Around the American: Houston baseball returns to the throne

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(Jon Sammis/The Daily Campus)

UConn made the biggest move in the conference this weekend, taking two out of three from 22nd-ranked UCF, but that wasn’t the only significant result. Here’s what went down this weekend in the AAC as the hunt for a high tournament seeding continues:

1. Houston returned to the top of the conference standings this weekend with a series victory over USF.

The former champs still have a lot of work left if they want to return to the NCAA tournament this year, sitting outside of the top 100 in RPI, but winning six of their first nine in conference goes a long way.

Houston’s weekend started out with a high-scoring loss however, falling to the Bulls 9-6.

Cougar starter Trey Cumbie has been getting first-round hype recently, but he was off his game, giving up three homers and eight extra-base hits in the loss.

Bulls’ third-baseman David Villar had himself a game, hitting two home runs in four at-bats, driving in a season-high four runs on the day.

In game two, Houston starter Aaron Fletcher stepped it up for his struggling ace, striking out 11 Bulls in a 1-0 win to force a rubber match on Sunday.

The game was knotted at zero until the ninth inning, when Nick Slaughter took the plate, pinch-hitting for center-fielder Landon Etzel. The sophomore poked a single through the left side, bringing in second-baseman Connor Hollis to walk off USF.

Sunday brought more late-game drama for Houston in their 9-8 win. The Cougars were down 8-6 in the bottom of the seventh, when a Lockhart single, a Bielamowicz double and a Slaughter fielder’s choice suddenly put them in the lead, giving them the game and the series.

2. The upstart Cincinnati Bearcats sweeping the doormat of the AAC wasn’t quite a big surprise. What was a shock was that their sweep of Memphis moved them up to a tie for first in the conference with Houston.

Starter J.T. Perez had a rough first inning, giving up a walk and a home run in his first two at-bats, but quickly settled down, striking out five and allowing zero earned runs for the rest of 10-2 win.

The Cincinnati order provided him with plenty of run support, with shortstop Manny Rodriguez leading the way. The veteran went 2-5 on the day with a three-run homer in the bottom of the eight to seal the deal for the Bearcats.

Cincinnati clinched the series on Saturday with another dominant 7-2 win. The Bearcats slammed the door shut on Memphis by batting around in the bottom of the fourth, scoring six runs in the inning.

The Bearcats once again received solid starting pitching, as sophomore Nathan Kroger fanned seven Tigers and only let one man score in his seven-inning outing.

Cincinnati completed the sweep on Sunday in a much closer game. The Bearcats were up 8-4 going into the final frame, when closer Jarod Yoakam let up a three-run homer in the top of the ninth to bring Memphis within one. The senior kept his cool, however, and retired the next two batters to get the win and the sweep.

3. Tulane gave Wichita State a heck of a fight, but they eventually fell in three games to the 20th-ranked Shockers.

Game one of the series gave us our first run rule ending in-conference this year, as the Greenies were tooling up Wichita 19-4 when the game was called in the seventh inning.

Tulane’s offense went supernova in the second inning, sending 16 hitters to the plate to plate 11 runs off of eight hits. Eight of ten batters for Tulane had multi-hit games, handing Wichita State ace Codi Heuer his first loss of the year.

The Shockers struck back in game two with some offense of their own, racking up nine hits in their 9-3 win to force a rubbermatch.

The Shockers did most of their damage in the third inning, where singles from Alec Bohm and Mason O’Brien and a Gunnar Troutwine double gave them a 4-0 lead.  

Game three of the series was a similarly dominant 8-2 win for Wichita State. Alec Bohm, Gunnar Troutwine and Trey Ritter all had multiple hits in the victory that kept the Shockers in the top 25.


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

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