a 1.45 ERA in 18.2 innings pitched. The Roadrunners also have a plethora of great arms coming out of the bullpen. Jeremy Filipek has yet to give up a run in 6 appearances (9.1 innings), while Matt Sims and Logan Onda have each worked 10 or more innings striking out a batter an inning-or more in the case of Sims.

For FAU, both Stephen Kerr and Tyler Rocklein have 18 hits through 13 games. Kerr’s average sits at .409 and his OBP is at .472. Levi Meyer (.326), Billy Endris (.324) and Brendon Sanger (.314) are all hitting over .300. Ricky Santiago leads the team in home runs with two, and is tied with Rocklein for the team lead in RBIs with 11. Like UTSA, the Owls also have some great arms coming out of the pen. They have four guys that have pitched 7-plus innings without giving up an earned run. Bo Logan leads that group with 16 strikeouts in 11 shutout innings over 6 appearances. Friday night starter Austin Gomber has had a rough go of things early on, but he’s still striking out a batter an inning. Jeremy Strawn has been the Owls best starter thus far posting an ERA of 2.35 in three starts, garnering 2 wins in those starts. Drew Jackson has an ERA of 3.45 in his three starts and has struck out 15 in 15.2 innings.

Probable Starters
Friday at 6 p.m. CT (Austin Gomber vs. Brock Hartson)
Saturday at 2 p.m. CT (Jeremy Strawn vs. Nolan Trabanino)
Sunday at 12 p.m. CT (Drew Jackson vs. Justin Anderson)

Quotes
FAU head baseball coach John McCormack:

- On moving to CUSA:
“This is something totally different for us. We’re not use to traveling out to Texas for conference play, or having this long of a road trip, but we’re excited about it.”

- On playing first CUSA game:
“You want to set the tone out of the gate (in conference play), especially when you’re on the road. So it’s very important to get off to a good start and set the tone.”

- On Friday night starter Gomber:
“I think he’s gotten a lot better the past couple of games. I thought he really turned the corner after the first inning of his last start. I think all the expectations and added attention may have got to him and he may have been trying to do too much, but I think he’s past that now and I think he’s ready to put some good starts together.”

- Keys to beating UTSA:
“They’re a very good offensive club. From looking at the stats it seems like you’ve got to control their offense. They’ve got some good speed. It will be very important for us to get the first out, because once they get some runners on they can do some things. We have to go in with the mindset of knowing that we’re going to give up some runs, but to make sure we limit the damage.”

UTSA Coach Jason Marshall:
- On getting out to a good start in a new conference
“It’s early, and there are still a lot of questions about our club, as I’m sure there are with other clubs. I like our team; we have a veteran presence, which should help as we open up in a new conference.”
“It’s important to get off to a good start in conference play. The CUSA is loaded with a lot of guys that have excellent credentials, and guys that I have a ton of respect for. I think we’ll have a humble approach (entering CUSA) play, but will be aggressive.”

“It certainly loosens your ball club up a little to get a few wins early, and it also helps you remain focused on your season goals. We are very pumped up to be in CUSA, it is definitely going to challenge us to play at a high level of baseball.”

- Keys to beating FAU
“We’ll need to be hitting on all cylinders in order to beat FAU. We have a lot of respect for that ball club. We’ll need to pitch and defend extremely well (to have a chance at winning the series). Hopefully we can pitch well on Friday night and set the tone for the series.”
“Whenever we step across the white lines, is our opponent going to remember they played the Roadrunners? I want our guys to play with that kind of energy that our opponents know they were battled.”

- On joining CUSA
“Hopefully teams will be excited about coming to San Antonio and visiting this great venue and a university that is on the rise.”

FIU (12-1) at Charlotte (2-7-1)
Friday rained out
Saturday TBA (Mike Franco vs. Ryan Butler)
Saturday TBA (Mike Ellis vs. Brock Hudgens)
Sunday at 12 p.m. CT (Tyler Hibbert vs. Corbin Shive)

Marshall (3-8) at East Carolina (7-5)
Saturday at 11 a.m. CT (Josh King vs. Jeff Hoffman)
Saturday at 3 p.m. CT (Matt Margaritonda vs. Reid Love)
Sunday at 12 p.m. CT (Michael Taylor vs. Davis Kirkpatrick)

Southern Miss (6-7) at Missouri (4-6)
Friday at 6 p.m. CT (Conor Fisk vs. John Miles)
Saturday at 2 p.m. CT (Cameron Giannini vs. Brett Graves)
Sunday at 12 p.m. CT (Taylor Nunez vs. Jace James)

Middle Tennessee (4-7) at UAB (11-2)
Friday at 6:30 p.m. CT (Zac Curtis vs. Chase Mallard)
Saturday at 2 p.m. CT (Matt Blackham vs. Johnny Lieske)
Sunday at 1 p.m. CT (Johnathan Frebis vs. Alex Luna)

Old Dominion (8-4) at #18 Rice (8-5)
Friday at 6:30 p.m. CT (Ryan Yarbrough vs. Jordan Stephens)
Saturday at 10 a.m. CT (Tommy Alexander vs. Blake Fox)
Saturday at 2 p.m. CT (Andy Roberts vs. Jon Duplantier)

Louisiana Tech (4-8) at #25 Texas A&M (9-4)
Friday at 6:35 p.m. CT (Phil Maton vs. Daniel Mengden)
Saturday at 6:35 p.m. CT (Adam Derouen vs. Parker Ray)
Sunday at 1:05 p.m. CT (Jared Keating vs. Grayson Long)

Tulane (8-3) at California (8-3) at #27 Arkansas (7-2) at San Francisco (5-6)
Friday vs. California at 9 p.m. CT (J.P. France vs. Daulton Jefferies)
Saturday vs. #27 Arkansas at 3:30 p.m. CT (Randy LeBlanc vs. Chris Oliver)
Sunday vs. San Francisco at 1 p.m. CT (Alex Massey vs. Matt Narahara)

* I’ll starting pitchers are based on previous weekend’s rotation