Passing the halfway point in conference play, the American has stratified a bit in terms of conference standings. Preseason favorite Houston remains at the top at 10-5 with No. 8 East Carolina nipping right at their heels a half game back at 8-4 and No. 24 South Florida and No. 20 UConn both within a game and a half.
ECU, UConn, South Florida and Wichita State all rank in the top 25 in terms of RPI as well with UCF sitting in the top 50, so it will be a wild finish down the stretch. Here’s what went down this past weekend:
1. In a hotly-contested War on I-4 rivalry series, South Florida came out on top against their Central Florida counterparts, rallying from a Game One loss to take two out of three.
The tension was palpable in Game One of the series as UCF shut out South Florida’s conference-best offense in a 1-0 win.
UCF’s pitching was the key to their success as starter Cre Finfrock and reliever Thad Ward combined to throw a one-hitter while striking out 12 and only walking two.
USF ace Shane McClanahan looked the part of a top college prospect, cutting down 10 Knights in the contest, but allowed the only earned run of the game off a triple by UCF center fielder Ray Alejo, who scored on a wild pitch on the next at-bat.
USF stuck back in Game Two, winning another hotly-contested game by a score of 5-4 behind third baseman David Villar’s late-game heroics.
USF went up early with a three-run third inning and USF starter Peter Strzelecki was on cruise control, striking out eight and only allowing two baserunners. This lasted until the fifth inning where UCF stormed back to even the game at three.
It was Villar’s time to shine in the seventh as he blasted a two-run shot over the right field fence, evening the series up at one.
Villar kept his hot streak going in the rubbermatch of the series, hitting another go-ahead two-run homer in the third to put the Bulls ahead in their 4-2 win.
USF also received clutch pitching in the deciding game of the series as five different pitchers combined to shut out the Knights after a two-run second inning to seal the game and the series.
2. Houston reminded the American who the big dog in the conference really is, sweeping conference newcomers Wichita State to regain their spot at the top of the league.
Game One was a pitchers’ duel as Houston ace Trey Cumbie got the better of Wichita State’s Codi Heuer, striking out nine and only allowing one earned run in the Cougars’ 3-1 victory to open up the series Friday.
Third baseman Jared Triolo powered most of the offense for Houston, going 2-4 with a double and a single and scoring twice.
Inclement weather moved Game Two to Sunday, where Houston came out on top in the first leg of the doubleheader 6-5.
In a seven-inning game shortened due to travel curfew, Houston and Wichita State certainly packed in enough offense, but center fielder Grayson Padgett pushed the Cougars over the edge with a walk-off homer in the bottom of the seventh to clinch the series.
Houston’s pitching depth came in handy in the final game of the series as starter Ryan Randle held the Shockers’ All-American duo, Alec Bohm and Greyson Jenista, hitless in the win to clinch the sweep.
Luke Swanson is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.