April 8, 2013
Eleven midweek games are scheduled in Conference USA, including East Carolina's visit to No. 19 NC State on Tuesday that will be available on ESPN3. In league play this coming weekend, UCF will be at No. 14 Rice, with Friday night's game being televised by Fox College Sports. Elsewhere, Marshall will visit Southern Miss, East Carolina is at Tulane and Memphis meets UAB in Birmingham. No. 24 Houston hposts Seton Hall in a non-conference series.
HITTER OF THE WEEK
ZACH WILLIS, MEMPHIS
Junior, 2B, Bartlett, Tenn.
Willis was 5-for-10 with three RBI in the sweep of UCF and two of his three RBI were the game-winners. In the series opener, he was 2-for-3 for his 10th multi-hit game of the year. On Saturday, Willis hit an RBI single to left field to drive in the eventual game-winning run in the 5-2 victory. With the Tigers going for the series sweep, Willis went 2-for-4 with a pair of RBI as Memphis edged the Knights 8-7. He notched his first of two RBI on a groundout in the third, but a one-out double in the eighth brought in the winning run. In the series finale, Willis was 2-for-4 with a walk and a stolen base.
PITCHERS OF THE WEEK
AARON BLAIR, MARSHALL
Junior, RHP, Las Vegas, Nev.
In a series-clinching win over No. 19 Houston, Blair struck out a season-high-tying 11 batters and walked one in an eight-inning two-hitter. Blair was given a run in the bottom of the second but battled against the recently red-hot Cougars with never more than the one-run lead. The right-hander's 11 punchouts included five which he struck out looking. For the afternoon, Blair allowed just four base runners, and only once did Houston put more than one man on in a single inning.
CONOR FISK, SOUTHERN MISS
Junior, RHP, Brown Deer, Wis.
Fisk threw the school's first complete-game shutout since May 11, 2012 with a 2-0 blanking of Tulane Sunday. It was also the first two-hit, complete-game for a Golden Eagle since Feb. 29, 2008. Fisk allowed just two singles in the contest while posting his third win of the season. The second single came to start the sixth inning. After a walk to the next batter in that frame, Fisk retired the next 10 batters he faced. He finished the game throwing 103 pitches of which 65 were for strikes.
The Pirates dropped two-of-three at home against No. 18 Rice over the weekend. Sophomore RHP Jeff Hoffman did not allow an earned run over 8.1 innings of Friday night's 3-0 loss. He struck out nine and walked one, but fell to 3-4 on the season with the tough-luck loss. East Carolina bounced back with a 3-2 win in 13 innings on Saturday. Junior 3B Zach Houchins scored junior SS Jack Reinheimer with the game-winning run in the 13th. For Houchins it was his third game-winning hit in six games. Reinheimer had three hits in the win, his 10th multi-hit game of the season. Junior RHP/DH Drew Reynolds picked up the win in relief, tossing a career-high five scoreless innings where he allowed one hit with four strikeouts. In 14 appearances, he has an ERA of 1.80 with saves, striking out 18 in 20 innings pitched. At the plate, Reynolds has hit safely in seven consecutive contests. Freshman OF Dylan Brown had five hits in the Rice series with a home run, a double and three RBI. He is batting .409 with three homers in six league games. Senior 2B Bryan Bass has at least one hit in his last five games and has reached base safely in seven straight outings.
The Cougars dropped two-of-three games at Marshall to fall into a first place tie in the C-USA standings with Rice at 6-3 in league play. It was the first series loss this season for Houston. After dropping the first two games in very different fashion (19-13 and 4-0), the Cougars won the series finale, 9-1. In that game, UH tallied 13 hits, marking the 16th time this season it has produced 10 or more hits. Junior C Caleb Barker drove in three runs on three hits, while scoring a run. Freshman 1B Justin Montemayor had a three-run home run and freshman OF Ashford Fulmer hit his first career homer. Freshman RHP Jake Lemoine improved to 5-1 after allowing just one run on six hits and four walks, while fanning a career-high five. Junior RHP Chase Wellbrock picked up his fifth save Sunday with three scoreless innings of relief. In 24.1 innings pitched over 12 appearances he has 21 strikeouts with just four walks.
The Thundering Herd won two-of-three games against first place Houston over the weekend. Marshall opened the series by winning the highest scoring game in Conference USA this season, 19-13, by erasing a 13-4 deficit with 15 unanswered runs. The nine-run, come-from-behind victory marked the first time Marshall overcame a deficit of seven or more runs since the team did it at Memphis on March 22, 2009. In that contest, the Herd wiped away Memphis' 7-0, fifth-inning lead and won 8-7. In Friday's win over Houston, eight Marshall hitters has multiple hits, including senior OF Isaac Ballou, senior 3B Gray Stafford, and sophomore OF Eric Escobedo who had three apiece. The Herd won Saturday's second game 4-0 behind an outstanding pitching effort by junior RHP Aaron Blair. He fired eight innings of two-hit ball, retiring 14 straight opposing hitters at one point. He struck out a season-high-tying 11 (five looking) and won his fourth decision in as many starts. Sophomore 2B Andrew Dundon batted .444 for the week which included a .538 showing in the series victory over Houston. He had two multi-hit games in the C-USA series and notched the team's first four-hit game of the season. Dundon singled five straight times to the plate, spanning the final at-bat of game two through the first four of game three.
The Tigers moved into a third place tie in the C-USA standings after sweeping their series from UCF over the weekend. Included in the sweep was a pair of one-run victories. Junior LHP Sam Moll tossed seven innings and allowed one run on four hits while striking out 11 in the Tigers 2-1 series opening win over UCF. The 11 strikeouts put him one shy of his career high and it marked the third time this season that Moll recorded 10 or more strikeouts and the fourth time in his career to punch out 10 or more. With the quality start, Moll has five on the season, including one in each of the last two outings. Three junior college transfer pitchers have made an immediate impact for the Tigers this season. Junior LHP Alex Gunn (2-2, 1.89 ERA), junior RHP Jon Reed (2-0, 3.09 ERA) and junior RHP Conner Porter (1-0, 3.12 ERA) have combined for 78.2 innings pitched and a 2.53 ERA. The trio has walked only 21 batters while striking out 66. Allowing 75 hits thus far, the trio sports a 1.22 WHIP (walks+hits per inning pitched). The Tigers lead Conference USA with 49 stolen bases on the season, six better than second-place Houston. Memphis had 64 stolen bases a season ago and is on pace to steal 89 this season. Among the 49 steals, nine different players have swiped two or more steals. Senior SS Ethan Gross leads the team with nine steals while freshman OF Jake Little has eight.
Rice is 23-11 overall and has moved into a tie for first place in the Conference USA standings with a 6-3 league record. The Owls are in familiar territory. One year ago Rice was exactly 23-11 and 6-3 in conference before going on to win the C-USA league regular season title. The Owls lost their fourth one-run game of the season on Saturday with a 3-2 setback on the road at East Carolina in 13 innings. The loss was the Blue & Gray's first in five extra-inning games this season. In four games last week the Rice pitching staff combined for a 2.32 ERA and held the opposition to a composite .224 batting average over 42 innings. The Owl senior duo of Michael Ratterree and Christian Stringer both hit safely in every game last week and batted a combined .454 (15-for-33) while drawing seven total walks. Ratterree appeared in the 216th game of his collegiate career on Sunday, the sixth-most games in school history. He is also sixth in career at bats with 789. The April 7 series finale also marked the return of junior third baseman Shane Hoelscher to action. Hoelscher had been sidelined the games at Minute Maid Park in early March, but he returned to the hot corner as a defensive sub at ECU. Sophomore RHP Zech Lemond notched his third and fourth wins of the season on Friday and Sunday against East Carolina. Lemond pitched a total of 5.1 shutout innings, scattering five hits without any walks and striking out seven.
Southern Miss won its second straight Conference USA series by beating Tulane two of three at home over the weekend. The Golden Eagles won the final two games of the series, marking the first time that they have captured consecutive victories since the opening weekend against Missouri. Southern Miss posted a 6-2 win on Saturday, as senior RHP Andrew Pierce allowed one run on six hits over eight innings with seven strikeouts. The Golden Eagles improved to 13-1 in games in which Pierce has fanned at least five batters over the past two seasons. Pierce has now thrown at least seven innings in all eight starts this season. Sophomore IF/RHP Bradley Roney drove in a career-tying three runs with an RBI single and a two-run homer, his first of the year, in the Saturday win. Despite getting a season-low three hits in the finale against Tulane, including two from senior SS Travis Creel as USM posted a 2-0 shutout, its first blanking this season. One of the knocks from Creel was a two-run double in the third that provided all the runs in the contest. Southern Miss has not committed an error in each of the last four games.
The Green Wave won the opener at Southern Miss before falling in the final two games of the series. Sophomore RHP Tony Rizzotti earned his fifth win of the season in the opener, allowing only three hits while striking out five. The three hits Rizzotti allowed are his second-lowest total of the season, after allowing just one in his Tulane debut against Sam Houston State on Feb. 15. Rizzotti has continued to show command of his pitches, walking only two - marking the seventh time this season he has allowed two or less walks in a game. In 60.0 innings pitched on the season, he has only allowed 13 walks. Senior LHP David Napoli was the hard-loser in Sunday's 2-0 defeat, throwing his first career complete-game and allowing two runs on three hits. In eight appearances (five starts) this season, Napoli has a 1.60 ERA over 33.2 innings pitched. Senior 1B Sean Potkay was the only Green wave player to hit safely in each game at Southern Miss, the second straight conference series he has produced at least one hit in each outing.
UAB went 3-1 last week, defeating Jacksonville State before taking two of three vs. Savannah State. The Blazers have won four of their last five, and six of the last eight games. As a team, the Blazers hit .336 for the week, led by sophomore OF Chase Davis who went 9-for-14 at the dish for a .643 average. In his three starts against Savannah State, Davis had multiple hits in all three contests, including a career-best four base knocks on Sunday in the series finale win over the Tigers. Equally as impressive as the UAB bats were the Blazer arms, owning a team ERA of 2.38 for the week. UAB relievers combined to allow just one earned run over 11.2 innings of work for a 0.77 ERA. Sophomore RHP James Naile recorded two wins for the week, claiming a victory as both a starter and reliever. He picked up a win vs. Jacksonville State on Wednesday, before earning the victory as a starter on Sunday vs. Savannah State. For the week, Naile posted a 0.90 ERA, allowing just one run (earned) in 10 innings on the bump with eight strikeouts and no walks. The UAB defense stepped up this week, committing only one error in 155 total chances for a .994 fielding percentage. Senior 3B John Frost continues to lead C-USA with a .384 batting average. This past weekend, Frost moved into seventh place all-time at UAB for career hits with 225.
The Knights dropped all three games at Memphis over the weekend, including a pair of one-run games. Senior 3B Chris Taladay had five hits in the series, including a 3-for-5 effort with a season-high four RBI in Sunday's 8-7 loss. Taladay is second in Conference USA with a .379 batting average, while leading the league in hits (50), doubles (11) and RBI (32). Taladay moved up to No. 8 on UCF's all-time hit list with 245 career hits. Tossing a complete game, junior RHP Ben Lively saw his record fall to 5-3 on the year after surrendering a pair of earned runs in the third inning of Friday's 2-1 defeat. Overall, he scattered six hits and two walks while striking out five. Despite the two earned runs, Lively's ERA still sits at 0.61 in 59 1/3 innings of work. Freshman RHP Zac Favre has allowed just 16 hits in 33.2 innings pitched, posting a 1.60 ERA with 40 strikeouts and 11 walks. The Knights have a league-best 68 doubles and place three players among the top six individuals in that category. Taladay leads with 11, while senior OF Erik Hempe and sophomore 1B James Vasquez each have 10.