By Ashleigh Cash and Steve Parkhurst
April 14, 2023
The American Athletic Conference will play its third week of conference action this weekend. Currently, The American has three teams tied for first with records of 4-2, East Carolina, Houston, and USF. Wichita State, Cincinnati, and Tulane are all tied with 3-3 records. Memphis and Tulane sit as the bottom two teams in the conference, with records of 2-4 and 1-5, respectively.
Week 3 Matchups
Cincinnati (15-19, 3-3) at East Carolina (25-8, 4-2)
East Carolina is a whopping 21-2 at home this season, with only one of those losses occurring in a weekend series. ECU has played an especially strong game these past couple of weeks, with two midweek wins against strong offensive teams (NC State and Old Dominion), and their fifth sweep of the season against UCF. Ever since their offense was extinguished the first weekend of conference play at Houston, they have bounced back with fervor. In their last five games, they have outscored opponents 51-26.
Alec Makarewicz earned Player of the Week honors in The American after batting .563 last week with eight RBI and six runs scored. The Pirates and the Knights played a doubleheader on Thursday, where Makarewicz picked up six base hits and drove in six runs in two games. In Thursday’s second game, starter Carter Spivey picked up the win as East Carolina rolled to a 11-5 victory. Spivey tossed six innings allowing two runs and striking out six UCF batters, earning himself a spot on The American’s weekly Honor Roll for his outing.
Cincinnati went to Memphis last weekend and took the series, only dropping the middle game to the Tigers. Bearcats pitcher Griffin Hugus was named to the Honor Roll in The American for his game on Thursday. Hugus tossed five innings and allowed just one run and struck out six against Memphis in a 6-2 win. In Saturday’s concluding game of the series, the Bearcats won 5-3, scoring five runs on only four hits, none of them homers. Cincinnati took advantage of two errors and eight walks by the Memphis pitching staff to take the deciding game of the weekend.
USF (15-19, 4-2) at Houston (18-15, 4-2)
Last week, Houston traveled to Wichita and took 2 of 3 games from the Shockers, including a seven inning 17-3 run-rule victory in the series finale. In this seven inning slugfest, Houston scored 13 runs in the top of the seventh, all with two outs. Cougars catcher Anthony Tulimero was named to the Honor Roll in The American for his performance last week. Tulimero hit .556 with two home runs and eight RBI and crossed the plate seven times.
The Cougars played Sam Houston on Tuesday night and soundly defeated the Bearkats 14-3, making it 31 total runs for their offense in the last two games and just six total runs allowed over two games for the pitching staff.
After spending much of the beginning of the season trying to figure out a starting rotation, especially after losing their Saturday starter in week two of the season, Houston seems to have settled on the one-two punch of Josh Ekness and Paul Schmitz for the first two games of each weekend, and then working in a third starter as the weekend plays out. Look for that to be the plan again this weekend as Houston hosts South Florida.
Meanwhile, USF took the series against Tulane, with game two being a 15-3 seven inning run-rule victory. After a slow start to the season, USF seems to have pulled together a strong offensive squad, led by multiple strong players. Two of which being freshmen Eric Snow and Rafael Betancourt, who are coming off a big week. Together, they tallied 10 hits, seven runs scored, and 11 RBI. Juniors Daniel Cantu and Drew Brutcher, who are always a fun watch, put up a combined 13 hits, 10 runs, 10 RBI, and six extra base hits.
Viewed by some as conference underdogs, USF seems to continually prove that they should not be counted out. This weekend will tell if that remains the truth.
This series, which is sure to shake up the rankings, appears to be one to watch.
Wichita State (18-14, 3-3) at Tulane (9-24, 3-3)
Both teams are coming off a 1-3 week, with Wichita State losing the series against Houston before suffering a midweek loss at Oklahoma, and Tulane, who have lost three of their last four. Interestingly, both teams suffered a seven inning run rule loss last weekend, with both teams only mustering three runs.
Interestingly enough, the offense that the Shockers have been able to muster up over the past few games has not truly been produced by their main stars (Tolle, Pennington, Ingram, et al) - it has come from the more ‘under-the-radar’ players. Sophomore Mauricio Millan batted .333, scoring four runs. Freshman Jaden Gustafson went 5-9 over three games, with a 2 RBI triple, a run scored, and a stolen base. Juniors Kyte McDonald and David Herring combined for eight hits, scoring five runs and batting in four with four walks. All four are in their first year with the Shockers.
Right-hander Clark Candiotti was named to The American’s Honor Roll for his dominant outing against Houston to lead the Shockers to their only win of the weekend. Candiotti went 6 ⅔ innings, struck out 11 batters, and did not allow a run last Friday.
Tulane traveled east to Tampa last weekend to face South Florida. Tulane took the opener on Thursday, but the Bulls won the series, including a 15-3 seven inning run-rule victory on Friday. Dylan Carmouche was outstanding in his start, delivering seven innings of one-run baseball and striking out eight Bulls batters in the process. Michael Lombardi earned his fourth save of the season with a perfect ninth inning of work.
Tulane hopes to finally crack double-digit wins during this series. Brady Marget continues to deliver offensively for the Green Wave, batting .302 on the season. In his last four games, he’s hit two doubles, scored three runs, and walked three times. He seems to consistently be able to get on base for this Green Wave club. Simon Baumgardt was a triple shy of the cycle in Tulane’s 11-5 midweek loss against LSU. He went 4-for-5, scoring two runs, and batting in four.
That being said, this Tulane team could be a real problem if all their guys get rolling at once.
Memphis (18-16, 2-4) at UCF (18-15, 1-5)
Memphis is coming off a big midweek win vs defending national champion Ole Miss, as they beat the Rebels 11-9 thanks to back-to-back-to-back home runs in the top of the ninth. The Tigers hit four home runs total to beat the Rebs at Swayze Field. They look to keep that road success going this weekend.
Memphis pitcher Dalton Fowler took home the Pitcher of the Week honor in The American for his effort in the Tigers 6-2 win over Cincinnati. Fowler went seven scoreless frames scattering just two hits and striking out 13 batters.
Fowler’s teammate Anthony Hansen also received accolades for his personance last week, making the Honor Roll in The American for his .375 average with two home runs and seven RBI.
Meanwhile, UCF dropped its second conference series in two weekends. Last weekend the Knights traveled to Greenville where they were swept by East Carolina - their first time being swept this season. The Knights allowed 28 runs in the first two games of the series and managed to play a closer game in the final, before losing 3-2 in 12 weather-delayed innings on a Wilcoxen walk-off base hit.
The Knights were hitless and trailing 12-0 in Thursday’s game one until the sixth inning when Nick Romano, Andrew Sundean, and Lex Boedicker hit back-to-back-to-back home runs. Tom Josten also homered late in the game, but East Carolina had the game in hand at that point and went on to win 17-7.
Ben McCabe went 3-for-5 with a homerun in the final game of the weekend series, and Dom Stagliano pitched a great game going 4 1/3 innings without allowing a run to the potent Pirates offense.
Ashleigh Cash is a baseball writer, fan, and student based in eastern North Carolina.
Steve Parkhurst is a baseball writer based in Houston.