No. 24 UConn baseball had the largest weekend of any AAC school, beating Wichita State on their own turf and taking their place in the D1Baseball.com Top 25. However, there was plenty of action elsewhere in the American as we passed the midpoint of conference play.
With four conference series down and four to go, only one game separates the top six teams in the conference, so here’s what you need to know about the wild AAC race:
1. South Florida went on the road to win their series against No. 12 East Carolina, joining Houston and Cincinnati at the top of the conference standings at 7-5.
It didn’t seem like South Florida was going to come out with any wins in Greenville this weekend after they got walloped 15-2 in the season opener, getting tuned up for 17 hits in the contest.
South Florida ace Shane McLanahan only lasted three innings, his shortest outing of the year. The lefty gave up six hits and six home runs and it only got worse when the Bulls’ bullpen gave up nine more.
AAC slugging leader Bryant Packard had South Florida pitching in the torture rack all day, extending his 11-game hitting streak with home runs in the fourth and sixth innings and a double in the second, driving in a third of East Carolina’s total runs on the day.
South Florida seemed unfazed, however, turning the tables next by smoking East Carolina 13-1 and forcing a rubber match.
The Bulls jumped on East Carolina early, putting starter Tyler Smith on the hook for his first loss of the year with three runs in the first inning.
This game was almost the inverse of the previous one, as six different Bulls had multi-hit games, with 16 hits in total.
South Florida leadoff man Coco Montes was the powerhouse behind their offensive explosion, hitting his first two homers of the year to drive in a season-high five runs, while starter Peter Strzelecki shut down the Pirates, throwing a complete game in which he allowed only five hits and one earned run.
The deciding game of the series was a much closer contest than the first two, but South Florida finally came out on top 5-4 to win the series and jump atop the conference standings.
South Florida once again hopped out to an early lead in the first inning with a two-out double from Chris Chatfield to clear the bases, but East Carolina hit right back with a three-run homer from catcher Jake Washer.
South Florida wouldn’t give up their lead easily however and took it back in the very next frame. Third baseman David Villar tacked on an insurance run in the seventh to make it 5-3, which proved to be the game winner as the Bulls would go on to win the game and series 5-4.
2. Conference co-leader Houston took one on the chin, dropping their series against Tulane at home.
Game one was a wild contest as the two teams combined for the highest-scoring contest in AAC history and Tulane staged a furious comeback to take the lead 17-16.
Houston scored 10 runs in the fourth inning, seemingly putting the game out of reach for the Greenies, but they rolled with the punches, outscoring Houston by one or two in each inning until the ninth.
Tulane was down 17-14 when sophomore Cody Hoese came up in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and hit a three-run homer to tie it up. The Greenies would complete the comeback two pitches later on a wild pitch, earning the game one victory.
Inclement weather pushed the game on Saturday back to a doubleheader on Sunday. Game two was a seven-inning contest and was almost the exact opposite of game one, as Tulane won the low-scoring contest 2-0 to take the series.
Tulane starter Keagan Gillies picked up the win, allowing just two hits and no earned runs through five innings of work. Second baseman Jonathan Artigues drove in the go-ahead run, a solo shot in the bottom of the eighth.
3. UCF recovered from their tough series loss to UConn by taking two out of three from surprising conference co-leader Cincinnati.
The Bearcats scored the first four runs of the series on Friday, but UCF rallied for five straight runs in the latter half of the game to start the series off right 5-4.
UCF first baseman Rylan Thomas scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the eighth with a solo shot to left field and the bullpen closed it out, allowing just one earned run in the last seven innings while striking out 12.
The Knights clinched the series on Saturday with a game two blowout, beating the Bearcats 11-2. UCF led Cincinnati 10-3 in the hits column, and left fielder Tyler Osik powered the UCF offense with three hits for five RBI on the day.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.