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Sunday, July 23, 2017

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Cougars pitch their way to top of the American


If the Cougars continue their impressive performance against Tulane, they have a real chance to sweep this series. | Ajani Stewart/The Cougar

Conference play is alive and well in the American Athletic Conference,and coming up is a premier matchup between first place Tulane and second place Houston. It is highly likely that the winner of this series will either retain or move into first place.

Starting on Friday, Tulane (18-18 overall, 7-2 in conference) travels to play the Cougars (25-10, 6-3) in Schroeder Park. Tulane currently has sole ownership of first place while Houston is tied with UConn in second.

The Wave

The Cougars may have home field advantage, but Tulane has been picking up momentum in recent weeks. This past week, Tulane swept the American’s baseball honors, claiming the Player of the Week and Pitcher of the Week awards.

Tulane’s first-baseman, Hunter Williams, was named Player of the Week after an impressive performance against UConn. He hit .333 with a .722 slugging percentage over four games. He’s accrued two homeruns, six runs and batted in four RBI for The Green Wave.

One of Tulane’s relief pitchers took the American’s Pitcher of the Week in Christian Colletti. Of their four games, he appeared in three games and produced seven shutout innings.

Tulane as a total team deserves its first place position despite having the worst overall record in the American. They started the season on a sour note with a seven-game losing streak that started their second game overall.

Since then, however, they’ve turned their performance around. In their last 21 games, they’ve won 15 and tallied double-digit hits in 11 of their last 20 games.

In the last 21 games, Tulane has hit .295 and averaged 6.3 runs per game. Their one downside would be their 4.51 ERA during this time.

Cougar consistency

On the Cougars’ side of the coin, they have been on-again, off-again for a few weeks. Early in April, they dropped their first game to Rice, swept ECU the next weekend, lost another to Rice and then beat Memphis 2-1 after that.

Since junior lefthander Seth Romero’s suspension, the Cougars have struggled in midweek games. With sophomore lefthander Trey Cumbie moved to starting Friday games, however, the Cougars have maintained their consistency in conference series over the weekend.

Regardless of their midweek recessions, the Cougars have inched their way back into Baseball America’s top 25 poll at No 24. To win the series over Tulane this weekend would solidify Houston’s spot.

The Cougar pitching staff that ranks ninth in the nation in ERA (2.89) is led by Cumbie’s 1.40 ERA. Although the move to Friday games has impacted his statistics, his record remains a flawless 6-0 in eight starts.

Saturday starter sophomore Mitch Ullom and Sunday starter senior John King round out the pitching staff with a 3.50 and 3.46 ERA respectively.

Matching up

The biggest difference going into the series will be the pitching staffs. Tulane’s ERA is 1.62 higher than Houston, and that’s only taking Tulane’s ERA from the last 21 games and Houston’s from all year.

Most importantly, the Cougars can take advantage of The Green Wave’s pitching. As a team, Houston is batting .294.

At bat, junior shortstop Jake Scheiner still leads the way for the Cougars. So far this season, his batting average is .402, he’s rounded up 53 hits, 12 homeruns and 40 RBI.

While Scheiner continues to get on base, junior catcher Connor Wong continues to steal them. He leads the team with 18 stolen bases.

The Cougars are coming off an impressive weekend at Memphis. Houston won 2-1, but scored 30 runs on 33 hits, including a grand slam from sophomore designated hitter Joe Davis.

This series gives the Cougars the chance to take first in the American, but there’s a chance that neither Houston nor Tulane are in first after this weekend. If UConn sweeps UCF and Houston wins 2-1, UConn will take sole possession of first place.

The first pitch on Friday and Saturday is scheduled for 6:30 pm in Schroeder Park and at 1 pm on Sunday.

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