Extra Innings Blog

Special correspondent and veteran baseball SID Jeff Conrad of the Houston media relations staff and C-USA's own Russell Anderson plan to provide insight and information from Hattiesburg in the Third Annual C-USA Baseball Championship Blog.

May 24, 2009

Thank you Southern Miss
Posted at 4:29 p.m. CT
What a week it has been in Hattiesburg. We moved the schedule around a couple of times, caught a break or two from mother nature and played the entire tournament. We punctuated the week with an outstanding championship game that featured numerous ties and lead changes.

Congratulations to Rice, who showed why they are the winningest team in college baseball this decade by capturing their 14th consecutive conference title (regular season or tournament).

And, a side congratulations to Rice Baseball SID John Sullivan, who now owns more C-USA Baseball Championships than anyone. Sully picked up one for the thumb with his fifth C-USA Tourney title as SID (Houston in 1997 and 2000 and Rice in 2006, 2007 and 2009).

Southern Miss made a great showing on their home field in this tournament. Hopefully, that will be rewarded with an NCAA Regional berth.

I think that I speak for all of the schools, fans and media members at this tournament in saying a very sincere and hearty thank you to the fine folks at Southern Miss who made this a first-class event. Everyone from USM that worked with the tournament should be commended on a fine job. We all enjoyed our time in Hattiesburg and look forward to returning here for events in the future.

Special thanks to my blogging partner for the week, Jeff Conrad. He made a great debut as a tournament blogger, making many forget about Tod Meisner. Just kidding, Tod.

Thanks to you, the reader, who followed the blog all week long. We hope that we kept you updated, made you more informed and maybe even made you laugh a little. We'll talk to you this time next year in Houston.

As the great Mel Allen used to say, "so long, everybody."

-RDA- -->

2009 All-Tournament Team
Posted at 1:17 p.m. CT

C    Diego Seastrunk, Rice
IF    James Ewing, Southern Miss
IF    Rick Hague, Rice
IF    Josh Prince, Tulane
IF    Anthony Rendon, Rice
OF   Nick Boullosa, Tulane
OF   Steven Sultzbaugh, Rice
OF   Trent Whitehead, East Carolina
DH   Corey Stevens, Southern Miss
P    JR Ballinger, Southern Miss
P    Ryan Berry, Rice
P    Todd McInnis, Southern Miss
P    Taylor Wall, Rice
Tournament MVP: Anthony Rendon, Rice

-RDA- -->

Rice Wins! 8-6
Posted at 1:07 p.m. CT
It's a final. Rice 8, Southern Miss 6. The Owls win the 2009 C-USA Tournament Championship, their third tournament title in four years.

-RDA- -->

Rice Up, 8-6
Posted at 1:00 p.m. CT
Back and forth we go. Rice scored two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning to move ahead, 8-6.

-RDA- -->

Tied Again
Posted at 12:46 p.m. CT
Just as soon as Rice took the lead, Southern Miss tied it up. Freshman Kameron Brunty launched a ball over the right field wall, scoring Corey Stevens and him to make it 6-6. A crowd of 3,219 is being treated to a gem on this Sunday (now) afternoon.

-RDA- -->

Rice Back on Top
Posted at 12:29 p.m. CT
Rice moved back on top, 6-4 in the bottom of the seventh inning. Diego Seastrunk provided the big hit, roping a two-out, two-run double down the right field line to score Rick Hague and Brock Holt.

-RDA- -->

Golden Eagles Dodge a Bullet
Posted at 12:11 p.m. CT
Southern Miss just got out of a threat in the bottom of the sixth. With runners at first and third (aided by Taylor Walker's error), Corky Palmer brough in closer Collin Cargill to pitch to Stephen Sultzbaugh. Cargill got him to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to halt the threat.

-RDA- -->

Two-out rally allows Southern Miss to tie
Posted at 11:56 a.m. CT
With two out, Corey Stevens doubled and Kameron Brunty walked, sending Taylor Wall out of the game and Jared Rogers in to pitch for Rice. He walked the first batter he faced (Joey Archer) to load the bases and then gave up a bases-clearing double to Tyler Koelling. Archer narrowly scored the third run, as catcher Diego Seastrunk dropped the throw from left fielder Michael Fuda, which advanced Koelling to third. B.A. Vollmuth then singled sharply to center, scoring Koelling and tying the game.

All five of the Golden Eagles hits in this ballgame have come with two-out.

Heading to the bottom of the sixth and we are knotted up at 4-4.

-RDA- -->

Rice Doubles its Lead
Posted at 11:34 a.m. CT
Rice has added to its lead

Todd McInnis left the game with one out in the fifth inning. Here are his numbers: 4.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K, 71 pitches Cody Schlagel came out of the bullpen and surrendered a single to Brock Holt to load the bases. Southern Miss then turned to JR Balllinger, who threw eight innings against East Carolina on Thursday night. He came in and struck out Rick Hague looking, but Diego Seastrunk reached on a ball that went by Taylor Walker's glove for an error that scored two runs to give the Owls a 4-0 advantage.

-RDA- -->

Taylor Made ending to Inning
Posted at 11:17 a.m. CT
Southern Miss posed a threat in the top of the fifth inning. B.A. Vollmuth hit a two-out double and Travis Graves drew the first Southern Miss walk of the game. But, Taylor Wall got Taylor Walker to strike out, ending the threat

We go to the bottom of the fifth, it's still Rice 2, Southern Miss 0.

-RDA- -->

Through Three Innings
Posted at 10:51 a.m. CT
The first three innings are in the book at Pete Taylor Park and its still Rice 2, Southern Miss 0.

Taylor Wall is off to a strong start for Rice, allowing only a hit batsmen through three innings. Todd McInnis has given up two runs, three hits and struck out three for Southern Miss.

-RDA- -->

Owls on the Board First
Posted at 10:27 a.m. CT
C-USA Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year Anthony Rendon just put Rice up 2-0, launching a Todd McInnis pitch over the left-center field wall. It was the 19th home run of the season, which puts him in the lead in that category in Conference USA this season. His next home run will mkae just the seventh player in Rice history to hit 20 or more homers in a season.

We go to the second inning with the Owls leading, 2-0.

-RDA- -->

Championship Game Pre-game
Posted at 9:51 a.m. CT
We're minutes away from the the 2009 C-USA Baseball Tournament Championship Game. Final preparations are being made to the field and fans are filing in to the Pete.

Conference USA Pitcher of the Year Todd McInnis will take the mound for Southern Miss. He is 8-4 with a 2.68 ERA on the season with 66 strikeouts and 23 walks. On Wednesday, he allowed one run on six hits over six innings in the win over Tulane.

Rice counters with left-hander Taylor Wall (6-5, 3.86 ERA, 71 K, 33 BB). He pitched Rice's opening game win over Marshall, tossing a complete-game, seven-inning shutout, striking out five and allowing only three hits.

-RDA- -->

Good morning from the Pete
Posted at 8:39 a.m. CT
It's championship Sunday in Hattiesburg. The rain held off through the night and the field appears ready to play.

The two head coaches, the umpires and tournament administrators just walked the field to make sure that everything was in good condition.

The forecast is that the showers should continue to hold off until early afternoon, so it appears that the window should be long enough to get this one in.

-RDA- -->

May 23, 2009

Posted at 6:27 p.m. CT
Due to the forecast of inclement weather in the Hattiesburg area on Sunday afternoon, the start time of the 2009 C-USA Baseball Championship Game has been moved up. Rice and Southern Miss will now face each other at 10:00 a.m. CDT at Pete Taylor Park.

Due to the NCAA Regional selection process, the championship game must be completed on Sunday.

-RDA- -->

May 22, 2009

The End of Day Three
Posted at 10:45p.m. CT
Day Three is done. No. 5 seed and host Southern Miss claimed a 3-1 win against No. 4 seed Tulane to advance to the C-USA Tournament championship game. The Golden Eagles will face No. 2 seed Rice at 1 p.m., Sunday, in head coach Corky Palmer's final appearance at Pete Taylor Park.

Kudos to USM reliever Josh Fields, who entered the game in the top of the sixth inning with the bases loaded, one out and a 2-0 count to the batter but forced a pop-up and a strikeout to end the threat. Fields, who recorded his first save of the season, struck out five in 3.2 shutout innings to seal the deal for the Golden Eagles.

Due to the threat of rain forcing a revised schedule and the results of the final two games Friday, there will be no games Saturday at the C-USA Touranment as rain is expected to pelt the Hattiesburg area. That's a good thing for all the Tournament workers from Conference USA and Southern Miss that have worked 12 games during the last three days and deserve a much-needed break.

Thank you, Mother Nature, for holding off the rain Friday night. It is much appreciated. The check from Conference USA is in the mail.

-JAC- -->

Doubling It Up
Posted at 10:05 p.m. CT
Southern Miss doubled its lead in the bottom of the sixth inning when Tyler Koelling's two-out double to right center plated Corey Stevens. The Golden Eagles stole the momentum from the top of the inning when they escaped from a bases-loaded, one out jam and brought it into their dugout. Let's see if they can keep it there.

We're heading for the final three innings, and the host Golden Eagles own a 3-1 lead.

-JAC- -->

A Pitcher for Every Baserunner
Posted at 9:55 p.m. CT
Southern Miss has a 2-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning, but the Green Wave is threatening with the bases loaded and only one out. The Golden Eagles have used four different pitchers in this inning with each of the first three hurlers responsible for a different runner on base. At third base, Tulane's Nick Boullosa was put on by USM starter Jeff Stanley. At second base, Tulane's Josh Prince was put on by Jonathan Johnston and at first base, Tulane's Sam Honeck was put on by Scott Copeland

Don't think I've ever seen that before.

Amazingly, Southern Miss wiggled out of that jam. With a 2-0 count and the bases loaded, Josh Fields forced Jeremy Schaffer to pop up in the infield and then struck out Seth Henry to energize the USM faithful at The Pete.

-JAC- -->

Finally, An Update
Posted at 9:30 p.m. CT
It took nearly an hour, but we finally have a scoring update from Hattiesburg. James Ewing's sacrifice fly to right field scored B.A. Vollmuth from third base and gave Southern Miss a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth.

Outfielder Drew Allain had a chance to make a play at the plate, but his throw was up the third base line, and Vollmuth scored easily.

We're going to the top of the sixth inning, and host Southern Miss is looking to avoid the if necessary game Saturday afternoon.

-JAC- -->

Golden Eagles, Golden Nuggets
Posted at 8:40 p.m. CT
Thanks to Southern Miss SID Jason Kirksey for this note on the Golden Eagles

USM has scored 21 runs during the C-USA Tournament. Of those, 12 have scored when USM had two outs in an inning, including each of the last six.

Clutch hitting is always a key during tournament play, and the Golden Eagles have gotten that all tournament long. That's why they are in the drivers' seat to win Bracket Two.

One more thing, tonight's USM starter on the mound, Jeff Stanley, is the nephew of former Major League All-Star Mike Stanley. Uncle Mike enjoyed a 15-year career with the Rangers, Yankees (Boo, Hiss), Red Sox and As.

-JAC- -->

And We Are Tied
Posted at 8:30 p.m. CT
The Golden Eagles jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on Kameron Brunty's RBI-single, but Tulane's Jared Dyer blasted an opposite-field solo homer to right field to knot the game at 1-1. It was Dyer's tournament-leading second home run.

We're going to the bottom of the second inning tied at 1-1.

Tourney Tater Tally: 10 (UCF 2, Houston 2, Southern Miss 2, Tulane 2, East Carolina 1, Rice 1) -JAC- -->

Day Three Dementia
Posted at 8:15 p.m. CT
We are coming to the end of Day Three here at the Conference USA Tournament, and you can tell that workers here are running out of gas.

If you saw earlier in the blog, you would have thought that Rice's Michael Fuda hit an inside-the-park home run. While that rare feat did occur, it was Owl outfielder Chad Mozingo who did it.

Also, I mentioned that Rice was the No. 1 seed in the Tournament. Not so fast, my friend. That would be East Carolina. The Owls were the No. 2 seed.

Finally, even Conference USA assistant commissioners are human. I mentioned to C-USA administratior Russ Anderson a great note from Rice baseball SID John Sullivan about the 151-game history of the Rice-Houston series. But when it came down to putting it into the blog, the note turned into the 151-year history between the Owls and Cougars.

Sorry, Russ. While both schools have a long, proud history, they weren't battling toward the end of the Civil War.

When you have been working 17-hour days for the last three days, small boo-boos can happen. The trick is to keep them small and few, and everyone here has done just that. We've been getting to the ballpark around 7:30 a.m., each day and have not returned to our hotel rooms until 1:30 a.m., the next morning. As a result, we are all fighting bouts of loopiness.

Despite the minor miscues, this has been one of the best-run tournaments I have been a small part (both literally and figuratively) of. Southern Miss assistant AD Jack Duggan and his staff of Tim Andrzejewski, Shirley Jones-Hill, Jason Kirksey and Ty Stewart and the aforementioned Russ Anderson have run a professional yet fun press box and media hospitality area.

These good people have made the work for the SIDs, coaches, student-athletes and members of the media easier and more efficient. In 2010, the University of Houston will play host to the Conference USA Tournament. I hope that we run a tournament half as well and half as much fun as the good folks at Southern Miss have.

-JAC- -->

Tulane-Southern Miss Getting Ready to Start
Posted at 8:05 p.m. CT
The final game of Day Three between No. 4 seed Tulane and No. 5 seed Southern at the 2009 Conference USA Tournament is about to start, and fans should buckle up. This one should be a doozy.

Southern Miss knocked Tulane into the losers' bracket during the first-round game, but the Green Wave fought their way through the bracket to force the rematch. Tulane must defeat Southern Miss tonight and again Saturday to move into the C-USA Tournament championship game. Whoever wins the Bracket Two bout will face No. 2 seed Rice in the Tournament title contest at 1 p.m., Sunday.

. Tonight's pitching matchup features a pair of southpaw. Tulane will start Matt Petitor (5-2, 5.16 ERA< 43 Ks, 61.0 IP) against Southern Miss' Jeff Stanley (3-1, 4.24 ERA, 18 Ks, 34.0 IP). A lot of credit must be give to the Southern Miss grounds crew. The Rice-Houston game ended only 30 minutes or so ago, but the crew worked hard and quickly to get the field ready for an 8 p.m., start tonight. We are racing a band of nasty weather that could be upon the Hattiesburg area in the new few hours or so.

Conference USA and Southern Miss administrators are doing all they can to get this last game of the day in the books. With 100 percent chance of rain expected for Saturday, finishing this last game tonight will be a tremendous help in playing the complete schedule of Tournament games.

Come on, Mother Nature; you've been pretty nice to us so far. Give us a few more hours, and you can have Saturday off. We promise.

-JAC- -->

Rice Reaches Title Tilt
Posted at 7:31 p.m. CT
It's a final at Pete Taylor Park. In the first-ever meeting outside the state of Texas in the 151-game history between Rice and Houston, the Owls defeat the Cougars, 7-2.

With the victory, the Owls advance to the championship game for the third time in four years as a member of Conference USA.

-RDA- -->

Owls Add Two More
Posted at 7:15 p.m. CT
No. 2 seed Rice added two more runs in the top of the eighth inning, thanks to Anthony Rendon's RBI-single and a passed ball. The Owls lead No. 3 seed Houston 7-2 heading to the bottom of the eighth inning.

-JAC- -->

Inside the Park Ranger
Posted at 6:45 p.m. CT
Now, there is something you don't see everyday.

After Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon reached on a UH infield error, Rice outfielder Chad Mozingo hit a towering fly ball that bounced off the wall in right center away from two Cougar outfielders.

When the relay throw from the outfield went awry, a chugging Mozingo ran safely home with a two-run, inside-the-park home run and a 5-2 Rice lead through six-and-a-half innings.

It looks like the Owls are going to advance to the C-USA Tournament championship game for the third time in the last four seasons unless the Cougars mount a comback soon.

-JAC- -->

Cougars Roar Back
Posted at 6:30 p.m. CT
The Cougars have roared back and pulled to within a run. With runners on the corner and one out, David Murphy's infield single plated Caleb Ramsey for a 3-2 Rice lead.

UH continued to threaten with runners at first and second, but Rice starter Mike Ojala struck out William Kankel -- a glaring omission of mine on the Tod Meisner Conference USA Tournament All-Name Team. After a walk to Jake Runte loaded the bases, Rice skipper Wayne Graham went to the bullpen and brought in reliever Matt Evers.

Cougar pinch hitter Tom Wertz then flew out to right field to end the UH rally.

-JAC- -->

Chuck Norris Fears Chris Wallace
Posted at 6:05 p.m. CT
Houston catcher Chris Wallace led off the fourth inning with a towering, opposite-field home run to right field for the Cougars' first mark on the scoreboard. It was Wallace's team-leading ninth homer of the season and pulled the Cougars to within 3-1 in the bottom of the fourth

Tourney Tater Tally: 9 (UCF 2, Houston 2, Southern Miss 2, East Carolina 1, Rice 1, Tulane 1) -JAC- -->

Rice Extends Lead
Posted at 5:45 p.m. CT
Rice centerfielder Steven Sultzbaugh slapped an RBI-single through the right side to score Diego Seastrunk in the top of the third inning and hand the Owls a 3-0 lead. That chased UH starter Mo Wiley -- the Cougars' second freshman starter today -- and brought William Kankel to the mound from his starting DH spot.

Through three innings, Rice has outhit the Cougars 6-1. The Cougars can't afford to give up too many more runs, especially with a lineup that is doesn't have a lot of power.

-JAC- -->

We're Back
Posted at 5:25 p.m. CT
After a 48-minute rain delay, we have returned to action, and No. 2 seed Rice got out of a small jam, thanks to a pickoff of Houston catcher Chris Wallace from second base. We are in the top of the third inning, and Rice leads Houston 2-0 during the third game of the day.

-JAC- -->

Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head
Posted at 4:35 p.m. CT
The Cougars didn't do much with their leadoff single in the bottom of hte second inning... but it was Mother Nature's fault.

We've just gone into our first rain delay of the day, starting at 4:31 p.m. The Southern Miss grounds crew did a great job getting the tarp on the field quickly and fortunately, the radar seems to show a small band of showers. Hopefully, this won't be a long delay, but we will keep you posted on the latest.

-JAC- -->

Owls Out Early
Posted at 4:30 p.m. CT
DH Ryan Lewis gave No. 2 seed Rice a 2-0 lead in the top of the second with a two-run double off the base of the right-field wall. Houston catcher Chris Wallace just led off the bottom of the frame with a single through the left side, so let's see what the Cougars can do with the leadoff runner on.

-JAC- -->

Crosstown Rivals Square Off in Hattiesburg
Posted at 3:50 p.m. CT
Crosstown rivals Rice and Houston will square off in about 15 minutes during Game 11 of the Conference USA Tournament.

These two teams faced one another five times during the regular season with the Owls taking a 4-1 advantage in those games. They met on each other's home field once as non-conference games and then played the C-USA regular-season series at Cougar Field on May 1-3.

The Cougars won the first game of the C-USA series behind a solid outing from righthander Jared Ray, but the Owls rallied to win the final two games closely for the current state of affairs.

Although they are long-time rivals, this is only the fourth time that the two teams have played one another during a conference tournament. UH leads the series in those games 2-1 but the Owls are 1-0 against UH at the C-USA Tournament.

Today's pitching match-up features Rice righthander Mike Ojala (3-0, 1.63 ERA, 59 Ks, 49.2 IP) against UH freshman righthander Mo Wiley (2-3, 6.31 ERA, 32 Ks, 41.1 IP).

If the Owls win, they advance to the C-USA Tournament championship game for the third time in the last four years and will meet the winner of the Tulane/Southern Miss bracket. If the Cougars win, we will be right back here at 9 a.m., Saturday with the winner of that game moving on the title contest.

I can't wait to see what's going to happen this afternoon. It should be an intense contest. First pitch is less than 10 minutes away!

-JAC- -->

East Carolina... We Hardly Knew Ye
Posted at 2:50 p.m. CT
No. 4 seed Tulane held on and upset No. 1 seed East Carolina 3-0 to advance to the C-USA Tournament semifinals. After seven shutout innings from starter Josh Zeid, reliever Preston Claiborne threw the final two shutout innings to help lead the Green Wave.

That sets the stage for a rematch against No. 5 seed and host Southern Miss at 7:30 p.m., Friday. With USM and Tulane natural and bitter rivals, the Pete should be rocking on a Friday night in Hattiesburg. Josh Prince and Scott Powell, the top two hitters in the Tulane lineup, combined to go 5-for-8 with a run, double and two RBIs, and that would be enough for the Green Wave hurlers.

This marked the second straight season that the No. 1 seed failed to reach the Tournament's semifinals. It also was the second time that East Carolina won the regular-season title but failed to reach the Tournament's final four.

The Pirates were shutout out for the first time since late in the 2007 season, snapping a streak of 143 straight games. Although the Pirates are disappointed with Friday's game, they still have NCAA postseason plans with an impressive 42-17 overall record. Unfortunately, ECU's plans to play host to an NCAA Regional may have taken a hit this week.

-JAC- -->

Room to Breathe
Posted at 2:50 p.m. CT
Tulane has pushed its lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth after a Tulane miscue in the infield, and now is only three outs away from moving to the C-USA Tournament semifinals.

-JAC- -->

Kneel Before Zeid
Posted at 2:35 p.m. CT
Hats off to Tulane starter Joey Zeid.

With his team fighting its way through the losers' bracket, Zeid held No. 1 seed East Carolina to only seven hits with a pair of strikeouts in seven shutout innings. Reliever Preston Claiborne is now on the hill for the Green Wave in the top of the eighth and Tulane continues to lead 2-0.

If the Green Wave are able to go far in this tournament, Zeid's performance -- which saved a lot of innings for the Green Wave bullpen -- will play a big factor.

-JAC- -->

Gun in Right Field
Posted at 2:20 p.m. CT
Although he doesn't have a hit today, Tulane right fielder Drew Allain will be remembered by Green Wave fans for his defensive performance today.

Allain just ended the East Carolina seventh inning by throwing out Dustin Harrington at the plate. We're in the bottom of the seventh inning and Tulane has a runners on the corneres with one out while clinging to a 2-0 lead.

-JAC- -->

Bad Hoo-Doo
Posted at 2:05 p.m. CT
No. 1 seed East Carolina is looking to avoid some tough recent history. A year ago, Rice won the regular-season title but failed to reach the C-USA Tournament semifinals.... It was only the third time in the 14-year history of the C-USA Tournament history that the No. 1 seed did not reach the tournament's final four.

. The Pirates are trailing 2-0 in the top of the sixth -- and by the way, we just had our 10th Tulane Switcheroo -- and looking to avoid extending that dubious streak to two straight years.

In 2004, East Carolina won the regular-season championship... but were unable to make it to the Tournament semifinals.

Still, there's a long way to go in this game, and the potent ECU offense can put a bunch of crooked numbers on the scoreboard in a hurry when they get going... But the Pirates better not way much longer.

-JAC- -->

Green Wave Grabs the Lead
Posted at 2 p.m. CT
Scott Powell's two-out, two-run single down the left-field line plated a pair of runners and handed Tulane a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fifth. Got to be honest, I was expecting some more offense today, but we still have four innings to go in this game.

Good news.... although the skies are still filled with grey clouds, the sun is peeking through at times and pockets of blue can be seen in the sky. Looks like we are going to get all four games in today.

-JAC- -->

The Newest Golden Eagle
Posted at 1:55 p.m. CT
Congrats to Southern Miss deputy director of athletics Scott Carr and his wife Pam on the birth of their child. Katie Madison Carr, coming in at 6 pounds, 4 ounces, 19.5 inches, joined Golden Eagle Nation at 12:46 p.m., Friday. Best wishes to Scott and Pam. Hope you have had plenty of sleep leading up to this.

-JAC- -->

Uni Watch Update
Posted at 1:35 p.m. CT
Now it's time to stop down for a Uni Watch update, sponsored by Tod Meisner

Both teams are sporting their white caps with color bills, a good look. East Carolina and Tulane are joined by Marshall as the three C-USA schools that don the all-white caps with color bills.

In subbing for Tod as the Uni Watch consultant for this tournament, I am declaring these Tulane uniforms as my favorite in this tourney. The "Green" Wave are wearing sky blue jerseys with Tulane in white cursive above the two pelicans resting on each end of a bat (think St. Louis Cardinals, Tod's favorite team). The jerseys are accented by white pants and dark green Socks.

Speaking of uniforms, it is worth pointing out that ECU third baseman Drew Schieber did not pull his socks up for last night's game against Southern Miss. If you read our earlier Uni Watch blog entry, you know that when ECU wins the first game of a series or tournament, Schieber hikes the pants and shows some more Sock. He didn't do this last night and the Pirates lost. For the record, his pant legs are all the way down again today.

-RDA- -->

A One, And A Two, And A Helluva Switcheroo
Posted at 1 p.m. CT
Interesting defensive philosophy implemented by Tulane this week.

Seth Henry is regularly the starting second baseman, while Steve Mortiz is regularly the third baseman for the Green Wave. However, that changes with an opposing hitter who regularly pulls the ball steps in the batter's box.

In that case, the two players swap defensive positions. Henry moves to the hot corner, and Mortiz heads to second base.

According to Tulane assistant SID and C-USA Tournament rookie Colleen LeMasters, Henry has quicker hands and has experience at third base, playing that position during his freshman year three seasons ago. Moritz is a catcher by trade and not a natural third baseman; however, he is even less of a second baseman, thus the rationale for the change.

We've already had one edition of the Tulane Shuffle and will keep you posted with more.

-JAC- -->

Getting Ready for Game 10
Posted at 11:50 a.m. CT
No. 1 seed East Carolina and No. 4 seed Tulane are getting warmed up for the second game of the day.

This pitching match-up features a pair of righthanders. For East Carolina -- Brad Mincey (9-4, 3.02 ERA, 58 Ks, 65.2 IP); For Tulane -- Josh Zeid (5-0, 4.41 ERA, 43 Ks, 69.1 IP).

The winner of this games advances to the C-USA Tournament semifinals and must defeat host and No. 5 seed Southern Miss twice, beginning at 7:30 p.m., Friday, to advance to the C-USA Tournament title game. First pitch is less than 40 minutes away, so stay tuned to ConferenceUSA.com for the latest.

-JAC- -->

Goodnight Says Good Day to UAB
Posted at 11:45 a.m. CT
With runners on the corners in the bottom of the ninth and only one out, UH closer Donnie Joseph induced a ground-ball double play to end the game and give the Cougars a 4-1 win against No. 6 seed UAB in the first game of the day Friday.

Freshman righthander Michael Goodnight -- and first-time member of the Tod Meisner Conference USA Tournament All-Name Team -- was solid, holding the Blazers to one run off six hits with a career-high 10 strikeouts in another career-best 8.1 innings. With the Cougars coming out of the losers' bracket, an outing like that which minimizes the strain on a bullpen cannot be overemphasized.

The Cougars advanced to the C-USA Tournament semifinals for the fifth time in the last six years (2007 is exception) and the eighth time during their 13-year history in Conference USA history. It also was the second straight season that the Cougars eliminated from the C-USA postseason event.

UH now advances in the loser's bracket to face No. 2 seed Rice at 4 p.m., Friday. The Cougars must defeat their crosstown rival twice to advance to Sunday's championship game. UAB ends the season at 31-26, the Blazers' most wins since 2005.

-JAC- -->

Bored a Bit?
Posted at 11:15 a.m. CT
Normally, I would not publicize another league on the Conference USA blog, but this answers the age-old question. Ever wondered what happens when you have two groups of 25 of 18-21 year-old-baseball players bored to death during a unending rain delay? Check out this video from the Big East Conference Tournament -- courtesy of former UH assistant SID and current Big East champion SID Ryan Koslen -- and find out.

The River-dancer from USF about halfway through the video... outstanding. When that guy breaks through the tunnel, watch the reaction of his teammates as he goes into his routine.

So far, the rainy weather has held off, though the skies are threatening. Hopefully, we can avoid any rain delays today, but if we are forced to stall for the weather, don't be surprised if insanity like this breaks out. Baseball players are some of the goofiest student-athletes with whom you would ever work.

-JAC- -->

Leadoff Streak No More
Posted at 10:44 a.m. CT
Houston shortstop Blake Kelso -- making his 123rd consecutive start for the Cougars -- grounded out to third base to end the Cougars' streak of leadoff batters on at six innings. We're singing during the seventh inning stretch here at the Pete and the Cougars lead 4-1.

-JAC- -->

Streak Continues
Posted at 10:30 a.m. CT
The Cougars' leadoff streak continues. Junior catcher Chris Wallace just reached first on an UAB overthrow to first base to leadoff the top of the sixth inning. Let's see if the Cougars can capitalize the Blazers' second miscue of the day.

Wallace is another Cougar player who has overcome a lot this season. In the Cougars' 5-3 loss to Texas A&M at the Houston College Classic on March 3, Wallace was hit in the face by a pitch. He broke the orbital bone below his right eye and required surgery that inserted four metal plates and more than 20 screws into his face. Wallace missed a month of the season as he recovered from the gruesome injury.

The Cypress, Texas, native returned to the lineup on April and hit two home runs against UTSA in his first game back. He continued that hot streak later in the week and was later named the C-USA Hitter of the Week (thanks Russ for that).

Despite playing 19 fewer games than his teammates, Wallace leads the Cougars with eight home runs -- doubling his closest competitor on the team -- and ranks second with 32 RBIs. For all of that, he was named to the All-Conference USA Second Team.

Chuck Norris wears Chris Wallace pajamas.

Nope, the Cougars couldn't bring Wallace around but still lead 4-1 in the bottom of the sixth inning.

-JAC- -->

There's the Reason
Posted at 10:15 a.m. CT
Thanks to UAB SID Tyson Mathews for this nugget. The Cougars are up 4-1 in the top of the fifth inning, and their play to start each frame is a reason why.

The Cougars have put their leadoff runners on base in each of the first five innings. As a result, the Cougars have scored at least one run in three of the five innings.

Through the first five innings, the Cougars have rapped out nine hits.

-JAC- -->

Trimming the Deficit
Posted at 10:10 a.m. CT
UAB DH Digger Towe -- captain of the Tod Meisner Conference USA Tournament All-Name Team -- just gave the Blazers their first run of the day with a double to right field, scoring outfielder Brint Hardy from second base, in the bottom of the fourth inning.

While head coach Brian Shoop must be happy about cutting into that lead, he's probably a little disappointed in the way things went for the Blazers in that frame. The Blazers had runners on first and second with no outs, but Cody McMurry struck out and Jonathan Merritt was mowed down at third base in a double-steal attempt to stall the rally.

-JAC- -->

Overcoming a Lot
Posted at 10 a.m. CT
Redshirt freshman first baseman David Murphy just launched the first home run of his career over the left-field wall to lead off the fourth inning and give the Cougars a 4-0 lead. He was the only regular Cougar starter who did not have a home run this season, but that distinction is now finished.

Murphy has a heroic story and not just because of his play today. Joining the Cougars out of Beaumont's West Brook High a year ago, he was diagnosed with leukemia in the fall of 2007 and was forced to sit out the entire season. After months of treatment at Texas Children's Hospital, including chemotherapy that made his hair fall out, Murphy is now cancer-free and was able to join his Cougar teammates on the field in 2009.

He and his Cougar teammates regularly volunteer their time during the off-season to speak with the kids at Texas Children's Cancer Center.

-JAC- -->

Rolling Early
Posted at 9:45 a.m. CT
The Cougar offense continues to pour it on during the first game of the day. Chase Dempsay's double down the left-field line plated Caleb Ramsey for a 3-0 UH lead in the top of the third and knocked UAB starter Beau Pender from the game. UAB reliever Blake Huddleston now has entered the game and will try to minimize the damage.

-JAC- -->

Cougars are Growling
Posted at 9:15 a.m. CT
It didn't take long for No. 3 seed Houston to put its mark on the scoreboard in the day's first elimination game. After reaching on a fielder's choice, Caleb Ramsey stole second, moved to third after an error on the throw to second and gave the Cougars a 1-0 advantage on Chase Dempsay's RBI-single up the middle.

Following a walk to William Kankel, Chris Wallace plated Dempsay with a sharp RBI-single up the middle. After half an inning, the Cougars lead UAB 2-0.

-JAC- -->

Good Morning from The Pete
Posted at 8:53 a.m. CT
Good morning from Hattiesburg. We didn't originally expect to be here for another 9 a.m. game, but impending inclement weather forced a change in the schedule and this afternoon's games have been moved up.

We'll hope for the best on the weather front, but it's going to be a dicey proposition. Humidity is high and chances of rain are as much as 70% at some points today, so we'll just hope for the best.

For the fifth time in the last two C-USA Tournaments, UAB and Houston are squaring off against each other to open today's action. The teams have split those first four meetings, which includes UH winning twice in last year's semifinals to eliminate the Blazers.

Freshman RHP Michael Goodnight (4-5, 4.92 ERA, 48 K, 27 BB) will start for Houston, while UAB counters with Beau Pender (3-4, 5.92 ERA, 60 K, 31 BB).

-RDA- -->

May 21, 2009

Day Two is Done
Posted at 11:20 p.m. CT
Day Two at the 2009 Conference USA Tournament is finished, and we are poised to have a Rice-Southern Miss championship game Sunday afternoon.

However, we still have a lot of baseball to be played, and it will be interesting to see how teams react to the revised Tournament schedule. Houston and UAB start the day Friday at 9 a.m.., and will be followed by East Carolina-Tulane at 12:30 p.m. The winners of those games move on to face Rice and Southern Miss, respectively, later in the day.

It wasn't an easy choice for both Conference USA and Southern Miss administrators to adjust the schedule, but you can rest assured they had the best interests for the overall Tournament at heart.

Hopefully, the wet weather will stay away, but the forecast looks gloomy in places. As we sign off tonight from Hattiesburg, the tarp is on the field and a pack of baseball fans are doing anti-rain dances outside the front gates, so here's hoping the baseball gods are satisfied with that offering. We'll see you bright and early Friday morning for the Cougars and the Blazers, but if wet weather starts causing problems, we'll keep you informed about that too. Have a good night, and stay tuned to ConferenceUSA.com for the latest news.

-JAC- -->

Revised Tournament Schedule
Posted at 10:45 p.m. CT

Session Five

9 a.m. CDT - Game 9 - Houston vs. UAB
12:30 p.m. CDT - Game 10 - Tulane vs. East Carolina

Session Six
4 p.m. CDT
- Game 11 - Rice vs. Houston/UAB
7:30 p.m. CDT - Game 12 - Southern Miss vs. East Carolina/Tulane

Session Seven
9 a.m. CDT
- Game 13 (if necessary, same teams as game 11)
12:30 p.m. CDT - Game 14 (if necessary, same teams as game 12)

Session Eight
1:00 p.m. CDT
- Championship Game (CBS C)

-JAC- -->

Southern Miss Poised to Take Bracket Two
Posted at 10:35 p.m. CT
Scoring five runs in its last two innings, Southern Miss continued its postseason run with a 5-2 win against No. 1 seed East Carolina during the finale of day two.

Southern Miss starter J.R. Ballinger allowed two runs (one earned) off seven hits with five strikeouts in a career-high eight innings to lead the Golden Eagles. Although he allowed two runs through the first three innings, the Moss Point, Miss., native settled in to put goose eggs on the scoreboard during his final five frames.

Joey Archer posted two RBIs, and B.A. Vollmuth's two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh ignited most of the 2,431 fans in attendance at Pete Taylor Park.

East Carolina starter Seth Maness collected the loss after giving up five runs off seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 7.1 innings and fell to 9-1. It was only the third loss in Maness' career to date.

The Golden Eagles advance in the winners' bracket and now must lose twice to NOT advance to the C-USA Tournament championship game. East Carolina, which saw its seven-game winning streak snapped, falls into the losers' bracket and faces No. 4 seed Tulane at 12:30 p.m., Friday, in an elimination game. The winner of that East Carolina/Tulane game must then defeat Southern Miss twice to move into the Tournament title game.

-JAC- -->

Golden Eagles Fly Into Lead
Posted at 10:22 p.m. CT
With the bases loaded, East Carolina brought in its closer, Seth Simmons, to try and close the door on a Southern Miss threat. It didn't work that way.

Designated hitter Corey Stevens hit a deep fly ball nearly to the wall in right field, scoring James Ewing. The next batter, Joey Archer, singled to right field, scoring Kameron Brunty and Bo Davis to make it 5-2.

-RDA- -->

Knotted Up
Posted at 9:59 p.m. CT
With one swing of the bat, this game is tied.

Southern Miss freshman B.A. Vollmuth, who took over for Brian Dozier at shortstop in April, hit a two-run home run just over the outstretched glove of ECU rightfielder Austin Homan to tie the score at 2-2. It was the first home run of the day in what has been a low-scoring day at Pete Taylor Park.

Tourney Tater Tally: 7 (UCF 2, Southern Miss 1, East Carolina 1, Rice 1, Tulane 1, Houston 1) -RDA- -->

This One's for Tod
With the economy struggling, Conference USA recently was forced to make some cutbacks in travel. As a result, assistant director of media relations, baseball fan, fellow St. Louis Cardinals supporter and all-around good guy Tod Meisner was unable to make the trip to Hattiesburg for the Tournament.

In previous years, Tod handled most of the blogging duties with a unique perspective. In addition to the regular scoring updates on the blog, Tod added notes with a special emphasis on uniforms.

He could not be with us this week, but we in the press box feel his spirit here. With that in mind, I am proud to present the 2009 Tod Meisner Conference USA Tournament All-Name Team.

2009 Tod Meisner Conference USA Tournament All-Name Team
Ryan Wood - East Carolina
Stephen Batts - East Carolina (special props to the Pirates with the 2-3 hitters in their starting lineup being Wood-Batts)
* Sthil Sowers - East Carolina
Michael Goodnight - Houston
* Brandon Casamassima - Marshall
* Arik Sikula - Marshall
Thor Meeks - Marshall
* Diego Seastrunk - Rice
Moses Munoz - Southern Miss
* Digger Towe - UAB
Trey Vice - UAB
* Jaager Good - UCF
* Kiko Vasquez - UCF
Drew Zizinia - Tulane

Head Coach Corky Palmer - Southern Miss
Assistant Coach Link Jarrett - East Carolina
* - Repeat Selections

-JAC- -->

Pieces of Two
Posted at 8:50 p.m. CT
The Pirates extended their lead to 2-0 when Brandon Henderson went down and smashed a two-strike, two-out double in the left-center gap in the top of the third inning. ECU has rapped out five hits through the first three innings and looks poised to take control of Bracket Two.

Also, stay tuned to our Blog. The Tod Meisner C-USA Tournament All-Name Team will be unveiled in the middle of the fifth inning.

-JAC- -->

Arrrrrrr.... Thar Be the Pirates
Posted at 8:25 p.m. CT
No. 1 East Carolina jumped out to an early 1-0 lead with a run in the top of the first inning. After ECU loaded the bases with one out, Brandon Henderson hit a ground ball to shortstop but beat out the double play to score Trent Whitehead from third base. Southern Miss leadoff hitter Taylor Walker just slapped a single up the middle to lead off the Golden Eagle first.

-JAC- -->

Wrapping Up Day Two
Posted at 8:10 p.m. CT
We are underway in Game Eight of the Conference USA Tournament featuring No. 1 East Carolina and No. 5 Southern Miss. After a rain delay, play has started, and this should be one of the better games of the tournament.

-JAC- -->

Another Rain Delay
Posted at 7:40 p.m. CT
We are currently in a rain delay before the start of our final game between No. 1 East Carolina and No. 5 Southern Miss. The radar looks promising, but the tarp is covering the infield. We are hoping to get started around 8:15 p.m.

When we do get started, tonight's pitching matchup features ECU righthander Seth Maness (9-0, 3.99 ERA, 76 Ks, 88.0 IP) against Southern Miss righty J.R. Ballinger (4-3, 4.29 ERA, 50 Ks, 63.0 IP).

Stay tuned to ConferenceUSA.com for the latest news.

C-USA Tournament All-Name Team to Debut Tonight
Posted at 7:10 p.m. CT
Be on the lookout. I will unveil the Tod Meisner Conference USA Tournament All-Name Team midway through tonight's final game featuring No. 1 East Carolina and No. 5 Southern Miss.

-JAC- -->

Revised Tournament Schedule
Posted at 7:05 p.m. CT

Session Five

9 a.m. CDT - Game 9 - Houston vs. UAB
12:30 p.m. CDT - Game 10 - Tulane vs. Southern Miss/East Carolina

Session Six
4 p.m. CDT
- Game 11 - Rice vs. Houston/UAB
7:30 p.m. CDT - Game 12 - Tulane/USM/ECU vs.USM/ECU

Session Seven
9 a.m. CDT
- Game 13 (if necessary, same teams as game 11)
12:30 p.m. CDT - Game 14 (if necessary, same teams as game 12)

Session Eight
1:00 p.m. CDT
- Championship Game (CBS C)

-JAC- -->

Rice In the Driver's Seat
Posted at 7:05 p.m. CT
No. 2 seed Rice scored five runs in the eighth inning to break open a close game and move into the driver's seat in bracket one for the C-USA Tournament championship game. The Owls enjoyed an 8-1 win against No. 6 seed UAB and now must lose twice to NOT make the Tournament championship game.

Pitcher Ryan Berry was exceptional, retiring 16 consecutive batters from the second through the seventh innings. Berry improved to 7-0, recording his fourth complete game of the season, and limited the Blazers to a season-low two hits.

Diego Seastrunkled all players with three RBIs, while Brock Holt, Michael Fuda, Steven Sultzbaugh and Craig Manuel each rapped out two hits.

UAB moves into the losers' bracket and faces No. 3 Houston at 9 a.m., Friday (see revised tournament schedule) in an elimination game. The Blazers enjoyed an 8-3 win against the Cougars in the opening game of the Tournament. Whoevers wins that game will face the Owls at 4 p.m., Friday.

-JAC- -->

Pouring It On
Posted at 6:30 p.m. CT
No. 2 seed Rice pushed its lead to 8-1 in the eighth inning, thanks in part to Craig Manuel's RBI-single and Steven Sultzbaugh's infield RBI-single. Southpaw Trey Vice came out of the bullpen for the Blazers and took a line drive off his leg that allowed Fuda to score from third, and Brock Holt's RBI-single to center plated Sultzbaugh. Rick Hague capped the impressive rally by scoring on a wild pitch from third base. It looks like the Owls are going to be in the driver's seat for a berth in the championship game.

-JAC- -->

We're Back
Posted at 6:04 p.m. CT
We are back underway at Pete Taylor Park following a 31 minute rain delay. UAB quickly made finished the bottom of the seventh inning by making two outs, so we head to the eighth inning with Rice on top, 3-1.

-RDA- -->

Let There Be Rain
Posted at 5:35 p.m. CT
Moments after Conference USA administrators announced the changes to the Tournament schedule, the skies opened up, and the umpires pulled the teams off the field. But just as soon as it started, the rain stopped.

Southern Miss facilities personnel went sprinting to the right-field line to pull the tarp out but are now standing around the tarp waiting for the next dose of rain. The skies are grey, and the mist that was falling now seems to have picked up a bit, so the grounds crew is unrolling the tarp in shallow right field as I type.

The delay began at 5:29 p.m., and hopefully, it won't be too long. Stay tuned to ConferenceUSA.com for the latest news.

-JAC- -->

Important Breaking News on Tournament Schedule
Posted at 5:30 p.m. CT
We have changes to the 2009 C-USA Tournament schedule. Due to the threat of impending inclement weather, C-USA and Southern Miss administrators, working with the league coaches, have adjusted the Tournament schedule.

The two games originally scheduled for 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. on Friday have been moved up to 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., respectively. The first two games that were originally scheduled for Saturday, at 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., have been moved to Friday, to be played at 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively.

The two if necessary games originally scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. will be moved up to 9 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The championship game remains scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday.

Here is the revised Tournament schedule:

Session Five

9 a.m. CDT - Game 9 - Houston vs. Rice/UAB
12:30 p.m. CDT - Game 10 - Tulane vs. Southern Miss/East Carolina
Session Six
4 p.m. CDT
- Game 11 - Rice/UAB vs. Houston/Rice/UAB
7:30 p.m. CDT - Game 12 - Tulane/USM/ECU vs.USM/ECU

Session Seven
9 a.m. CDT
- Game 13 (if necessary, same teams as game 11)
12:30 p.m. CDT - Game 14 (if necessary, same teams as game 12)

Session Eight
1:00 p.m. CDT
- Championship Game (CBS C)

I will keep you posted on any more schedule revision as I hear them. Stay tuned to ConferenceUSA.com for the latest news and notes.

-JAC- -->

Not for Long
Posted at 5:10 p.m. CT
The Owls grabbed their first lead on Diego Seastrunk's two-out, two-strike, two-run double in the top of the fifth inning. We're now in the bottom of the fifth, and the Blazers need to get their hitters going soon.

-JAC- -->

Tied at 1-1
Posted at 5 p.m. CT
Rice has battled back and tied the game with a single run in the top of the third on Diego Seastrucnk's sacrifice fly to left field. That's where we stand rignt now in the top of the fifth. Both starting pitchers have done well today and minimized what little offense their opponents have strung together at this point.

Rice has rapped out only three hits to this point, while the Blazers only have two. This looks like it's going to be a nail-biter all the way to the end.

-JAC- -->

The Birmingham-Southern Connection
Posted at 4:47 p.m. CT
Brian Shoop is in his third season as head coach at UAB and has led the Blazers to 31 wins so far, their first 30-win season since 2005. Before he took the reins of UAB he spent 17 successful seasons across town at Birmingham-Southern, where he is a member of the school's athletic Hall of Fame.

In 2007, he moved to the Blazers and took several of his Panthers players with him. Three of those players are still key contributors to the Green and Gold this season.

Chief among those players is senior outfielder Brint Hardy, a first team All-Conference USA selection. He has stolen a nation-leading 46 bases, while being thrown out only three times. Hardy is nine short of the UAB single-season record of 55, but just three shy of the school's career record with 88 steals in his three-year Blazer career.

Allen Aubin has been the Blazers regular catcher this season, smacking 11 doubles and driving in 18 runs.

James Oliver is a pitcher that has made nine starts and appeared in 15 games for UAB this season. He was also a candidate for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which is given to a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: Classroom, Character, Community, and Competition.

Additionally, UCF outfielder Brandon Romans, a second team All-Conference selection, played for Shoop at Birmingham-Southern.

-RDA- -->

Blazers Come Out... well, Blazing
Posted at 4:20 p.m. CT
It didn't take long for No. 6 seed UAB to jump out on Rice. Jonathan Merritt slapped a one-out triple down the right-field line and scored easily when Brint Hardy grounded out to third base. We're going to the second inning and UAB leads Rice 1-0.

On a side note to my co-workers Adam Quisenberry and Grant "Wool" Mehlhoff back in the Houston Sports Information Office, Rice pitcher Ryan Berry seems to have shaved off most of his All-America chops.

The Cougars hosted Rice on May 1-3, and we all were impressed with the facial hair "The Professor" was sporting. Rice fans know what I am talking about, so I will try to describe it. Before he cut it, Berry had sideburns that came down his face near his chin and then back up above his upper lip on each side. To make it simple, imagine a full beard, and then remove all the hair under your chin below your lower lip. That seems to be the easiest way to describe it, and Adam, Grant and I were impressed.

Sadly, it is no more.

-JAC- -->

Getting Ready for Game Seven
Posted at 3:55 p.m. CT
We are less than 10 minutes from the start of Game Seven. This will be the first winners' bracket game of the day with No. 6 seed UAB taking on No. 2 seed Rice. The winner of this game will be in the driver's seat of their bracket, needing to lose twice to be knocked out of the championship game. The loser faces No. 3 seed Houston in an elimination game scheduled for 3 p.m., Friday.

While this game seems like a slam dunk when looking at the seeds, college baseball fans know that won't be the case here. Less than a week ago, the Blazers won two of three games from Rice during the final series of the regular season. That knocked the Owls out of the No. 1 seed and out of a share of the Conference USA regular-season title.

In this game's pitching match-up, righthander Ryan Berry (6-0, 2.06 ERA, 49 Ks, 56.2 IP) will take the hill for Rice. UAB will counter with righthander Kyle Roberson (6-7, 5.74 ERA, 62 Ks, 73.2 IP).

-JAC- -->

Tulane Moves On, UCF Eliminated
Posted at 3:30 p.m. CT
Game Six is over with No. 4 seed Tulane taking a 7-3 win against No. 8 seed UCF. The Green Wave moves on to face the loser of the (1) East Carolina/(5) Southern Miss game at 6:30 p.m., Friday.

UCF ends its season with a 22-35 record.

Tulane starter Conrad Flynn earned the win and improved to 8-3 after allowing only three runs (one earned) off eight hits with three strikeouts in 6.2 innings. UCF starter Kyle Sweat picked up the loss and fell to 3-4 after giving up five runs off eight hits with a strikeout in 6.1 innings

However, Tulane shortstop Josh Prince was the start of the game, batting 5-for-5 with three runs and five stolen bases, becoming the first player in C-USA Tournament history to accomplish that feat. Prince now has swiped a team-high 48 bags this season.

-JAC- -->

Buying Insurance
Posted at 3:05 p.m. CT
Tulane pushed its lead back to 7-3 in the top of the eighth inning when Matt Ryan scored from third base on a wild pitch. We are now in the bottom of the ninth inning, and UCF needs to score at least four runs to keep their Tournament hopes alive. Stay tuned.

-JAC- -->

Day with the Knights
Posted at 2:45 p.m. CT
After falling behind 6-0, UCF cut that deficit in half with three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning. Colin Arnold plated the Knights' first run with an RBI double, and Brandon Romans added an two-run double. UCF continued to threaten with runners on first and second and two outs, but Tulane reliever Nick Pepitone struck out All-Name Team member Kiko Vazquez to quash the rally.

We're in the top of the eighth. Tulane has a runner on first and one out in the top of the eighth inning.

-JAC- -->

Champion Coaches
Posted at 2:37 p.m. CT
Tulane has a very unique distinction in that all three of its current assistant coaches not only played in the Conference USA Tournament, but played for Green Wave squads that won the tournament.

In Hattiesburg in 1996, after the tournament saw 56 home runs and six grand slams over the first four days, Jack Cressend pitched Tulane to a 2-0 shutout victory over regular season champion South Florida. Two years later at Zephyr Field in Metairie, La., Chad Sutter was an All-Conference catcher on a Green Wave squad that defeated Charlotte in the title game. In 2005, Billy Mohl was part of a Tulane pitching staff that would eventually find itself in Omaha for the College World Series after being declared tournament co-champions when inclement weather forced the tournament championship game to be postponed.

Now, these three are part of the staff of their college head coach, Rick Jones, as they try to lead the Greenies to their next C-USA title.

-RDA- -->

Green Wave Rolling In
Posted at 2:15 p.m. CT
Tulane pushed its lead to 6-0 in the top of the seventh on Scott Powell's one-out, RBI-single, a wild pitch that scored Josh Prince from third and Jeremy Schaffer's two-run single.

We're enjoying the seventh-inning stretch at Taylor Park, and the Knights need to put some runs on the scoreboard if they don't want end their season.

-JAC- -->

Posted at 1:25 p.m. CT
The Greenies pushed across another run in the top of the third to extend their lead to 2-0. Josh Prince doubled for the second time today and then stole third base. He then scored on a Scott Powell ground out, sending the Tulane fans in attendance into their famous run-scoring chant of Hallabaloo: "A One, A Two. A Helluva Hullabaloo. Hul-ah-ba-loo Ray-Ray! A Helluva Hullabaloo. Hul-ah-ba-loo Ray-Ray! Hoo-Ray! Hoo-Ray! Vars-uh, vars-uh, tee-ay! Tee-ay! Tee-ay! Vars-uh, Vars-uh, tee-ay! Tulane !!

-JAC and RDA (it took two people to write this paragraph)- -->

Game Six is Underway
Posted at 12:40 p.m. CT
The second elimination game between No. 8 UCF and No. 5 Tulane is underway in the bottom of the first. Tulane grabbed an early 1-0 when Josh Prince scored from third on a UCF infield miscue.

Today's pitching matchup features UCF righthander Kyle Sweat (3-3, 4.37 ERA, 49 Ks, 68.0 IP) against Tulane righty Conrad (nice first name) Flynn (7-3, 4.15 ERA, 55 Ks, 80.1 IP).

The winner of this game advances to face the loser of the (1) East Carolina-(5) Southern Miss game scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Friday. The loser wraps up its season.

-JAC- -->

And the 2009 Ball of Shame Winner Is...
Posted at 12:30 p.m. CT
Chris Atwood from Marshall!!!

After the Herd lost their two games at the 2009 Tournament, the SIDs in the press box presented Chris with his first Ball of Shame. During the last two years, Chris has worked hard to spread the news about Marshall baseball and been a fun and respected presence in all press boxes.

This was his final game as the Marshall baseball SID after working the last two years on his master's degree in Huntington, and he will be missed in the league. Wherever he goes, Chris is going to do good work for the school smart enough to hire him, and we all wish him the best.

With that, Marshall becomes the first school to win two Balls of Shame. In 2006, Andy Fledderjohann -- now with nationally ranked Virginia -- won the Ball of Shame, and from what we understand, continues to display his Ball of Shame in his office.

While it is disappointing to receive the Ball, it's all meant in good fun, and Chris took the ribbing in stride and had fun with it. "I don't think this award is as prestigious as last year when Sully (Rice SID John Sullivan) carried it to the World Series," Chris said. "I won't be."

Best wishes and good luck in the future, Chris. Don't be a stranger and look us up when you visit a Conference USA town in the future.

-JAC- -->

Cougars Move On, Herd Eliminated
Marshall staged a rally in the bottom of the ninth, putting runners on second and third with two outs, but UH closer Donnie Joseph was too much, and the Cougars claimed a 4-1 win in the first elimination game of the day.

UH reliever Chase Dempsay alloed only three hits with four strikeouts in 3.1 innings to collect the win and improve to 4-0, while Joseph earned his team-leading 10th save, becoming only the fifth closer in school history to reach that total in one season.

Marshall starter Shane Farrell collected the loss and fell to 1-7 after allowing three runs off four hits with six strikeouts in 7.1 innings.

Houston improves to 26-30 and is scheduled to face the loser of the (2) Rice/(6) UAB game at 3 p.m., Friday. Marshall ends its season with a 22-32 record. -JAC- -->

Cougars Add to Cushion
With the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, Marshall reliever Austin "Captain Caveman" Coan walked the first two batters he faced to give the Houston a 4-1 lead. We're going to the bottom of the eighth now, and the Herd offense is going to have to come alive quickly to prevent Marshall SID Chris Attwood from receiving his first Ball of Shame.

-JAC- -->

No Need for Rogaine Here
Marshall just called righander Austin Coan from the bullpen, and you should see his hair... Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Coan has more hair on his head right now than I have had combined in my life. His long, brown locks are touching the number on the back of his jersey.

With all of this in mind, we in the press box have dubbed Coan "Captain Caveman".

According to Marshall SID Chris Attwood, Coan has not had a hair cut since November 2007. No clear explanation for that, but it seems to be the look that the young man wants.

-JAC- -->

Laying It Down
Junior centerfielder Zak Presley just laid down a perfect bunt for an infield single that scored Jake Runte from third base and gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead against Marshall in the top of the eighth inning. Presley and Blake Kelso just teamed up for a double steal, and the Herd just intentionally walked Caleb Ramsey to load the bases with only one out.

Coach Waggoner has gone to his bullpen again, bringing in righthander Austin Coan... more on him in a moment. Chase Dempsay, who started the game as the DH and is now the pitcher of record, will be at the plate after a few warmup tosses.

-JAC- -->

Cougars are Threatening
We're in the top of the eighth inning and the Cougars are threatening to take their first lead of the game. Jake Runte led off the frame with a double to center field that fell just out of reach of diving Marshal outfielder Nate Lape. When left fielder Rhett Stafford bobbled the ball for a second, Runte took third.

The Herd just dodged their first bullet when Taylor White grounded out to second with a drawn-in infield. After an intentional walk to Blake Kelso put runners on the corners with one out, head coach Jeff Waggoner has gone to his bullpen, bringing in southpaw Ryan Kiel to face lefty Zak Presley. Will the Cougars get a run across, or will the Herd wiggle out of this jam. Stay tuned.

-JAC- -->

Where's the Offense?
Once again, the blog isn't frozen or broke. There just isn't a lot to report.

We are heading to the bottom of the seventh with the score still tied 1-1 between No. 3 Houston and No. 7 Marshall. This second-day game is much like the 2008 Championship with solid pitching, steady defense and minimal offense.

Marshall has outhit the Cougars 7-3, but the two teams have been tied since the top of the fourth inning.

Marshall starter Shane Farrell has allowed only one run off three hits with six strikeouts in seven innings of work. UH starter Wes Musick was chased in the fifth inning but only one allowed one unearned run off six hits with four strikeouts. Reliever Chase Dempsay is now on the mound for the Cougars, allowing two hits with three strikeouts in 2.1 innings.

-JAC- -->

It Never Fails
Just as soon as I put a scoring update on this blog, it never fails... somebody scores and I have to re-update my update.

Marshall struck for the game's first run in the bottom of the third innings, thanks to a two-base Cougar error and All-Name Team member Brandon Casamassima's groundout that scored Adam Yeager from third base.

But the Cougars are threatening in the top of the fourth. Sophomore outfielder Caleb Ramsey -- a personal favorite of young Tyler Conrad at the annual Cougar Baseball camps -- just blasted a triple to the wall and scored on Chase Dempsay's groundout to third.

The top of the fourth inning is finished, and we are tied at 1-1.

-JAC- -->

Ball of Shame Game
Besides the elimination implications, the second day of our postseason extravaganza features No. 3 seed Houston against No. 7 seed Marshall in the Ball of Shame Game. Through two-and-a-half innings, we are scoreless with only three Marshall hits on the scoreboard.

As a reminder, the Ball of Shame is presented to the SID whose team is eliminated first. A low-quality, beat-up ball, it is signed by members of the press box, making it a significant momento for years to come. This season, Houston's Jamie Zarda and Marshall's Chris Attwood will vie for the prized parting gift.

Jamie is a talented young woman in her first season with the Cougar Baseball team and a proud Kansas Jayhawk. Speak poorly of Paul Pierce or Bill Self around her at your own peril.

Chris is in his second and final year with the Marshall Sports Information Office after earning his master's degree. Well done on that Chris; I have absolutely no idea how you juggled SID duties with graduate classes, but I salute you nonetheless.

Ironically, this match-up is a repeat of the 2008 C-USA Tournament championship game. Ironically-er, this marks the second straight season that the teams in the C-USA Tournament championship game squared off one year later in the Ball of Shame game.

In 2007, Rice and East Carolina dueled in the championship game in Greenville, N.C. One year later, the Pirates handed the Owls their first Ball of Shame.

-JAC- -->

All in the Family
Posted at 9:23 a.m. CT
The Marshall baseball team is full of some interesting bloodlines. Today's starting pitcher, Shane Farrell, is the son of Boston Red Sox pitching coach John Farrell. Sophomore outfielder Ben Jurevicius is the first cousin of Cleveland Browns wide receiver Joe Jurevicius. Junior outfielder Eddie Rush is the son of veteran of NBA official Eddie F. Rush.

Marshall Baseball....a family affair.

-RDA- -->

Uni Watch
Posted at 8:40 a.m. CT
Each year, the University of Houston is known for a few things in the college baseball world... steady hitting, solid pitching and a wide, colorful assortment of uniforms.

Several years ago, fans may remember the Cougars off-yellow uniforms or their jerseys that started red around the player's neck and faded into blue by the waistline.

The 2009 Cougar uniforms are no different. Today, the Cougars are going with a dark, blue top with their gun-metal gray pants. Personally, I think today's look is pretty solid.

However, when the Cougars wear their gun-metal gray jerseys with those pants, that's a sight that most fans aren't used to. Miami (Fla.) had similar uniforms several years ago. According to Houston SID Jamie Zarda, the Cougars usually break out the gray on grays during the first game of a road series.

The Cougars also enjoy white and red sleeveless jerseys, but if UH fans are going to see that apparel on their favorite team, the Cougars will have to take care of business against Marshall first.

-JAC- -->

And So Day Two Begins
Posted at 8:20 a.m. CT
Good morning everyone, and welcome to day two of the 2009 Conference USA Tournament.

No. 3 Houston and No. 7 Marshall are warming up as you read, and first pitch is less than 45 minutes away. Our Game Five pitching matchup features Cougar southpaw Wes Musick (5-7, 6.37 ERA, 55 Ks, 70.2 IP) against Marshall right-hander Shane Farrell (1-6, 3.91 ERA, 51 Ks, 53.0 IP).

The first two games of the day should be even more intense due to one simple fact: win and advance or lose and finish your season. Stay tuned to ConferenceUSA.com for the latest news and notes.

-JAC- -->

May 20, 2009

Day One is Done
Posted at 9:20p.m. CT
Southern Miss scored four runs in the top of the eighth inning, and that would be enough for a 15-2 victory in eight innings against No. 4 seed Tulane. The Golden Eagles pounded out 15 hits and took advantage of four Green Wave errors to give Tulane its biggest loss in C-USA Tournament history.

Southern Miss moves on to face No. 1 seed East Carolina at 7:30 p.m., Thursday. Tulane drops into the losers' bracket and will face No. 8 seed UCF at 12:30 p.m., Thursday.

This also marked the 14th straight season Southern Miss has won at least one game at the C-USA Tournament and the eighth time in the last nine seasons that the Golden Eagles won their opening game. The Golden Eagles have never gone 0-2 at the C-USA Tournament.

Six different Golden Eagle batters posted at least two hits in the game with Corey Stevens and Joey Archer rapping out a game-high three hits apiece.

Meanwhile, starter Todd McInnis, the 2009 C-USA Pitcher of the Year -- held Green Wave to only one run off six hits with four strikeouts in six innings to collect the win and improve to 8-4.

-JAC- -->

And It's Gone
Posted at 9:55p.m. CT
On the first pitch in the bottom of the seventh inning, Tulane catcher Jared Dyer blasted a solo home over the center-field wall. While an 11-2 deficit is probably still too much for the Green Wave to overcome, it means we are going to be playing at least one more inning.

If Southern Miss can score another run and hold a 10-run lead after the Green Wave at-bat, the final game of the first day will be shortened due to the run rule. If not, we are going to play the full nine innings.

Tourney Tater Tally: 6 (UCF 2, Southern Miss 1, East Carolina 1, Rice 1, Tulane 1)

-JAC- -->

Pouring It On
Posted at 9:15 p.m. CT
Sorry for the delay with the blog. I'm juggling several different balls in the air right now.

After a scoreless second inning for both teams, Southern Miss has broken the game open. The Golden Eagles struck for two runs in the third and has seized control of the game with five runs in the fourth inning for an 11-1 advantage heading into the fifth inning.

The single-game record for hits in a C-USA Tournament game is 24. Southern Miss has 12 hits through four innings, but with an 11-1 lead, we may not be going the full nine innings.

-JAC- -->

Tulane Cuts Into Deficit, USM Dodges Bullet
Posted at 8:20 p.m. CT
After a four-run Southern Miss first inning, Tulane loaded the bases with no outs and put a run across but only after Jeremy Schaffer grounded into a double play. USM starter Todd McInnis then struck out Seth Henry to turn a potential big inning for the Green Wave into a small one.

We're in the bottom of the second, and No. 5 seed Southern Miss leads No. 4 seed Tulane 4-1.

-JAC- -->

Off and Running
Posted at 7:40 p.m. CT
We've started the final game of the first day, and Southern Miss has wasted no time in getting the home fans excited.

As the No. 5 seed, the Golden Eagles are the visiting team even though we are playing in their ballpark. After two quick outs, Bo Davis smashed a triple down the right-field line and came around to score on a fielding miscue by Tulane third baseman Matt Ryan.

The two-out rally continued as Kameron Brunty walked and Corey Stevens lined a single through the left side. Then with a 2-1 count, Joey Archer blasted a three-run homer off the top of the left-field wall to energize the Southern Miss faithful and end the night for Tulane starter Jonathan Garrett.

Reliever Aaron Loup is now in the game for the Green Wave, while 2009 Conference USA Pitcher of the Year Todd McInnis (7-4, 2.78 ERA< 62 Ks, 71.1 IP) is toeing the rubber for the Golden Eagles.

We're in the bottom of the first with Southern Miss leading 4-0.

Tourney Tater Tally: 5 (UCF 2, Southern Miss 1, East Carolina 1, Rice 1)

-JAC- -->

Palmer Place
Posted at 7:29 p.m. CT
Before the final game of the day between Tulane and Southern Miss, outgoing Golden Eagles head coach Corky Palmer was honored by Conference USA and Southern Miss in a brief ceremony on the field.

On behalf of Commissioner Britton Banowsky and all of Conference USA, league Associate Commissioner Alfred White presented Palmer with a gift certificate to Bass Pro Shop, where he can purchase some addiitonal fishing equipment for the extra time he'll have to pursue his favorite hobby.

After that, Eagle Dugout Club President Jimmy Pierce and Southern Miss Athletic Director Richard Giannini both spoke and thanked Coach Palmer for his outstanding contributions to the Southern Miss baseball program before presenting him with a brand-new 2009 Honda CRV to drive as he enters a new chapter of his baseball career and life.

Coach Palmer will remain an important part of the Southern Miss baseball program that he helped build into such a success in his 12 years in Hattiesburg.

-RDA- -->

Happy Birthday, Nate!
Posted at 7:03 p.m. CT
In 2002, I was forced to miss the entire Conference USA Tournament in Kinston, N.C., for one reason. His name is Nathan Aaron Conrad, and seven years ago today, he felt compelled to join us in the world.

As I blog today from Pete Taylor Park, I wanted to wish Nathan a happy birthday and let him know I can't wait to take him and our family to an Astros game to celebrate this happy occasion as soon as I get back.

Already a baseball fan and soon to be a football player in the fall (may God have mercy on whoever is carrying the ball whether they are Nathan's teammates or opponents), he is an exceptional little boy, and we are blessed to have him in our family.

And while I am it, I need to give a special shout-out to my wife Kristy and older son Tyler. Kristy is a wonderful, Hall of Fame (seriously, Centenary College Athletics, class of 2005), All-America (again seriously, Academic, Softball, class of 1994) wife, who graciously allowed me to make the week-long trip to Hattiesburg for the Tournament.

Being an SID spouse is one of the toughest jobs in the world, especially when an SID is working in season with his or her respective sport. To allow that SID to go out of town for a week with a sport that is not their primary responsibility takes a lot of patience, support and love, so I am especially grateful for her sacrifice this week.

Tyler is an All-Star Little Leaguer (see Mom's genes), who said he could handle Dad being gone for a week and take care of Mom and his little brother.

Happy Birthday, Nathan, and thanks to my entire family. I can't wait to get home and see you all.

-JAC- -->

East Carolina Advances
Posted at 6:50 p.m. CT
It took a little longer than East Carolina fans would have liked, but the Pirates stormed back with six runs during their final three innings on the way to a 6-3 win against No. 8 seed UCF.

With the win, East Carolina advances in the winner's bracket to face the winner of the (4) Tulane/(5) Southern Miss game at 4 p.m., Thursday.

The first three hitters of the East Carolina -- Trent Whitehead, Ryan Wood and Stephen Batts -- were the key to the game, hitting 7-for-12 with three runs, four RBIs, two doubles and a home run.

Reliever Kevin Brandt earned the win and improved to 8-1 after giving up one run off four hits with a pair of strikeouts in two innings. Seth Simmons picked up his ninth save after throwing 1.2 shutout innings.

UCF falls into the losers' bracket and will face the loser of the (4) Tulane/(5) Southern Miss game at 12:30 p.m., Thursday.

-JAC- -->

Rock Me Ormideaus
Posted at 6:37 p.m. CT
UCF Baseball SID Brian Ormiston has a very different Take (on Me) on how to write his baseball notes. He's not Too Shy (Kajagoogoo) about putting in a reference or two to 1980's music (when Video Killed the Radio Star). It's really a tip of the cap to Knights head coach Terry Rooney, who loves 80's music almost as much as anything other than baseball, and it's a Perfect Way (Scritti Politti) to help promote Games People Play (Alan Parsons Project).

Now, he knows this may not make everyone Flock (of Seagulls) to read the notes, but he doesn't Wait (White Lion) to put in a pun or two. In fact, he Faithfully (Journey) adds new ones to each notes package, saying "Here I go Again" (Whitesnake). Check it out and see for yourself: UCF Notes

Meanwhile, C'est La Vie (Robbie Nevil)...

-RDA- -->

And Corky Palmer Saw the Light... and It was Good
Posted at 6:20 p.m. CT
We are back underway here in Game Three of the Conference USA Tournament. After an 11-minute delay due to light problems at Pete Taylor Park, UCF is batting in the top of the eighth inning, looking to cut into a 6-3 East Carolina lead.

Once again, the Knights are giving East Carolina problems. Senior first baseman Kiko Vazquez drew a leadoff walk and D.J. Hicks followed with a looping single to center field to give the Knights runners on first and second and no outs. Stay tuned to ConferenceUSA.com for the latest.

-JAC- -->

Let There Be Light
Posted at 6:20 p.m. CT
I've seen a lot of things at baseball games in my life, but this may be a first. We are currently in a delay in the top of the eighth inning because we are having problems with the lights at Pete Taylor Park.

No. 1 seed East Carolina just took a 6-3 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning with four runs. We were ready to start the eighth, but it's starting to get dark and, with no lights, the umpires have pulled both teams off the field.

The delay started at 6:08 p.m., but hopefully it won't be much longer. I am sure that facilities and operations folks from Southern Miss are running around like crazy trying to fix the problem.

-JAC- -->

And the Pirates answer
Posted at 6:06 p.m. CT
East Carolina has just moved back on the top in the bottom of the seventh inning, 4-3. Dustin Harrington and Drew Schieber both reached base on singles. They came around to score when Jared Achven doubled off the left-center field wall. Trent Whitehead answered with his own double and the Buccos moved ahead, 5-3.

-RDA- -->

Pesky Knights Battle Back
Posted at 5:50 p.m. CT
No. 8 seed UCF is not making life easy for regular-season champion East Carolina in Game Three today.

With the score tied at 2-2 in the seventh inning, Eric Kallstrom's RBI-single to left field plated 9 hole hitter Jake Huxtable, who singled to lead off and then moved into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt by Colin Arnold. That rally came after East Carolina tied the game at 2-2 in the last half inning.

The Knights had runners at first and second but saw the innning end with a groundout to second base. We're enjoying the seventh inning stretch in Hattiesburg, and the No. 1 seed needs some help.

-JAC- -->

Knotted Up
Posted at 5:40 p.m. CT
It took nearly six innings, but No. 1 seed East Carolina has tied the game with a towering, two-out, two-run homer to left field in the sixth inning.

Outfielder Stephen Batts knotted the game with his team-leading 14th home run, the 95th home run by a Pirate slugger this season. DH Kyle Roller just drew a walk with two outs in the sixth inning, so the Pirates are continuing to threaten.

Tournament Home Run Tally: 4 (UCF 2, East Carolina 1, Rice 1)

Posted at 5:14 p.m. CT
The uniform number 23 has special meaning in Conference USA especially in this matchup between East Carolina and UCF. That is the number that was worn by former East Carolina head coach Keith LeClair, who wore the number from 1997-02 as skipper of the Pirates before being forced to step down in 2002 after being diagnosed with ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease). The Conference USA Coach of the Year Award has been named in his honor ever since.

Since 2003, that number is given each season to a Pirate player who works hard, has internal drive and strives to play like a champion. The number has been worn by Ben Sanderson (2003), Jamie Paige (2004), Brian Cavanaugh (2005), Adam Witter (2006), Chris Powell (2007), Drew Schieber (2008) and Brandon Henderson (2009).

In this game, two current Pirates (Schieber and Henderson) and two former Pirates (ECU Director of Baseball Operations Brian Cavanaugh and UCF assistant coach Cliff Godwin) that have worn then No. 23 are involved. Plus, there is a total of seven former ECU players that are wearing the number either as minor league players or college baseball coaches.

Keith LeClair...his legacy lives on through those he touched.

-RDA- -->

Power Surge
Posted at 5 p.m. CT
UCF just pushed its lead to 2-0 in the top of the fourth inning on a monster shot to left field by senior first baseman Kiko Vazquez. Vazquez, a multiple-time member of the C-USA Tournament All-Name Team sponsored by Tod Meisner, recorded his eighth bomb of 2009.

East Carolina has the impressive statistics, but UCF has the lead midway through Game Three.

Tournament Home Run Tally: 3

Long Ball
Posted at 4:30 p.m. CT
The 2009 Conference USA Tournament just saw its second home run, but not from the team you may have thought.

UCF DH D.J. Hicks blasted a solo home run down the right-field line in the top of the second inning for a 1-0 lead against No. 1 seed East Carolina. It was Hicks' eighth long ball of the season.

But I won't be surprised if we see a few ECU homers today and throughout this tournament. Today's Pirate starting lineup boasts six players who have 10 or more home runs. From the No. 2 hitter Ryan Wood to the No. 7 hitter Dustin Harrington, each slugger has at least 11 home runs.

There just aren't any holes in the East Carolina lineup for its opponents.

Tournament Home Run Tally: 2

Now Playing Center for the Pirates
Posted at 4:10 p.m. CT
Game Three is underway at the C-USA Tournament between regular-season champion East Carolina and No. 8 seed UCF.

So, I have to ask: when did East Carolina head coach Billy Godwin recruit members of the men's basketball team to play for him. ECU second baseman Ryan Wood looks absolutely huge out there, and there's a reason for that since he is 6-foot-5. I have to believe ECU men's basketball head coach Mack McCarthy would like to have some size like that for him in the Pirate frontcourt.

But Wood isn't the only big Pirate out there. Starting pitcher Chris Heston is listed at 6-4, outfielder Devin Harris is 6-3, pitcher Mike Wright is 6-5 and pitcher Mike Anderson is 6-3.

-JAC- -->

Posted at 4:15 p.m. CT
You die-hard blog followers recall the fascination that former blogger Tod "single D" Meisner had with all things uniforms. A dedicated member of the UniWatch blog , he would carefully critique C-USA Baseball squads threads. In his honor, we report that we are very pleased with the look that East Carolina is donning for this game.

The Pirates are donning white sleeveless jerseys with the purple undershirts and white caps with purple bills. All of the East Carolina players have their pants pulled all the way down. Apparently, that is a superstition with the Buccos. During the first game of a series or a tournament, all of the players wearing the pant legs all the way down. As the series or tournament advances the panst get pulled up. Senior third baseman Drew Schieber serves as the catalyst of the rise of the pant legs. As he moves his up and shows some more sock, the other Pirates follow.

Drew Schieber. Longtime starting third baseman. Two-time team captain. Fashion leader.

-RDA- -->

Start It Up
Posted at 3:50 p.m. CT
Game Three between regular-season champion East Carolina and No. 8 seed UCF is less than 15 minutes from first pitch.

This pitching matchup features ECU righthander Chris Heston (7-0, 3.44 ERA, 84 Ks, 81.0 IP) against UCF righthander Caleb Graham (4-2, 5.83 ERA, 53 Ks, 63.1 IP).

Heston was named the C-USA Newcomer of the Year, while Graham came on strong down the stretch, throwing 6.1 shutout innings against No. 2 seed Rice a few weekends ago

-JAC- -->

Change is A-Coming
Posted at 3:30 p.m. CT
The 2009 Conference USA Tournament will be the last time that we see eight teams competing.

Last week, the Conference USA athletics directors agreed to reduce the number of teams at the annual Tournament from eight to six. The baseball scale-back was part of a series of reductions in several Conference USA sports.

As a result, the current two-bracket, double-elimination format we have enjoyed in past years will go the way of the dodo.

Now, coaches must decide the new format they wish the tournament to take. The group began discussing the issue Tuesday night during the administrators meeting, and more talk will go on this summer and in the early fall.

The tournament could remain in a double-elimination format (like the old NCAA Regionals), but it appears more likely that the coaches will approve a tournament with the six teams divided into two 3-team pools. Each team will be guaranteed three games at the tournament with the winner of each pool competing for the Tournament championship.

While pool-play may seem different to Conference USA fans, several other conferences have gone to this format. The Big 12, ACC and Missouri Valley are currently using the pool-play format for their respective tournaments.

Nothing is close to being finalized on this issue, and more decisions must be made. Stay tuned to ConferenceUSA.com for the latest news.

-JAC- -->

Rice Cooks Herd
Posted at 2:50 p.m. CT
Rice turned in an all-around spectacular effort in a 13-0 run rule victory over Marshall, with all nine Owl starters recording at least one hit and all but one with a run scored, while six different players had at least one RBI. Anthony Rendon provided the first (ane only) tournament home run so far with a towering blast to left center field, his league-leading 18th round-tripper of the season (adding to his Rice freshman HR record).

Not to be overlooked, Taylor Wall tossed a complete-game shutout, allowing just three hits and striking out five to earn his sixth win of the season.

The run-rule win was the first in the C-USA Tournament since 2006 and the 13-run margin was the largest since 2005. Rice has now scored double-digit runs in five of its last six C-USA Tourney wins, dating back to the 2006 Championship Game victory over Houston.

-RDA- -->

More and More
Posted at 2:10 p.m. CT
The Owls added three more runs in the bottom of the fifth inning, thanks to Jess Buenger's two-run single and Rick Hague's RBI-single to left field. Through the first five innings, Rice has pounded out 10 runs off 14 hits, including five for extra bases.

At this rate, Game Two of the 2009 Conference USA Tournament is going to be called early. All games, with the exception of the championship, have the 10-run mercy rule after seven innings.

But the Herd has an offense that can score runs in bunches, so we will see about that.

-JAC- -->

Family Ties
Posted at 1:45 p.m. CT
Thanks to Southern Miss assistant AD for communications Jack Duggan for this tidbit.

Southern Miss public address announcer Logan Grubbs is the son of veteran actor Gary Grubbs. While you may not know the name of the elder Grubbs -- who is a Southern Miss graduate -- you have probably seen his work. Father Grubbs has appeared in popular shows like The OC, Will & Grace and Married... With Children among other shows.

If my notes don't help, see Gary Grubbs' IMDB page as a reference. Click here.

-JAC- -->

Finding Little Nuggets
Posted at 1:20p.m. CT
Give credit to Tulane assistant SID Richie Weaver for this note. While Pete Taylor Park is known for being a hitters' park, it failed to live up to that reputation during the opening game of the 2009 Tournament.

Earlier today, both No. 3 seed Houston and No. 6 seed UAB failed to hit a home run. It was the first time in a C-USA Tournament game at Pete Taylor Park on May 26, 2005, that no team hit a home run, snapping a streak of seven straight games. Ironically, Houston defeated UAB 7-5 in the last homerless C-USA Tournament game here.

Richie is one of the good guys in Conference USA and was the Green Wave's baseball SID for a long time before moving to other duties. While he has no specific responsibilities here today, he decided to come in to Hattiesburg for the Tournament as a fan and is offering help in a lot of little ways.

-JAC- -->

Owls Swooping in for Kill
Posted at 1:15 p.m. CT
Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon -- C-USA Player and Freshman of the Year -- just blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the second to hand the Owls a 7-0 lead and chase Marshall starter Dan Straily from the game. It was the first home run of the C-USA Tournament but the 18th of Rendon's young career.

After losing two of three at UAB last weekend, the Owls have erupted for seven runs off seven hits through two innings.

Tournament Home Run Tally: 1

-JAC- -->

Game Two is Underway
Posted at 12:23 p.m. CT
Game Two is underway, and No. 2 seed Rice has grabbed a 3-0 lead on Diego Seastrunk's one-out, RBI-single and Michael Fuda's two-run double in the bottom of the first inning.

Game Two's pitching matchup features Rice southpaw Taylor Wall (5-5, 4.23 ERA, 66 K, 72.1 IP) against Marshall right-hander Dan Straily (4-2, 3.47 ERA, 57 K, 70.0 IP).

-JAC- -->

Shay What?!
Posted at 12:23 p.m. CT
Followers of Conference USA Baseball know that UAB is a very dangerous hitting club. In Wednesday's tournament opener, Blazer starter Shay Crawford showed some impressive pitching to lead the Green and Gold to victory.

Crawford set a career high with seven innings pitched, not allowing an earned run and striking out six without walking a batter. His innings total topped his previous best of 6.2 innings against Central Arkansas on March 3, 2007.

Crawford earned his first win since April 18. Ironically, that victory came at Conference USA-rival Southern Miss in an 11-5 victory at Pete Taylor Park in the first game of a doubleheader.

The victory marked the second straight year that UAB won its opening round C-USA Tournament game. It was the first time that the Blazers won a C-USA Tournament game in Hattiesburg, as UAB went 0-2 in 2005 and 0-2 in the inaugural tourney in 1996.

-RDA- -->

One Game, One Upset
Posted at 11:56a.m. CT
Houston and UAB traded single runs in the eighth inning. In the bottom of the ninth, the Cougars plated a run on Blake Kelso's two-out, RBI-single to left field. However, that would not be enough as the Blazers claimed an 8-3 win in the opening game of the C-USA Tournament.

After being a little shaky at the beginning, UAB starter Shay Crawford settled down, allowing only one unearned run through seven innings with six strikeouts and no walks to pick up the win and improved to 5-2. UH starter Jared Ray collected the loss after giving up seven runs (five earned) in six innings to fall to 4-4.

The Blazers advance to face the winner of the (2) Rice/(7) Marshall game at 4 p.m., Wednesday. Houston falls into the loser's bracket and faces the loser of the (2) Rice/(7) Marshall game at 9 a.m., Wednesday.

-JAC- -->

Poised for an Upset
Posted at 11:10 a.m. CT
Cougar reliever Jimmy Raviele just induced a double-play to end the UAB threat in the top of the seventh inning.

However, the Blazers still hold a 7-1 lead, so the Cougars have a long road ahead of them.

-JAC- -->

Pouring it On
Posted at 11:06 a.m. CT
The Blazers pushed their lead to 7-2 with three more runs in the seventh inning and are threatening for more.

UAB loaded the bases with no outs, and Allen Aubin scored when Jonathan Merrit reached on a fielder's choice. The next batter, Brint Hardy, laced a sharp ground ball back to reliever Frank Corolla, who put UAB runner Nick Crawford into a rundown. However, Crawford got out of that jam, outracing Corolla to the plate and taking advantage of a throw that hit the UAB runner in the back.

Cody McMurry followed with an RBI-single through the left side. Andrew Manning just drew a walk to load the bases with one out, and the Cougars have gone to their second reliever of the day.

-JAC- -->

Rare Territory
Posted at 10:37 a.m. CT
Houston junior outfielder Zak Presley just fouled out down the left-field line to end the Cougar fifth inning.

Normally, I wouldn't write about something as mundane as a foul-out, but you would understand my point if you saw Pete Taylor Park. There isn't a lot of room between the foul line and the fence to the third-base bullpen in left-field. I could probably lay my 5-foot, 6-inch frame (and yes, I really am 5-6, you are all invited to my next physical if you don't believe me) down with my feet touching the fence, and my head would be in fair territory.

Nevertheless, UAB left fielder Cody McMurry managed to race over and make the play.

We're heading to the bottom of the sixth inning with No. 6 UAB holding a 4-1 lead over No. 3 Houston.

-JAC- -->

Blazing Back
Posted at 10:25 a.m. CT
After being held hitless through the first four innings, the Blazer offense has awakened and take advantage of some sloppy Houston defense.

Allen Aubin's RBI single scored Andrew Manning to tie the game, and UAB leadoff hitter Jamal Austin slapped a two-strike, two-out single up the middle to score two more runners and give UAB a 3-1 lead against No. 3 seed Houston in the top of the fifth inning. After Austin stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch, Jonathan Merritt reached on a throwing error by Cougar first baseman David Murphy, allowing Austin to score easily for a 4-1 UAB lead.

-JAC- -->

Tied in Game One
Posted at 10:10 a.m. CT
The blog hasn't frozen. We just didn't have any scoring updates since the first inning.

UH starter Jared Ray looked sharp early in the game but has allowed a walk and a pair of hits in the top of the fifth inning to No. 6 seed UAB, tying the score at 1-1. The Blazers continue to threaten with runners at second and third with two outs.

-JAC- -->

First Run of the Day
Posted at 9:15 a.m. CT
And the first run of the day is on the scoreboard. Houston's Caleb Ramsey's infield single scored Blake Kelso from third base in the bottom of the first inning for a 1-0 Cougar lead against UAB.

While I am here, a lot of credit should go to the Cougars. This was a team that started out 3-14 and appeared headed for a long season. But Houston head coach Rayner Noble and his coaching staff kept the team together, and the players bought into the system and rallied to earn the No. 3 seed in a competitive league race this season.

We're going to the second inning in the first game of the day, Houston leading UAB 1-0.

-JAC- -->

Another Cougar Lid-Lifter
Posted at 8:30 a.m. CT
It is an absolutely beautiful morning for baseball. Bright, sunny skies are coupled with temperatures in the 60's, making the opening game of the 2009 Conference USA Baseball Championship one of the coolest games in tournament history.

UAB and Houston will gets things underway at 9 a.m. with Shay Crawford taking the mound for the Blazers and Jared Ray toeing the rubber for the Cougars. As is often the case, UH will open things up for us, as this is the third year in a row and seventh time in nine years that the Coogs have played the first game of the C-USA Tournament. These two teams met in the semifinals of last year's tourney, with UH winning twice on its way to a tournament title.

Be sure to check back throughout the tournament for the latest news and notes from the tournament on the blog, as well as game stories and box scores on the championship central page.

-RDA- -->

May 19, 2009

Practice Day is Done
Posted at 5:25 p.m. CT
The first, non-competitive day of the 2009 Conference USA Tournament is finished.

Regular-season champion East Carolina just finished its one-hour workout, and the Southern Miss grounds crew is putting some finishing touches on the field. While the student-athletes may be finished, coaches and administrators are not quite done today.

We are about to go to an administrators' meeting at the USM Athletics Center. While this meeting is usually pretty quick, I am expecting it to go a little longer than years past. With changes coming to future Conference USA Tournaments, coaches and administrators will begin discussing how they want to implement them. More on that Wednesday.

Don't forget... The Tournament starts at 9 a.m., Wednesday, when No. 3 Houston meets No. 6 UAB in the opening game. No. 2 Rice faces No. 7 Marshall at 12:30 p.m., with No. 1 East Carolina squaring off against No. 8 UCF at 4 p.m. Host and No. 5 seed Southern Miss wraps up the night when it faces No. 4 seed Tulane.

We will sign off for today and start talking again bright and early Wednesday. Be sure to check ConferenceUSA.com for the latest scores, news and notes from the Conference USA Tournament

-JC- -->

Give it Up For...
Posted at 4:05 p.m. CT
The 2009 Conference USA Baseball awards came out this afternoon. Congratulations to Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon who was named the league's Player of the Year and the Freshman of the Year, becoming the first player to win both awards in the same season.

With a .383 average, 17 home runs and 58 RBIs, Rendon's selection was an easy choice for the voters. Southern Miss sophomore righthander was named the league's Pitcher of the Year after posting a 7-4 record with a 2.83 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 71.1 innings.

East Carolina, which won the regular-season title last weekend with a sweep of Memphis, claimed the final two awards, as junior righthander Chris Heston won Newcomer of the Year honors, while Pirates skipper Billy Godwin received the Keith LeClair Coach of the Year award.


Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice

Todd McInnis, RHP, Southern Miss

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice

Chris Heston, RHP, East Carolina

Billy Godwin, East Carolina

IF * Victor Gomez * So. * Marshall
IF * Sam Honeck * Sr. * Tulane
IF * Anthony Rendon * Fr. * Rice
IF * Ryan Wood * Sr. * East Carolina
OF * Stephen Batts * Sr. * East Carolina
OF * Bo Davis * Sr. * Southern Miss
OF * Brint Hardy * Sr. * UAB
C * Jeremy Schaffer * Fr. * Tulane
DH/UT * Kyle Roller * Jr. * East Carolina
P * Ryan Berry * Jr. * Rice
P * Chris Heston * Jr. * East Carolina
P * Seth Maness * So. * East Carolina
P * Todd McInnis * So. * Southern Miss
RP * Donnie Joseph * Jr. * Houston

IF * Shane Brown * Jr. * UCF
IF * Brian Dozier * Sr. * Southern Miss
IF * Rick Hague * So. * Rice
IF * Blake Kelso * So. * Houston
IF * Josh Prince * Jr. * Tulane
OF * Cody McMurry * Sr. * UAB
OF * Chad Mozingo * So. * Rice
OF * Brandon Romans * Sr. * UCF
OF * Trent Whitehead * So. * East Carolina
C * Chris Wallace * So. * Houston
DH/UT * Digger Towe * Jr. * UAB
P * Brad Mincey * So. * East Carolina
P * Mike Ojala * Jr. * Rice
P * Jared Ray * Jr. * Houston
P * Dan Straily * Sr. * Marshall
RP * Jordan Rogers * Sr. * Rice

Kevin Brandt * LHP * East Carolina
Michael Goodnight * RHP * Houston
Drew Martinez * OF * Memphis
Adam McClain * 2B * Memphis
Anthony Rendon * 3B * Rice
Taylor Wall * LHP * Rice
Kameron Brunty * OF * Southern Miss
Jeremy Schaffer * C * Tulane
Jamal Austin * OF * UAB
D.J. Hicks * DH/UT * UCF
Beau Taylor * Fr. * UCF

-JAC- -->

Posted at 4:05 p.m. CT

This is Russ signing on for my first of many blog entries for this week. I've been camped out most of the day in the press box, helping hand out credentials, talk with media members and visit with SIDs from the schools. Over the past half an hour or so, those of us working in the press box have been being entertained by Southern Miss head coach Corky Palmer. As most followers of this blog know, Corky announced his retirement from coaching a couple of weeks ago. He will still be a valuable part of the Southern Miss baseball program in a number of ways and will be at every Golden Eagle home game. While Scott Berry will do a great job maintaining the success of the Southern Miss program, there is no doubt about the tremendous impact that Corky made in Hattiesburg and in Conference USA. Plus, it's always been so much fun to listen to Corky's take on things, hear him tell stories and talk college baseball. Truly one of a kind, his hard work, dedication and success is a big part of why we are all in this magnificent new press box that opened last season at Pete Taylor Park.

-RDA- -->

Ball of Shame... Secured
Posted at 3:15 p.m. CT
The 2009 Ball of Shame has been found!

For fans who may not know, the Ball of Shame is an annual gag gift that is presented to one of the eight teams' SIDs. Officials from Conference USA and the other SIDs present a ratty, old ball -- signed by the SIDs, media and workers in the press box -- to the SID of the team whose team was eliminated first Thursday morning.

The University of Houston started this tradition at the 2004 C-USA Tournament, and host SIDs since then have continued it. Although it's disappointing for the SID who receives it, it really is a lovely parting gift and a good time is had by everyone in the press box.

Southern Miss assistant SID Jason Kirksey and I just went into the woods behind the left-field wall at Pete Taylor Park. We didn't find a good BOS in the woods, but on the way out, we found a winner by the left-field batting cage.

No. 2 seed Rice in taking infield right now during it's hour-long practice with only regular-season champion East Carolina remaining.

-JC- -->

Welcome to Hattiesburg!
Posted at 2:30 p.m. CT
Good afternoon everyone and welcome to lovely Hattiesburg, Miss., for the 2009 Conference USA Tournament. Tuesday is practice day for the annual postseason event with each team spending one hour on Hill Denson Field at Pete Taylor Park. Houston, the No. 3 seed for this season's event has just wrapped up batting practice and will now take some infield.

The weather in Hattiesburg is absolutely outstanding right now. Mild temperatures, bordering on cool, with not a cloud in the sky. Low temperatures for Wednesday's first day are expected to be in the high-40s. Fans may want to consider bringing a jacket or sweatshirt for those early games, and bring something for me too. I didn't pack for this.

-JC- -->

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