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American Athletic Conference Weekend Preview (April 11th-13th)

AACLogoPROVIDENCE, R.I. – It was another big week of midweek games across The American, as the number of nonconference games hit an even 200 heading into a loaded weekend of conference play that is highlighted by a top-15 showdown between No. 8/10 and No. 13/11 Louisville.

Gearing up for the biggest series yet of conference play, Louisville and Houston each picked up wins on Tuesday. The Cardinals were taken into extra innings by Big Ten foe Purdue, scoring two runs in the top of the tenth to knock off the Boilermakers 3-1. Louisville got strong pitching from freshman Josh Rodgers and three relievers, with Cole Sturgeon throwing the last 2.1 innings for the win. Houston won its midweek tune-up, defeating Texas State 7-1, with four pitchers for a three-hitter, and freshman Andrew Lantrip throwing four innings of scoreless relief for the victory.

Cincinnati played in the sixth edition of the Jimmy Nuxhall Classic, a tournament featuring four Ohio teams: the Bearcats, Wright State, Miami (Ohio) and Xavier. The Bearcats won both games, holding off a late Wright State rally to win the semifinal matchup 8-7, and then downing Miami 7-4 for the title behind a complete game hurled by Grant Walker. Cincinnati claimed the championship of the event for the first time since 2010.

UConn was the other conference school to go 2-0 on the week. The Huskies started with a 2-0 victory over Northeastern Tuesday behind six shutout innings from freshman RHP Andrew Zapata, who improved to third in the conference with a 1.19 ERA, and is holding opposing hitters to a league best .144 batting average against. UConn completed the undefeated midweek with a 7-4 win over Brown Wednesday.

The other midweek win came from Rutgers, who pounded out a season-high 17 hits in a 13-3 win over Fordham Tuesday. Senior SS Pat Sweeney went 4-for-4 to lead an offense which saw six players with multi-hit games.

UCF and Memphis both took losses in the two games this week against ranked foes. The Knights battled No. 24/24 Miami, rallying to erase the Hurricanes’ early 5-0 lead. Despite outhitting the Canes 12-6 for the day, UCF was unable to strike last and fell 6-1. Memphis faced No. 19/13 Ole Miss for the second time this year, where the Rebels got revenge for the earlier Tigers victory with a 9-1 win.

Houston and Louisville is the clear series to watch this weekend, with both teams ranking in the top-15 in all major national polls and boasting the two strongest resumes in the conference this season. Both teams are 4-2 thus far in conference play, while overall Houston brings its 26-6 record against Louisville’s 24-8 mark. The matchup will feature strength against strength in the battle between the conference’s best pitching team and the league’s best offense. The Cougars lead the conference in six pitching categories where their mark places them in the nation’s top-10 (1.76 ERA, 6.64 Hits/9, seven shutouts, 4.12 K/BB, 0.91 WHIP, 1.57 BB/9). Louisville’s potent offense tops The American in nine categories (.293 batting average, .390 on-base percentage, .408 slugging percentage, 241 runs, 316 hits, 212 RBI, 58 doubles, 441 total bases, 69 stolen bases). The teams will play three games at Cougar Field – 8 p.m. ET Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET Saturday, and 1 p.m. ET Sunday.

Elsewhere in The American, UCF will travel to Memphis in a matchup of two teams trending in opposite directions. The Knights have come on strong of late, winning 13 of their past 16 games. The Tigers will try and stem a recent slide, with eight losses in their past ten games after getting off to a hot start to the season.
UConn and Cincinnati will ride their 2-0 midweek streaks into a conference series this weekend at Marge Schott Stadium. The other conference series matches USF (19-13, 5-4) against Temple (9-16, 4-5). Rutgers is inactive from conference play, and gets a three-game series with Hartford.

What They’re Saying
“It’s obviously a big weekend for us with conference play. Every game is a big game, especially this time of year going down the stretch. I’m excited to get a great Louisville team in here. We’re going to have a tremendous crowd this weekend. I expect the Cougar fans to show up in full force, and our kids are excited to play Louisville.”

Houston Head Coach Todd Whitting on the upcoming series against Louisville

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