by Jordan Ozer
March 4, 2014, PROVIDENCE, R.I. (ISN) – Nine more wins were added to the left side of the ledger with the conference’s teams in action across the country this past weekend.
The league’s elite continue to perform well, with four teams (Louisville, Memphis, Houston, USF) ranked or receiving votes in the first Coaches Poll to come out during the season.
Memphis moved to 10-1 with a weekend sweep, placing them atop the conference leaderboard. The Tigers are riding a five-game winning streak since their lone loss of the season at Samford. The Memphis performance thus far has been a variety of different players stepping up at key times rather than singular players shouldering the load. They bring their hot start into a big nonconference game at Ole Miss Wednesday night. The Rebels enter the matchup ranked No. 25/15, although Memphis has won the last three matchups.
Houston’s pitching continues to be one of the strongest units in the entire country. The Cougars went 1-2 against a loaded field at the Houston College Classic, with their two losses coming against ranked foes in No. 15/22 Texas and No. 16/23 TCU, and the victory coming a Texas Tech squad ranked No. 26 by the NCBWA. Despite two losses, UH allowed just five runs in three games with a shutout victory. The Cougars ERA is 0.80 ERA, easily the best mark in the nation. Houston’s weekend rotation of Aaron Garza, Jake Lemoine, and Jared West has allowed just five earned runs in 59.2 innings through nine starts.
USF took their first two losses of the season in a 2-2 split with 2013 Ivy League Champion Columbia. The Bulls have been the best offensive club in the conference, leading the league in seven difference categories. Eleven games into the season, four Bulls starters (Luke Maglich, Michael Arencibia, and Daniel Portales) are hitting .400 or above.
Louisville remains the ranked representative of conference, recording a 3-1 week with the only loss coming to No. 17/11 Indiana. Preseason Conference Player of the Year Jeff Gardner is off to a hot start, with a .459 average and .784 slugging percentage along with a conference-best 29 total bases.
UCF remains above .500 at 6-5 after a hard-luck weekend against Ole Miss. The Knights took the Rebels into extra innings twice, including a 13-inning battle on Friday night, but were unable to return from Oxford with a win.
Rutgers (Old Dominion) and UConn (Lipscomb) each added a win over the weekend as well.
What They’re Saying
“I wanted to command the zone today. I had the two seam fastball, and the slider working for me today. I mostly wanted to just live down in the zone. It was working pretty well by keeping them off-balanced. Luckily, that combination worked out today. Our confidence is really high right now. We take each game one pitch at a time no matter what the score is. That’s the type of mindset we have.”
Houston Pitcher Aaron Garza, on his 8.2 shutout innings against Texas Tech. The performance was Houston’s fifth shutout of the year and earned Garza American Pitcher of the Week honors.
Thirty-seven total games are on the docket for the upcoming week, starting with three on Tuesday. Teams will play five different games against ranked teams, beginning with USF hosting No. 2/2 Florida State on Tuesday and Wednesday.