Sun Belt Conference Baseball news and notes

From the Sun Belt Conference

Week 8 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Player of the Week

Edwin Rios (FIU, Freshman, SS)
Rios had a strong week at the plate going 9-for-17 with three home runs and six RBI. Rios was 4-for-5 with a solo home run against South Alabama on Saturday as he sparked an FIU rally that fell just short in a 6-5 loss. On Sunday' in the Panthers 7-4 win over the Jaguars, Rios was 2-for-3 with another home run and an RBI double. For the season, Rios, a freshman from Orlando, leads FIU in hitting with a .366 average, home runs (6) and is tied for the team RBI lead at 29 with Josh Anderson.

Week 8 Sun Belt Conference Baseball Pitcher of the Week

Daniel Wright (Arkansas State, Senior)
Senior Daniel Wright enjoyed the best pitching week of his collegiate the past week. Not only did the right-hander record his first save in nearly two years, he also tossed his first complete game in a 6-0 victory over first-place Western Kentucky. In the victory over the Hilltoppers, Wright yielded just five hits across nine innings and struck out a career-high 11 for his third victory of the season. Over his last three starts, Wright has allowed just two runs and has struck out 28 batters. The Bartlett, Tenn., native also retired 12 consecutive batters in the game's middle innings and did not allow a runner to advance past second base after the first inning. Earlier in the week he recorded his first save since the 2011 season against Southeast Missouri. Wright pitched a perfect top of the ninth to preserve a one-run victory over the Redhawks. He struck out one batter in the relief appearance and it was the fourth save of his career. Wright now leads the SBC with 59 strikeouts on the year and has a league best 2.11 earned run average. He is also tied for the team lead with three wins.

Recent Results

April 2 (Tuesday) 
Florida A&M 4, FIU 7
Lynn 6, No. 25 Florida Atlantic 7
UALR at Central Arkansas CANCELED
Grambling 2, Louisiana-Monroe 3 (11 innings)
McNeese St. 5, Louisiana-Lafayette 8
Alabama State 3, Troy 10
SE Missouri St. 8, Arkansas State 9
Middle Tennessee 3, No. 3 Vanderbilt 12
No. 24 Mississippi St. 6, South Alabama 4

April 3 (Wednesday) 
Florida A&M 4, FIU 8
Southeastern La. at South Alabama CANCELED
Austin Peay 3, WKU 1

April 5 (Friday) * 
WKU 0, Arkansas State 6
No. 25 Florida Atlantic 8, Louisiana-Monroe 6
Troy 6, Louisiana-Lafayette 7
UALR 1, Middle Tennessee 1
FIU 1, South Alabama 8

April 6 (Saturday) * 
WKU 4, Arkansas State 2
UALR 6, Middle Tennessee 14
No. 25 Florida Atlantic 5, Louisiana-Monroe 8
Troy 2, Louisiana-Lafayette 9
FIU 5, South Alabama 6

April 7 (Sunday) * 
WKU 3, Arkansas State 5
No. 25 Florida Atlantic 4, Louisiana-Monroe 8
Troy 10, Louisiana-Lafayette 4
UALR 6, Middle Tennessee 8
FIU 7, South Alabama 4

Upcoming Games

April 9 (Tuesday) 
Florida Atlantic at Florida Gulf Coast 5:00 PM
Tulane at Louisiana-Lafayette 6:00 PM
$ Louisville at WKU 6:00 PM
Tennessee Tech at Middle Tennessee 6:00 PM
Jacksonville State at Troy 6:00 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at McNeese St. 6:30 PM
Nicholls St. at South Alabama 6:30 PM

April 10 (Wednesday) 
UALR at Oral Roberts 6:30 PM
Central Arkansas at Arkansas State 6:30 PM
Louisiana-Lafayette at Northwestern St. 6:30 PM

April 12 (Friday) * 
Louisiana-Monroe at FIU 5:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic 5:30 PM
Louisiana-Lafayette at UALR 6:00 PM
South Alabama at Arkansas State 6:00 PM
Troy at WKU 6:00 PM

April 13 (Saturday) * 
Troy at WKU 3:00 PM
Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic 3:00 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at FIU 3:00 PM
Louisiana-Lafayette at UALR 4:00 PM
South Alabama at Arkansas State 4:00 PM

April 14 (Sunday) * 
Middle Tennessee at Florida Atlantic 12:00 PM
Louisiana-Monroe at FIU 12:00 PM
Louisiana-Lafayette at UALR 1:00 PM
South Alabama at Arkansas State 1:00 PM
Troy at WKU 1:00 PM

$ – Game to be played at Bowling Green Ballpark (Bowling Green, Ky.)

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
04.01 - PLAYER: Austin Pfeiffer, UALR | PITCHER: Tyler Alexander, FIU
04.08 - PLAYER: Edwin Rios, FIU | PITCHER: Daniel Wright, Arkansas State


The UALR baseball team (15-16, 4-7 SBC) dropped its series against Middle Tennessee at Reese Smith Jr. Field in Murfreesboro, Tenn., over the weekend. After winning game one by an 11-1 final, the Trojans fell 14-6 in game two before losing 8-6 in Sunday's rubber match. Senior Chance Cleveland put together another strong performance in the Trojans' Friday night victory. Cleveland started the game and went 8.0 innings, striking out a season-high 11 batters and issuing no walks while improving to 4-4 on the season. The Pine Bluff, Ark.-native allowed just one run on six hits in the win and increased his season strikeout total to 56, which currently ranks second in the Sun Belt. Cleveland leads the league in innings pitched (58.1) and is holding opposing hitters to just a .210 batting average, which ranks third in the league. Senior Chris Burk enjoyed a productive weekend at the plate for the Trojans. Burk finished the series hitting .571 (8-for-14) with three doubles and two triples. The Gig Harbor, Wash.-native's weekend was highlighted by a 4-for-5 day at the plate on Sunday when he finished a homer short of hitting for the cycle. Burk's weekend raised his average to .299 for the year, while his two triples are now tops on the team. UALR continues to lead the Sun Belt in stolen bases. The Trojans swiped nine bags over the weekend to increase their season total to 55 – 17 ahead of second-place Louisiana-Lafayette. Junior Ben Crumpton leads the league in stolen bases (15) and classmate Austin Pfeiffer ranks second (13). The duo also ranks in the top ten in the league in runs scored, as Crumpton (36) sits third and Pfeiffer (28) sits sixth. Crumpton ranks third in the Sun Belt in doubles (13) and ninth in total bases (65). UALR returns to action this week with a midweek road trip to Oral Roberts on Wednesday. The Trojans return to Gary Hogan Field for a three-game set beginning Friday night at 6 p.m.

Arkansas State
Arkansas State ended a six-game losing streak and a five-game losing streak in Sun Belt Conference play by winning three of four games last week. The Red Wolves ended their six-game losing streak by defeating Southeast Missouri 9-8 on Tuesday night and then defeated Western Kentucky 6-0 to end a five-game losing streak in conference play. A-State took two out of three games from the Hilltoppers, who entered the weekend in a tie first-place in the conference. In the victory on Friday, Daniel Wright tossed the first complete game of his career in a 6-0 shutout victory. He struck out a career-high 11 batters and did not allow batter past second base after the first inning. It was the first complete-game victory of Wright's career, who now leads the Sun Belt Conference with 59 strikeouts and a 2.11 ERA. Wright also earned his first save since 2011 in A-State's 9-8 victory over Southeast Missouri. The senior right-hander pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn the save. Bradley Wallace turned a career performance in ASU's 5-3 victory over WKU. The junior struck out a career high 12, threw a career-high seven innings and retired 18 batters in a row. He had a least one strikeout in the first through seventh innings. Ryan Roberts extended his hitting streak to 13-straight games and has an on-base streak of 15 straight games. Over the last 13 games, he has raised his batting average .147 points from .212 to .359 on the year. Roberts finished the week with six hits and three RBIs, but Stuart Levy provided the biggest hit of the week when he delivered a pinch-hit, RBI single in the bottom of the eighth inning of Sunday's contest with WKU. A-State scored three runs in the inning to take a 5-3 lead and John Koch pitched around a leadoff single in the top of the ninth to earn his third save of the season. A-State will continue the second half of its eight game home stand with four games in the upcoming. The squad will host Central Arkansas on Wednesday and will then play South Alabama for a three-games series this weekend in Jonesboro.

Florida Atlantic
Florida Atlantic remains in first place in the Sun Belt Conference with an 8-4 record.  The Owls split their four games last weekend, defeating Lynn 7-6 on Tuesday, April 2 before winning the series opener against ULM on Friday, April 5.  However, the team's eight-game winning streak was snapped on Saturday, April 6 and FAU suffered its first league series loss after losing on Sunday, April 7. The Owls were ranked No. 25 by Baseball America and College Baseball had the team with a No. 30 ranking.  The ranking by Collegiate Baseball marked the second straight season FAU had earned a ranking by the organization. Freshman outfielder Brendon Sanger leads the team with a .411 batting average and has scored 19 runs. Sophomore shortstop Mitch Morales is batting at a .351 clip and has driven in 17 runs. Junior catcher Levi Meyer had multiple-hit efforts in each game in the ULM series. The series raised his batting average to .324. Senior outfielder Nathan Pittman leads the team with 23 runs and 10 stolen bases. Pittman rounds out the .300 or better hitters with a .314 batting average. Sophomore Austin Gomber leads the SBC with a 2.19 earned run average. The left hander ranks second in the conference with 55 strikeouts. Gomber leads the team with four victories and tossed seven innings against ULM.  Senior closer Hugh Adams leads the conference with 10 saves and ranks among the nation's leader in the statistical category. The team stands 21-12 on the season and will look to get back in the win column when it travels to Florida Gulf Coast on Tuesday, April 9. The Owls host Middle Tennessee in a three-game series, beginning on Friday, April 12.

Senior right-hander John Caballero, who has been a reliever for almost all of his FIU career, won his first start last Tuesday. Caballero pitched a career-high seven innings, allowed one earned run and struck out a career-high nine batters in the 7-4 win over Florida A&M. . . .Edwin Rios was 9 for 17 (.529) on the week with three home runs and six RBI. Rios leads the Panthers in hitting (.358), slugging (.633), on-base (.455), ops (.1088) and home runs (6) and is tied with Josh Anderson for the team lead in RBI (29) and doubles (15). . . .T.J. Shantz tied his career-high for home runs in a season with his fifth round-tripper on Wednesday against FAMU. . . .Senior set-up man Albert Cardenas recorded his first save of the season on Wednesday against FAMU. Cardenas pitched 6 shutout relief innings on the week and struck out 10 batters. Cardenas lowered his team-leading ERA to 0.65 and has struck out 39 batters in 27 2/3 innings pitched. . . .Mike Franco (5-1) posted his team-leading fifth win of the season by pitching FIU past South Alabama on Sunday. Franco has now won three of his four starts after an FIU loss. . . .Freshman right-hander Alex Seibold picked up his first collegiate win with 4 1/3 scoreless relief innings against FAMU.

The Ragin' Cajuns ended a string of consecutive Sun Belt series losses by taking 2-of-3 from Troy last weekend at M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field…Louisiana posted double figure hits each game of the series and finished with 40 hits over three games (13.3 hits per game)… The Cajuns hit .351 in the series while the Trojans hit .302…Louisiana exited the series taking the Sun Belt Conference lead in batting average over the Trojans at .311 to .309…Seth Harrison made it 3-for-3 in save situations pitching the final three innings to post the save in the series opener…Austin Robichaux tossed the first nine inning complete game of his career on Saturday, holding the Trojans to five hits as the Cajuns collected the series victory…Seth Harrison hit a grand slam and tallied six RBI to pace the offense in the series clincher…Tyler Girouard extended his hitting streak to 14 games on Friday, but saw the streak end on Saturday after going 0-for-4…Girouard's 14-game streak was the longest by a Cajun since Mike Petello produced a similar streak in 2011…Seth Harrison and Ryan Leonards extended their current hitting streaks to eight games, the longest active streaks on the Cajuns squad to date…Harrison needs to hit safely in the next two games to reach a double digit hit streak for the second time this season (had 12 game streak Feb. 22-March 19)…Harrison has posted a base hit in all but four of his 26 games played…Dex Kjerstad went 3-for-5 at the plate on Sunday collecting his team-leading 12th multiple-hit game of the season…Kjerstad, who homered twice on Sunday, has posted multiple hits in nine of the last 12 games…Austin Robichaux  began Saturday's game retiring seven straight Troy hitters and totaled six hitless frames throughout the game…Robichaux held the heavy hitting Trojans to just five hits, with only two coming over the final six innings…Robichaux bested his previous career long outing of 8 2/3 innings set against Southeastern Louisiana back on April 3, 2012…Seth Harrison also posted a multi-home run game in the Troy series doing so on Saturday and he and Dex Kjerstad join Caleb Adams (three vs. Sacred Heart on March 2) as Cajuns with multi-home run games in 2013…The emergence of Seth Harrison, who doubles as an outfielder, in the Cajuns bullpen gives the squad two options in closing out games…Harrison made his pitching debut in the second game of a Saturday doubleheader at WKU and proceeded to earn the save in three straight games…Matt Hicks' next save will make him the Ragin' Cajuns' all-time leader…Hicks is presently tied with Kraig Schambough and Justin Robichaux with 12 career saves…Hicks has eight saves in 2013, leaving him one shy of the single season record of nine set by Justin Robichaux in 2008…Ryan Leonards' average continues to climb as his team-best .571 average during the series raised his season batting average to .395…Leonards is hitting .565 (13-of-23) since the Saturday doubleheader of the WKU series…After ranking near the bottom in most offensive categories in 2012, the Cajuns have climbed the ladder in 2013 and after eight weeks of play Louisiana ranks Top 3 in the Sun Belt Conference in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage, runs scored, hits, RBI, doubles, triples, home runs and total bases…The Ragin' Cajuns are back on the road in Sun Belt play traveling to Little Rock for a series with UALR Friday-Sunday, April 12-14 at Gary Hogan Field…Louisiana seeks to avenge a series loss to the Trojans in 2012…Louisiana has swept the season series from UALR five of the last six years (2007-2012) and has won 16 of the 19 Sun Belt series with UALR.

ULM and McNeese State will wrap-up a home-and-home series Tuesday night in Lake Charles, La... ULM won the meeting earlier this season in Monroe, 17-8 (March 5)… ULM claimed its first conference series win of the 2013 season as it took the final two games from No. 25 Florida Atlantic… Alex Dumaine earned his second win of the season after tossing 3.2 innings of shutout relief in the 8-4 win over Florida Atlantic… For the second time in three games, Jeff Fuller matched his career high with three hits and scored two runs in the 8-4 win over FAU (April 7)… Corben Green tallied two hits and two RBI in the series clinching win over FAU… Judd Edwards connected on his first homer of the season (2R HR) as part of a three run ULM first inning in the finale against FAU (April 7)… Taylor Abdalla paced the Warhawks with two hits and three RBI in the 8-5 win over FAU (April 6)… Kodie Tidwell and Dalton Herrington also helped the Warhawk effort as the duo combined for three hits, four runs and three RBI (April 6)… Shelby Aulds evened his season record at 3-3 as he tossed seven scoreless frames until surrendering his first homer of the season (3R HR in the 8th)... Aulds allowed three runs on 10 hits with one walk and three strikeouts in 7.2 innings as ULM evened the series with FAU…Tyler Bray earned the first save of his Warhawk career after logging the final 1.1 innings of the contest... Bray gave up a pair of homers in the ninth before recording three straight outs to close out the game vs. FAU (April 6)…After missing more than a week of action, Jeff Fuller shined in his return as he set a new career high with three RBI and tied a career mark with three hits in the series opener against FAU (April 5)…Dalton Herrington also set a new career high with three runs scored while totaling two hits vs. FAU (April 5)… Cale Wine suffered the loss in the opener against FAU as he allowed seven runs on 11 hits with one walk and five strikeouts…Devin Malone and Chad Miller combined to pitch the final four innings as the duo combined to allow one run on one hit against FAU (April 5).

Middle Tennessee
Junior Hank LaRue found his groove last week, hitting .500 and slugging 1.000 as Middle Tennessee picked up the series victory over UALR. LaRue recorded multiple hits in each contest and multiple RBIs in the final two games versus the Trojans. The Evansville, Ind., native slugged his first home run of the season in Saturday's 14-6 victory, driving in a career-high four runs and crossing the plate three times. He made it back-to-back games with a long ball in Sunday's 8-6 win, going deep for two runs. Not only did LaRue's bat come through, but he returned to his regular position at third base for the first time this season in the series finale and made a pair of outstanding plays that propelled the Blue Raiders to the two-run victory. HP Jordan Cooper's performance against Memphis on March 26 was one of the best for MT in the past six years. He struck out 10 in just six innings to pick up the victory. He is the first Blue Raider to fan 10 or more since Brad Robinson struck out 10 against WKU on May 17, 2007. 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.

South Alabama
South Alabama went 2-2 last week, falling to No. 17 Mississippi State before taking two of three games from Florida International over the weekend at Stanky Field. USA batted .214 on the week, while posting a 4.25 ERA. The Jags earned their second consecutive series win over FIU, and improved to 29-25 all-time against the Panthers. USA fell to MSU 6-4 Tuesday at Stanky Field. It marked the Jaguars' first game against a ranked opponent this season. Dustin Dalken batted .417 with three doubles, two RBI and two runs scored to lead USA on the week. South Alabama will host Nicholls State at 6:30 Tuesday at Stanky Field, followed by a three-game SBC series at Arkansas State this weekend.

Troy split four games last week as the Trojans defeated Alabama State on Tuesday and won one of three games at Louisiana-Lafayette; the Trojans' victory at ULL on Sunday ended the Cajuns 11-game home win streak … Troy embarks on a busy two-week stretch as the Trojans will play 10 games over the next two weeks starting with mid-week contests against Jacksonville State and Samford this week … The Trojans, who enter the week a game out of first place, travel to WKU this weekend, the Hilltoppers are tied with FAU for the league lead … Trae Santos hit a pair of homers in Friday's game at ULL after belting a triple on Tuesday, he drove in six runs and hit .400 for the week; Logan Pierce finished the week batting at a .500 clip with two doubles and four RBIs … Senior Brandon Brown hit his first career home run, a 3-run shot on Friday … Shane McCain tossed his second complete game of the season to improve to 6-0 as he helped Troy to a 10-4 victory on Sunday at ULL … The Trojans belted 17 extra-base hits on the week, including a season-high nine in the opener against ULL

WKU stayed in a tie for first place in the league standings despite going 1-2 over the weekend in Jonesboro against Arkansas State. The series loss was the first for WKU in league play this season, and snapped a streak of four consecutive series wins in Sun Belt Conference play. It was also the first weekend series the Hilltoppers have lost since opening weekend against Bowling Green State. Junior pitcher Andrew Edwards picked up WKU's lone win of the week, working 6.2 innings on Saturday, giving up just one run. Edwards has now given up just that one run in his last 15.2 innings of work, which includes a complete-game shutout last weekend against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Hilltoppers will return home for a four-game homestand beginning Tuesday at Bowling Green Ballpark against in-state rival Louisville. WKU took down the 18th-ranked Cardinals last season at the same venue. Following Tuesday night's showdown, the Hilltoppers will get set for a three-game home weekend series with Troy at Nick Denes Field.