HOUSTON, Texas – Memphis (30-19, 12-9) is set for its final Conference USA regular season outing as the Tigers travel to No. 17 Rice (31-15, 11-7) for a three-game series this weekend.
The series opener on Friday at 6:30 p.m. will be aired live on Fox College Sports. Saturday and Sunday’s game will be shown on the Memphis Tiger Network. All three games can be heard live on WUMR, 91.7 FM and online through the Memphis Tiger All-Access Page.
Southpaw Sam Moll (7-3, 2.72 ERA) takes the mound on Friday while reigning Co-Conference USA Pitcher of the Week Erik Schoenrock (6-3, 2.72 ERA) gets the nod on Saturday. The Tigers have not named a starter for Sunday’s finale at 1 p.m.
Donut Shop Memphis shutout No. 17 Ole Miss on April 15 at AutoZone Park 4-0 and followed that up by blanking Murray State 5-0 at FedExPark on April 16. The Tigers shutout Arkansas State on April 30 in Jonesboro and followed it up with a 1-0 win over Marshall on May 4 for the second occasion of back-to-back shutouts. The 2013 Memphis pitching staff is the first since 1976 to post back-to-back shutouts on two separate occasions and third overall. Back-to-back shutouts have been posted 17 times since 1948, but the two occasions in 2013 are the first since March of 1991.
Speaking Of Shutouts The Tigers pitching staff has posted nine shutouts on the season, the second-most in single season history and most since 1976. Memphis has two shutouts over top-20 programs - No. 19 Houston (1-0) and No. 17 Ole Miss (4-0) - two of seven in program history. Memphis’ nine shutouts tie the C-USA record, equaling East Carolina’s total from 2011 and 2004.
Where Does That Rank? Memphis and five other NCAA Division I schools have the national lead with nine shutouts this season. The Tigers join Oregon State, Cal State Fullerton, Illinois State, Dartmouth and Delaware State as teams with nine shutouts this season. Rice is among five teams with eight shutouts while 10 teams have seven.
The Inside Edge – Rice Rice plays Louisiana Tech Wednesday night on the road. Prior to that outing, the 17th-ranked Owls sport a 31-15 mark and 11-7 record in league play. Leading the league with a .280 average, Rice is led offensively by Michael Aquino who is hitting .341. Michael Ratterree has a team-high eight home runs and 32 RBI while Aquino has six homers and 28 RBI. Ratterree is statistically the biggest threat on the base paths as he is 9-of-11 on the season. On the mound, Rice has a 3.07 ERA with 366 strikeouts to 162 walks over 425.2 innings of work.
The Series With Rice Rice holds a commanding 20-7 lead in the series between the two schools. However, the Tigers have posted six of their seven wins in the series since the 2009 season. The Tigers carry a two-game win streak in the series going into Friday’s meeting and the U of M has yet to win three-straight against the Owls.
Curtain Call With Memphis moving to the American Conference in July, this weekend’s series at Rice represents the final Conference USA series for the Tigers. In 18 seasons as a league member, Memphis has a 195-265 record in league games. With one win over the Owls this weekend, the Tigers would collect just the fifth C-USA record above .500 in the 18 seasons of league play.
30 win seasons The Tigers swept Marshall to improve to 30-19 on the season and in doing so, did something that has been accomplished in more than 20 years at the U of M. The Tigers posted 30 wins in 2011 and 32 last season, but you have to go all the way back to 1993-1995 seasons to find the last time the Tigers put together three-straight seasons with 30 or more victories.
Nail Biters Memphis has played 26 games decided by two runs or less and is 12-14 in those games. Under head coach Daron Schoenrock, the U of M is 97-118 in games decided by two runs or less.
Rise To The Occasion Memphis sports a 3-3 record against ranked opponents this season and No. 17 Rice presents the Tigers with an opportunity to improve their 94-237-2 record against ranked foes.
Two Out Hitting Spark Over the last 22 games in which the Tigers have a 16-6 record, Memphis is hitting .281 (64-228) with two outs in an inning, picking up 50 RBI. In the first 27 games of the season, the Tigers were hitting .228 (62-272), driving in 42 runs with two outs in an inning. The two-out hitting seems to be a key as 57 percent (50-88) of the Tigers RBI in the last 22 games have come with two outs.
Answering The Call Memphis closer Jonathan Van Eaton set a new single-season school record with his 10th save of the season on May 5 against Marshall. His seventh save of the season, at UAB on April 13, set a new career saves record at the University of Memphis. Van Eaton has 18 career saves, four better than Matt Yokley’s career total. The NCBWA recognized Van Eaton’s work, naming him to the NCBWA Stopper of the Year Midseason Watch List.
Win With Three Hits? Memphis mustered just three hits in the 1-0 victory over Marshall on May 4. Of the Tigers three hits in the game, two were doubles, but it was a wild pitch that gave the Tigers a 1-0 win. The last time the Tigers won when tallying only three hits came on May 9, 2003 versus Houston (4-3).
Give Me Five With a pitching staff that sports an ERA below 3.00, Memphis’ magic number on offense is fairly low. The Tigers are 22-2 this season when scoring at least five runs this season. The two losses in which Memphis scored five or more runs were 9-8 decisions against Buffalo and UAB, respectively.
Ironman Shortstop Ethan Gross has made 142 consecutive starts dating back to the second game of a doubleheader at East Carolina on March 26, 2011. If Gross starts each scheduled game this season he would tie the record for consecutive games started, which is held by Mike Dlugach (149).
Getting Runners On Base Last season, when Memphis had 14 or more runners reach base in a game, the Tigers had a record of 26-15. On the other side, when the U of M had 13 or fewer base runners in a game, Memphis had a 5-13 mark. So far in 2013, Memphis is 24-10 when 14 or more reach base and 6-9 when having 13 or fewer base runners in a game.
Parade of Lefties The Tigers have played 49 games this season and the U of M has sent a left-handed starter to the hill in 47 of those games. Memphis started a lefty in the first 32 games before right-hander Dylan Toscano started against UAPB on April 10. Toscano has since made two starts, allowing two hits over nine innings of work.