IRVING, Texas - After winning the regular season Conference USA
championship in for the second straight season, top-ranked Rice will be
the No.1 seed at the 2007 Conference USA Championship, which begins
Wednesday at Clark-LeClair Stadium in Greenville, N.C. The Owls
finished with a 22-2 record in C-USA play, matching the best winning
percentage (.917) in league history, which Rice established last season.
At 45-11 overall, Rice own one of the best records in Division I
baseball and will enter the tournament on an 18-game winning streak.
The Owls have won 12 consecutive regular season conference
championships, dating back to the final year of the Southwest
The Owls will face UCF (26-30) in the second game of the tournament on
Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. EDT. The Knights (7-17 in C-USA) punched their
ticket to the tournament with a dramatic comeback victory on Friday
night over Marshall. Rice is once again armed with one of the top
pitching staffs in the country. Junior LHP Joe Savery, Freshman RHP
Ryan Berry and Senior RHP Ryne Tacker lead a strong starting rotation,
while closer Cole St.Clair is rounding back into form after missing the
first two months of the season with an injury. Junior IF Kiko Vazquez
is UCF's top hitter, pacing the club in average (.311), doubles (16) and
RBI (43), while freshman 3B Chris Duffy enters the tournament having hit
a home run in four of his last six games. Rice swept the three-game
series between the teams in Orlando in April.
The championship will get underway at 9:00 a.m. EDT on Wednesday when
No. 5 seed Memphis (33-23, 12-12) takes on No. 4 seed Houston (28-25,
12-10). The Tigers and Cougars met two weekends ago in Memphis, with
visiting Houston taking two-of-three in a wild offensive series. The
Tigers feature eight senior starters, led by 1B Adam Amar, the school's
all-time leader in hits and RBI, and 2B Bill Moss (.333, 12 HR, 49 RBI).
The Cougars feature sophomore OF Jimmy Cesario (.358, 13 2B), sophomore
C Luis Flores (team-leading 9 HR) and freshman P Wes Musick (6-4, 3.18
ERA, 68 K's). Memphis and Houston will be meeting in the Conference USA
Championship for the first time since 1998.
Red-hot Southern Miss, winners of 10 in a row, earned the No. 3 seed and
opens its tourney play against No. 6 seed UAB at 4 p.m. EDT on
Wednesday. The Golden Eagles (37-19, 14-10) have a trio of starting
pitchers (Ryan Belanger, Barry Bowden and David Clark) that have each
won eight games while junior 1B Trey Sutton (.370, 18 2B, 6 HR, 36 RBI)
leads the offense. UAB, which posted its best conference record since
1998 under first-year head coach Brian Shoop, are one of the top-hitting
teams in C-USA. The Blazers have seven starters batting better than
.300, paced by OF J.R. Bond at .354. Southern Miss won two-of-three
games when the teams met in Hattiesburg in late April.
Tulane (32-24, 9-15) earned the No. 7 seed and will face No. 2 seed and
tournament host East Carolina (36-20, 14-9) in the final game of the
first day at 7:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday. Tulane's pitching staff leads
Conference USA in strikeouts, led by junior RHP Sean Morgan (116) and
sophomore RHP Shooter Hunt (95). ECU has one of the top closers in
C-USA in Shane Mathews (league-leading 12 saves) and sophomore 1B
Stephen Batts enters the tournament with a 21-game hitting streak, the
longest in the league this season. This will be the third straight year
that these teams will meet in the Conference USA Championship. Tulane
won the regular season series, two games to one, when the squads faced
off in New Orleans during the second weekend of league play.
The championship game of the tournament on Sunday, May 27 will be
televised on a same-day tape delay basis by CSTV: College Sports
Television. The title game will air on CSTV at 9:30 p.m. EDT. The
tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the NCAA Championship.