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The American in 2023: Week 2 Conference Preview

By Ashleigh Cash and Steve Parkhurst

April 6, 2023

The American Athletic Conference (AAC) will play its second week of action this weekend, beginning on Thursday. Each team recorded at least one loss last weekend, with four teams heading into this weekend with a record of 2-1, and four teams with a record of 1-2. A weekend full of unlikely victors, as USF took the series over UCF and Houston won over ECU.

Week 2 Matchups

Houston (15-14, 2-1) at Wichita State (17-11, 2-1)

Houston heads out on the road after opening conference play with a series win over East Carolina. Houston utility player Alex Lopez and 1B/RHP Justin Murray were named to the weekly honor roll after the series. Lopez hit .375 last week, with a double and a three-run home run. Murray pitched 5 ⅔ shutout innings in two appearances, striking out six, giving up three hits, and walking one. He earned a win and a save.

The weekend rotation for Houston is likely to remain the same, with Josh Ekness and Paul Schmitz as the 1-2, and the Sunday starter to be determined later. We saw that strategy work in week one: over opening weekend, the entire Houston pitching staff allowed East Carolina just 14 total runs. We now look to see if this strategy works in week two.

This past Tuesday, midweek madness saw Houston and cross-town rival Rice pound out 27 runs on 32 hits. Houston went on to walk-off Rice 14-13 in the bottom of the ninth inning after trailing 11-6 earlier in the game.

Wichita State traveled to Cincinnati last weekend and took the series from the Bearcats. Wichita State looked well on their way to a sweep Sunday, leading 8-1 at the end of the fifth, thanks in part to a Garrett Pennington second inning grand slam. However, Cincinnati eventually salvaged their only win of the weekend on a walk-off single and a 9-8 final score.

Shockers pitcher Clark Candiotti joined Lopez and Murray in the weekly Honor Roll, as he earned the win at Cincinnati on Friday in Wichita State’s 2-1 victory. Candiotti allowed just a single run over six innings adding seven strikeouts to the tally. Caden Favors followed Candiotti out of the bullpen with three hitless, scoreless innings to preserve the win.

Tulane (8-21, 2-1) at USF (12-18, 2-1)

Tulane travels to USF this weekend to take on the Bulls. In the first weekend of action, Tulane played host to Memphis, taking the series 2-1.

Chandler Welch turned in a great outing on Saturday night and pitched well enough to win, allowing no runs over seven innings - but unfortunately the Green Wave saw issues with their offense. The Tigers eventually got to the Tulane bullpen, scoring three runs, which was all they needed to take the second game. A Brady Marget solo home run was all the offense the Green Wave could muster in the 3-1 defeat.

Dylan Carmouche earned the win in Friday’s contest after allowing just two earned runs over seven innings. The outing by Carmouche earned him a spot on the conference’s Honor Roll in The American’s weekly spotlight.

Meanwhile, USF is coming off a great opening weekend, as they went on the road and took a series against in-state rival UCF. In the process, two Bulls stars took the top weekly honors in The American.

Daniel Cantu was named conference Player of the Week after hitting .538 last week and driving in six runs. Six of Cantu’s seven hits over that span were extra-base hits, with five doubles and a home run.

Ethan Brown picked up the win in the Bulls 2-0 shutout of UCF in the Friday opener to earn the conference Pitcher of the Week honor. Brown went a strong 7 ⅓ innings scattering just five hits while striking out 12 batters.

UCF (17-12, 1-2) at ECU (21-8, 1-2) *

East Carolina dropped a spot in the writers poll at College Baseball Central to No. 8 after losing the opening weekend series at Houston. However, ECU remains the only nationally ranked team in The American and can rebound this weekend when they host UCF.

Last Saturday, Carter Spivey pitched the Pirates to their only victory in Houston, a 5-4 win, after being walked off on Friday night by an identical 5-4 score. That is not to say pitching was the problem for the Pirates: Trey Yesavage pitched 7 ⅓ innings on Friday, striking out a career-high 13. Josh Grosz also had a decent outing on Sunday. Errors proved to be the issue for the Pirates - a slight they look to move past this weekend.

ECU is coming off a huge 13-9 win against in-state rival NC State in Tuesday’s midweek game. NC State, ranked No. 25 by College Baseball Central, has an explosive offense with a lot of key pieces. However, it was not enough to top ECU, who hit 6 home runs (the most hit in a single game since 2009). Half of those bombs came courtesy of sophomore outfielder Jacob Jenkins-Cowart, with his first career hat trick. He’s proving to be a major offensive threat for the Pirates. Energy is high for the club following this win, so expect a good series of games.

UCF is coming off a 14-3 midweek loss at No. 19 Miami. The loss came after the Knights dropped their opening weekend series on their own field to rival South Florida. After the Bulls took the Friday and Saturday night games (2-0 and 3-2 respectively), UCF took a 12-9 slugfest on Sunday to salvage a game and avoid a sweep. A three-run homer by star player Ben McCabe in the third inning was the only home run in the Sunday contest. The Knights pieced together the 12 run performance primarily on the power of 11 total hits, but also took advantage of nine walks by the Bulls pitching staff.

Cincinnati (12-18, 1-2) at Memphis (16-14, 1-2)

Memphis went on the road for opening weekend and dropped the series to Tulane in a three-game set that was played relatively close. This weekend, they return home to host the Bearcats.

Tigers pitcher Dalton Fowler was named to the The American’s Weekly Honor Roll for his Saturday performance against Tulane. Fowler tossed five scoreless innings striking out 12 Tulane batters after Memphis dropped Friday’s opener in New Orleans.

Last week, when previewing the first weekend of conference action, we mentioned that if Cincinnati’s Cole Harting hit well, the Bearcats would win. Sure enough, in Sunday’s weekend finale, Harting went 3-for-5 with a RBI single in the third inning. Trailing 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning, Harting singled on the first pitch he saw in the at-bat, good for a two RBI walk-off single and a 9-8 come from behind victory.

Cincinnati starter Chase Hopewell was incredible in his Friday night start, going six innings and allowing just two runs. But in one of those cruel times in baseball, his offense was stymied even more and could not muster enough runs to get Hopewell off the hook in the 2-1 loss. A solo home run by Harting was the only offense for the Bearcats on Friday night.

Important Note:

  • * Due to scheduled inclement weather, ECU will play UCF in a doubleheader on Thursday beginning at 2, with the series concluding on Friday at a time TBD.

Ashleigh Cash is a baseball writer, fan, and student based in eastern North Carolina.

Steve Parkhurst is a baseball writer based in Houston.

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