Feb. 28, 2011
Games against four different nationally-ranked opponents highlight the upcoming slate of action in Conference USA. Houston and Rice will both participate in the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park beginning on Friday, with each team facing No. 9 Texas A&M and No. 16 Baylor. Tulane will play a three-game series at No. 28 Mississippi beginning on Friday night. Before that action gets underway, Rice plays a two-game mid-week set at No. 17 Arizona on Tuesday and Wednesday night.
Games against Alabama, Kentucky, Pepperdine, Coastal Carolina and Louisiana-Lafayette are also scheduled. Conference USA is off to a strong start to the 2011 season, posting a combined record of 43-20 (.638) mark.
HITTER OF THE WEEK
DARNELL SWEENEY, UCF
Sophomore, SS, Miramar, Fla.
Sweeney went 11-for-17 for a .647 average during a 3-1 week for the Knights, all on the road. He had a 1.759 OPS with a 1.059 slugging percentage and a .700 on-base percentage. Sweeney also finished with five doubles, a triple, six RBI, five runs and a stolen base. He walked three times, did not strike out and was 19-for-19 in chances at shortstop. After going 3-for-5 with three RBI and two extra-base hits against Bethune-Cookman (UCF won 13-0), Sweeney had two more hits with an RBI and a double in a 9-4 win at South Alabama. In the second game of the South Alabama Classic, he was 2-for-3 with a walk in a 7-2 loss to Southeastern Louisiana, and wrapped up the weekend by going 4-for-5 with three doubles, two RBI and two runs in a 12-4 win vs. No. 29 Alabama.
PITCHER OF THE WEEK
DAN LANGFIELD, MEMPHIS
Sophomore, RHP, Somerset, Mass.
Langfield had a dazzling start on the mound for Memphis on Friday night as he struck out 16 Kennesaw State batters in 7.2 innings of work. The 16 strikeouts were the second-highest total in Conference USA and Tiger history, in both cases trailing a pair of Memphis pitchers that had fanned 17 batters in a game. Langfield allowed five hits and four walks while improving to 2-0 on the season. After allowing a pair of singles in the first inning, he struck out the side in the bottom of the second and then retired 16 of 19 batters over the course of five and two-thirds.
The Pirates closed out its series at No. 10 Virginia with a 4-3 victory on Sunday. Despite losing two-of-three at UVa. ECU's pitching staff owns a 1.56 ERA, which leads Conference USA by almost a full run (Tulane - 2.32 ERA). All three weekend starters have an ERA of 3.48 or better (junior RHP Mike Wright at 0.75, senior RHP Zach Woods at 0.84 and senior RHP Seth Maness at 3.48). Pirate hurlers have allowed just nine earned runs through six games. Wright picked up his second win of the season on Sunday, carrying a no-hitter into the fifth inning before surrendering a base hit to the second batter of the frame. In all, he allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits with four punch outs in a career-best seven innings of work. Senior RHP Seth Simmons recorded his first save of the season in the Pirates win Sunday. He now has 21 career saves, just two shy of tying the school record held by Cory Scotts (1999-00). On the week, he made two relief appearances where he allowed two hits with one walk and three punch outs. This season, he boasts a 0.00 ERA in three appearances with five strikeouts and one walk. Junior INF Mike Ussery and true freshman OF Ben Fultz recorded their first starts for the Pirates in game three against No. 10 Virginia. Ussery laced a bases-clearing double in his first at-bat in a Pirate uniform giving ECU an early 3-0 lead on Sunday against the Cavaliers. Fultz was 1-for-3 in the series finale with a run scored and a sac bunt, while extending his hit streak to three games.
The Cougars were 2-2 last week, posting wins over Stephen F. Austin and Mississippi. Senior OF Caleb Ramsey led the team with a .538 hitting percentage, registering at least one hit in all four games and producing two multiple hit games. He hit three doubles and had five RBI on the week, posting a .769 slugging percentage and a .625 on-base percentage. On the season, Ramsey has a .391 batting average, leads the team with four doubles and is tied for the team lead with eight RBI. Senior 2B Ryan Still had a hit in all four games last week, going 5-for-12 (.417) in the Ole Miss series with a double and a sacrifice fly. Freshman RHP Chase Wellbrook made two appearances on the mound last week, earning a win over Stephen F. Austin in his first career start. He pitched six innings in his debut, striking out six batters and allowing just two runs. He followed that up with a relief appearance against Ole Miss in the finale, tossing four innings, allowing two runs with two strikeouts. Junior RHP Matt Creel improved to 2-0 with four strong innings of relief against Ole Miss on Saturday, not allowing a run and yielding three hits with four strikeouts and one walk.
The Thundering Herd dropped two-of-three at Lipscomb over the weekend to fall to 3-3 on the season. Senior 1B Victor Gomez topped the squad with a .583 batting average (7-for-12), collecting two or more hits in all three games and now has 77 multi-hit games in his career with the Thundering Herd. In the 3-2 victory on Friday night, Gomez recorded three of the Herd's five hits, while also stealing a base. After recording seven base knocks during the weekend, he is is just 12 hits shy of breaking the Marshall school record for career hits of 250 held by Adam Frederick (2003-06). Junior RHP Shane Farrell continued on his early season success as the Friday night starter, holding the Lipscomb offense to one earned run on five hits over the first five innings to earn his first victory of the season. Farrell recorded three strikeouts to one walk while inducing seven fly outs and five ground outs. He lowered his ERA to a miniscule 0.93 and has allowed just one earned run in 9.2 innings this season. MU's bullpen was lights out as 10 relievers combine to work 11.1 innings giving up just one earned run, for a 0.79 ERA. The bullpen arms allowed just seven hits and struck out eight.
The Tigers won two-of-three games at Kennesaw State last weekend to improve to 5-2. Highlighting the series was a 16-strikeout performance by sophomore RHP Dan Langfield. That total is the second-highest total in both school and Conference USA history, trailing the 17 K's posted by former Tigers Chad Harville (1997) and Derek Hankins (2004). Senior LHP Ryan Holland threw Conference USA's first complete game of the season on Saturday, but dropped a 2-1 decision when he allowed a solo home run in the eighth inning. He scattered six hits over eight innings, striking out six and walking three. Junior 3B Jacob Wilson had a pair of multi-hit games anmd 10 RBI last week, punctuated by his Sunday performance in which he hit two home runs and drove in seven runs. Wilson has produced multiple RBI in four of seven games this season and has a league-best 17 driven in for the season. Junior OF Drew Martinez has hit safely in all seven games this season and had five hits to go along with six walks in the Kennesaw State series.
The Owls swept a three-game series from USC over the weekend to increase their winning streak to four games. In four games last week, junior 3B Anthony Rendon went 8-for-16 (.500) with two home runs, a double, seven walks and eight runs scored. He maintained a .938 slugging percentage and .652 on-base percentage. Sophomore 1B J.T. Chargois posted a pair of multiple hit games against USC, doubling, tripling and driving in three runs, including the game-winners in Sunday's 4-3 victory. Senior LHP Abe Gonzales had a solid week on the mound, notching a win and a save in three appearances. Gonzales came out of the pen to post a 1.93 ERA in 4.2 total innings. He held all opposing hitters to a composite .222 average. Head Coach Wayne Graham now only needs 25 more wins to reach 900 in his Rice career. He owns a record of 875-343 (.718) in 20 seasons as the Owls skipper. Rice has already played three games each against Stanford and USC, but is not through with the Pac-10 quite yet. The Owls have two more at No. 17 Arizona this week (Tues & Wed), making it eight of the first 10 games against Pac-10 foes.
The Golden Eagles were 3-2 last week, dropping two-of-three over the weekend at Troy. Although he had a 24-game hitting streak snapped against Alcorn State on Feb. 22, junior SS B.A. Vollmuth put together a solid week, batting .389 (7-for-18) with a home run and seven RBI. He had two hits in each of the Troy contests, driving in five runs in the series. Senior OF Tyler Koelling extended his current team-best hitting streak to 19 games after batting .450 last week. During his current streak, Koelling is batting .425 (31-for-73) with seven doubles, two triples, a homer, and 14 RBI over that time. Sophomore IF Travis Creel drove in five runs and hit his first home run, a grand slam, against Alcorn State. Sophomore OF Dillon Day registered a straight steal of home, marking the first time that has happened since Drew Carson did it in the 2008 C-USA Tournament against Marshall in New Orleans. Freshman OF Joe Martin registered his first college hit, a home run, in his first start Saturday, Feb. 26, against Troy. Freshman RHP Jackson Posey made his first appearance Friday night at Troy and threw five scoreless frames, allowing three hits and a walk, while fanning three. Southern Miss continues to play solid defense, having made just three errors over the first eight games. The team, which has led the country in each of the last two seasons in double plays, has registered 13 over the first eight games in 2011.
The Green Wave swept a three-game series from George Washington over the weekend to improve to 5-2 on the season. Freshman RHP Alex Facundas picked up wins in relief on both Friday and Sunday, combining for 4.0 scoreless and hitless innings. He is the only pitcher in Conference USA with three victories this season. Senior RHP Nick Pepitone continued his great start to the season, earning the save in Sunday's 4-3 win. In four appearances this season, he has a win and three saves and has not allowed a run in six innings pitched. Freshman RHP Randy LeBlanc had another solid showing on Sunday, striking out six batters in six innings and allowing two runs on six hits. Senior RHP Conrad Flynn has allowed just two earned runs in 13 innings pitched, while striking out 12 and walking only one. Junior Jeremy Schaffer is hitting .400 (10-for-25) with a team-best 10 hits, four doubles and seven RBI. He is the only Green wave player to hit safely in all seven games this season.
The Blazers posted a three-game series sweep of Xavier in their first home action of the 2011 season. It marked UAB's first series sweep since taking three games from Western Illinois in Birmingham last March. Sophomore 1B John Frost completed the sweep with his walk-off single on Sunday to lift UAB to a 7-6, come-from-behind win. Starting pitching was key in the first two games as junior RHP Dillon Napoleon and senior RHP Ryan Woolley each worked seven innings and allowed only two runs to earn the wins on Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Blazers also got the bats going against the Musketeers. After tallying 33 hits through its first five games this season, UAB pounded out 27 hits in the final two games of the Xavier series, including a season-high 15 hits in Saturday's 11-2 win. UAB did not have a single inning with more than two runs through those first five games but posted three innings with three or more runs over the last two games against the Musketeers. Junior CF Jamal Austin continued his torrid offensive pace, hitting .538 (7-for-13) with multiple hits in all three games against Xavier. He is the only Blazer to hit safely in all seven games this spring. In addition to good starting pitching, the Blazers continued to get a strong effort from junior Ryan Nance, who has now held opponents without a run on just two hits in 5.1 innings out of the bullpen.
The Knights are a C-USA-best 6-1 after winning two-of-three at the South Alabama Tournament, the school's first regular season tourney since 2001. Included was UCF's first win of the season over a ranked opponent, a 12-4 decision over No. 29 Alabama on Sunday. Sophomore OF Chris Taladay highlighted that victory by going 3-for-5 with five RBI and registering his first career game with multiple home runs. The 2010 C-USA Freshman of the Year had seven RBI in the tournament. Junior C Beau Taylor saw his school-record-tying 26-game hitting streak end on Saturday, but started a new one on Sunday with a double, a home run and four RBI. Three different Knights enter this week on six-game hitting streaks: senior 3B Derek Luciano, sophomore OF Ronnie Richardson and sophomore DH D.J. Hicks. Freshman RHP Ben Lively became the sixth different Knights pitcher to earn a win this season when he defeated Alabama. In his second UCF start, he tossed 5.0 innings, not giving up an earned run, allowing three hits and four walks with two strikeouts. The Knights 13-0 win over Bethune-Cookman on Feb. 22 was UCF's first shutout since a 5-0 victory at No. 2 Rice May 8, 2009. It was the first blanking in non-conference action since a 5-0 triumph over Hartford March 13, 2009.