Welcome back to Don't Forget the Hyphen where we give you
C-USA news and notes, insight into Conference goings-on, and where we always
challenge that you Don't Forget the Hyphen. This week's edition features the
quest for domination of the Sunshine State, Rice's new 900-number, and Memphis Tiger Chad Zurcher's sweet 'stache. It's time for some C-USA Baseball action.
As we embark on the diamond journey this weekend, it's important to note that this year C-USA Baseball is winning just as much out of conference as it is competitive in conference play. Here are some facts to ponder from C-USA's baseball guru, Russ Anderson:
**C-USA teams are 113-32 (.779) at home in non-conference play this season, but just 33-39 (.458) at home vs. league opponents.
**Four C-USA teams are in the top 30 of the current RPI (Southern Miss - 15, Rice - 19, East Carolina - 25, UCF -29). Only the SEC (8) and ACC (6) have more. Seven C-USA teams are in the top 60.
**Three weekends remain in one of the tightest races in C-USA history. Of the 72 conference games played so far, more than one-third (25) have been decided by just one run.
**Of the 24 conference series that have played in C-USA in 2011, just four have ended in three-game sweeps. All others have ended two-of-three.
**Conference USA's overall non-conference record of 161-92 (.636) is the best in league history.
I don't know about you, but those are some spicy baseball
stats. Ok, on to this weekend's matchups.
UCF at (6)Florida St. - UCF has already swept No. 5 Florida
this year and in the weekend's only non-conference series, the Knights go
Top Ten territory again in Tallahassee to
face the No. 6 Seminoles--the first time since the 2004 NCAA Regional in
Tallahassee. The Seminoles and Knights have faced five common opponents in 2011
- Maine, Boston College, Miami, Stetson and Florida. The Knights are 5-1
against common foes, including a 2-0 mark against Florida, with their lone
blemish coming in a 4-1 loss at Miami. The `Noles are 10-3 against common foes,
including a 3-1 mark against UF and 2-1 record against UM.
Key Players to Watch
- Senior IF Jonathan Griffin led UCF in batting last week at .455 (5-for-11), launching his league-leading 12th home run of the season and driving in four runs.
- Junior RHP Danny Winkler struck out a career-high 11 batters with just one walk in a tough-luck loss to Houston on Sunday. He allowed one run on seven hits over six innings. Winkler's 11 strikeouts were the most by a UCF pitcher this season.
- Junior LHP Sean Gilmartin is climbing the Seminole records books. His 7-1 record and 1.48 ERA (over 79.0 innings) ranks among the best by a Seminole pitcher in a season. Gilmartin's 87 strikeouts against just 14 walks (6.21) is ahead of the single-season Strikeouts-to-Walks record held by Jeff Hill (6.00, 1969).
- Florida State Junior James Ramsey extended his career-high and ACC-leading hitting streak to 23 games with his ninth-inning single in Tuesday's 8-5 win at Jacksonville. It was the second consecutive game he needed a ninth-inning hit to extend the streak. It is the longest streak of any ACC player this season and ranks fourth nationally entering the UCF series
ECU at Marshall - Sir Isaac Newton never played baseball (I'm sure he would have if it had been invented at the time) but his first law couldn't apply more-so than to this series--Every object in a state of uniform motion tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it. ECU's eminent pitching will be challenged by Marshall's escalating hitting this weekend. The Pirates' team ERA of 2.45 is seventh in the nation and in their four games last week, the starting pitching allowed just 10 runs in 18.2 innings of work. ECU Senior Pitcher Seth Maness is the nation's active leader in pitching victories with 34. Marshall will give them a good challenge as the Herd team hit .439 (50-114), reached base at a .522 clip and produced a .754 slugging percentage. The team batting average improved from .266 to .280 last weekend at Memphis thanks to their hot hitting at FedEx Park. Marshall outscored Memphis 36-18, and collected 19 extra-base hits, 10 doubles, one triple, and eight home-runs.
UAB at (12)Southern Miss - UAB is having their best pitching in years, led by Dillon Napoleon and Ryan Wooley, but will be tested by Conference leader No. 12 Southern Miss. And while the Blazers are hot on the mound, Southern Miss's RHP Geoffrey Thomas will attempt to become the first C-USA pitcher this season to record 10 victories.
Key Players to Watch
- Southern Miss OF Marc Bourgeois hit safely in three of four games last week. He started the week with a 2-for-4 performance against Alabama including a solo home run. After going hitless in series opener at ECU, Bourgeois went 3-fo-4 against the Pirates last Saturday with a double and a grand slam homer in the fifth which broke open a scoreless game. He now leads the team in hitting with a .380 batting average with 10 doubles, two triples, seven homers and 31 RBI.
- UAB 3B Andrew Manning hit .444 (4-for-9) with one home run and three RBI against Tulane.
- UAB OF Jamal Austin hit .400 (6-for-15) and scored four runs against the Green Wave. He currently ranks among the league leaders with a .362 batting average and 20 stolen bases.
Rice at Houston - This intra-city rivalry is not just competing for bragging rights to own the key to Houston, but also for second place in C-USA standings in the Silver Glove Series (no, not this one). Both teams are 9-6 in C-USA play, but Rice has the upper silver-glove hand with an overall record of 29-16 over Houston's 22-23. If Rice wins tonight, they will give Head Coach Wayne Graham his 900th victory. Way to go Coach, we've enjoyed every minute of it, especially here. UH is coming off one of their best pitching weekends when LPH Jordan Lewis pitched a complete game shutout against UCF last Saturday. With that kind of pitching up against one of baseball's most talented hitters this year in Anthony Rendon, it will definitely be a battle for that fun little Silver Glove.
Key Players to Watch
- Houston's LPH Jordan Lewis pitched a complete game shutout against UCF last Saturday (as mentioned above), allowing just six hits and just one of those was an extra base hit. Lewis struck out seven batters in the career-long outing and had just one walk. In five C-USA starts, the Apr. 26 C-USA Pitcher of the Week has allowed just five earned runs (seven total), with 26 strikeouts in 35.2 innings.
- Rice's 3B/DH Anthony Rendon leads the Owls in batting at .350 and ranks second in C-USA in on-base percentage (.552), thanks in part to a single-season league-record 62 walks. The 62 walks are a new single-season C-USA record and ar 17 more than any other D-I player entering this week's action.
Tulane - The two teams are fighting for C-USA Championship
seeding position as the Tigers head down to the Bayou. Both teams also need
wins to help their cases for NCAA at-large selections to the NCAA Championship.
Tulane has faced some tough-luck this season as their pitching staff incurred numerous injuries and left them short-handed, but back
is senior RHP Nick Pepitone who currently
leads C-USA in saves and is tied for eighth nationally. Tigers big man and
rising star in the national ranks Chad Zurcher leads the nation in batting
(.470) and on-base percentage (.557). He has reached base two or more times in
35 of the 42 games he has played in and has struck out just seven times this
Now that you've got the matchups. Lay back and get to know some C-USA baseball players:
In just a few short weeks, C-USA Baseball will take over Pearl, Miss. for the 2011 C-USA Baseball Championship where all the teams mentioned above (excluding FSU of course) will be vying for one of the nations premiere Conference Championships. Make sure you check out our Championship Central to stay on top of everything in Pearl, Miss., or just come on out to Trustmark Park! We'll see you there.
As always, comments and suggestions are always appreciated. Thank you for visiting the Hyphen! Have a great baseball weekend.