Monday, May 07, 2007

Conference USA recap for May 4-6

Two Conference USA schools posted three-game sweeps this past weekend. East Carolina won all three games at Houston to move up to third place in the league standings, while Southern Miss took three straight from Marshall to climb back above .500 in C-USA play for the first time since they defeated Rice in their conference opener in late March.

East Carolina earned a 3-1 win on Friday night in front of a national television audience on CSTV. T.J. Hose was outstanding in posting his first win in conference play and Shane Mathews picked up his league-leading 11th save. On Saturday, the Pirates used a dramatic rally in the top of the ninth inning to post a 6-1 victory. Jamie Ray highlighted the five-run inning with a grand slam. In the series finale on Sunday, ECU used a six-run fourth inning to come away with a 9-2 win.

Southern Miss was more than convincing in its sweep, outscoring the Thundering Herd, 35-9. After opening with an 8-4 win on Friday night, the Golden Eagles smacked a season high 18 hits and scored a season-best 18 runs in an 18-3 win that was called after seven innings due to Conference USA's Saturday run rule. Righthander Barry Bowden picked up his fifth straight victory in C-USA play and his sixth of the season. Southern Miss completed the sweep with a 9-2 victory on Sunday.

With Houston being swept, it opened the door for Memphis to move into second place. After a 9-6 loss to UCF on Friday night where the Knights rallied from a 5-1 deficit, the Tigers took the final two games of the series to move behind idle Rice in the league standings. On Saturday, Memphis was held hitless by Knights starter Kyle Sweat until the fourth inning and did not score until the sixth, but came up with seven runs over the sixth and seventh innings to post a 7-3 win. On Sunday, the Tigers jumped out to a 5-0 first inning lead but had to fight off a furious UCF rally to get a 10-9 win. Will Hudgens made his first career start and earned the win to improve to 4-0 for Memphis, while Mat Yokley tied the Tiger single-season save record with his eighth.

In New Orleans, UAB won two-of-three at Tulane to increase its lead to earn a berth in the Conference USA Tournament to 2 ½ games. After Friday's game was suspended due to heavy rain, the teams resumed play on Saturday. After Tulane rallied in the bottom-of-the-ninth inning to tie it on a three-run homer by Aja Barto, Blazer freshman Jonathan Merritt hit his first career home run, a three-run shot in the top of the 11th, to give UAB an 11-8 win. On Sunday, the two teams played a pair of seven-inning games, with UAB winning the first one, 4-2, and Tulane taking the night cap, 2-1.

Conference USA Players of the week

After setting the tone for a three game sweep at Houston with a brilliant performance on Friday night, East Carolina junior righthander T.J. Hose has been named Conference USA Pitcher of the Week for the period of May 1-6. Hitter of the Week honors went to Southern Miss sophomore outfielder Michael Ewing, who had an outstanding weekend at the plate as the Golden Eagles swept Marshall.

Hose improved to 6-4 on the season after picking up the win in Friday night's 3-1 victory at Houston on CSTV. He went 7.2 innings, allowing four hits and one walk while striking out five. After giving up a hit in the first inning, Hose retired 16 of the next 18 batters, including 14 in a row at one point, and did not allow a runner past second base. The 7.2 innings worked tied a season-high and his four hits allowed was the second-fewest he has given up this season.

Ewing batted .600 (6-for-10) to help lead the Golden Eagles to a 3-0 series sweep over Marshall this past weekend. He had three doubles, one home run and seven RBI in the series, while also drawing three walks and scoring three runs. In Friday night's opener, Ewing had a sacrifice fly and a three-run homer to account for four RBI. He finished with a .643 on-base percentage and collected 12 bases for a 1.200 slugging percentage for the week.

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