CLEARWATER, Fla. — For baseball fans of the American Athletic Conference baseball, this is the best week of the year.
A week’s worth of baseball being played at a first-rate venue, perfect weather and pretty good baseball being executed out on the field.
It all starts Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. with a match up between the No.4 seed team the University of Cincinnati against last year’s runner-up of the tournament and come in as the No.5 seed the University of Houston.
The Bearcats finished the season 26-28-1 and a conference record of 13-10-1 earning the fourth seed after being picked by the media to finish in last place in the American Athletic Conference.
The media picked the Cougars to finish the regular season and win the championship but Houston finished with a 11-13 conference record including finishing the season by losing the weekend series against Tulane University.
University of Houston baseball coach Todd Whitting said before the tournament started that his club would have to score some runs. His team scored nine runs against the Bearcats and closed the opening game of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament winning 9-1, and forced the Bearcats to play from the loser bracket.
Whiting took a page out of the old-fashion school of baseball and introduced small ball to his team by executing a sacrifice bunt and executing safety-squeeze bunt play that scored not one run but two runs for the Cougars.
The first successful bunt play came in the third inning when University of Houston’s lead off hitter center fielder Zac Taylor laid down a perfect bunted ball that barley created a crease out on the grass of the infield and moving Justin Montemayor into scoring position.
Montemayor scored when Cougars’ second baseman Conner Wong singled into left center field giving the University of Houston the lead that they never gave away.
The play of the game happen in the sixth inning when Whitting went inside the baseball’s textbook and came up with the safety-squeeze play.
With runners at second base and third base, Cougar’s third baseman Connor Hollis proved that a .288 hitter can also laid down the bunt.
Hollis squared up and placed the bat on the ball and placed between the third base path and the grass Wong scored, University of Cincinnati starting pitcher A.J. Olasz ran for the ball but lost the grip on the baseball and his feet where not set and the slight of hesitation was all that Houston’s left fielder needed to come around third base and made a head first slide right across the plate.
Olasz worked hard and gave his team a chance to stay in the game. He pitched 5.1 innings striking out two, walking one and hitting one batter.
The only run that the University of Cincinnati scored came off of the bat of Ryan Noda in the fifth inning. Noda lifted a fly ball toward right center field and it caught the jet stream and cleared the fence for Noda’s seventh home run of the season.
That was all of the runs that the Bearcats could score off of Cougars pitcher, as the starting pitcher for the Cougars Tim Cumbie earned his fifth win of the season only limiting the Bearcats to seven hits.
Both teams move on in the tournament but both teams will take different paths toward the championship game.
Houston will play Thursday afternoon against the winner of Tulane University and Central Florida University. While the Bearcats will wait and play their next game at 7 p.m. Wednesday night against the loser of the second game of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Tournament./div>
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation.
I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.