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Sun Belt Conference Baseball news and notes

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From the Sun Belt Conference

Week 4 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Player of the Week

Mark Nelson (Florida Atlantic, Senior, 1B)
First baseman Mark Nelson had a banner week in leading Florida Atlantic to four victories in five games. The senior first baseman hit three home runs, drove in eight games and scored eight runs during the week. Nelson posted a .429 batting average (9-for-21) and had a 1.000 slugging percentage. The Orlando native hit his first home run of the week as part of a 2-for-3 with four runs scored in the nightcap of a doubleheader against Florida A&M on Tuesday, March 5. Nelson had two hits, including a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth inning against Toledo on Friday, March 8. He wrapped up the three-game series against Toledo with two home runs and going 3-for-5 with four RBIs on Sunday, March 10. Nelson also scored two runs in the series-clinching game.

Week 4 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Pitcher of the Week

Shane McCain (Troy, Junior)
Troy junior southpaw Shane McCain was absolutely dominant against a Southeastern Louisiana team that came in with a top 10 RPI. McCain struck out a career-high nine batters and allowed just three hits over seven innings of work as Troy won 3-1. McCain retired the final 10 batters he faced and did not walk a batter in the game. McCain is now 3-0 on the season with 23 strikeouts to just two walks in 19 innings of work.

Recent Results

March 4 (Monday) 
WKU 6, Southern Illinois 4

March 5 (Tuesday) 
Florida Atlantic 8, Florida A&M 3
Florida Atlantic 15, Florida A&M 3
Austin Peay at WKU POSTPONED
SE Missouri St. 2, UALR 3
McNeese St. 8, Louisiana-Monroe 17
New Orleans at Louisiana-Lafayette POSTPONED
Troy at Samford POSTPONED
South Alabama 11, Nicholls St. 7
Arkansas State 9, UT Martin 0

March 6 (Wednesday) 
SE Missouri St. 4, UALR 3
WKU 6, Austin Peay 7
FIU 3, Stetson 16
Southern Miss 5, South Alabama 6
Lipscomb 3, Middle Tennessee 2

March 8 (Friday) 
(3) UALR 2, Creighton 4
VMI 5, WKU 13
Xavier 8, Middle Tennessee 4
No. 19 Rice 7, FIU 2
Toledo 3, Florida Atlantic 4
UAB 1, Arkansas State 2 (11 innings)
Louisiana-Lafayette 2, Southern Miss 9
Hartford 5, Troy 9
Louisiana-Monroe 4, Northwestern St. 2 (10 innings)
North Fla. 5, South Alabama 6

March 9 (Saturday) 
(3) UALR 7, Milwaukee 10
Louisiana-Lafayette 13, Southern Miss 4
VMI 3, WKU 4
Xavier 12, Middle Tennessee 0
North Fla. 15 South Alabama 2
Toledo 6, Florida Atlantic 1
No. 19 Rice 6, FIU 5 (10 innings)
UAB 1, Arkansas State 8
UAB 4, Arkansas State 2
Northwestern St. 7, Louisiana-Monroe 5
Northwestern St. 4 Louisiana-Monroe 3
Hartford 1, Troy 8

March 10 (Sunday) 
No. 19 Rice 7, FIU 11
Toledo 5, Florida Atlantic 7
Louisiana-Lafayette 9, Southern Miss 1
VMI 2, WKU 7
Xavier 4, Middle Tennessee 24
North Fla. 8, South Alabama 9
Southeastern La. 1, Troy 3
(3) UALR 4, Austin Peay 8

Upcoming Games

March 12 (Tuesday) 
UT Arlington at UALR 3:00 PM
S. Illinois at Middle Tennessee 3:00 PM
Rice at FIU 5:00 PM
Maine at Florida Atlantic 5:30 PM
Ole Miss at Louisiana-Monroe 6:00 PM
WKU at Tennessee 6:00 PM
South Alabama at Alabama St. 6:00 PM
UAB at Troy 6:00 PM
Missouri St. at Arkansas State 6:30 PM

March 13 (Wednesday) 
USF at FIU 2:00 PM
Missouri St. at Arkansas State 3:00 PM
S. Illinois at Middle Tennessee 3:00 PM
Maine at Florida Atlantic 5:30 PM
Ole Miss at Louisiana-Monroe 6:00 PM
WKU at Tennessee 6:00 PM

March 15 (Friday) * 
FIU at Florida Atlantic 5:30 PM
Arkansas State at UALR 6:00 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana-Lafayette 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at WKU 6:00 PM
South Alabama at Troy 6:00 PM

March 16 (Saturday) * 
Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana-Lafayette 2:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at WKU 3:00 PM
FIU at Florida Atlantic 3:00 PM
Arkansas State at UALR 4:00 PM
South Alabama at Troy 6:00 PM

March 17 (Sunday) * 
FIU at Florida Atlantic 12:00 PM
Arkansas State at UALR 1:00 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at Louisiana-Lafayette 1:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at WKU 1:00 PM
South Alabama at Troy 1:00 PM

Previous Players/Pitchers of the Week
02.18 - PLAYER: Danny Collins, TROY| PITCHER: Hunter Adkins, MT
02.25 - PLAYER: Nolan Earley, USA| PITCHER: Jeremy Strawn, FAU
03.04 - PLAYER: Danny Collins, TROY | PITCHER: Jacob Noble, USA
03.11 - PLAYER: Mark Nelson, FAU| PITCHER: Shane McCain, TROY

AROUND THE LEAGUE
Sun Belt baseball teams are a combined 100-54 on the season for a 0.649 winning percentage. This ranks the SBC third among all Division I conferences, just behind the ACC and SEC.

The ten teams have also combined for 978 runs on the season and have allowed 692 runs. The combined ERA is 3.75 and the league leader is Florida Atlantic with an ERA of 2.75.

Troy (11-3) head coach Bobby Pierce sits just one win away from 900 career wins. The Troy skipper has been at the helm of the Trojan program since 2003. Pierce and his Trojans take on UAB on Tuesday, Mar. 12.

South Alabama improved to 14-3 on the season last week after finishing 4-1 in five games. The Jaguars won a pair of midweek games against Nicholls State and Southern Mississippi before taking two of three games against North Florida over the weekend at Stanky Field.The win at Nicholls State marked the first time the Jags have won in Thibodaux, La., since 2009, while the win over Southern Miss marked USA's third consecutive win over the Golden Eagles dating back to last season.

WKU earned its first three-game series sweep since the 2011 season, winning all three games over the weekend against VMI. The Hilltoppers came from behind in all three games, outscoring the Keydets 20-3 after the sixth inning in the series. WKU scored 11 runs in the seventh inning, outscoring VMI 11-0 in that particular inning in the three-game series.

Troy improved to 13-1 on the season and 10-1 at home with a pair of victories over Hartford and one against Southeastern Louisiana. Danny Collins hit his fifth home run of the season on Friday and added two doubles on Sunday. Logan Pierce hit .615 (8-of-13) with three runs scored, a triple and five RBIs as the Trojans swept three games from Hartford and Southeastern Louisiana.

Pierce reached base at a .643 clip and finished the week slugging .769. Shane McCain and Matthew Howard combined to retire the final 16 batters in the game against SE Louisiana. Troy wraps up a 10-game homestand this week with a game against UAB on Tuesday and South Alabama over the weekend.

The Ragin' Cajuns posted a series victory in their first road series of the season, taking 2-of-3 from Southern Miss in Hattiesburg. In capturing the series victory over USM – the program's first since the yearly meetings became an annual occurrence in 2007, and first overall since 2000 – the Cajuns outscored the Golden Eagles 22-5 after dropping the opener on Friday. The USM games were the first road games, as the Cajuns began the 2013 campaign with a 13-game homestand.

Florida Atlantic went 4-1 for the week and stands 10-6 on the season. The Owls scored 23 runs in sweeping a doubleheader against Florida A&M on Tuesday, March 5. FAU took two-of-three games in a home series against Toledo, winning the deciding game 7-5 on Sunday, March 10. The team plays a two-game series against Maine, beginning on Tuesday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. Senior first baseman Mark Nelson had a banner week with three home runs and a .429 batting average. The Orlando native had two home runs in Sunday's game against Toledo. He drove in four runs in the contest. Nelson scored four runs and hit his first home run of the week in the nightcap of the Florida A&M doubleheader.

The Arkansas State baseball team went 3-1 over the past week, picking a victory over UT-Martin in midweek action and then took two out of three games from UAB over the weekend. The Red Wolves defeated UT-Martin 9-0 to record their first shutout of the season and the last time ASU shutout an opponent was April 13 of last year when A-State picked up a 5-0 win over Western Kentucky. It was also the first time ASU had recorded shutout against a non-conference opponent was against Portland in 2010 in a 7-0 victory.

TEAM NOTES

UALR
After a hot start to the 2013 regular season, the UALR baseball team (9-7) cooled off this week, going 1-4, including four straight losses… UALR played host to a two game midweek series against Southeast Missouri, winning the first game on Tuesday and dropping the second contest on Wednesday… On Tuesday, freshman Chad Bradford recorded his first career win, while junior Ben Crumpton logged three hits in UALR's 3-2 win over the Redhawks… In 5.2 innings of work, Bradford blanked the Redhawks through the first five frames, while not allowing a hit until the third inning...Senior Tyler Buckley picked up his first save of the season, fanning the only batter he faced… In game two, UALR fell to Southeast Missouri by a score of 4-3… The loss wrapped up a 13-game home stand for the Trojans, who won seven of their last nine games during that stint… Over the weekend, UALR took part in the Austin Peay Riverview Inn Classic, joining Austin Peay, UW Milwaukee, and Creighton as participants in the tournament... On Friday, the Trojans fell to Creighton by a score of 4-2… Starting pitcher Chance Cleveland (2-2) was tagged with the loss, allowing three runs in 4.1 innings of work… Junior Ben Crumpton led the Trojans offensively, going 2-for-4 with one RBI... Senior Chris Burk enjoyed a 2-for-4 day at the plate with one run scored… Junior Chase Rousseau and senior Bubba Cooper combined to pitch the final 3.2 innings for UALR, shutting out Creighton the remainder of the game and yielding only one hit… UALR dropped the second game of the weekend the following afternoon, losing to UW Milwaukee, 10-7… Senior Chris Burk went 2-for-3 with four RBIs, while junior Bryson Thionnet added three hits, two runs scored, and one RBI of his own… Blake Huffman (2-2) allowed five hits and three earned runs in five innings of work... UALR sent seven pitchers to the mound on Saturday, as the UW Milwaukee offense proved to be relentless all afternoon… On Sunday, Austin Peay defeated UALR by a score of 8-4... Ben Crumpton went 2-for-5 on the afternoon, extending his hitting streak to nine games… Seniors John Clark and Myles Parma both tacked on two hits apiece for UALR, while junior Bryson Thionnet enjoyed a 2-for-5 day at the plate with a pair of runs scored and three RBIs… UALR starting pitcher Ethan Schlechte recorded 3.1 innings of work, but yielded eight hits and six earned runs in his fourth outing of the season… Senior Bubba Cooper pitched the final three innings for UALR and limited the Governors to just one hit during that span… Cooper struck out three of the nine batters he faced, while keeping Austin Peay off the scoreboard… UALR has one last tune up before the start of conference play next weekend when they host Texas-Arlington on Tuesday…

Arkansas State
The Arkansas State baseball team went 3-1 over the past week, picking a victory over UT-Martin in midweek action and then took two out of three games from UAB over the weekend. The Red Wolves defeated UT-Martin 9-0 to record their first shutout of the season and the last time ASU shutout an opponent was April 13 of last year when A-State picked up a 5-0 win over Western Kentucky. It was also the first time ASU had recorded shutout against a non-conference opponent was against Portland in 2010 in a 7-0 victory. The A-State pitching staff combined to throw nine shutout innings, while giving up just three hits with no walks and faced just one batter over the minimum. Alex Potts provided late inning heroics on Friday night against UAB. The senior provided walk-off single in the bottom of the 11th inning to lift the Red Wolves to a 2-1 victory. ASU is 8-2 at Tomlinson Stadium this season, while the pitching has been nearly un-hittable at Kell Field. The pitching has a 2.35 ERA at home with 107 strikeouts and just 22 walks in 92 innings of work. ASU's hitters are also hitting .291 in their home park and have scored 74 runs. Chandler Hawkins enjoyed a solid week on the mound. He pitched two perfect innings in the shutout victory over UT-Martin and then made his first start of the season on Saturday. He pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on five hits in the Red Wolves 8-1 victory. The seven innings were a career-high for Hawkins as were the 28 batters he faced. He also tied a career high with three strikeouts. A-State will return to action on Tuesday and Wednesday for a pair of midweek home games against Missouri State. ASU will then open Sun Belt Conference play against at UALR this coming weekend.

Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic went 4-1 for the week and stands 10-6 on the season. The Owls scored 23 runs in sweeping a doubleheader against Florida A&M on Tuesday, March 5. FAU took two-of-three games in a home series against Toledo, winning the deciding game 7-5 on Sunday, March 10. The team plays a two-game series against Maine, beginning on Tuesday, March 12 at 6:30 p.m. Senior first baseman Mark Nelson had a banner week with three home runs and a .429 batting average. The Orlando native had two home runs in Sunday's game against Toledo. He drove in four runs in the contest. Nelson scored four runs and hit his first home run of the week in the nightcap of the Florida A&M doubleheader. Florida Atlantic is still lead by a pitching staff that has compiled a 2.81 earned run average. Sophomore Austin Gomber anchors the starting rotation with a 1-1 record and 2.08 ERA. The left hander leads the team with 22 strikeouts. Junior Jeremy Strawn is 1-0 with a 2.62 ERA and senior Jake Meiers is 1-2 with a 4.74 ERA have rounded out the team's weekend rotation this spring. Senior closer Hugh Adams has five saves and is FAU's record holder with 18 career saves. Senior outfielder Corey Keller leads the team with a .323 batting average, while sophomore shortstop Mitch Morales (.321) and junior outfielder Geoff Jimenez (.303) round out the .300 or better hitters. Sunday's game against Toledo marked the first time this season multiple players have hit a home run. FAU begins defense of its 2012 Sun Belt Conference regular-season title when it hosts FIU in a three-game series, starting Friday, March 15 at 6:30 p.m. from Boca Raton, Fla.

FIU 
FIU went 1-4 last week with a midweek loss at Stetson on Mar. 6 and then dropped two-of-three at home against No. 19 Rice. The Panthers picked up the win in the series finale 11-7 as the Panthers erupted for 13 hits and 11 runs to even their record to 8-8. FIU got it going early scoring all 11 runs in the first four innings. Aramis Garcia again sparked the Panthers going 3 for 4 with five RBI. Zach Sweety, Edwin Rios and Josh Anderson each went 2 for 4. FIU has Monday off before beginning a two-game series with South Florida on Tuesday evening at the FIU ballpark. The first pitch for Tuesday's game is at 6 p.m. The Panthers and Bulls close the two-game set with a matinee first pitch of 3 p.m. on Wednesday.

Louisiana-Lafayette
The Ragin' Cajuns posted a series victory in their first road series of the season, taking 2-of-3 from Southern Miss in Hattiesburg…In capturing the series victory over USM – the program's first since the yearly meetings became an annual occurrence in 2007, and first overall since 2000 – the Cajuns outscored the Golden Eagles 22-5 after dropping the opener on Friday…The USM games were the first road games, as Louisiana began the 2013 campaign with a 13-game homestand…Louisiana improved to 11-2 in weekend series…For the first time since 2005, the Ragin' Cajuns completed each of the first four weekends of the season with a winning mark…Sunday's 9-1 win over USM marked the Cajuns sixth victory of six-plus runs (13 victories total)… The four hits by Tyler Girouard in the USM finale marked a new career high, besting his previous mark of three hits against Southern Miss (March 9) and ULM (March 18) in 2012…Girouard is the fifth different Cajun to amass a four-hit game this season, joining Seth Harrison, Dex Kjerstad, Michael Strentz and Blake Trahan…Over the final two days of the series, the Cajuns bullpen held USM to a single run over 9 1/3 innings pitched…In four of his last five career starts, sophomore pitcher Austin Robichaux has held the opposition to four hits or less…Louisiana played the USM series without the services of starting catcher Michael Strentz who was listed as day-to-day after suffering a hand injury in the Sacred Heart series finale…Freshman Nick Thurman filled in for Strentz in Hattiesburg and hit .357 (5-of-14) with a double, a triple and four RBI… Beginning next week with ULM at "The Tigue", the Cajuns have 10 straight weekends of Sun Belt Conference action…For the second straight week, UL has no midweek games as the squad prepares for the SBC opener with the rival Warhawks.

Louisiana-Monroe
ULM and Ole Miss will meet on the diamond for the 41st and 42nd time when the two teams battle in a pair of midweek games... The Rebels lead the all-time series 28-11-1 and it will be the first meeting between the two since the 2010 season. Taylor Abdalla had a big week at the plate as he batted .500 (8-16) in four games... He totaled six extra base hits (3 HRs, 2 doubles and 1 triple), while driving in seven runs and scoring six... In game one of the doubleheader vs. Northwestern State, Abdalla connected on a pair of homers to become the first Warhawk since Joey Rapp (2/21/12 vs. Tulane) to hit two homeruns in one game. Pinch-hitter Justin Stawychny drove in two runs in the top of the 10th inning Friday night at Northwestern State... Dalton Herrington and Brandon Alexander Scored to lift the Warhawks to the 4-2 victory. Corben Green connected on his second HR of the season... His solo homer in the top of the first inning gave ULM the early 1-0 advantage. Jeff Fuller drove in Judd Edwards with a two-out RBI double in the top of the second inning to push the Warhawk advantage to 2-0. Brandon Alexander hit his first triple as a Warhawk to lead off the 9th inning against the Demons... The senior reached base as the leadoff man three times in the win over Northwestern State. Shelby Aulds (2-1) earned the win in relief after allowing just one run on two hits with one strikeout in 3.2 innings of relief. Friday starter Carey Taylor earned a no-decision after surrendering one run on five hits and three walks with a career-best five punchouts. The Warhawks exploded for 17 runs in the squads 17-8 win over McNeese State Tuesday night... The 17 runs scored by ULM are the most since it scored 17 runs in a 17-0 rout of UL-Lafayette last season (5/19). ULM totaled 15 RBI in the win over McNeese State... It is the highest single-game RBI total for the Warhawks since it posted 17 RBI in a 17-8 win at South Alabama (4/18/10). The squad scored seven runs in the bottom of the first inning in the win over the Cowboys... Prior to the seven run first against McNeese State, ULM last scored seven or more runs in an inning on April 27, 2012 at Western Kentucky (9 runs - top of the 7th). Taylor Abdalla and Chris Dudley led the offensive attack against McNeese State... The senior duo combined for six hits, five runs and eight RBI... Abdalla recorded three extra-base hits (two doubles, solo HR) while Dudley added a two-run HR (the first HR of his Warhawk career) and drew three walks. Against the Cowboys, Taylor Abdalla set new single-game career-highs in both hits (4) and RBI (5)... He also tied career marks in at-bats (6), runs (2), doubles (2) and homeruns (1)... Chris Dudley meanwhile, recorded career-highs in runs (3) and RBI (3). Tyler Bray earned his first win in a Warhawk uniform after tossing 2.1 innings of shutout baseball against McNeese State ... The junior walked two batters while tallying four punchouts.

Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee (10-5) went 1-4 last week with losses to Lipscomb on March 6 and Xavier on March 8 and 9. The Blue Raiders picked up a victory on Sunday over Xavier, winning 24-4 pounding out 26 hits in 52 at-bats. This week MT takes on SIU during midweek action and will travel to WKU as conference action opens up.

South Alabama
South Alabama improved to 14-3 on the season last week after finishing 4-1 in five games. The Jaguars won a pair of midweek games against Nicholls State and Southern Mississippi before taking two of three games against North Florida over the weekend at Stanky Field. The win at Nicholls State marked the first time the Jags have won in Thibodaux, La., since 2009, while the win over Southern Miss marked USA's third consecutive win over the Golden Eagles dating back to last season. UNF handed the Jags their first home loss of the season on Saturday, but a Jaguar win on Sunday improved the home record to 10-1 this season. USA hit .304 with 30 RBI and 34 runs scored in five games last week, while the pitching staff recorded 48 strikeouts against 15 walks in 45 innings. Through 11 games at Stanky Field this year, South Alabama is hitting .326 with 106 runs and 93 RBI while posting a team on-base percentage of .441. USA will travel to Montgomery, Ala., Tuesday for a midweek contest with Alabama State before heading to Troy, Ala., for a three-game series with Troy to open Sun Belt Conference play.

Troy 
Troy improved to 13-1 on the season and 10-1 at home with a pair of victories over Hartford and one against Southeastern Louisiana … Danny Collins hit his fifth home run of the season on Friday and added two doubles on Sunday … Logan Pierce hit .615 (8-of-13) with three runs scored, a triple and five RBIs as the Trojans swept three games from Hartford and Southeastern Louisiana. Pierce reached base at a .643 clip and finished the week slugging .769 … Shane McCain and Matthew Howard combined to retire the final 16 batters in the game against SE Louisiana … Troy wraps up a 10-game homestand this week with a game against UAB on Tuesday and South Alabama over the weekend.

Western Kentucky
WKU earned its first three-game series sweep since the 2011 season, winning all three games over the weekend against VMI. The Hilltoppers came from behind in all three games, outscoring the Keydets 20-3 after the sixth inning in the series. WKU scored 11 runs in the seventh inning, outscoring VMI 11-0 in that particular inning in the three-game series. The Hilltopper bats came alive for 13 runs on Friday, tying the highest run output under head coach Matt Myers. WKU would outhit the Keydets in all three games in the series, including notching double-digit hits in two of the three games. The WKU pitching staff once again got plenty of swings and misses, as the Hilltopper staff struck out 27 VMI batters over the weekend, including 11 strikeouts in each of the first two games. The 11 strikeouts in the two games gave WKU 10 games this season with 11 or more strikeouts, which already surpasses its total from the entire 2012 season. The Hilltoppers entered the weekend leading the nation in strikeouts-per-nine innings, averaging nearly 11 strikeouts per game. WKU will look to continue its winning ways as the Hilltoppers travel to Knoxville, Tenn., to take on the University of Tennessee for a pair of mid-week games on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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