Updated: Apr 12
The American Athletic Conference (AAC) played just its second weekend of action this weekend. As the weekend concluded, no team is undefeated and several teams find themselves in the middle of the pack with plenty of time for position changes between now and the start of the conference tournament in Clearwater on May 24.
Tulane Wins Fourth Straight Series
Tulane was one of two teams that entered weekend play undefeated in conference action. The Green Wave hosted the Bulls of South Florida and Friday went according to script for Tulane. Grant Siegel tossed six innings allowing two earned runs to improve his record to 6-0 and Zach Devito handled the final two innings without allowing a run to earn his eighth save in the 8-5 win.
Dylan Carmouche took the mound for the Green Wave on Saturday and pitched seven scoreless innings before the bullpen finished the 6-0 shutout. By the close of play on Saturday, Tulane was 5-0 and looked well on their way to a perfect record before heading to Houston for Easter weekend.
Sunday saw things go off the rails for Tulane as they dropped the weekend finale 13-8. Despite scoring six runs in the sixth inning, the Bulls scored in five different frames and scored more than one run in four of those. Hunter Mink pitched the final four innings for South Florida and picked up his sixth save in the road victory.
Cincinnati Comes From Behind Against Houston
Houston took a 2-1 record to Cincinnati after the Bearcats took one game from ECU on opening weekend, getting to Pirates starter Jake Kuchmaner for 5 runs before chasing him in the second inning. The weather in Cincinnati was less than ideal on Friday and Saturday; in fact, there was a very light snow falling when Houston arrived at the ballpark on Saturday and the weather all day was in the 30’s. But the teams played on.
Houston jumped on the Bearcats in the first inning Friday for a quick 4-0 lead. Behind the pitching of right-hander Jaycob Deese and closer Ben Sears, the Cougars took game one 5-4 to push their conference record to 3-1 after they opened conference play with a series win at home against Wichita State.
The next two days were pretty much all Cincinnati as the Bearcats run-ruled the Cougars 13-3 in seven innings on Saturday and then out hit Houston in a 9-6 victory on Sunday to send both teams to week three of conference play with 3-3 records.
East Carolina Move to 4-2 in American Play
East Carolina was in every top 25 poll when the season began, but the Pirates started the season poorly, and that was not helped by the loss of their projected Friday starter Carson Whisenhunt to a “performance enhancing drug” suspension that eventually took him out of action for the entire season.
The Pirates welcomed Wichita State (1-2) to Greenville this weekend. Ryder Giles allowed one run over seven innings for the Pirates on Friday, and despite a three-run ninth for the Shockers, East Carolina closed out the 6-5 win and Giles improved his record to 3-0.
Saturday, East Carolina rolled to a 10-3 win. The Pirates scored ten runs on twelve hits without the benefit of a long ball. Three Pirates hitters, including Zach Agnos, had three base hits in the victory.
Just as all seemed well after ECU took the first two games, the Shockers shutout the Pirates 5-0 on Sunday to leave questions about both teams very much on the table. Cameron Bye pitched eight scoreless innings for Wichita State to improve to 3-0. Chuck Ingram was 2-for-4 with a home run to lead the Shockers offense.
UCF Tied Atop American Standings
The Knights of Central Florida traveled northwest to Memphis for a weekend series that saved the theatrics for Sunday.
On Friday, Landon Gartman allowed just one run over six innings and improved his record to 4-0. Dalton Kendrick handled the final three innings of work for Memphis, and he earned his fourth save with the 6-1 win over the Knights.
The Knights took control of the series on Saturday as Alex Freeland (4-for-5) paced Central Florida with two home runs and a five RBI performance. Ben Vespi pitched four scoreless innings in relief for the Knights, who won the game 13-3 via the run-rule after seven innings.
On Sunday, the Knights sent fourteen men to the plate in the first inning as they scored ten runs. In one of the most bizarre scenarios all season, UCF catcher Andrew Sundean hit a three-run home run in the top of the first inning, but the umpires examined his bat and ruled him out because, in their judgment, there was too much pine tar on the bat.
Knights head coach Greg Lovelady went onto the field to talk with the umpires and made for the Memphis dugout and was eventually ejected. That preceded the ejection of Memphis starting pitcher Blake Wimberley seconds later as he objected to something Lovelady said. Wemberley was making a spot-start as the Tigers are having major pitching problems this season, losing many arms to injury.
To add to the weirdness of the entire situation, the umpires overturned themselves and ruled the home run as valid and counted the runs. Down 10-0 in the first, the Tigers had little fight left as they fell at home 15-6.
Tulane and Central Florida both ended the weekend atop the AAC at 5-1. Perennial leader East Carolina is just a game behind at 4-2. Houston and Cincinnati are even at 3-3. And Wichita State at 2-4 is one game better than Memphis and South Florida.
The standings look a little different than in years past, even though this was only the second weekend. East Carolina has not figured out the starting rotation yet, and they will need to if they are to overtake the teams in front of them to repeat as regular season champions.
Tulane scored eight runs in their only loss, so their offense should not be an issue, but the bullpen will need to keep opponents under thirteen runs, and more often than not, will deliver.
Central Florida is the real wild card atop the standings right now. Their five wins have come against the teams with the worst records. The Knights face a test next week when they go on the road to face East Carolina. That will be a good measure to see where the Pirates stand as well.
Tulane (No. 36) and UCF (41) are both ranked in this week's Top 50.