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Sun Belt Conference Baseball news and notes

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From the Sun Belt Conference

AROUND THE SUN BELT CONFERENCE
Middle Tennessee's Michael Adkins and South Alabama's Jarron Cito have been named the SBC Baseball Player and Pitcher of the Week, respectively, the league office announced on Monday. 

Adkins hit .381 and slugged .762 in a week that saw Middle Tennessee knock off No. 2 Vanderbilt and sweep Louisiana-Lafayette. Adkins was instrumental in the four victories, racking up nine RBI, including two home runs. He had at least one RBI in four of the five contests.

Cito, a senior, struck out a career-high 11 batters and allowed one unearned run on just one hit in a seven-inning complete-game effort as the Jags defeated UALR on Sunday, March. 24. The right-hander retired eight of the first nine batters he faced in the game, and retired the final 11 batters of the game. It marked his second career complete game, and the first by a Jaguar this season.

The highlights of the week were the Blue Raider win over No. 2 Vanderbilt on Wednesday and WKU's win over No. 8 Kentucky on Tuesday. The Blue Raiders dropped its Tuesday night contest to Belmont before reeling off four consecutive wins, including the win over the Commodores. It was only the third loss of the season for Vandy.

The Toppers traveled to Lexington to take on the Wildcats, defeating No. 8 by a score of 6-3.

South Alabama moved up to No. 24 in the Collegiate Baseball Newspaper poll this week after the Jags posted a 4-0 record this week. The Jags defeated SE Louisiana on Tuesday, and swept UALR this past weekend. It was the second consecutive conference series win for the Jags and sixth overall this season.

Florida Atlantic took two-of-three this weekend from Arkansas State as the Owls improved to 4-2 in SBC play. This week the Owls face Miami in its only midweek contest.

The Trojans of Troy posted a 3-1 week as they defeated Jacksonville State on Tuesday, 13-5, before dropping the opener against ULM on Friday night. Troy rebounded with back-to-back wins over the Warhawks, winning 10-6 on Saturday after scoring five runs in the ninth, and then 10-0 on Sunday to claim the series. Troy hosts Auburn (15-9, 0-6 SEC) on Tuesday, March 26 before taking on red hot Middle Tennessee at Riddle Pace Field.

WKU, one of the hottest teams in the SBC currently, took two-of-three from FIU this past weekend after sweeping Middle Tennessee last weekend. The Toppers belted No. 8 Kentucky on Tuesday and fell in extras to Lipscomb on Wednesday.

WKU will battle Louisiana-Lafayette this weekend at Nick Denes Field.

Sun Belt Conference Weekly News and Notes (Week 6)
2013 Sun Belt Conference Media Guide
2013 Sun Belt Conference Composite Schedule
2013 Sun Belt Conference Standings
2013 Sun Belt Conference Statistics

Week 6 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Player of the Week

Michael Adkins (Middle Tennessee, Sophomore, C/DH)
Sophomore Michael Adkins hit .381 and slugged .762 in a week that saw Middle Tennessee knock off No. 2 Vanderbilt and sweep Louisiana, who was previously undefeated in the Sun Belt. Adkins was instrumental in the four victories, racking up nine RBI, including two home runs. He had at least one RBI in four of the five contests. The Powder Springs, Ga., native drove in the game-winning run in the final two games of the series against Louisiana, homering on both occasions. His four RBI in game two against the Ragin' Cajuns were a career-high. During MT's four-game winning streak, Adkins has hit a team-best .471.

Week 6 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Pitcher of the Week

Jarron Cito (South Alabama, Senior)
Cito struck out a career-high 11 batters and allowed one unearned run on just one hit in a seven-inning complete-game effort. The right-hander retired eight of the first nine batters he faced in the game, and retired the final 11 batters of the game. It marked his second career complete game, and the first by a Jaguar this season.

Recent Results

March 19 (Tuesday)
Middle Tennessee 1, Belmont 3
WKU 6, No. 8 Kentucky 3
UALR 3, Louisiana Tech 4
Arkansas State 1, Missouri 5
Arkansas State 10, Missouri 3
Louisiana-Monroe 0, Grambling 4
Southern 6, Louisiana-Lafayette 11
South Alabama 13, Southeastern La. 7
Troy 13, Jacksonville St. 5

March 20 (Wednesday)
FIU at Florida Gulf Coast POSTPONED
Lipscomb 5, WKU 4
No. 2 Vanderbilt 1, Middle Tennessee 4

March 22 (Friday) *
WKU 4, FIU 3
Troy 2, Louisiana-Monroe 4
Louisiana-Lafayette 5, Middle Tennessee 12
UALR 3, South Alabama 4

March 23 (Saturday) *
South Alabama 6, UALR 5 (11 innings)
Troy 10, Louisiana-Monroe 6
Middle Tennessee 7, Louisiana-Lafayette 5
WKU 9, FIU 8
Florida Atlantic 10, Arkansas State 5
Arkansas State 3, Florida Atlantic 2

March 24 (Sunday) *
South Alabama 11, UALR 1 (7 innings)
Troy 10, Louisiana-Monroe 0 (7 innings)
Middle Tennessee 9, Louisiana-Lafayette 3
FIU 5, WKU 2
Florida Atlantic 3, Arkansas State 2

Upcoming Games

March 26 (Tuesday)
UALR at Stephen F. Austin 3:00 PM
Louisiana-Lafayette at Southeastern La. 6:00 PM
Evansville at WKU 6:00 PM
South Alabama at Southern Miss 6:00 PM
Auburn at Troy 6:00 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at Northwestern St. 6:30 PM
Middle Tennessee at Memphis 6:30 PM

March 27 (Wednesday)
Middle Tennessee at Memphis 4:00 PM
Florida Atlantic at Miami 5:00 PM
Arkansas State at Ole Miss 6:30 PM

March 29 (Friday) *
Arkansas State at FIU 5:00 PM
South Alabama at Florida Atlantic 5:30 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at UALR 6:00 PM
Louisiana-Lafayette at WKU 6:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at Troy 6:00 PM

March 30 (Saturday) *
Louisiana-Lafayette at WKU 3:00 PM
South Alabama at Florida Atlantic 3:00 PM
Arkansas State at FIU 3:00 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at UALR 4:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at Troy 6:00 PM

March 31 (Sunday) *
Arkansas State at FIU 10:00 AM
South Alabama at Florida Atlantic 11:00 AM
Louisiana-Monroe at UALR 1:00 PM
Louisiana-Lafayette at WKU 1:00 PM
Middle Tennessee 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
03.18 - PLAYER: Ryan Huck, WKU | PITCHER: Austin Gomber, FAU
03.25 - PLAYER: Michael, Adkins, MT | PITCHER: Jarron Cito, USA

TEAM NOTES

UALR
The UALR baseball team (10-14, 0-6 SBC) was swept by No. 25 South Alabama in its weekend series in Mobile, Ala. The Jaguars topped won a couple of one-run games on Friday and Saturday before topping UALR by an 11-1 final in Sunday's matchup. Sunday's loss was the seventh-straight for the Trojans, and drops their record over the last ten games to 1-9. Trailing 4-0 after seven innings of play on Friday, UALR scored three runs over its final two sets of at-bats, but came up just short in its come-from-behind bid against the Jaguars. After the Trojans put up two runs in the top of the eighth, junior Kaleb Jobe led off the ninth with a solo homer that pulled the Trojans within a run at 4-3. However, South Alabama reliever Dylan Stamey was able to get the next three UALR batters out on strikes to end the Trojans' upset bid. On Saturday, UALR led 4-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth, when South Alabama scored the game-tying run on an RBI single by Cole Billingsley. Both teams went scoreless in the tenth, but junior Ben Crumpton hit a solo homer in the top of the 11th to give the Trojans a 5-4 lead. However, South Alabama was able to score two runs on two hits and two UALR errors to earn the comeback win. On Sunday, South Alabama (21-4, 5-1 SBC) completed the three-game sweep of UALR (10-14, 0-6 SBC) with an 11-1 win in seven innings on Sunday at Stanky Field. The Jaguars put up 12 hits on the day and used a stellar effort from starting pitcher Jared Cito (1-1), who went the full 7.0 innings while giving up just one run on one hit and striking out 11 UALR batters. As a team, UALR hit just .170 over the course of the three-game series. Senior Myles Parma broke out of his hitting slump with four hits in 11 at-bats (.364) in the series, including the Trojans' only hit in Sunday's loss. Senior Blake Johnson was the only other Trojan to hit .300 or better in the series, going 3-for-10 in three games. UALR will continue the search for its first true road win of the season when it travels to Nacogdoches, Texas to take on Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The Trojans will then return home when it hosts ULM in a three-game series beginning Friday at 6 p.m.

Arkansas State
The Arkansas State baseball team went 2-3 over the past week, splitting a midweek series with Missouri and then dropping two of the three games against Florida Atlantic in its Sun Belt Conference home opener at Tomlinson Stadium. Below average temperatures wreaked havoc on the Red Wolves' schedule this past week, forcing them to play two unscheduled doubleheaders. ASU traveled to Columbia, Missouri for a pair of midweek games on Tuesday and Wednesday, however due to the threat of sub-freezing temperatures on Wednesday the Red Wolves and Tigers elected to play a doubleheader on Tuesday instead. ASU lost the first game, but bounced back in the second game to earn a split against the Tigers and capture its first road win against an SEC team since 2008. Junior Cody Woodhouse, who started the nightcap of the twin bill against Mizzou, set a career-high with seven strikeouts in the victory. Upon returning to Jonesboro, the weather again forced a change in the Red Wolves plans. A rare March snowstorm on Thursday night forced FAU and ASU to postpone their Friday night game and play a doubleheader on Saturday. A-State won the first game of the series in dramatic fashion when Alex Potts collected his fourth career walk-off hit in the bottom of the 10th inning when he sent a shot over the left field wall for a solo home run to propel Arkansas State to a 3-2 victory. ASU starter Daniel Wright was superb for the Red Wolves, going 6.2 innings, tying a career-high with nine strikeouts and giving up just one run, unearned on the day. He also threw a season-high 130 pitches. ASU failed to capitalize on the momentum from its extra innings victory, however, and dropped the next games to fall to 4-2 in the Sun Belt Conference. Ryan Roberts enjoyed one of the best weeks of his career, going 10-for-20 on the week with five RBIs. He belted a home run at Missouri that traveled an estimated 420-feet and then enjoyed a career day on Sunday. He had a career-high four hits and a career best two doubles with also notching a career-high six bases. On Saturday, Chandler Hawkins tied a career-high with seven strikeouts in game two of the doubleheader. Earlier in the week Logan Uxa set a new career-high with his eighth double of the season and senior Alex Potts is now the all-time single season leader in sacrifices with 14 on the year, all of which have come via a bunt. ASU will travel to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss on Wednesday for a midweek matchup and will then depart for Miami, Fla., to take on Florida-International for a three-game SBC weekend series.

Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic won its second straight Sun Belt Conference series by winning the last two games at Arkansas State last weekend. The Owls split a doubleheader on Saturday by winning the nightcap 10-5. The team earned a 3-2 win over the Red Wolves on Sunday. Freshman Brendon Sanger lined a single to score the game winning run in the eighth inning on Sunday. FAU stands 15-9 on the season and are tied for second place in the Sun Belt Conference with a 4-2 mark. In Saturday's win over Arkansas State, the Owls tied a season high with three home runs in a game. Senior Nathan Pittman led off the game with a home run. Senior Mark Nelson hit a two-run home run in the first inning and junior Tyler Rocklein blasted a two-run home run in the second inning. Florida Atlantic begins a busy week playing at Miami on Wednesday, March 27 at 6 p.m. The team will host SBC co-leader South Alabama for a three-game series, beginning on Friday, March 29 at 6:30 p.m.

FIU
Eleven months removed from Tommy John surgery, right-hander Mike Franco won his third straight start by throwing a one-hitter against WKU on Sunday in FIU's 5-2 win. Franco has defeated nationally-ranked Rice, FAU and WKU in the stretch. Franco retired the first 10 Hilltoppers he faced Sunday and lost the no-hit bid when Thomas Peter had a Texas League single to short left center. Franco has a 1.93 ERA over the three-game personal win streak. . .Right-hander Mitchell Davis recorded his first career save Sunday. Davis came in the game in the top of the eighth with WKU slugger Ryan Huck at the plate representing the tying run and got Huck to pop out to end the threat. Davis pitched four relief innings over the weekend, allowed one hit, no runs and struck out eight batters. . .Aramis Garcia and Edwin Rios each hit a three-run home run on Saturday versus WKU. Garcia and Rios finished the weekend tied for the team lead with 22 RBI. . .Reliever Albert Cardenas has not allowed a run over his last eight appearances and lowered his team-leading ERA to 1.02 after two scoreless appearances against WKU. The right-hander is coming off shoulder surgery. . .Freshman infielder Mandy Alvarez hit his first collegiate home run Sunday against WKU.

Louisiana-Lafayette
The Ragin' Cajuns continue a seven-game road trip with a midweek visit to Southeastern Louisiana (March 26) and a weekend series at WKU (March 29-31)…Louisiana is coming off its first series loss of the season, falling in all three games at Middle Tennessee last weekend…Tyler Girouard carries an eight-game hitting streak into the week…Girouard is Louisiana's hottest hitter in March, having hit .463 since the beginning of the month (19-of-41) with 12 runs scored and 15 RBI…The Ragin' Cajuns sport a 3-1 record in midweek contests, all coming against Louisiana schools (Northwestern State, LSU, Nicholls State and Southern)…The Cajuns went 22 games into the season before dropping back-to-back contests; Louisiana had posted three win streaks of four or more games in the 17-3 start…The Ragin' Cajuns seek to halt a nine-game losing streak to Southeastern Louisiana, a streak that began back in the 2008 season…Caleb Adams leads the squad with six home runs, all coming in the month of March…Louisiana's 21 home runs eclipse the total of 18 hit during the 2012 season; the Cajuns surpassed the 2012 total in the season's 21st game…Sam Carriere picked up his 10th hit of the season on Friday, giving the Cajuns their 12th player with double digit hits through 21 games…Dex Kjerstad posted a multi-hit outing in each of the Cajuns four games last week and hit 10-for-20 (.500)…Kjerstad finished a double shy of the cycle in the Cajuns midweek game vs. Southern as his 4-for-6 performance included a home run, triple and two singles…Matt Hicks enters this week needing one (1) save to tie the school career record of 12 saves set by Kraig Schambough (2002-05) and tied by Justin Robichaux (2007-10)…Hicks is just two (2) saves short of the single season record of nine (9) set by Justin Robichaux in 2008….Hicks' seven saves are the most since Robichaux's single-season standard of nine (9) in 2008…Cody Boutte tallied five strikeouts for the fourth time in six starts during his outing at Middle Tennessee on Sunday…Boutte leads the Cajuns pitching staff with 26 strikeouts…The Ragin' Cajuns hold a +41 run differential over the opposition outscoring foes 153-112 and owns seven victories of six-plus runs…Louisiana already has 12 hitters reach double digit hits, ranging from 10 to 26 hits, and six hitters have produced double figure RBI…The Cajuns faced Middle Tennessee in a Sun Belt series for the final time and for the first time in 13 weekend sets the Blue Raiders swept…Louisiana's final SBC regular season mark vs. Middle Tennessee is 25-14.

Louisiana-Monroe
ULM and Northwestern State will conclude a four-game season series Tuesday night at Brown-Stroud Field in Natchitoches, La... NSU leads the season series 2-1... The road team has won all three contests in 2013. ULM dropped the series finale to Troy as the visiting Trojans won the final two games of the weekend series to take a 2-1 series win. Judd Edwards evened the middle contest of the Troy series at 5-5 with a bases clearing double in the bottom of the eighth... Troy responded with five runs in the top half of the ninth en route to the 10-6 win. Chris Dudley and Jeff Fuller each tallied two hits and one run against Troy (3/23) and Fuller also added one RBI. Reliever Shelby Aulds was tagged with the loss after allowing the first run in the top of the ninth... The run surrendered by Aulds was the only run he allowed during his 6.1 innings of work. ULM snapped an eight game losing streak with a 4-2 victory over Troy (3/22). Cale Wine tossed his third complete game of the season as the senior allowed just two earned runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts to even his season record at 3-3. Corben Green's third homer of the season proved to be the difference as the fifth inning, three-run blast gave ULM a 4-0 lead. After posting a 5-3 mark in the month of February, the Warhawks have picked up just four wins (at Memphis, McNeese State, at Northwestern State and Troy) since the calendar flipped to March.

Middle Tennessee
The Blue Raiders defeated No. 2 Vanderbilt on March 20 with a 4-1 home victory. It marked the first victory for Middle Tennessee over the Commodores since 2009 when the Blue Raiders earned a 5-4 win the NCAA Regional in Louisville, Ky. It was also the first home win over Vandy since 2009. MT last knocked off a ranked team in 2011, defeating No. 18 Troy twice. The last win against an opponent ranked No. 2 or better was also against Vanderbilt when the Commodores were ranked No. 1 in 2007. MT took that contest, 11-8, at home. MT swept Louisiana over the weekend, marking the first time in program history the Blue Raiders have a swept a series against the Ragin' Cajuns. MT outscored UL 28-13 over the weekend. The Blue Raiders also hit eight home runs over the weekend after having just seven for the entire season entering the series. Catchers Michael Adkins and Dain McNabb have been MT's most improved players this season. After combining to hit just .135 last season, the duo is batting a combined .330 this year. The two have driven in 26 runs this season, scored 26 times and hit six home runs. Trent Miller and Michael Adkins hit back-to-back homers in the series finale. The back-to-back home runs were the first since Johnny Thomas and Matthew Drake went deep against Louisiana Tech on March 3, 2012. Jake Ellison hit two triples in the series finale against Louisiana, becoming the first Blue Raider to have a pair of three-baggers in a game since Lawrence accomplished the feat last year against Troy on April 13.

South Alabama
No. 25 South Alabama went 4-0 last week after taking a midweek contest at Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday and sweeping a three-game conference series from UALR over the weekend at Stanky Field. The Jaguars hit .351 with four home runs, 31 RBI and 34 runs scored. The Jaguar pitching staff posted a 2.25 ERA last week with 36 strikeouts against 14 walks in 36 innings, while limiting the opposition to a .197 batting average. Two Jaguar starters – Brandon Boyle and Jarron Cito – each turned in quality starts over the weekend. Boyle tossed seven shutout innings, and allowed just three hits while striking out seven with one walk. Cito allowed one unearned run on one hit, and struck out a career-high 11 batters in a seven-inning complete-game effort. With its three-game sweep of UALR, USA improved to 13-1 at Stanky Field this season. The Jags captured their first extra-inning win of the year with an 11-inning victory over UALR Saturday, which also marked South Alabama's first game of the season that went into extra innings. South Alabama will travel to Hattiesburg, Miss., for a midweek contest Tuesday with Southern Mississippi before heading to Boca Raton, Fla., for a three-game Sun Belt Conference series with Florida Atlantic this weekend.

Troy
Troy turned in a successful four-game road trip winning three of the four contests, including a series victory at ULM … Troy dominated the series with the Warhawks outscoring ULM 22-10 for the weekend … Trojan batters struck out just six times in the series compared to 27 by ULM batters … Shane McCain threw a complete game, two-hit shutout in the finale as Troy won a 10-0 game in seven innings … Garrett Pitts hit .545 with two doubles and three RBIs in the series … Troy has now scored 10 or more runs in eight of 22 games this season; the Trojans have scored at least six runs in 16 games and have 10 or more hits in 10 games … Troy opens a five-game home stand with Auburn on Tuesday before hosting Middle Tennessee over the weekend.

WKU
WKU improved to 5-1 in Sun Belt Conference play after taking two of three from FIU in Miami over the weekend. The series wrapped up a week in which the Hilltoppers took down eighth-ranked Kentucky on Tuesday, giving WKU five wins over Kentucky in the last six meetings. It also marked the fifth time in the last five years that WKU has knocked off a ranked opponent, and was the first time since 2010 that WKU has beaten a ranked foe on the road. Despite a mid-week loss to Lipscomb on Wednesday, the Hilltoppers responded to take the first two games of the three-game series with FIU, giving WKU its second 5-1 start in conference play in the last three years. Over the last five years, WKU has started 5-1 or better in conference play four times, with 6-0 starts in 2009 and 2010. The Hilltoppers are scheduled to take on Evansville on Tuesday at Nick Denes Field, before hosting Louisiana-Lafayette over the weekend in Sun Belt Conference action. WKU has won six out of its last eight games overall, including six wins in the last seven games at home.


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