Feb. 21, 2011
After an opening weekend that saw five teams go undefeated and league teams combine for a 21-6 record, C-USA will look to continue that success this week. Seven schools will be in action mid-week before a full weekend slate commences. Highlighting the weekend action will be East Carolina's three-game series at No. 13 Virginia, Houston hosting Mississippi, Rice welcoming USC to town and Southern Miss visiting Troy.
HITTER OF THE WEEK
CHASE JENSEN, HOUSTON
Sophomore, SS, Arlington, Texas
Jensen helped the Cougars to a 3-0 sweep of UT Arlington to open the season and give UH its first 3-0 start to a season since 1993. The junior college transfer finished the weekend with a .600 batting average (9-for-15) hitting two doubles in game two and a two-run home run in the series finale. Jensen recorded an RBI in each game, finishing with five total and had at least two hits in each game, including four in the season opener. He posted a .933 slugging percentage and a .600 on base percentage and did not strike out during the series. In the field, he had seven putouts and 10 assists while making his first career starts at shortstop.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK
MATTHEW RECKLING, RICE
Junior, RHP, Houston, Texas
Reckling, a veteran of the Owl pitching staff, handcuffed No. 10 Stanford with 6.0 shutout innings Saturday as Rice clipped the 10th-ranked Cardinal, 7-1. Reckling worked a career-long 6.0 frames, scattering four hits and two walks while striking out four. He held the heavy-hitting Cardinal to a composite .182 batting average in notching his first win of the season.
LAST WEEK'S STARS
Other than the players of the week, here's a look at some of the top performances in Conference USA during the games of Feb. 18-20:
ECU - COREY THOMPSON - batted .400 (4-for-10) with two doubles and four RBI, reaching base in all three games. Went 3-for-4 with three RBI in the season opener.
MEM - DREW MARTINEZ - had multiple hits in all three games, combining to hit .500 (7-for-14) with a team-best six runs scored. He had a pair of doubles, drove in five runs and was 4-for-4 in stolen base attempts.
RICE - DEREK HAMILTON - went 5-for-9 (.556) with a double, a walk, three RBI and two runs scored. Hit safely in each game and added a sacrifice bunt.
USM - TYLER KOELLING - batted .455 (5-for-11) with a team-best four RBI. Had two hits, two walks and three RBI in Sunday's series finale.
UAB - RYAN USSERY - hit the game-winning, two-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday vs. Arkansas State. Hit safely in all three games, batting .455 (5-for-11) with a .727 slugging percentage.
UCF - TRAVIS SHREVE - in his D-I debut, he had two hits in all three games, finishing the series batting .429 (6-for-14) with two doubles. He had five RBI, five runs scored and four stolen bases.
ECU - SETH MANESS - picked up his 29th career win in the season opener, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings. He recorded seven strikeouts (all swinging) without allowing a walk.
HOU - CODEY MOREHOUSE - made his first career start on opening day, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings against UTA. He struck out a career-high six without walking a batter.
MAR - MIKE MASON - threw five strong innings in a win over Kentucky, collecting seven strikeouts and issuing just one walk. He held the wildcats hitless into the fourth, eventually allowing one earned run and four hits.
MEM - DAN LANGFIELD - made the first Friday night start of his career and struck out four over five innings. He allowed two runs on four hits.
USM - TODD McINNIS - threw eight shutout innings on opening day, scattering five singles. He struck out seven and did not walk a batter.
TLN - NICK PEPITONE - earned a win and a save on opening weekend, allowing just two singles in the two outings. He did not allow a run, striking out two.
UCF - DANNY WINKLER - threw six solid innings on opening night, allowing one run on five hits. He also struck out six without yielding a walk.
The Pirates posted an impressive three-game sweep of Youngstown State, allowing one run in the opener prior to posting back-to-back shutouts. ECU's pitching staff posted consecutive shutouts for the first time since 2006 and all three starters (senior RHP Seth Maness, senior RHP Zach Woods and junior RHP Mike Wright) combined to allow just one run, a leadoff HR to start the season, in 17 innings. In all, the Pirates hurlers posted a 1.00 ERA allowing three runs (all earned) on the weekend with 25 strikeouts to just six walks. Junior LHP Kevin Brandt pitched four innings of near perfect relief on Saturday, allowing just two of 14 hitters to reach base (walk and hit) while striking out five for his first win of the season and seventh career win out of the bullpen. Sophomore OF Philip Clark and senior OF Trent Whitehead were perfect on the base paths against Youngstown State and combined to steal all seven of ECU's bases. Clark was 3-for-3 and Whitehead was 4-for-4 on the weekend. Whitehead tied his single-game career-high with three in the season opener and added one in Sunday's contest. Junior College 2B Tim Younger was solid in his first action for the Pirates, batting .375 (3-for-8) with three walks, two sac bunts and was plunked by a pitch. He collected two hits in his Pirate debut and drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth Saturday for a 1-0 victory. Since the 2001 season, the Pirates have started 3-0 five times and in each of those years they reached the NCAA Regional and in three of those seasons (2001, 2004 and 2009) made Super Regional appearances.
The Todd Whitting era began with a three-game sweep of Texas-Arlington. It marks the first time since 1993 that the Cougars have opened a season with a 3-0 record. Junior P/1B Codey Morehouse made his first career start on the mound on opening day, guiding the Cougars to a 15-5 win to recording his first career victory. He pitched a career-long seven innings, allowing just one run on four hits with a career-high six strikeouts. At the plate he helped his cause with an RBI on Friday night. Junior LHP Jordan Lewis was impressive in his Cougar debut on Saturday, firing seven shutout innings, scattering five hits and striking out a pair of batters. Junior 3B Austin Gracey batted .571 (8-for-14) with two doubles, two home runs and a team-best seven RBI. He had a pair of three-hit outings to open the series and notched a pair of hits in the series finale. Junior C John Cannon registered a .646 on-base percentage in the series, going 4-for-8 while drawing three walks.
The Thundering Herd finished 2-1 at the College of Charleston Invitational on opening weekend, defeating Miami (Ohio) and Kentucky before falling to College of Charleston on Sunday. Marshall defeated Kentucky for the first time since 2004, snapping a three-game losing streak to the Wildcats. Nine Herd players made their debuts over the weekend, six coming out of the bullpen. Marshall only hit .264 as a team during the three-game invitational, but connected when it mattered by registering a .324 (12-for-37) clip with runners in scoring position. Senior Kenny Socorro only recorded one homer in 2010, but became the first member of the Herd to launch a deep fly when he smacked a round tripper in the top of the ninth inning against No. 20 College of Charleston. Socorro also started all three games at SS, extending his consecutive games started streak to 104. Junior C/DH Thor Meeks had a solid series in the middle of the Marshall lineup, posting a .444 (4-for-9) batting average with a double, four RBI and three walks. Senior OF Ben Jurevicus scored five times and collected five base hits, including a double. Junior LHP Mike Mason was superb in his first start of the 2011 campaign against UK, though he did not figure in the decision. The lefty worked the first five innings, allowing just one earned run on four hits with seven strikeouts. Mason had a run of four-straight punch outs by striking out the side in the second (all swinging) and the first batter of the third.
The Tigers swept Evansville in a three-game series during opening weekend, scoring at least nine runs in each outing. Memphis hit a blistering .448 as a team on the weekend and the 38 runs scored is the most in a 3-0 start since 1991 when Memphis plated a combined 40 runs in wins over Harding, Missouri-St. Louis and Arkansas State. Junior college transfer Eli Hynes highlighted a six-run first inning with a grand slam, and Phillip Chapman added four RBI as Memphis jumped out to an early lead and held off a late-inning charge by Evansville for a 13-9 victory in the 2011 season opener at FedExPark. Hynes' grand slam, a no-doubter to right, came on the first pitch of his first at-bat as a Tiger. He is the first Tiger to homer on his first pitch in the Blue and Gray since Joey Lieberman did so against Notre Dame in 2006. Behind the bats of Drew Martinez and Chad Zurcher, the Tigers scored 13 runs in the opening inning this weekend. Memphis scored six runs in its first at-bat of the year and followed with three scored in the opening inning of Game 2. The Tigers wrapped the weekend up by plating four runs in the first inning of the series finale. Zurcher was plunked four times in the weekend series. The junior was hit by a pitch twice in each of the first two contests.
The Owls hosted No. 10 Stanford for a three-game series on opening weekend, dropping two-of-three to the Cardinal. True freshman SS Derek Hamilton had a solid Division I debut, going 5-for-9 (.556) with a double, a walk and three RBI and two runs scored. He hit safely in every game and also had a sacrifice bunt. In the field he was error-free and recorded a total of 17 defensive assists. Junior C Craig Manuel batted .444 (4-for-9) in the series with a pair of runs scored. Freshman RHP John Simms made the start on opening day, allowing just one run on five hits over five innings. He struck out four and walked just one. Rice pitchers combined to strike out 19 Cardinal batters and walk just four in three games.
The Golden Eagles opened the season by sweeping Eastern Illinois, allowing a total of three runs in three-game series. The starting pitchers allowed just one earned run over 21 innings of work and fanned 11, while walking just two. With a 6-0 win on Sunday, Southern Miss recorded its first shutout since blanking Missouri State 6-0 on March 13, 2010. Junior RHP Todd McInnis made his third consecutive opening-day start, allowing just five hits over eight innings and fanning seven, while not walking an opposing batter. The hits were all singles and he did not give up more than one hit in a frame until the seventh. Junior SS B.A. Vollmuth extended his hitting streak to 23 games, after collecting a hit in each of the first three contests this season. He extended the hitting streak in the Eastern Illinois series' final game by hitting a batted ball off of third base for a single in his final at bat to keep the streak alive. Sophomore INF Isaac Rodriguez collected three hits in seven at-bats and all went for extra bases. He collected two doubles on Saturday and then added a solo homer, the first of his Golden Eagle career, on Sunday. Southern Miss, which has led the country in double plays in each of the last two seasons, turned one twin killing in each of the first three games over the weekend. The Golden Eagles also did not make an error against EIU, spanning 123 chances.
The Green Wave opened the 2011 campaign by taking two-of-three from Sam Houston State over the weekend, with all three contests ending in a 3-2 score. Senior RHP Nick Pepitone made two appearances during the opening weekend of the season and collected a win and a save in those outings. He allowed just one base runner to pass second base in his four innings of work. Pepitone struck out the final two batters of Tulane's 3-2 victory on Saturday and then retired the side in order on three ground balls to post the save on Sunday. He allowed just two singles in two appearances. Freshman RHP Randy LeBlanc had a strong debut on Sunday, striking out eight batters in five innings and allowing two runs on six hits. Junior OF Frank Florio gave the Wave a series victory with a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the bottom of the eighth inning on Sunday. Junior 3B Jeremy Schaffer was the only Tulane player to hit safely in all three games, including a single and a double in Friday's opener.
The Blazers participated in the Auburn Tournament, defeating Arkansas State, but falling to No. 13 Virginia and No. 23 Auburn. UAB players hit the only two home runs in six games at the Auburn Tournament. Junior 3B Patrick Palmeiro hit the Blazers' first home run of the season in Friday's opener against Virginia and drove in three runs in his UAB debut. Sophomore OF Ryan Ussery went deep the next night against Arkansas State, breaking open a tie game in the eighth inning and powering UAB to a 5-3 victory. Senior SS Nick Crawford also created some excitement against Arkansas State when he scored the opening run on a straight steal of home. Junior RHP Dillon Napoleon made his first start as a Blazer against the Red Wolves, allowing one run on four hits in six-plus innings before leaving the game on a pitch count and winding up with a no-decision. Napoleon, sophomore RHP Ben Bullard and junior RHP Ryan Nance combined to pitch nine innings without allowing a walk against Arkansas State. Offensively, senior CF Jamal Austin led UAB for the week with a .462 batting average (6-for-13), while Ussery hit for a .455 average (5-for-11). Defensively, the Blazers posted a .991 fielding percentage for the weekend with just one error in three games.
The Knights opened the season with a three-game sweep of Siena, outscoring the Knights, 37-6. Junior college transfer 2B Travis Shreve led off each game by reaching base (HBP, two singles) and came around to score every time. Plus, all four of his stolen bases during the weekend came in the first inning. Shreve finished with a .429 average, five RBI and five runs scored. After only seeing time in six games last year due to an injury, sophomore DH/RHP D.J. Hicks wasted little time finding his rhythm this season. In game two vs. Siena, Hicks went 2-for-4 with four RBI including a three-run homer. He also came on in relief to record two outs in the fifth inning for the victory. It was the second time in Hicks' career he had at least one home run and earned the victory in the same game (May 6, 2009, vs. Stetson). Junior C Beau Taylor currently rides a 24-game hitting streak, which is the second-longest in UCF history. Taylor ended 2010 on a 21-game hitting streak, and stretched it to 24 with a hit in all three outings vs. Siena. The UCF record belongs to Mike Myers at 26 games in 2001. In the first two games of the year, UCF's pitchers limited Siena to just two runs and no walks. It marked the first time since 1988 that the Knights allowed opponents to score two runs or less in the first two games of a season.