Around the American baseball: Conference play gauntlet begins

0
9


Four conference matchups this week took place in the AAC after commencing the 2018 season. ( University of Houston Cougars website )

Four conference matchups this week took place in the AAC after commencing the 2018 season. (University of Houston Cougars website)

It was a busy week for AAC baseball as the proverbial Indiana Jones booby-trapped temple hallway of conference play finally began. AAC teams were involved in a total of five series, four of them being conference matchups, on account of the odd number of baseball teams in the conference.

Sound complicated? Never fear dear reader, as I am here to give you three things to take away from the last week of action, as well as three things to look forward to in next week’s slate of games:

Three things to know from last week

1. ECU won a hard-fought series against UCF on the road, vaulting up to 13th in the early college baseball RPI rankings.

Coming out of game one on Friday, it looked like it was going to be a long weekend for the Pirates when they got blown out 9-1.  

ECU ace Trey Benton had everything under control through the first four innings, only letting up one run and retiring all but one Knight, ending the inning tied 1-1. Benton’s start jumped the tracks and careened down a cliff in the next frame as he gave up three singles, two wild pitches and a walk, plating four Knights total, from which ECU just couldn’t recover.

ECU took the Knights’ body blow and dished it right back on Saturday with a 12-4 win. Connor Litton equaled UCF’s score on his own, rocking UCF’s third relief pitcher of the night with a grand slam in the top of the eighth to slam the door shut on the Knights.

The rubber match on Sunday was the most hotly-contested game of the series. ECU jumped out to an early 1-0 lead off a Bryant Packard homer, but UCF struck right back with a three-run bottom of the inning.

UCF added one more in the fourth inning, but ECU blasted their way back with four hits in the top of the fourth to take the 5-4 lead, and there was no looking back. The Pirates scored six runs in the back half of the game to take the win and the series, 11-6.

2. Wichita State vaulted into the top 25 for the first time, sweeping Furman in the only non-conference series this week.

There wasn’t much drama for Wichita State this weekend as they welcomed Furman to Kansas with an 11-1 beatdown on Friday. The Shockers recorded 12 hits in total while starting pitcher Codi Heuer had a one-hitter going through six, striking out 11 along the way.

Game two was an even worse beatdown as five different Shockers had multi-hit, multi-RBI games in a 14-3 drubbing where Wichita State recorded a season-high in runs and a season-high 17 hits.

Wichita State’s All-American duo Greyson Jenista and Alec Bohm led the way offensively, going 2-4 and 2-3, respectively, with two RBI apiece.

The Shockers might have been tired on Sunday after smacking around Furman so much because they only beat the Paladins 3-1. Sophomore right-hander Tommy Barnhouse picked up the win with eight strikeouts and zero earned runs through four innings.

3. Preseason favorites Houston returned to form, earning the only conference sweep of the weekend against Memphis.

Despite a somewhat sluggish 10-8 start to the season, the class of the conference Cougars have been on a tear recently, continuing their eight-game winning streak over the hapless Tigers of Memphis.

The AAC preseason pitcher of the year Trey Cumbie continued to impress on Friday, earning his second straight complete game shutout, striking out eight in the 2-0 win.

Houston received another great pitching performance in a 3-0 win Saturday as redshirt sophomore Aaron Fletcher stayed undefeated on the year, picking up another complete game shutout while fanning nine Tigers.

After two straight low-scoring matchups, Houston’s bats were due for a big game, and wake up they did. Five different Cougars had multi-hit games, including center fielder Padgett Grayson who went 3-3 on the day with a walk and an RBI double and third baseman Jason Triolo, who went 2-4 with a three-run homer to blow it open in the third, sealing the 9-3 win.

Three things to look forward to this week

1. The two hottest teams in the American will face off this weekend as No. 22 Wichita State starts conference play by travelling to Greenville, North Carolina, to take on ECU.

2. Coming off their series win against Cincinnati, Tulane looks to keep the momentum going against the biggest bats in the conference, South Florida, who’s fresh off a series win against UConn.

3. UCF will look to rebound from their tough series loss this past weekend by potentially beating up on the current punching bag of the conference, Memphis.


Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus.  He can be reached via email at luke.swanson@uconn.edu.

Leave a Reply