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American Athletic Association Weekend Preview (March 21st-23rd)

AACLogoPROVIDENCE, R.I. – After 170 games and 98 victories thus far, the baseball programs in the American Athletic Conference are officially set for the inaugural conference series.

Midweek action on Tuesday and Wednesday saw a 6-3 record, and was highlighted by a ranked win, walk-off victory, and two wins for the Huskies. UCF got the fifth win of the year by a conference team against a top-25 opponent when they battered No. 25 Miami 9-2.Houston got their league-best 16th win of the year in dramatic fashion, knocking home the winning run in the bottom of the tenth inning to walk-off with a 1-0 victory over Texas Southern. UConn traveled to Winter Haven, Fla., where they earned wins over Harvard and Central Connecticut. Cincinnati took down fellow Ohio school Wright State by a 12-3 margin, while Memphis downed Murray State 12-8.

With an odd number of league teams, Houston will be the lone team to start conference play a week later. The Cougars will host the College of Charleston, a tough foe who are receiving votes in multiple national polls. Houston brings a 12-1 home mark at Cougar Field into the series.

Conference Series

Rutgers at Louisville – The Cardinals, who boast the top offense in The American, will be a tough test for a Rutgers squad that has struggled on the mound in the early going. Louisville leads the conference in batting average (.304), runs (163), doubles (40), triples (8), home runs (13), and stolen bases (44). The series pits two of the top sluggers in the league head to head, in Rutgers 1B Brian O’Grady (1st in the conference with a .714 slugging percentage) and Louisville OF Jeff Gardner (2nd in the conference with a .639 slugging percentage). 

UConn at USF – The Huskies bring a six game winning streak into their matchup in Tampa against a strong USF squad. Both teams have been backed by strong pitching performances, with the Huskies (2.35 ERA) and USF (2.65 ERA) ranking second and third in the conference. Husky freshman Andrew Zapata leads UConn and is second in the conference with a 0.44 ERA after allowing no earned runs through 6.1 innings in Tuesday’s start.

Temple at Memphis – Temple enters conference play with just 14 games under their belt, the lowest number in the league due to weather in the Northeast forcing multiple cancellations. The Owls have picked up four wins in their last six games after a slow start. Memphis rocketed out of the gate to an 11-1 record, and are now looking to stabilize their record after some recent losses. The Tigers’ bullpen has been their strength, and they easily pace the conference with 10 saves.

Cincinnati at UCF – The Bearcats are another team on the rise, having won six of their last eight games after a challenging early schedule under first year head coach Ty Neal. OF Ian Happ propels the Bearcats’ offense, leading the squad in ten different offensive categories. In contrast, UCF is recovering from a tough stretch of their own, and have now won three of their last four, including their first ranked win in five tries on Tuesday night. The Knights are second in the conference with 148 strikeouts, led by LHP Eric Skoglund’s conference-leading 30 punch-outs.

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