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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

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How Houston stacks up against AAC competition


This weekend’s series at Southern Miss will end the Cougars’ longest road stretch of the season. Thirteen of the Cougars’ last 14 games have been played away from Cougar Field. UH is 2-5 on the road this season, but 5-4 at home and 2-1 at neutral sites. | Brianna Leigh Morrison/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars may have dropped the opening series to conference play, but their opponent was one of their hardest competitors all year.  | File Photo/The Cougar

Baseball season moved to full swing as the American Athletic Conference moved into conference play last weekend. All across the AAC, the battle for positioning began with an unlikely contender inhabiting the No. 1 spot.

UConn, with the third worst overall record in the AAC (16-9), took home the only sweep of the weekend over ECU (18-11). On Friday, the UConn Huskies stunned with 11 total hits, and ECU fell apart in the last two games, committing eight errors.

For Houston (20-7, 1-2), the Cougars fell short and lost their series 1-2 against UCF (22-7, 2-1). Houston has the second best ERA in the NCAA (2.19) with UCF having the third best (2.21), so the matchup featured some of the best pitchers in the league.

The 11-game win streak came to a tragic end Friday as well. Still, junior Seth Romero pitched a career-high 14-strikeout performance.

The last team in the AAC with 20 or more wins also lost their series this weekend. USF (24-5, 1-2) lost to Tulane (12-6, 2-1). The game featured the team with the best overall record in the conference and the team with the worst record. The team with the worst record won.

Leading the league

USF also joined Houston and UCF on the NCAA’s ERA leaderboard. They currently boast the fourth-best ERA at 2.27.

With all these schools combined, however, only Houston has a pitcher in the top 50 for individual ERAs. Sophomore Trey Cumbie leads the Cougars with a .74 ERA, allowing only five runs so far this season. Senior Phoenix Sanders at 2.01 leads the USF Bulls, and senior Juan Pimentel leads UCF at 1.76.

In terms of batting average, the AAC isn’t nearly as dominant in the NCAA.

USF is the highest ranked AAC team at No. 19 with a .310 average. In their 29 games, they’ve amounted 305 hits. They’re led by junior Kevin Marshal who sits at No. 9 individually in batting average at .427.

Behind USF, ECU sits at No. 25 with a .308 batting average. Houston sits at No. 43 with .297.

The road ahead

For the Cougars, they’ve already seen some of the hardest competition in UCF. UCF trails Houston in both pitching and batting. The series could have gone either way, but with UCF having the home field advantage, they were able to edge out the Cougars.

The biggest speed bump will come in the last weekend of April against USF. The Bulls are the most well rounded team in the American currently. They’re first in batting average and third in ERA. The Cougars will also have to travel for the series to top it off.

UCF and USF are easily the most difficult competition. The Cougars will have to play both on the road.

Other than the two Florida programs, the Cougars look primed to perform adequately otherwise. Barring some major upset or controversy, Houston should end the regular season ranked at least third.

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