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American Athletic Conference Tournament: Day One Recap



By Ashleigh Cash


GAME ONE: UCF 4, Cincinnati 3


PLAYER OF THE GAME: Cam Leiter, University of Central Florida


Game one seemed primed for a pitchers’ duel at first. Freshman righty Cam Leiter had the best outing of his college career, going a career-high 7 innings, giving up only 4 hits, walking one, and striking out 9. Leiter threw only 98 pitches in his scoreless outing, facing only three batters over the minimum. Meanwhile Bearcats’ starter Chase Hopewell went four innings, giving up three runs on three hits, walking one and striking out three.


UCF struck first in the bottom of the third on a base-loaded hit-by-pitch, after Hopewell walked Tom Josten, gave up a single to Andrew Brait, and hit Ben McCabe, before hitting Andrew Sundean to force in a run. A Nick Romano sac fly tacked on another before Hopewell got out of the jam. The Knights added another via Drew Faurot sac fly, scoring John Rhys Plumlee who got on with a double.


After that, offense was quieted on both sides until the eighth inning, when Cincinnati got on the board via a Sean Springer triple and a Griffin Hugus RBI groundout.


However the ninth inning is where it got interesting for both sides, as Knights closer Kyle Kramer gave up a leadoff walk to Kerrington Cross before surrendering a game-tying home run to the ever-dangerous Ryan Nicholson. In the bottom of the ninth, freshman Andrew Brait hit a walkoff home run to close out the victory for the Knights.


UCF’s offense was paced by Andrew Brait, Ben McCabe, and John Rhys Plumlee, who each registered two hits, with the latter two hitting a double. For the Bearcats, Sean Spring went 2-3 with a triple and a run scored, while Ryan Nicholson went 1-4 with the game-tying bomb.


Kramer got the win, moving to 6-2 on the year, while Bearcats reliever Chase Horst got the loss, moving to a 3-4 record.


GAME TWO: USF 12, ECU 11


PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jacob Starling, ECU


In what was easily the longest game of them all yesterday, USF vs ECU was the game that kept on giving. Offense came early and often for both sides, as pitching seemed to be a struggle for both the Pirates and the Bulls. Both teams combined for 23 runs on a staggering 33 hits.


In the first inning, the Bulls struck first with a 2 RBI single from freshman-all conference member Rafael Betancourt which plated Eric Snow and Bobby Boser. In the bottom half, the Pirates struck back with back-to-back no doubters from junior all-conference team selections Jacob Starling and Carter Cunningham. Although the Pirates kept the hits coming with a career-first triple from Justin Wilcoxen, ECU was unable to take the lead, and the game moved into the second inning still tied at two apiece. ECU would take the lead in the bottom of the second on a sac fly from Starling, scoring Jacob Jenkins-Cowart.


From there, offense on both sides was quiet until the sixth inning, when USF tied the game back up on an RBI groundout from Travis Sankovich that scored Marcus Brodil. In the bottom of the seventh, ECU would regain the lead after a six run inning, in which USF would use three pitchers, as each gave up at least one RBI base hit. Lane Hoover brought home the first run on an RBI single that plated Alec Makarewicz, and the unstoppable Jacob Starling followed up with an RBI double. After a pitching change, Tanner Mink was able to record the second out of the inning before giving up two consecutive RBI base hits to Josh Moylan and Justin Wilcoxen. Cam Clonch then delivered with a pinch hit RBI single, and the Bulls were forced to make another pitching change. Riley Skeen then came in and gave up an RBI double, this time to Ryley Johnson, before picking up the third out. In total, the Pirates had 7 hits that inning, including three doubles.


USF took two back in the top of the eighth, from a leadoff Marcus Brodil homer and an Eric Snow RBI groundout. Their momentum continued, as they shut down the Pirates in the bottom half, and scored six more runs in the top of the ninth to take an 11-9 lead. Three consecutive singles chased ECU reliever Wyatt Lunsford-Shenkman out of the game, but that didn’t stop the Bulls. They greeted reliever Garrett Saylor with three more singles, this time plating four runs. ECU would have another pitching change, this time turning to Tyler Bradt, who collected the first out of the inning before giving up another RBI single to Eric Snow. The Pirates then made their final pitching change of the inning, turning to Erik Ritchie, who gave up an RBI single before ending the inning.


In the bottom of the ninth, Josh Moylan kept ECU’s hopes alive with a two-run home run that tied the game, and took the game to extras. Drew Brutcher would eventually give the Bulls the lead for the final time in the top of the eleventh with an RBI single.


The Bulls were able to take advantage of baserunning opportunities yesterday, stealing more bases in one game than they had the majority of the year.



GAME THREE: Tulane 10, Houston 8


PLAYER OF THE GAME: Chandler Welch, Gavin Schulz


Whereas Game 1 started with a pitchers’ duel, Game 2 started with an explosion of offense on both sides. Together, both teams tallied 18 runs on 26 hits. Interestingly, Houston outhit Tulane, but the Green Wave’s big inning proved too much for the Cougars to overcome.


Houston struck first in the bottom of the first with a two-run home run from 2023 Position Player of the Year Justin Murray. Tulane would respond with a HUGE inning of their own, tallying eight runs on seven hits, including three multi-run home runs and two doubles. Junior outfielder Jake LaPrairie got the scoring started with a three-run shot to right field, scoring Brennan Lambert and Simon Baumgardt. After the Green Wave tacked together a few more hits, sophomore infielder Gavin Schulz hit a three-run bomb of his own, scoring James Agabedis and Seth Beckstead. After a four pitch walk, Houston starter Josh Ekness was chased from the game before recording a single out in the inning. Cougars reliever Braden Forsyth struck out the first batter he saw before giving up a two-run home run to sophomore infielder Brady Marget.


In the bottom of the second, Houston got five runs back thanks to seven hits, three with no outs. Drew Bianco struck first with a two-run double, Zach Arnold struck next with a two-run single, and Dylan Post and Cameron Nickens plated one each. In the fourth, Tulane added another run on an RBI single from Teo Banks, scoring Gavin Schulz. Offense went silent for both sides until the bottom of the eighth, when Houston’s Ian McMillan scored on a Zach Arnold RBI single. Tulane responded once again in the ninth with a Teo Banks double that scored Gavin Schulz.


Tulane starter Ricky Castro went only two innings, giving up seven runs on ten hits, striking out three and throwing 57 pitches. Cougars starter Josh Ekness earned the loss, going only one inning, giving up seven runs on six hits, walking one and striking out one, throwing only 30 pitches. Tulane reliever Chandler Welch earned the win for the Green Wave, going 5.2 innings, giving up only one run on five hits, walking one and striking out six. His record moves to 4-5 on the year. Michael Fowler earned his first save of the year, pitching a scoreless ninth inning, walking one and striking out one.


Tulane’s offense was paced by Gavin Schulz, who went 3-3 with a three-run home run, a walk, and three runs scored, and Teo Banks, who went 2-5 with a double and 2 RBI. Every Green Wave batter collected at least one hit except the leadoff man. Meanwhile, Houston’s offense was led by Cameron Nickens, who went 3-5, Zach Arnold, who went 2-5 with 3 RBI, and Justin Murray who went 2-5 with a home run and 2 RBI.



GAME FOUR: Memphis 10, Wichita State 6


PLAYER OF THE GAME:


The final game of the day proved to be a late night affair under the lights, starting at 10:32 ET and ending after 1:30 AM. It was once again a high hitting affair, as the teams combined for 19 hits, as we saw yet another upset.


The Shockers got on the board first with a Payton Tolle RBI single, scoring Chuck Ingram who got on with a single. Memphis responded with a comeback inning, scoring three runs off an Anthony Hansen homer, Brennan DuBose RBI triple, and an error by third baseman Jack Little. The Tigers added on in the top of the third, after a walk and an RJ Jimerson double both came in to score on an error from centerfielder Chuck Ingram. The Shockers tacked on a run of their own in the bottom half, after two singles, an error from left fielder Jimerson and an RBI groundout plated Brock Rodden. In the fourth inning, the Tigers added onto their lead via Logan Kohler home run. In the bottom half, Brock Rodden hit a two-run double before being called out at third.


Offense was quiet on both sides for the next couple innings, before a hit by pitch, an error from left fielder Sawyre Thornhill and two wild pitches scored Anthony Hansen and RJ Jimerson in what proved to be a sloppy inning for Wichita State. Brock Rodden struck back with a solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. The eighth inning followed that same pattern, with two consecutive doubles from Jake Curtis and Austin Baskin, the latter scoring Curtis. Logan Kohler singled to plate Baskin. In the bottom half, pinch hitter Jaden Gustafson singled, advanced on an E7, and scored on a wild pitch.


Both teams managed to take advantage of the multiple errors from the opposing team, as there were a combined 5 errors- two from Memphis, three from Wichita State.


Grant Adler earned the loss, moving to 5-4 on the year. He went only three innings, giving up five runs, two earned, on four hits, walking three, hitting one batter and striking out three. Every Wichita pitcher except Cameron Bye, who pitched the ninth, got touched up for at least one run. Meanwhile, Memphis starter Luke Ellis went four innings, giving up four runs, three earned, on seven hits, walking two and striking out five. Tigers’ reliever David Warren went four innings, giving up two runs, one earned, on four hits, walking one and striking out five. He earned the win, moving to 5-5 on the year. In two elimination games, East Carolina will play Cincinnati today at 3 PM ET, while Houston plays Wichita State at 7 PM ET.


*****


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