2012 Championship Blog
2012 Championship Blog

Special correspondents and veteran baseball SID Richie Weaver of Tulane and C-USA's own Russell Anderson and Nicole Cartier plan to provide insight and information from Pearl, Miss., in the Sixth Annual C-USA Baseball Championship Blog. We'll have a few special guest appearances by former Southern Miss legend 'Money' Mike Montoro, current Golden Eagle SID Jack Duggan among others, so be sure to check by often for updates.

If you've got a question about the championship tournament, a comment about one of the participating teams, or just want to throw out a random fact, CLICK HEREand we'll get you on the blog as well.

May 27, 2012

A Blaze of Glory
Posted at 7:02 p.m. CT

The 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship is in the books and what a week it was at Trustmark Park. We saw only five home runs, but watched 10 players score runs on wild pitches. There was also some absolutely amazing defensive plays.

When it was all over, the seventh-seeded UAB Blazers were crowned Conference USA Champions for the first time. A great, gutty effort by Ryan Nance and Michael Busby on the mound led to the third shutout in C-USA Championship Game history and UAB's first tournament crown since 1994. The Blazers will make their first NCAA appearance since 1991.

We want to send out congratulations to the people in Pearl for their outstanding work in putting this together. While dozens of people contributed to the week's success, we especially want to thank Steve King, Laura Kestenbaum, Chris Snopek and Matt Summers of Spectrum Events and Jim Bishop of the Mississippi Braves and his entire staff for their tireless work leading up to and during championship week.

Personally, I want to thank all of the people that helped up in the press box this week. The Southern Miss staffers that drove up to assist (especially Shirley Jones-Hill and Tim Andrzejewski), the M-Braves people that were in here all week and our other volunteers. I want to single out our official scorer this week, "Money" Mike Montoro, who drove 13 hours to be here and score every game this week. I also want to thank my blog partner Richie Weaver, who was invaluable again this week with all of the writing he has done and the dozens of videos he has shot. as well as his the unique brand of entertainment that he brings to the press box.

We hope that you enjoyed the blog. Thanks for following the Conference USA Championship all week long. We are already looking forward to back here for next year's event in Pearl! -RDA-

Tournament MVP: Michael Busby, UAB

-RDA- 2012 All-Tournament Team
Posted at 4:46 p.m. CT

C Keaton Aldridge, Memphis
IF Keith DePew, UAB
IF John Frost, UAB
IF Ashley Graeter, Southern Miss
IF Corey Thompson, East Carolina
OF Landon Appling, Houston
OF Jeff Schalk, UAB
OF Michael Sterling, Southern Miss
DH Eli Hynes, Memphis
P Michael Busby, UAB
P Dan Langfield, Memphis
P Chase Mallard, UAB
P Ryan Nance, UAB

Tournament MVP: Michael Busby, UAB

Posted at 4:10 p.m. CT
UAB has defeated Memphis, 5-0 to win the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship.

UAB wins C-USA's automatic bid and will play in the NCAA Championship for the first time since 1991.

UAB's 5-0 win marked the third shutout in C-USA Championship Game history, joining East Carolina in 2006 and Tulane in 1996

-RDA- Blazers Tack On Two More In The Eighth
Posted at 3:39 p.m. CT
Michael Busby pitched UAB out of a jam in the seventh and his offense gave him a little more breathing room with a pair of runs in the top of the eighth.

Centerfielder Ryan Ussery reached first on a fielder's choice, and with two outs, reserve catcher Jacob German singled to left. Memphis head coach Daron Schoenrock went to his pen again, this time bringing in Jonathan Van Eaton to replace Sam Moll, but Moll promptly gave up an RBI-single up the middle to second baseman Keith DePew and a run-scoring double to right fielder Jeff Schalk in the ensuing at-bat to make it 5-0.

A fun fact here on Schalk courtesty of UAB media relations contact Ben Warnick: prior to Schalk's two-run homer in the seventh, he had just two hits in his last 35 at-bats. The last two times he's stepped to the plate, Schalks has compiled a 2.000 slugging percentage and three RBI. -RW-

What A Relief
Posted at 3:25 p.m. CT
Three days ago, UAB right-hander Michael Busby was brilliant in the Blazers' 15-1 win over UCF. While shutting down a nationally-ranked program seems like a huge accomplishment, it pales in comparison to what just happened here at Trustmark Park.

Down 3-0 after six and a half innings, Memphis put some pressure on UAB as first baseman T.J. Rich drew a one-out walk, centerfielder Ford Wilson reached via catcher's interference and catcher Keaton Aldridge hit an infield single to short to load the bases and chase starter Ryan Nance from the game. UAB skipper Brian Shoop called on Busby to put out the fire and the senior from nearby Vicksburg, Miss., came through in a big way with back-to-back strikeouts to not only leave the sacks full but keep his team ahead.


Blazers Break Through In The Seventh
Posted at 3:01 p.m. CT
After seeing Memphis pitcher Chase Joiner pitch his way out of trouble over the first two-third of the 2012 Conference USA Championship title game, the Blazers have finally broken through here in the seventh as centerfielder Ryan Ussery scored on an errant pickoff throw and Jeff Schalk hammered a two-run homer off the right field foul poll to stake UAB to a 3-0 lead.

Ussery got things going with a leadoff walk and moved to third on a hit-and-run single by catcher Harry Clark. With runners on the corners and nobody out, Joiner tried to pick Ussery from third but his throw to Jacob Wilson was off line to account for the first run of the ballgame. Clark moved to second on the play and was replaced by pinch runner Todd Wilkinson. Second baseman Keith DePew moved Wilkinson to third with a sacrifice bunt to set up Schalk's two-run shot.


Joiner Does It Again
Posted at 2:41 p.m. CT
After pitching his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the fourth, Memphis right-hander Chase Joiner pulled another rabbit out of his hat in the sixth to keep it a scoreless ballgame.

UAB nine-hole hitter Tanner Bryant opened the frame with a leadoff single to left and designated hitter Ryan Prinzing moved him into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Following a four-pitch walk to left fielder Ivan De Jesus, Joiner shared a brief meeting on the mound with his coach before serving up what looked like an RBI single to center off the bat of Blazers' first baseman John Frost. Memphis outfielder Ford Wilson, however, had other ideas as he fielded the ball cleanly and fired a bullet to Keaton Aldridge at the plate to erase Bryant. Joiner then got third baseman Patrick Palmeiro to strike out swining to end the threat.

The Blazers have now stranded four runners on base, including two in scoring position. Memphis, meanwhile, has left five on the basepaths with three in position to come around.


Pitching Duel Continues
Posted at 2:26 p.m. CT
We are through five innings here at Trustmark Park and neither team has scored in the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship. A large part of that is due to the stellar pitching effort of both Memphis' Chase Joiner and UAB's Ryan Nance.

Joiner has allowed just a pair of hits and a walk while striking out five. He's thrown 58 pitches with 35 of those being strikes. Nance, meanwhile, have given up four hits and a pair of walks to go with five strikeouts. He has tossed 69 pitches to the plate and 44 have been in the strikezone.


Anything You Can Do, I Can Do Better
Posted at 2:11 p.m. CT
After watching fellow pitcher Ryan Nance wiggle off the hook in the bottom of the third, Memphis starter Chase Joiner followed suit in the top of the fourth.

UAB left fielder Ivan De Jesus opened the frame with a leadoff single up the middle and first baseman John Frost reached safely on a bunt up the third base line. Blazers' third baseman Patrick Palmeiro tried to move the runners with a sacrifice bunt, but Joiner pounced off the mound and gunned down the lead runner at third before getting centerfielder Ryan Ussery to bounce into a 4-6-3, inning-ending double play.


Blazers Dodge A Bullet
Posted at 1:58 p.m. CT
Memphis saw a prime opportunity to get on the board slip through its fingers as UAB starter Ryan Nance pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the third inning. Tigers' shortstop Ethan Gross got things going with a one-out double to right center and third baseman Ethan Gross followed with a 3-2 walk.

Left fielder Adam McClain's groundout to short moved the runners up 90 feet and Nance intentionally walked designated hitter Eli Hynes to load the bases with two out. From there, left fielder Derrick Thomas lifted a fly ball to right which Blazers' outfielder Jeff Schalk was able to squeeze to keep it a scoreless affair a third of the way through the ballgame.


Oh, How I Wish You Were Here
Posted at 1:31 p.m. CT
While big plays and clutch hits have been a mainstay here at Trustmark Park throughout the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship, another steady factor has been a commercial for a local resort chain which features a song whose opening line is "Oh, how I wish you were here." No, it's not Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd. It's a female vocalist singing a long, drawn out "Ooooooooh", the line is really the only one you can make out clearly as the ad's voice-over kind of drowns out the rest of the lyrics.

With the ad being played anywhere from 5-10 times a game, let's just say we all cringe just a little more each time it has played this weekend. Perhaps the only other advertisement song that drew more groans from the workers of a C-USA Championship came back in 2008 at Tulane where an Entergy ad played ad nausium throughout a week that saw weather reak havoc on the schedule and forced four games over a four-day stretch. With the way things played out, we wound up having to play a game prior to the title game where Houston defeated Marshall, 3-2, at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium. While the championship tournament was sponsored by Entergy of New Orleans, it will forever go down as the 2008 Conference USA Baseball Championship presenty by Murphy's Law.


There Goes The No-Hitter
Posted at 1:21 p.m. CT
We have our first hit of the 2012 C-USA Baseball Championship title game as Memphis left fielder Adam McClain laced a two-out single through the left side of the infield off of UAB starter Ryan Nance. The Blazers had a baserunner in the top of the inning as leadoff hitter Ryan Prinzing was plunked by Chase Joiner's second pitch of the ballgame, but UAB left no runners on base as both left fielder Ivan De Jesus and first baseman John Frost struck out and Prinzing was doubled off trying to steal second.

The Tigers added a second hit in the first as designated hitter Adam McClain followed McClain's hit with a single back up the middle. Nance, however, bounced back to fan right fielder Derrick Thomas and it's a scoreless ballgame after one.


Big Blue Crew
Posted at 1:10 p.m. CT
When Memphis starting pitcher Chase Joiner toed the rubber for the first pitch of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship title game, the field had a few additional "players" out there as today's umpiring crew has five members. During the four days of pod play, four officials were used with one behind the dish and one at each base. Today, however, we've added two umpires down the outfield lines.

Greg Street is calling balls and strikes while Perry Costello is at first, David Wiley is at second and Dave Buck is at third. In addition, Doug Williams and Scott Wilkerson are in left and right field, respectively.


Honoring The Country In Spectacular Fashion
Posted at 12:57 p.m. CT
The teams have been introduced, the line-up cards have been exchanged and Eunice Lombardi just belted out a rousing rendition of our country's National Anthem. While the games here at Pearl have all been exciting - filled with clutch hits, highlight-reel defensive plays, and even a few gaffs that would make a good blooper reel - the Anthem singers have been outstanding throughout the week.

Spectrum Events, who helps put on the show here at Trustmark Park, lined up singers and performance groups to sing prior to all 13 games. They were all great and each drew loud rounds of applause from the fans on hand. There were solo singers, small ensembles and even a local high school band equipped with flag-team members and all.

Baseball is our country's national pastime, and all of the performers here have done an outstanding job of reminding us of what the flag flying beyond the wall in left centerfield represents.


Championship Game Line-Ups
Posted at 11:08 a.m. CT
Alright ladies and gentlement, it's the match-up we all saw coming when we arrived in Pearl, Miss., back on Wednesday and the stands are buzzing. Okay, it's actually a fairly empty stadium right now as the gates opened only a few minutes ago and we're almost two hours away from first pitch. At any rate, fourth-seeded Memphis or No. 7 seed UAB will walk off the field at Trustmark Park winners of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship and earn the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

And now, let's meet the starting line-ups for both teams.

UAB (31-28)
1 - Ryan Prinzing (DH) .295, 3 2B, 8 RBI
2 - Ivan De Jesus (LF) .298, 3 HR, 23 RBI
3 - John Frost (1B) .272, 2 HR, 29 RBI
4 - Patrick Palmeiro (3B) .256, 5 HR, 34 RBI
5 - Ryan Ussery (CF) .282, 4 HR, 18 RBI
6 - Harry Clark (C) .288, 1 HR, 15 RBI
7 - Keith DePew (2B) .297, 5 2B, 20 RBI
8 - Jeff Schalk (RF) .276, 2 HR, 21 RBI
9 - Tanner Bryant (SS) .287, 1 HR, 15 RBI
RHP - Ryan Nance, 4.24 ERA, 3-3, 40.1 IP, 32 K, 20 BB

Memphis (31-27)
1 - Ethan Gross (SS) .251, 6 2B, 19 RBI
2 - Jacob Wilson (3B) .319, 17 HR, 64 RBI
3 - Adam McClain (LF) .395, 3 HR, 36 RBI
4 - Eli Hynes (DH) .348, 11 HR, 47 RBI
5 - Derrick Thomas (RF) .278, 4 HR, 37 RBI
6 - Bryce Beeler (2B) .295, 2 2B, 9 RBI
7 - T.J. Rich (1B) .228, 3 HR, 29 RBI
8 - Ford Wilson (CF) .248, 1 HR, 10 RBI
9 - Keaton Aldridge (C) .231, 3 2B, 9 RBI
RHP - Chase Joiner, 4.15 ERA, 4-4, 82.1 IP, 53 K, 23 BB


May 26, 2012

Southern Miss Wins
Posted at 10:12 p.m. CT
A pair of seventh-inning runs proved to be the difference as Southern Miss defeated Rice, 4-2, to conclude pool play in this year's tournament.

But, the highlight of the night, and perhaps the Southern Miss season, came in the eighth inning when Golden Eagles third baseman Bradley Roney charged in and scooped up a bunt, threw across while leaning awkwardly to an outstretched Blake Brown to narrowly nab Rice's J.T. Chargois. It was too bad that we had posted our top five tournament plays in the blog an hour earlier, because, trust us, this one would have been included.

The young Golden Eagles team won seven of its last nine games to finish the season at 32-24. Rice will await Sunday's announcement of NCAA Regional sites, as Reckling Park would appear to be one of the 16 locations chosen to host.


Rice Ties It, Southern Miss Back On Top
Posted at 9:29 p.m. CT
Rice answere Southern Miss' two-run fifth with a single run in the top of the sixth when Christian Stringer infield single to short, stole second and scored on another J.T. Chargois RBI-single.

Southern Miss went quietly in the bottom of the inning, but got a bases-loaded walk by Blake Brown and an RBI-single to left off the bat of Bradley Roney in the seventh to give the Golden Eagles a 4-2 lead. Both of USM's runs came with two outs, and it could have been more but Ashley Graeter was gunned down at the plate trying to score on Roney's hit.


Ball of Shame goes to Tulane's Greg Campbell (Again)
Posted at 9:20 p.m. CT
We just realized that we left all of you blog readers hanging on the winner of this year's Ball of Shame. Hold on to your socks, we're about to reveal the winner shortly.

Originated in 2004 by Houston Baseball SID Jeff Conrad, the Ball of Shame goes to the first Conference USA SID eliminated from the championship. A low-quality, beat-up ball, it is signed by members of the press box, making it a significant momento for years to come. Over the years, it has grown in stature and notoriety into the most prized possession that an SID can win by losing.

Determining a winner of this award has become extremely difficult. In the pool play format, each team won at least one game again this year. Therefore, we had to induce the tie-breaker rules, also known as The Weaver Plan. With four teams tied at 1-2, the tie-breaker of fewest runs scored broke the tie and determined the 2012 Ball of Shame recipient. That honor goes to Tulane Baseball SID Greg "The Guy" Campbell. He becomes the first back-to-back winner and gives Tulane a trio of Ball of Shames, as his two wins are joined by inaugural winner Richie Weaver to give the Green Wave three Balls of Shame, more than any other school.

Just like last year, Greg had already departed for New Orleans when the award was clinched, so Richie will present him with the Ball of Shame on Tuesday at Walk-Ons on Poyrdas St.

All-Time Ball of Shame Winners:
2012 Greg 'The Guy' Campbell, Tulane
2011 Greg 'The Guy' Campbell, Tulane
2010 Jason Redd, Memphis
2009 Chris Attwood, Marshall
2008 John Sullivan, Rice (we're still stunned)
2007 Jeff Conrad, Houston
2006 Andy Fledderjohan, Marshall
2005 Jeremy Hoffman, UAB
2004 Richie Weaver, Tulane


Southern Miss, To The Top
Posted at 8:34 p.m. CT
While trying to figure out how to post that lovely picture of Nicole below (actually, I had no idea how to do it and got a big helping hand from up-and-coming Memphis SID legend Mark Taylor), the Golden Eagles have finally broken through to not only get on the scoreboard but also take the lead.

Centerfielder Dillon Day reached base via hit by pitch with two away, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and tied the contest at 1-all on right fielder Michael Sterling's RBI single up the middle. Rice starter Matthew Reckling plunked shortstop Ashley Graeter to move Sterling into scoring position, and while the Owls called on Taylor Wall to try and put the fire out. The Golden Eagles, however, greeted the Rice reliever rudely as designated hitter Mason Robbins roped an RBI-double down the right field line to put his team on top 2-1.

As you would expect, there's a sizable Southern Miss crown on hand and they are smiles all around right now. But as the old saying goes, don't count your chickens (or in this case Golden Eagles) before they hatch. You know that Rice is not going to go away without a fight, and that's exactly what we have right now on the diamond.


Welcome To The Club, Nicole
Posted at 8:31 p.m. CT
There are a lot of things that can be said to describe the people who work in the press box during the Conference USA Baseball Championship over the last 10-plus years. Good guys...hard workers...enjoy baseball...likes to have a good time. One thing that would be the exact opposite of us - boring.

As the years tick away, stories get shared from one generation of SIDs to the next, running jokes are commonplace, and sometimes words like "struggling" get used so much we almost have or own language among ourselves. One of the mainstays over the years has been what can only be described as the greatest movie of all time, Smokey And The Bandit. This piece of cinematic mastery has provided countless quotable lines from "the first thing I'm gonna do when I get home is punch your momma in the mouth" to "what we have here is a total and complete lack of respect for the law."

With that in mind, I decided to do a little offseason ebay shopping and located an old-school style Smokey And The Bandit truckers hat. Many have donned it to date over the week, including East Carolina's Malcolm Gray in the last game to try and get his Pirates back on the right track after an 0-2 start here in Pearl. It may have helped him, as ECU posted a 10-3 win over upstart UAB.

Most recently, C-USA Director of New Media Nicole Cartier donned the bonnett and took a moment to pose for a picture. Little did she know it, but we are going to immortalize this bad boy here on the blog. Enjoy!!!


The Blazers Tie Things Up
Posted at 7:12 p.m. CT
Rice wasted little time taking the early lead here in the final game of pod play of the C-USA Championship. J.T. Chargoios sparked a two-out rally with a double down the right field line, and Jeremy Rathjens brought him in with an RBI-single in the ensuing at-bat.


Top Plays of the C-USA
Posted at 7:42 p.m. CT
At long last, I am ready to contribute to the blog. I have left the video room long enough to add an entry here, but I have brought with me some of the top plays of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship thus far. Enjoy!


Saturday Night Main Event
Posted at 6:41 p.m. CT
Rice and Southern Miss, the last two C-USA Tournament Champions are getting ready to meet in Saturday's final game that serves as the last game in pool play.

Perhaps fitting before these two perennial heavyweights slug it out is that former WWE wrestler Ted Dibiase, AKA "the Million Dollar man" will be on hand to throw out the first pitch.

Once that is complete, C-USA Pitcher of the Year Matthew Reckling will step to the mound for Rice to face off against Mason Robbins of Southern Miss. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.


Pirates Pillage UAB Late
Posted at 5:55 p.m. CT
East Carolina blew open a tight game with six runs in the top of the ninth inning to dispose of UAB, 10-3. Corey Thompson, John Wooten and Zach Wright each had three hits and two RBI.

The win is huge for the Pirates, giving one last boost to the overall resume that is currently being reviewed in downtown Indianapolis. ECU, with an RPI in the 20's, is hoping to see its name called on Monday morning when the NCAA selection show takes place. It would be the Buccos 12th NCAA appearance in the last 14 years.

For UAB, their road to an berth is clear cut - beat Memphis on Sunday. A Blazers victory would put UAB into the NCAA field for the first time since 1991.


Pirates Answer To Go Back On Top
Posted at 5:06 p.m. CT
East Carolina has moved back ahead here in the eighth inning at Trustmark Park when third baseman Corey Thompson scored on a wild pitch. That is now the 10th run of the C-USA Baseball Championship to come around and touch the paystation via an off-target toss to the backstop.

Thompson leadoff the inning with a single and moved to second on a balk by UAB reliever Sam Kelley. From there, UAB head coach Brian Shoop called in Alex Luna, who gave up the sacrifice bunt and the wild pitch. He kept it a one-run ballgame by getting a fly ball to right single and got a bit fortunate when reserve third baseman Tyler Hamby gloved a rocket shot off the bat of Chase McDonald for the final out of the inning.


The Blazers Tie Things Up
Posted at 4:27 p.m. CT
After three scoreless innings, the Blazers have battled back to tie the game with a pair of runs here in the bottom of the sixth. After a walk by Ryan Prinzing and a single by Ryan Ussery, Patruck Palmeiro drove in pinch-runner Ivan De Jesus with a single to left to cut the deficit to one. UAB later loaded the bases and tied things up when Tyler Mims singled to center.

We're two-thirds of the way through this one and we've got another good one going.


Guest Blog By Memphis' Mark Taylor
Posted at 4:02 p.m. CT
It took us until day four of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship, but at long last, we've got one. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Memphis' very own Mark Taylor

Memphis' schedule worked out where the Tigers got a day off today. What does a team do on the day off before a C-USA Championship title game? The team went through a light practice at Madison Ridgeland Academy in nearby Jackson. Any players on the team would tell you that a light practice means some entertainment as the club stretches in the outfield.

A tradition started by the "Voice of the Tigers" Jeff Brightwell several years back, support staff bring their gloves and take ground balls on the infield. Fortunately, this tradition only takes place on Thursday's before a C-USA weekend series. Otherwise, we may have trainer Mark Waller too busy every week as guys take ground balls off knees, chests and an occasional face. As you can see in the video below, the support staff had a championship day at the field turning a rather flashy 3-6-1 double play at one point.

It's been a remarkable season as the SID for the Tigers. Heading into the title game, the work continues for myself here at Trustmark Park today. With the game being on CBS Sports Network, more notes are needed so the research continues. My hat is off to Jeff Brightwell, J.J. Guinozzo and Associate Athletic Director Bob Winn for all their help in digging up the "championship" history.

Championship Sunday represents a golden opportunity for the Tigers and UAB, and it will be an entertaining game to see. Personally, this will be my fourth C-USA Championship game as an SID as I have watched three with the Memphis women's soccer program. Good luck to both teams and I hope to have some quirky video for the loyal blog readers next year!


Game 2 Update
Posted at 3:38 p.m. CT
For those of you chomping at the bit to know what's going on here at Trustmark Park, I appologize for the break in the action. As you can imagine, things get a little busy here in the press box at the end of each game. People are stepping and fetching trying to get everything done. Recaps have to be written, interviews have to be done and everything has to be posted on line and sent out to the media.

Okay, no more excuses. We're heading to the third inning here in the East Carolina/UAB ballgame, and the Pirates hold a 3-1 lead after scoring two in the first and getting a solo home run from Chase McDonald in the second. UAB is the designated home team so the Blazers will have the advantage of taking the final at-bat if needbe. They also have the advantage of knowing that no matter what happens here today, they will be playing tomorrow when UAB will face Memphis in the C-USA Championship title game.

East Carolina, meanwhile, needs a win here to not only avoid leaving Pearl 0-3 in tournament play but also to help secure a spot in next weekend's NCAA Tournament. Pirates' media relations contact, Malcolm Gray, is doing his part to shift his team's mojo. He chose a new spot in the press box to sit, he changed up his breakfast menu, and he's even donning an old-school Smokey and the Bandit trucker hat featuring the sponge front and mesh back that was all the rage back when the movie came out in 1976.

We're not sure if any of this is going to help, but it seems to be working so far. "Big Business" Ben Warnick from UAB, meanwhile, is back in his usual spot in the radio booth.


That was Quick!
Posted at 2:26 p.m. CT
East Carolina just took the field for infield/outfield practice.

And East Carolina just left the field after infield/outfield practice.

Assistant coach Nick Schnabel hit a ground ball to third baseman Corey Thompson, who scooped it up and turned the 5-4-3, tossing to second baseman Mike Ussery who threw to first baseman Chase McDonald to complete the double play and end infield/outfield practice in less than 30 seconds.

This is the third time in the last three seasons that ECU has done this during infield/outfield practice. The Pirates are 2-0 when employing this practice, defeating Pepperdine in 2010 and Elon in 2010, both on the road. We'll see if this unique practice method inspires the Buccos, who need this win over UAB to enhance their NCAA at-large hopes.


UCF Tops Tulane
Posted at 1:56 p.m. CT
UCF added win No. 43 to its victory total with a 6-2 triumph over Tulane.

Spencer Haynes had a pair of hits and a pair of RBI and UCF was able to take advantage of nine Green Wave walks and three errors.

The loss was a blow to the Green Wave's NCAA at-large hopes, as a win over a top-25 RPi club like UCF could have really helped Tulane's case.


Knights Go Back On Top
Posted at 1:20 p.m. CT
With the score tied at 2-2 over the last three innings, UCF took the lead for the first time since the first with a trio of runs here in the top of the eighth. Tulane's second-team All-Conference USA reliever D.J. Ponder toed the rubber to start the frame, but walked D.J. Hicks and gave up a single to Jeramy Matos. Nick Carrillo advanced the runners 90 feet with a sacrifice bunt, and Ponder set up a potential double play by intentionally walking Erik Barber.

Ponder struck out JoMarcos Woods for the second out of the inning and got nine-hole hitter Spencer Haynes to dribble a ground ball to first. The ball took a tricky hop and reserve infielder Tucker Oakley was not able to make a play at the plate or at first, adn that allowed Hicks to score. After gaining control of the ball, Oakley stood in frustration after seeing the Knights go ahead by one, but Matos never stopped running and wound up scoring all the way from second on the play. Ronnie Richardson tagged on another run with an RBI-single through the left side of the infield.

We're through seven and a half here at Trustmark Park, and the Knights hold a 5-2 lead. Time is running out on the Green Wave.


C-USA Celebrities
Posted at 1:03 p.m. CT
At last year's C-USA Baseball Championship fans were treated to an appearance by three-time NFL MVP Brett Favre. The former Southern Miss legend threw out the first pitch before the Golden Eagles first game of the tourney.

This year's "Conference USA Celebrity" will be Rafael Palmeiro. The former Mississippi State All-American, College Baseball Hall of Famer and Major League All-Star will throw out the first pitch prior to the UAB-East Carolina game. After the game he will be signing autographs for teh fans here at Trustmark Park.

Palmeiro is one of just four Major League Baseball players to have 3,000 hits and hit 500 home runs. He joins Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Eddie Murray in accomplishing the feat.


Pitchers Duel Continues
Posted at 12:45 p.m. CT
Tulane and UCF continue to battle in a pitchers duel. We are heading to the seventh inning and we're tied at 2-2. The Knights have allowed just four hits and the Green Wave have surrendered three.


Second Green Wave Error Proves Costly
Posted at 12:13 p.m. CT
After replacing starter David Napoli on the mound, Tulane reliever Alex Massey appeared to pitch the Green Wave out of a jam as he induced a tailor-made double-play ground ball off the bat of two-hole hitter Darnell Sweeney. Green Wave shortstop Brennan Middleton fielded the ball cleanly and tossed to second baseman Bowen Woodson for the second out of the inning, but Woodson's pivot toss was low and squirted past first baseman Sean Potkay. The error - Tulane's second of the game so far - allowed UCF second baseman Spencer Haynes to score from second and tie things up at 2-all.


Tulane Goes To The Pen
Posted at 12:08 p.m. CT
The pitch count has continued to pile up for Tulane starter David Napoli, and Green Wave skipper Rick Jones has seen enough. After Napoli gave up a one-out single to nine-hole hitter Spencer Haynes and walked centerfielder Ronnie Richardson, Jones called on right-hander Alex Massey to try and put the fire out here in the top of the fourth.

Massey earned C-USA All-Freshman Team honors this year and takes the hill with 3-1 record, 4.15 ERA and 47.2 innings under his belt. Napoli headed to the dugout after tossing 75 pitches, allowing four hits and walking five while striking out a pair in 3.1 innings of work.


Fear The Schnee
Posted at 11:52 a.m. CT
After staking the Green Wave to a 2-1 lead with a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, Tulane right fielder Nick Schneeberget made sure the score stayed that way as he gunned down UCF catcher Chris Taladay at the plate to end the top of the third.

Taladay opened the inning by reaching via a Green Wave error and moved to second when first baseman D.J. Hicks drew a five-pitch walk. Tulane head coach Rick Jones came out to settled down his pitcher, and David Napoli responded by striking out the next two batters he faced. From there, right fielder Erik Barber laced a would-be RBI-single through the right side of the infield and Taladay charged hard around third and headed toward the paystateion in an attempt to tie the score. Schneeberger, however, had other ideas as he fielded the ball cleanly and fired a bullet to the plate.

It was the second outfield assist of the 2012 C-USA Baseball Championship for Schneeberger as he gunned down a runner trying to go from first to third in the Green Wave's 4-3 win over East Carolina on Wednesday.


Schnee Leaves The Yard
Posted at 11:21 a.m. CT
Tulane has struck back quickly here in the bottom of the first as right fielder Nick Schneeberger just hammered a two-run homer high over the wall in left to stake the Green Wave to a 2-1 lead. The round-tripper was the fifth of the year for Schneeberger and he also boosted his RBI total to 49.

The tater was just the third hit out of Trustmark Park this weekend. To put that in perspective, the eight teams participating in the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship have scored nine runs via wild pitches. Head scratching, ain't it?!


UCF Draws First Blood
Posted at 11:15 a.m. CT
UCF wasted little time getting on the scoreboard as designated hitter Jeramy Matos ripped a two-out RBI single up the middle off of Tulane starter David Napoli to plate catcher Chris Taladay from second and stake the Knights to an early 1-0 lead after a half inning of action.

It could have been worse for Tulane as shortstop Darnell Sweeney drew a one-out walk, but was caught trying to steal second. Sweeney's free pass was one of three issued by Napoli in the inning as Taladay and first baseman D.J. Hicks also walked to set up Matos' run-scoring base hit. It took Napoli 29 pitches to get out of the first inning, and he will have to be more efficient in his effort from the hill or Tulane head coach Rick Jones may have to go to his bullpen pretty early in this one.

The good news for Tulane fans is that there is a lot of baseball left to be played as the Green Wave are coming to the plate now.


And Now, Let's Meet The Teams
Posted at 10:47 a.m. CT
We're about 15 minutes away from first pitch of the Tulane/UCF ballgame. Here are the starting line-ups:

No. 2 Seed: UCF (41-15)
1 - Ronnie Richardson (CF) .305, 8 HR, 32 RBI
2 - Darnell Sweeney (SS) .269, 2 HR, 31 RBI
3 - Chris Taladay (C) .313, 5 HR, 47 RBI
4 - D.J. Hicks (1B) .319, 11 HR, 68 RBI
5 - Jeremy Matos (DH) .287, 4 HR, 15 RBI
6 - Nick Carrillo (3B) .236, 4 HR, 18 RBI
7 - Erik Barber (RF) .385, 1 2B, 4 RBI
8 - LoMarcos Woods (LF) .228, 4 2B, 14 RBI
9 - Spencer Haynes (2B) .250, 2 2B, 2 RBI
RHP - Ray Hanson, 3.49 ERA, 4-1, 49.0 IP, 31 K, 19 BB

No. 3 Seed: Tulane (38-19)
1 - Brandon Boudreaux (LF) .337, 8 HR, 36 RBI
2 - Garrett Cannizaro (3B) .309, 4 HR, 42 RBI
3 - Nick Schneeberger (RF) .347, 4 HR, 46 RBI
4 - Jeremy Schaffer (C) .330, 9 HR, 49 RBI
5 - Blake Crohan (CF) .325, 2 HR, 21 RBI
6 - Sean Potkay (1B) .318, 5 HR, 29 RBI
7 - Andrew Garner (DH) .297, 2 HR, 21 RBI
8 - Brennan Middleton (SS) .358, 10 2B, 19 RBI
9 - Bowen Woodson (2B) .229, 1 HR, 13 RBI
LHP - David Napoli, 2.87 ERA, 7-3, 84.2 IP, 55 K, 34 BB

Tulane and UCF battled through a weekend series back on April 20-22 at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium in New Orleans, and the Knights came away with a weekend sweep with scores of 1-0, 8-7 (12 innings) and 8-6. The Green Wave came away from the series with an 0-3 mark, but rallied late in both Saturday and Sunday's games to make things close and lost all three games by a total of just four runs. As previously state here on "The Blog", a win today for Tulane could go a long way for the Green Wave's postseason hopes. UCF, meanwhile, is a virtual lock for the NCAAs as the Knights are ranked as high as 16th in the national polls.


And We're Back
Posted at 10:22 a.m. CT
Alright folks, we're back for the final day of pod play here at the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship, and while the championship-game teams have already been decided, today's games are vitally important to a pair of teams.

With a 38-19 overall record coming into today's game against UCF, Tulane will look to enhance its chance of getting an at-large bid to next week's NCAA Tournament. The Green Wave finished tied for third in the regular-season C-USA standings with a 14-10 league record. As of today, Tulane is on the bubble, but a win over a UCF squad with the No. 23 RPI could go a long way to bolster the Green Wave cause.

East Carolina, meanwhile, enters its 3 p.m. contest against championship-game bound UAB with a 34-21-1 record and were sixth in the C-USA standings with a 13-10-1 league ledger. While the sixth-place finish may not look good to the naked eye, the Pirates were just a half game away from tying Memphis, Tulane and Southern Miss for third. East Carolina also has a eye-catching 28 RPI courtesy of solid scheduling and quality wins over N.C. State, Louisville, Rice and UCF. The Pirates may need to win today because an 0-3 showing in the championship tournament here in Pearl, Miss., will no doubt raise a few eyebrows from the NCAA Selection Committee when they meet to determine the postseason field on Monday.

It's going to come down to the two teams being determined to do what it takes to pick up the key victory. The Green Wave will need to roll in order to beat a nationally-ranked UCF squad and the Pirates will have to ask themselves, "ARRGH they ready to right the ship."

We've had nine exciting games so far this week at Trustmark Park. Batten down the hatches ladies and gentlemen. We've got three more games today and the title game tomorrow. Stick with us folks as we'll be bringing you all of the action here on the often-imitated, rarely-duplicated C-USA Baseball Championship Blog!!!


May 25, 2012

Remember Us?
Posted at 10:02 p.m. CT
We didn't completely forget about the blog. And we apologize to the masses that spent their Friday night waiting for updates (riiiight).

In the nightcap of day three, Houston jumped out to a 7-0 lead on Memphis and survived a scare in the seventh inning when the Tigers had the bases loaded in a tie game and the score 7-3. Reliever Chase Wellbrock shut the door on that Tiger rally and went on to earn his first save of the season with 2.2 innings of one hit ball with three strikeouts. That followed a strong outing by Matt Hernandez, who earned his first win of the season by striking out six in 6.1 innings, allowing two earned runs on six hits.

For Houston, they end a tough season on a high note. though this was a disappointing campaign, bright times are head for this program as head coach Todd Whitting will have the Cougars back on the right track on the right track.

For Memphis, they have Saturday off to prepare for a battle for their first C-USA Baseball Championship and a return to the NCAA's for the first time since 2007.


UCF Rolls over ECU, Sends UAB to Title Game
Posted at 5:42 p.m. CT
A day after getting run-ruled by UAB, the UCF Knights turned the tables and did it to East Carolina, 11-1.

Chris Taladay was the offensive star, going 3-for-5 with a home run and five RBI. Ben Lively earned the win, allowing one run on six hits. The victory was his ninth of the season, the most by a UCF pitcher since Tim Bascom won 10 in 2005.

The UCF win also clinched pod No. 2 for UAB. The Blazers will now face Memphis in Sunday's C-USA Championship Game at 1 p.m. CDT.


That One's Outta Here!!!
Posted at 4:20 p.m. CT
We just had what's quickly becoming a rarity in the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship as UCF catcher Chris Taladay hammered a three-run homer in the top of the fourth to give the Knights a 9-1 lead over East Carolina.

The homer was just the second of the championship tournament and the first in Memphis' Jacob Wilson belted a two-run shot in the third inning of the Tigers' 14-3 win over Southern Miss. For those keeping track, Taladay's round tripper was the C-USA Championships' first in 61 innings of action. The teams are going to have to on an absolute tear if the tournament record for homers is going to fall. The mark was set in the first year of the league's existence when 56 were belted in 1996 at Pete Taylor Park in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Nine-hole hitter Spencer Haynes got things going for the Knights with a leadoff single to center before centerfielder Ronnie Richardson was hit by a pitch. Following a strikeout by Sweeney, Talladay clubbed a 1-1 offering from East Carolina reliever Tyler Joyner high over the wall in right to stretch the Knights' lead to eight.


UCF Up 6-1 After Three
Posted at 4:03 p.m. CT
We're through three innings here in the UCF/East Carolina contest, and so far, the Knights are making their fans - as well as those from UAB - very happy. UCF scored one in the first, three in the second and a pair in the third. The Knights have roughed up Pirates' starter Jharel Cotton and reliever Tyler Joyner for eight hits so far, but ECU did get on the board in the second on an RBI-single by centerfielder Bryan Bass.

The Pirates had a chance to cut into the deficit a little bit in the bottom of the third as designated hitter Drew Reynolds singled and both third baseman Corey Thompson and left fielder Jay Cannon were drilled by UCF starter Ben Lively was able to wiggle off the hook to keep it an eight-run affair.

If the score holds up, fans from Blazer nation will be smiling even more than they were earlier in the day after their team defeated Tulane 6-3, as UAB will clinch the final spot in Sunday's championship contest. Memphis has already punched its ticket to the title game following the action here at Trustmark Park yesterday.


Posted at 2:16 p.m. CT
UAB took advantage of three Tulane errors and scored four unearned runs to defeat Tulane, 6-3. The win instantly makes the Blazers huge fans of UCF. That is because a Knights victory in the next game over East Carolina will put UAB into the C-USA Championship Game against Memphis.

We don't want to get ahead of ourselves, but the last time that Blazer Baseball found itself in a conference title game was back when Slade Blackwell starred on the south side and helped UAB to the 1994 Great Midwest Conference Championship title at Johnny Bench Field in Cincinnati (Lucky Larry was not present).


UAB Pads The Lead
Posted at 1:05 p.m. CT
Tulane had something cooking in the top of the sixth as Blake Crohan hit a one-out double to left and moved to third on a balk by Chase Mallard. Green Wave designated hitter Andrew Garner followed with a ground ball to short, but Tanner Bryant was able to look Crohan back to the bag and his throw to first was in time for the second out. From there, Brandon Boudreaux tried to tie the game with a well-placed bunt, but the ball bounded right back to Mallard for an inning-ending groundout.

The Blazers made the missed opportunity hurt even more in the home half of the frame as second baseman Keith DePew drew a leadoff walk, Bryant followed with a single and the UAB pair advanced 90 feet on a sacrifice bunt by left fielder Chase Davis. Tulane reliever Kyle McKenzie got designated hitter Ivan De Jesus to line-out to first and the Green Wave's Sean Potkay tried to double off DePew at third. His throw to the hot corner, however, bounced in the dirt and got away from Garrett Cannizaro and the error allowed a run to score. Things got worse for Tulane in the ensuing at-bat when first baseman John Frost dropped down a bunt which McKenzie fielded cleanly. The Green Wave hurler's throw to first pulled Potkay off the bag, and that allowed UAB to score their second unearned run of the inning.

With that, the Blazers now hold a 4-2 edge two-thirds of the way through this one.


The Green Wave Get On The Board
Posted at 12:25 p.m. CT
Tulane cut the deficit in half in the top of the fourth as centerfielder Blake Crohan scored an unearned run on an RBI-groundout by second baseman Bowen Woodson. Crohan opened the inning by getting hit by a pitch and reached second base safely on a would-be fielders' choice groundball to second. UAB second sacker Keith DePew's toss to Tanner Bryant, however, drew shortstop Tanner Bryant off the bag for an error.

Left fielder Brandon Boudreaux moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt, and Woodson's swinging bunt to third made it a 2-1 ballgame. Don't go anywhere folks. This one has the makings of a classic!!!


And The Game Belongs To The Bullpens
Posted at 12:16 p.m. CT
While UAB starter Ben Bullard was burned when he suffered an apparent arm injury during his pre-game warm-up tosses prior to the top of the first, Tulane starter Andrew Reeves is now out as well. Reeves sandwiched a strikeout between a single and a walk, and with two on and only one out in the bottom of the third, Green Wave head coach Rick Jones called for right-hander Kyle McKenzie from the bullpen.

McKenzie is now making his 14th appearance of the year and brings a 3.12 ERA and a 4-2 record to the mound with him. He has thrown 40.1 innings, struck out 30 and walked 21 while limiting opponents to a .252 batting average. McKenzie pitched the Wave out of the jam by retiring the only to batters he faced to thwart the Blazer rally.


Blazers Take The Early Lead
Posted at 11:55 a.m. CT
After tallying a team C-USA Championship record with 15 runs in yesterday's 14-run win over second-seeded UCF, the UAB offense keeps things rolling along here in day three as the Blazers posted a pair of runs in the bottom of the second to break a scoreless tie.

Centerfielder Ryan Ussery got things going with a one-out walk and catcher Harry Clark followed with a single through the left side of the infield. From there, second baseman Keith DePew plated Ussery with an RBI-single to right for the first run of the ballgame. Following a walk by shorstop Tanner Bryant loaded the bases, Clark scored from third on an RBI fielders' choice groundout off the bat of nine-hole hitter Chase Davis.

After two complete, it's 2-0 in favor of the folks with the Dragons on their batting helmets. There's a lot of baseball left to be played in this one, but the UAB faithful have to like the way their team has played in the C-USA Championship to date.


Early Pitching Change
Posted at 11:08 a.m. CT
When Tulane left fielder Brandon Boudreaux stepped into the on-deck circle to get mentally focused for the first pitch of the game against UAB, he was no doubt reviewing the scouting report on Blazers' right-hander Ben Bullard. Bullard, however, made just a few tosses to the plate before coming up lame. After a meeting with coaching staff and trainer, it was determined that Bullard could not continue and Chase Mallard is now warming up for the Blazers.

Mallard will be making his 23rd appearance of the season today, and while making just his second start, he has been solid out of the bullpen with three wins, a pair of saves and a 3.18 ERA. Along the way, Mallard has struck out 41 and walked 24 in 56.2 innings of work. Opponents are hitting .241 against him this year.


And Now, Let's Meet The Teams
Posted at 10:56 a.m. CT
We're still a few minutes away from first pitch, but like all good baseball fans, I'm sure you want to know the line-up. Well, wait no longers:

Tulane (38-18)
1 - Brandon Boudreaux (LF) .340, 8 HR, 35 RBI
2 - Garrett Cannizaro (3B) .315, 4 HR, 42 RBI
3 - Nick Schneeberger (RF) .349, 4 HR, 46 RBI
4 - Jeremy Schaffer (C) .332, 9 HR, 48 RBI
5 - Sean Potkay (1B) .326, 5 HR, 29 RBI
6 - Blake Crohan (CF) .319, 2 HR, 21 RBI
7 - Andrew Garner (DH) .307, 2 HR, 21 RBI
8 - Brennan Middleton (SS) .356, 10 2B, 19 RBI
9 - Bowen Woodson (2B) .228, 1 HR, 12 RBI
RHP - Andrew Reeves, 3.40 ERA, 2-1, 45.0 IP, 22 K, 15 BB

UAB (30-27)
1 - Ivan De Jesus (DH) .300, 3 HR, 23 RBI
2 - John Frost (1B) .265, 2 HR, 20 RBI
3 - Patrick Palmeiro (3B) .251, 5 HR, 33
4 - Jeff Schalk (RF) .282, 2 HR, 21 RBI
5 - Ryan Ussery (CF) .276, 4 HR, 18 RBI
6 - Harry Clark (C) .292, 1 HR, 14 RBI
7 - Keith DePew (2B) .299, 5 2B, 19 RBI
8 - Tanner Bryant (SS) .272, 1 HR, 14 RBI
9 - Chase Davis (LF) .265, 3 SB, 2 RBI
RHP - Ben Bullard, 2.96 ERA, 5-5, 82.0 IP, 79 K, 19 BB


Let's Get It Started
Posted at 9:37 a.m. CT
After a lovely breakfast at the Holiday Inn across the street, the band is back together in the press box and we are raring to go for day three of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship here at Trustmark Park. The field is looking great thanks to the hard work and long hours put in by the Trustmark grounds crew and the weather is absolutely beautiful.

First game out of the chute will be a big one as both Tulane and UAB are 1-0 in pod play so far. The Green Wave opened C-USA Championship play with a 4-3 win over East Carolina on Wednesday, and the Blazers blasted UCF 15-1 in a 10-run-rule shortened seven-inning ballgame yesterday. The victor of this game can't lock down a spot in Sunday's title game just yet, but they would be in very good position to do just that.

Both teams are on the field and loosening up. We're still a little more than an hour away from first pitch, but "Money" Mike is pacing like a caged animal he's so focused on the upcoming action. Can't wait to see what's going to happen.


May 24, 2012

Day Two In The Books...And It Was a Good One
Posted at 11:47 p.m. CT
It's a little bit shy of midnight here in Pearl, Miss., and day two of the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship has officially come to a close. What a great day of baseball. The opener treated us to a 13-run inning as UAB rolled past UCF, 15-1, in a 10-run-rule shortened seven-inning contest. Game two was another good one as Southern Miss and Houston traded blows over nine innings before the Golden Eagles emerged victorious in the 10th with an 8-7 victory. And the nightcap was even better as Memphis rallied from a 2-0 deficit after six innings to come away with a 3-2 win over regular-season champion Rice.

After all the dust settled, we already have one half of Sunday's C-USA Championship title game filled as the Tigers are 2-0 in pod play and have locked up their first appearance in a conference championship game since winning the Great Midwest crown in 1995. In a case of sheer irony, C-USA's own Russ Anderson was on hand for that contest as a communications assistant for the now-defunct league.

There's still a lot to play for over the next two days, however. The action kicks off tomorrow with Tulane/UAB at 11 a.m., followed by East Carolina/UCF at 4 p.m. and Houston/Memphis at 7 p.m. On Saturday, Tulane will play UCF in the early game, UAB and Memphis will square off in the midafternoon and Southern Miss and Rice will close out pod play in the evening.

While Memphis has already punched its ticket for Sunday's title game, Rice will be looking to secure home-field advantage throughout the NCAA postseason and both Houston and Southern Miss will try and close out the 2012 season on a high note with a win in their final C-USA Championship contest. In the other pod, a lot can happen as Tulane and UAB are both 1-0 while UCF and East Carolina are looking to put first-round losses aside and bounce back in game two.

How are things going to turn out? Only the shadow knows. So be sure to check back in the rest of the way to stay abreast of the situation. Same bat time. Same bat channel. Money is about to pass out here in the press box (not sure if it's boredom or he's just flat tired) so we'd better go. Talk atcha tomorrow.


Memphis Moves to the Championship Game
Posted at 10:07 p.m. CT
For the first time in 17 years, the Memphis Tigers have advanced to the championship game of the C-USA Tournament.

Trailing 2-0 nearly the entire game, the Tigers took advantage of a fielding error in the seventh inning to score two runs and then pushed across the go-ahead run with two outs in the eighth.

Jonathan Van Eaton came on to pitch the ninth inning for the Tigers. After pinch-runner Keenan Cook reached second base, Van Eaton got Shane Hoelscher to strike out to end the game.


Hold That Tiger
Posted at 9:19 p.m. CT
Rice hurler Austin Kubitza had been rolling along through six innings, but a leadoff error in the bottom of the seventh sparked a two-run inning for the Tigers and we are now deadlocked a pair apiece here at Trustmark Park. Right fielder Derrick Thomas opened the frame by reaching on an errant throw from Rice shortstop Ford Stainback, moved to second on a groundball and scored on a single to left off the bat of second baseman Bryce Beeler.

From there, Beeler stole second and nine-hole hitter Keaton Aldridge came through in the clutch with a two-out, RBI-double to the gap in left centerfield to tie things up. Hold onto your hats everyone. We may be in for a doozy!!!


Take Off, eh?
Posted at 8:59 p.m. CT
Many of you probably thought that's what we did...took off.

We didn't. We've been attending some other things here in the press box. Included was a discussion about the 1983 cinematic classic "Strange Brew". Richie and I reeled off our top five lines from the cult classic about Bob and Doug MacKenzie. (We got one left - it's a jelly). Yes, we've been in the press box for 12 straight hours and we're getting pretty punchy.

Meanwhile, out on the field, Rice continues to cling to the two-run lead it built in its first at-bat. We're now in the sixth inning and Austin Kubitza has done a strong job of shutting down the red-hot Tiger offense. Through six complete, he has allowed three hits and struck out six with one walk. Kubitza has thrown only 68 total pitches.


Rice/Memphis Lineups
Posted at 7:27 p.m. CT
After an extra inning affair between Southern Miss and Houston, we're ready for the nightcap here at Trustmark Park. Here are the line-ups for game three:

Rice (40-15)
1 - Ford Stainback (SS) .302, 8 2B, 16 RBI
2 - Christian Stringer (2B) .350, 11 2B, 36 RBI
3 - J.T. Chargois (DH) .325, 8 2B, 29 RBI
4 - Jeremy Rathjen (RF) .340, 9 HR, 40 RBI
5 - Craig Manuel (C) .283, 6 HR, 25 RBI
6 - Michael Fuda (CF) .310, 12 2B, 44 RBI
7 - Ryan Lewis (1B) .234, 6 2B, 28 RBI
8 - Michael Ratterree (LF) .240, 6 HR, 41 RBI
9 - Shane Hoelscher (3B) .250, 9 2B, 30 RBI
RHP - Austin Kubitza, 3.35 ERA, 6-2, 88.2 IP, 54 K, 33 BB

Memphis (30-26) 1 - Ethan Gross (SS) .251, 0 HR, 18 RBI
2 - Jacob Wilson (3B) .327, 17 HR, 64 RBI
3 - Adam McClain (LF) .405, 13 2B, 36 RBI
4 - Eli Hynes (DH) .350, 17 2B, 47 RBI
5 - Derrick Thomas (RF) .283, 12 2B, 36 RBI
6 - T.J. Rich (1B) .233, 9 2B, 28 RBI
7 - Bryce Beeler (2B) .282, 2 2B, 8 RBI
8 - Ford Wilson (CF) .238, 5 2B, 10 RBI
9 - Keaton Aldridge (C) .223, 2 2B, 8 RBI
RHP - Dan Langfield, 2.84 ERA, 6-6, 85.2 IP, 104 K, 44 BB


SMTTT...in 10
Posted at 6:44 p.m. CT
After watching the first nine innings of a back-and-forth ballgame, Austin Roussel came off the bench to deliver a pinch-hit RBI single to lift fourth-seeded Southern Miss to an 8-7, 10-inning win over No. 8 seed Houston.

Bradley Roney earned the win for the Golden Eagles and Chase Horn picked up his first save of the year.

UH's Landon Appling tied a C-USA Championship single-game record with five hits before finally being retired in his sixth at-bat in the 10th inning.


A Grand Entrance
Posted at 6:33 p.m. CT
Southern Miss just went to the bullpen and Chase Horn entered the field to the sound of the theme from Green Acres. Who needs Enter Sandman or Hells Bells when you can intimidate opponents with a song like Green Acres?

Of course, that doesn't top last year, when Tulane's D.J. Ponder entered a game against Tulane to the theme of Spongebob Squarepants.

-RDA- Free Baseball
Posted at 6:13 p.m. CT
Just like last year, we have extra-inning baseball from Houston and Southern Miss.

Twice, the Cougars had to battle back in this one to force extra innings. Houston scored four runs in the seventh inning to tie it at 5-5, then watched Southern Miss push across single runs in the top of the eighth and ninth.

The Coogs then scored two more in the ninth to tie it at 7-7. But, with men on first and second, Bradley Roney struck out Price Jacobs to end the threat and give the fans in attendance free baseball.

Extra inning baseball between Houston and Southern Miss in the C-USA Championship is nothing new. You may all remember the epic 14-inning battle last year between these teams, when the Cougars defeated the Golden Eagles, 7-6. The game started more than two hours late due to a rain delay in game one that day and an 11-inning game between Tulane and East Carolina in game three. Four hours and 43 minutes later, Ryan Still's single had given the Cougars a victory, just before 2:00 AM.


SMTTT Through Seven
Posted at 5:05 p.m. CT
Sorry we've been away for awhile, but Richie "Dream" Weaver and I have been busy catching up with Pat Cauley, former star infielder for UH and current Cougar radio analyst.

Speaking of Pat, his Cougars are continuing to battle back against Southern Miss. Houston loaded the bases and chased USM starter Jake Drehoff. then Landon Appling singled to left field, making him 4-for-4 on the day. Michael Pyeatt and Chase Jensen followed that singles to make it 5-4 and make a quick day for Golden Eagles reliever Cameron Gianinni.


Southern Miss Takes Early Lead
Posted at 3:33 p.m. CT
Following two scoreless innings, Southern Miss got on the board in the top of the third as right fielder Michael Sterling hit a two-out, two-RBI single up the middle to stake the Golden Eagles to a 2-0 advantage. Sterling scored second and later scored when Ashely Graeter's single up the middle.

Houston had a chance to make things interesting in the home half of the inning as Houston had runners on the corners with two outs, but USM starter Jake Drehoff got Chase Jensen to fly out to right to end the threat.


Southern Miss/Houston Lineups
Posted at 2:51 p.m. CT
After a thrilling 15-1 win by UAB over UCF in the opening game, we're ready for some more baseball action here at Trutsmark Park. Here are the line-ups for game two:

Southern Miss (30-24)
1 - Dillon Day (CF) .288, 10 2B, 19 RBI
2 - Michael Sterling (RF) .254, 1 HR, 13 RBI
3 - Ashley Graeter (SS) .338, 1 HR, 28 RBI
4 - Mason Robbins (DH) .333, 3 HR, 36 RBI
5 - Blake Brown (1B) .281, 6 HR, 40 RBI
6 - Bradley Roney (3B) .243, 2 HR, 9 RBI
7 - Isaac Rodriguez (2B) .283, 6 2B, 14 RBI
8 - Kameron Brunty (LF) .246, 4 2B, 17 RBI
9 - Chase Fowler (C) .244, 3 2B, 17 RBI
LHP - Jake Drehoff, 3.35 ERA, 6-2, 88.2 IP, 54 K, 33 BB

Houston (17-34-1) 1 - Landon Appling (CF) .303, 3 HR, 24 RBI
2 - Michael Pyeatt (LF) .322, 3 2B, 9 RBI
3 - Chase Jensen (2B) .259, 1 HR, 32 RBI
4 - Jonathan Davis (DH) .314, 7 2B, 16 RBI
5 - JOhn Cannon (C) .314, 1 HR, 19 RBI
6 - Jacob Lueneburg (1B) .312, 1 HR, 20 RBI
7 - Price Jacobs (RF) .260, 1 HR, 21 RBI
8 - Codey Morehouse (3B) .312, 5 2B, 7 RBI
9 - Jake Runte (SS) .235, 1 HR, 16 RBI
RHP - Austin Pruitt, 4.06 ERA, 3-4, 84.1 IP, 51 K, 24 BB


UAB finishes off UCF, 15-1.
Posted at 1:44 p.m. CT
UAB has become the team that you DO NOT want to face in the opening game of the C-USA Baseball Championship. Highlighted by the school-record 13-run fifth inning, the Blazers matched their season-high with 15 runs and defeated UCF, 15-1.

Ivan DeJesus, John Frost and Keith DePew each had three hits, while Frost drove in three runs.

Over their last four C-USA Championships, the Blazers have knocked off the No.1 seed twice (Rice in 2011 and 2008), the No. 3 seed once (Houston in 2009) and now the No. 2 seed in UCF.


A Buzz in the Air
Posted at 1:30 p.m. CT
Lost in all the hoopla of the wild fifth inning that UAB had at the plate is the fact Michael Busby is throwing his second consecutive strong outing.

After throwing eight strong innings vs. Southern Miss last Thursday, Busby has thrown six strong innings against the second-ranked hitting club in Conference USA. He has allowed one run on three hits with four strikeouts and one walk. He will head to the seventh inning trying to finish off UCF and toss a complete-game (due to the 10-run rule in effect for the C-USA Championship).


Blazers Blow Things Open
Posted at 12:56 p.m. CT
When the fifth inning started, UAB was clinging to a 2-1 lead. Forty-nine minutes, seven hits, six walks, three wild pitches, two passed balls, a pair of errors, a hit batsmen, three french hens, two turtle doves and a partridge in a pear tree later, the Blazers are sitting pretty after hanging a 13-spot on the Knights in the top of the inning.

UAB's 13 runs in the frame is more than the Blazers' offensive total in any of their previous C-USA Championship contests. Prior to today, the most runs scored by the boys in forest green and old gold came during an 11-4 win over Tulane at Florida Power Park in St. Petersburg, Fla., on May 17, 2000. Somewhere, Chris Pika is smiling!!!


Cotton Checks In From Huntington
Posted at 12:37 p.m. CT
Ladies and gentlemen, we have a C-USA Championship Blog first to present to you here as Marshall broadcaster Steve Cotton sent us a question from Huntington, W.Va. Despite having the "Ask C-USA" link on the blog for what we believe to be three years, Steve is the very first person to actually ask a question...so bully for him!!

At any rate Steve asked "Who is making the lunch run to Hattiesburg to bring back some Leatha's? Duggan? Cox? Someone else?" For the uninformed, Leatha's is an eating establishment in H-Town that has what can arguably be called the best barbecue on the planet. What it lacks in extravagance, it more than makes up for with great grub. It shares a parking lot with an RV dealership (define irony!) and is only slightly larger than your average living room. The wait staff doesn't write anything down when you order, but they have an innate ability to remember countless numbers of orders. Trust me, their memory is unbelievable. A group of about 18 of us went to Leatha's prior to the 2005 C-USA Championship at Southern Miss and I for one was in awe of our server's ability to read us back our orders with extreme precision and at a pace that would embarrass an auctioneer.

So I guess we should go ahead and answer Steve's questions after all of this. In short, Steve, I think we're out of luck on a Leatha's run this week. It would be nice, but I suppose five days of baseball will have to be good enough. Thanks for checking in, buddy. Wish ya'll were here with us.


2012 Tod Meisner Conference USA Tournament All-Name Team
Posted at 12:22 p.m. CT
Ladies and Gentlemen....it is time to present to the world the 2012 Conference USA All-Name Team as chosen by myself and Richie. Fourteen uniquely named individuals made the sixth annual squad that is named in honor of the former C-USA media relations staffer (and new father) that brought this squad to the blog back in 2007.

Jharel Cotton, East Carolina
Dylan Dickens, East Carolina
*Thor Meeks, Marshall (in abstencia)
Tucker Tubbs, Memphis
Ford Stainback, Rice
*J.T. Chargois, Rice
Chase Horn, Southern Miss
*Boomer Scarborough, Southern Miss
*Nick Schneeberger, Tulane
*Coy Arrowood, UAB
Griffin Gum, UAB
*Tom Sawyer, UAB
JoMarcus Woods, UCF

*repeat selection


And The Knights Answer
Posted at 12:04 p.m. CT
UAB starter Michael Busby took the mound in the bottom of the fourth with three things going in his favor: he was staked to a two-run lead, he had hung zeros on the scoreboard over the first three innings and he had yet to give up a hit.

UCF halted talks of a no-hit bid, however, as shortstop Darnell Sweeney led off the home half of the frame by stinging a double to the gap in left center, advanced to third on a groundout, and scored on a two-out single to left off the bat of right fielder Alex Friedrich to cut the deficit in half. Like UAB in the top of the inning, the Knights had a chance to do further damage as Friedrich stole second and advanced to third on a Blazers' throwing error, but Busby got designated hitter Jeramy Matos to groundout to first to get out of the inning without any further damage done.

We're now through four complete with UAB holding a 2-1 lead and sending its 2-3-4 hole hitters to the plate in the fifth.


Squeeze Bunt Gone So Wrong...But So Right
Posted at 11:54 a.m. CT
With runners on the corners and only one away in the top of the fourth, UAB head coach Brian Shoop signaled his shortstop, Tanner Bryant, to drop down a squeeze bunt in an attempt to score second basmen Keith DePew from third. DePew took off on the pitch, as did catcher Jacob German from first, and Bryant squared around.

Initially, it looked as if the call was going to go terribly wrong for the Blazers as German came up empty on the bunt attempt, but things turned out good for UAB in the end as Eric Skoglund's toss to the plate was in the dirt and Knights' catcher Ryan Breen was unable to glove the offering cleanly. With the runners already in motion, DePew was able to tag the dish and German reached second without a throw to stake the squad from Birmingham to a 2-0 lead.


And The Blazers Are On The Board
Posted at 11:35 a.m. CT
After two scoreless innings, UAB has drawn first blood with a two-out rally in the top of the third. After the Blazers grounded out weakly with a pair of squibbers back to the mound, left fielder Ivan De Jesus got things going with a double to the gap in left central. In the ensuing at-bat, first baseman John Frost dribbled a ground ball past the outstretched arm of UCF shortstop Darnell Sweeney to give UAB a 1-0 lead.

The Blazers had a chance to pad the lead as third baseman Patrick Palmeiro followed with a single through the left side of the infield to put runners on the corners, but UCF starter Eric Skoglund rebounded nicely to strike out Ryan Ussery to end the inning. We're through two and a half here at Trustmark Park with the Knights coming to the plate.


The Line-Ups Are In
Posted at 10:44 a.m. CT
We're a few more minutes away from first pitch but we know you guys are chomping at the bit to find out who will be taking the field for today's UAB/UCF matchup. Well, rest assured, we've got them. We had to wait a bit for the UCF line-up card (you know how it goes...you play 56 regular-season games but somebody may surprise you in BP and get a spot start from time to time) but hey, these things happen. At any rate, here we go:

No. 7 Seed UAB (29-27)
1 - Chase Davis (CF) .276, 2 RBI, 3 SB
2 - Ivan DeJesus (LF) .292, 3 HR, 22 RBI
3 - John Frost (1B) .257, 2 HR, 26 RBI
4 - Patrick Palmeiro (3B) .246, 5 HR, 32
5 - Ryan Ussery (RF) .268, 4 HR, 18 RBI
6 - Jeff Schalk (DH) .286, 2 HR, 21 RBI
7 - Keith DePew (2B) .287, 5 2B, 17 RBI
8 - Jacob German (C) .228, 4 2B, 16 RBI
9 - Tanner Bryant (SS) .273, 1 HR, 12 RBI
RHP - Michael Busby, 4.20 ERA, 4-4, 81.1 IP, 49 K, 20 BB

No. 2 Seed UCF (41-14)
1 - Ronnie Richardson (CF) .305, 8 HR, 31 RBI
2 - Darnell Sweeney (SS) .270, 2 HR, 30 RBI
3 - Chris Taladay (3B) .311, 4 HR, 42 RBI
4 - D.J. Hicks (1B) .325, 11 HR, 68 RBI
5 - Alex Friedrich (RF) .329, 4 HR, 37 RBI
6 - Jeramy Matos (DH) .287, 4 HR, 14 RBI
7 - Nick Carrillo (LF) .215, 4 HR, 18 RBI
8 - Ryan Breen (C) .273, 1 HR, 24 RBI
9 - Travis Shreve (2B) .357, 13 2B, 25 RBI
LHP - Eric Skoglund, 2.01 ERA, 5-1, 40.1 IP, 41 K, 18 BB

UCF took the regular-season matchup between the two schools 2-1 back on April 6-8 in Orlando, Fla. The Blazers won game one 11-4 on Friday night, but the Knights earned the series win with a 7-3 victory on Saturday and an 8-7 decision on Sunday. Don't count out the Blazers in this game, because as Russ pointed out in the previous blog post, UAB has been a giant killer in the early games in the C-USA Championship over the years. Should be another good one. Hope you all stick around to follow all the action from day two here at Trustmark Park.


Thirsty for Thursday Baseball? we have it?
Posted at 10:23 a.m. CT
We are back at Trustmark Park and ready for Thursday Conference USA Baseball.

Today's action begins with No. 7 seed UAB taking on No. 2 seed UCF. In recent years, the Blazers are the team that a higher seeded club has NOT wanted to face to get things started. The Blazers are 3-0 in their last three opening round games, which includes two wins over No. 1 seeded Rice (2008 and 2011) and a victory over No. 3 seed Houston (2009).

UAB's game today also means the return of Benny Business, Ben Warnick, the Blazers Baseball SID, at the C-USA Baseball Championship. The former Marshall Baseball contact is now in the Land of the Vulcan and joins the lengthy list of Blazer Baseball SIDs that have publicized their team in this tournament. Tyson Matthews, Mark Vellek, Eric San Inoncencio (sp.?), Jeremy Hoffman, Mark Crawford, Jack Duggan, Grant Shingleton, Chris Pika and Brent Hollingsworth.

In other words, UAB could field an entire team with the Baseball SIDs that have covered the team over the last 17 years. But, somehow I don't think they'd have much of a chance of beating the No. 16 Knights.

Instead, UAB will send Michael Busby to the mound, along with the rest of the 2012 Blazers, to face Eric Skoglund and UCF.


May 23, 2012

Day One Is Done
Posted at 11:32 p.m. CT
It's just after 11:30 here in Pearl, Miss., and the crew of myself, Russ Anderson and "Money" Mike Montoro are about to pack it in for the night. We had three good games, the crowds were enthusiastic and the weather has been great. We've got another three good ones on tap tomorrow and we'll do it again on Friday and Saturday.

Day two of the 2012 Conference USA begins at 11 a.m. with UCF taking on UAB, followed by Houston/Southern Miss at 3 p.m. and Memphis/Rice at 7 p.m. Tomorrow's game will be the first of the tournament for both UCF and UAB while Houston and Southern Miss will look to bounce back from day-one losses and hope to get a little lucky down the stretch and get a shot to advance to Sunday's title game. The biggest game of the day, however, will be the late contest as Rice and Memphis are both coming off wins and a victory tomorrow will have the victor sitting pretty.

Sorry for not updating the blog as much today as we had hoped, but we had a few technical issues...and we dropped the ball a bit there on ya'll for a bit. Promise to make up for it tomorrow. Until then, have a good one.


Tulane Tops East Carolina
Posted at 9:41 p.m. CT
It's pretty safe to say that Brandon Boudreaux and Garrett Cannizaro mean a lot to this year's Tulane baseball team.

Both players were game-time decisions after missing all of last weekend's series against Marshall with injuries. After head coach Rick Jones was satisfied with their ability to go after watching them in pre-game warmups, both were inserted into the starting lineup and played huge roles in the Green Wave's win over ECU that was a significant boost to the Green Wave's postseason hopes. Boudreaux had a pair of hits from his lead-off spot and Cannizaro knocked in a pair of runs.

Alex Byo put in a solid effort on the mound, pitching into the ninth inning before D.J. Ponder came on to pick up his 12th save and move Tulane into the win column.


And We're Back
Posted at 9:03 p.m. CT
I know there are flocks of people dying to find out what happened to us here on the Conference USA Baseball Championship blog...okay, 100s...okay, 10s...but the action has been steady here at Trustmark Park. East Carolina drew first blood early with a run in the first and Tulane got two in the second to go up 2-1. The Pirates tied the contest at 2-all in the top of the sixth but gave the lead back to the Green Wave - literally - as back-to-back, two-out errors led to pair of unearned Tulane runs in the bottom of the inning to stake Tulane to a 4-2 advantage.

East Carolina looked to have something going in the top of the seventh as Tim Younger drilled a line-drive to right. Tulane outfielder Nick Schnneeberger, however, had other ideas as he fielded the ball cleanly on a hop and fired a bullet to teammate Garrett Cannizaro at third to nail pinch-runner Mike Ussery trying to go first-to-third to thwart a would-be Pirates' rally.

As it stands right now, Tulane still holds a 4-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh and Mr. Schneeberger is at the plate with two out.


ECU-Tulane Up Next
Posted at 7:07 p.m. CT
East Carolina and Tulane are getting ready to go at it in the third and final game of the day. We will be starting about 20 minutes late due to the length of the Rice-Houston game.

Kevin Brandt will be starting for the Buccos, while Alex Byo toes the rubber for the Greenies.

Tulane took two-of-three from ECu in Greenville back on April 27-29. The Pirates won the meeting in last year's C-USA Championship, 4-2 in 11 innings.

Tulane will receive a boost from the return of two key starters tonight that missed the entire Marshall series last weekend. Brandon Boudreaux is leading off and playing left field, while Garrett Cannizaro is back at the hot corner and will bat eighth.


Rice Siezes the 713
Posted at 6:27 p.m. CT
Top-seeded Rice fell behind Houston, 5-1 in the second inning. But as one of the slogans around the south Main campus says, "Rice Fight. Never Die." And the Owls did just that, battling back and chipping away at that lead, posting two runs in the third, one in fourth, two more in the seventh to move ahead and an insurance run in their final at-bat in the eighth.

On the mound, the Blue & Gray turned to the absolutely unflappable Tyler Duffey in the eighth inning. He sat down all five batters that he faced, including all three that came to the plate in the ninth inning. For Duffey, he has now struck out 16 of the last 22 batters that he has faced over three outings.

Duffey, was named C-USA Tournament MVP last year, concluding with a win over Houston in the championship game. Now, he has started the 2012 Tournament by picking up a save against those same Cougars. Over the last two C-USA Championships, Duffey has pitched 10.2 scoreless innings, allowing six hits and striking out 11 with no walks.


Playing With Fire
Posted at 5:52 p.m. CT
Whenever a team squares off against Rice, it has to be sure to minimize its mistakes because the Owls will eventually cash in. After failing to turn a pair of double plays and committing an error, Houston finally got burned as Rice scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to take a 6-5 lead.

Of all the teams to learn this lesson the hard way over the years, the Cougars have been on the wrong side of the ledger in 18 of the previous 19 head-to-head matchups with their cross-town Rivals. Houston snapped a 16-game skid against Rice in the opening game of its three-game slate 11-6 back on May 4, but Rice rallied to win a 10-inning affair, 4-3, the next night and followed that up with an 8-2 win on Sunday to take the series.

Houston had a chance to at least tie the score here in the top of the eighth as Chase Jensen just ripped a one-out triple to right. Rice head coach Wayne Graham has countered by bringing in Tyler Duffey - the NCBWA National Pitcher of the Week and the MVP of the 2011 C-USA Championship. Duffey put out the fire for now by getting Codey Morehouse to bounce back to the pitcher for a 1-2 putout at the plate. If history tells us anything...


H-Town Battle Continues
Posted at 5:32 p.m. CT
Houston and Rice remain in a tight battle, with the Cougars holding a 5-4 lead going to the seventh inning.

Rice threatened to take the lead last inning, putting men on first and third, but Houston's Jared Ray got Jeremy Rathjen to fly out to center and keep the Fighting Jeff Conrad's in the lead.


Cougars up on the Owls
Posted at 3:54 p.m. CT
Do you remember last year, when top-seeded Rice lost its opening game to No. 8 seed UAB? Well, the Owls are on their way to doing that again early on in the second game of the day.

Houston scored three runs in the top of the first inning and added a pair in the second and hold a 5-1 lead over their cross-town rivals.

The two met in last year's title game in Pearl, with Rice winning in extra innings. Rice has done a lot of winning vs. UH lately, taking 18 of 19, including a streak of 16 in a row that ended on May 4.


Tigers Bats too Much for Golden Eagles
Posted at 2:19 p.m. CT
Memphis has posted the first victory of the C-USA Championship in resounding fashion, 14-3. The game was complete after eight innings due to the 10-run rule that is in effect for all games of the tournament except for the championship matchup.

The top five in the Tigers lineup did alot of damage, combining for 11 hits, eight RBI and nine runs scored. Adam McClain had three hits, Derrick Thomas had three RBI and Jacob Wilson hit his league-leading 17th home run of the season.

The 11-run winning margin matched the largest for Memphis in a C-USA Tournament game. In 2006, the Tigers beat UAB, 13-2 in seven innings at Reckling Park in Houston.

During the Tigers current six-game winning streak, they are averaging 11.5 runs per game, reaching double figures in four of the past five outings.


Memphis Roars
Posted at 1:37 p.m. CT
To say Memphis came up big in the top of the seventh would be an understatement. After chasing Southern Miss starter Andrew Pierce from the game, the Tigers scored nine runs on the strength of eight hits and got some help from the Golden Eagles' pitchers as the USM hurlers plunked a pair of batters, walked a pair and ha a pair of wild pitches.

Memphis sent 14 players to the plate and when the dust settled, not only did the Tigers take a commanding 11-3 lead but also tied a team single-inning record for plate appearances.


Call To The Pen
Posted at 1:07 p.m. CT
Southern Miss head coach Scott Berry made the first pitching change of the 2012 C-USA Baseball Championship, lifting starter Andrew Pierce in favor of freshman southpaw Cody Livingston. Livingston takes the mound in the top of the seventh with runners at first and second and nobody out. The Golden Eagles still lead it 3-2, but the Tigers have something cooking.

For the season, Livingston is 2-1 with a 3.95 ERA and 20 strikeouts and 11 walks in 27.1 innings of work. Pierce went six-plus for Southern Miss, giving up five hits, a walk and a hit batsman while striking out a pair in 89 offerings to the dish. If the Golden Eagles can wiggle off the hook here and eventually come away victorious, he can get the win. Leaving the game with two runners on, however, he can also be the loser if Memphis can get a clutch knock.


Southern Miss Takes The Lead
Posted at 12:39 p.m. CT
Southern Miss gave its fans something to cheer about once again in the bottom of the fifth as the Golden Eagles plated a pair of runs to take a 3-2 lead. Ashley Greater got things going with a lead-off single and moved to second on a ground-ball to second. A Blake Brown double brought Greater home to tie things up, and with two away, Bradley Rooney squirted an RBI-single past a diving T.J. Rich at first base gave the Golden Eagles their first lead of the day.

It's currently 3-2 in favor of Southern Miss after five complete. The game, however, is far from over. Memphis has been hot here down the stretch so don't count the Tigers out. They have the league's Player of the Year in Jacob Wilson and .400 hitter Adam McClain in the No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the line-up, and those two can turn a game around in a hurry. With just 12 more outs in this one, however, Memphis will have to do something soon to shift momentum as it is currently sitting squarely in the USM dugout.


Golden Eagles Strike Back
Posted at 12:01 p.m. CT
After falling behind 2-0 after two and a half innings, Southern Miss got a run back in the bottom of the third. After a leadoff walk by Dillon Day, Michael Sterling was called safe at first on a bang-bang double-play attempt on a ground-ball to third. Sterling's hustle downt he line proved to be big for the Golden Eagles as he moved to third on a single off the bat of Ashley Greater and came around to touch the paystation on an RBI-single to left by Blake Brown. It's currently 2-1 in favor of the Tigers. Southern Miss, meanwhile, has stranded five on the basepaths.


Player of the Year Big Another Big Play
Posted at 11:50 a.m. CT
Well, C-USA Player of the Year Jacob Wilson finally got Andrew Pierce. Wilson launched a Pierce pitch over the left field wall to give the Tigers a 2-0 lead in the top of the third inning.
The homer was the 17th of the season for Wilson, six more than any other player in C-USA. It was also the 31st round-tripper of Wilson's career, moving him into a tie for second place on the Tigers all-time home run list with Adam Amar (2004-07).


Award-Winning Matchup
Posted at 11:31 a.m. CT
Memphis and Southern Miss meeting in the first game and the question is will we see more offense than in their weekend series a month ago in Hattiesburg? The Golden Eagles won all three games of that series that featured a combined total of eight runs.
A great individual matchup to watch in this one is Southern Miss junior RHP Andrew Pierce, the C-USA Newcomer of the Year, going against Memphis senior 3B Jacob Wilson. Pierce struck out 10 and walked just one over 8.1 innings in a 2-1 Golden Eagle victory over the Tigers on April 20. Jacob Wilson went 0-3 in that game, striking out all three games. In his first at-bat today, Wilson flew out to center.


And We Are Officially Underway
Posted at 11:14 a.m. CT
The teams have been introduced, the anthem has been sung and the sun is shining here at Trustmark Park in beautiful downtown Pearl, Miss. We're a little bit behind schedule, but Memphis shortstop Ethan Gross has stepped into the box and will face Golden Eagles' right-hander Andrew Pierce. Pierce tossed a strike and the 2012 Conference USA Baseball Championship is officially underway. Hold onto your hats ladies and gentlemen. It's going to be a great day!!!


The Line-Ups Are In
Posted at 9:31 a.m. CT
We're about 90 minutes away from first pitch and the line-ups for both teams are in. First, let's meet the Tigers from the University of Memphis (29-26).

1 - Etahn Gross (SS) .248, 6 2B, 17 RBI
2 - Jacob Wilson (3B) .326, 16 HR, 62 RBI
3 - Adam McClain (LF) .400, 3 HR, 35 RBI
4 - Eli Hynes (DH) .347, 11 HR, 46 RBI
5 - Derrick Thomas (RF) .278, 4 HR, 33 RBI
6 - T.J. Rich (1B) .233, 3 HR, 27 RBI
7 - Bryce Beeler (2B) .270, 2 2B, 8 RBI
8 - Ford Wilson (CF) .241, 1 HR, 10 RBI
9 - Keaton Aldridge (C) .222, 2 2B, 7 RBI
LHP - Sam Moll 3.26 ERA, 4-5, 88.1 IP, 57 K, 38 BB

And now for the Golden Eagles from the University of Southern Miss (30-23)

1 - Dillon Day (CF) .294, 10 2B, 19 RBI
2 - Michael Sterling (RF) .259, 4 2B, 13 RBI
3 - Ashley Greater (SS) .330, 14 2B, 13 RBI
4 - Mason Robbins (DH) .332, 3 HR, 36 RBI
5 - Blake Brown (1B) .276, 6 HR, 38 RBI
6 - Isaac Rodriguez (2B) .284, 5 2B, 14 RBI
7 - Bradley Roney (3B) .212, 2 HR, 8 RBI
8 - Joe Martin (LF) .196, 4 2B, 9 RBI
9 - Chase Fowler (C) .244, 3 2B, 17 RBI
RHP - Andrew Pierce 1.74 ERA, 7-3, 93.1 IP, 94 K, 15 BB

Today's game is the fourth time the two teams will meet on the diamond and Southern Miss enters the contest with a perfect 3-0 mark after sweeping the Tigers in late April. In all three games, the two teams combined for a total of just eight runs with the Golden Eagles sandwiching 2-1 wins on April 20 and 22 around a 2-0 win on April 21. All three games were played in Hattiesburg, and while the game is technically in Pearl, you've got to figure that Memphis will be playing the role of "road team" as they are in USM's home state and will be in the visiting team's dugout.


It's A Beautiful Day For A Ballgame
Posted at 8:30 a.m. CT
It's been just shy of a year since we were last gathered in Pearl, Miss., but we're back for what will no doubt be another fun and exciting stretch for Conference USA as the league's top eight teams will battle it out for the right to be called C-USA Baseball Champions. First up on the agenda will be the fourth-seeded Southern Miss Golden Eagles taking on the No. 5 seed Memphis Tigers. First pitch is slated for 11 a.m., but before we get to that, let's just give you a quick recap on what this blog is all about.

I can't quite put my finger on how, when or why it happened, but the Conferecnce USA Baseball Championship has evolved into what C-USA Assistant Commissioner for Football and Baseball Russ Anderson calls "the best work week of the year." While we all put in long hours to make sure the event goes on without a hitch, it's a lot of fun along the way. Sure, it's a lot about baseball, but there are large portions of story-telling, razzing and the ever-popular quoting of movie lines.

As usual, it'll be your's truly, Russ and Nicole Cartier from the league office as well as the occasional guest blogger updating you on the blog as things tick along. We hope you all enjoy the banter, can look past some of our inside jokes, and occassionally pick up some content which actually focuses on baseball along the way. We've got five days and 13 games to get through and I can't wait to find out what's going to happen. Stay tuned!!!


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