Hunter Smith

Hunter Smith releases a pitch toward the plate. Smith currently has 36 strikeouts this season.

League play officially begins Friday for the University of Memphis men’s baseball team. The Tigers (10-9) will travel to Wichita, Kansas, to play the Shockers (9-11). They have been red hot as of late, winning six games of their last eight. Additionally, they have claimed their last three series after posting a pair of home victories against Middle Tennessee and UNC-Wilmington and a road series sweep at Western Kentucky a couple of weeks ago. 

Pitching

On the mound, the edge goes to the Tigers statistically. Senior Hunter Smith has registered 36 strikeouts so far this season. The team has a total of 200, which is second in the American Athletic Conference. It’s the exact opposite for the Shockers. They rank dead last in ERA with 6.18. They also allow .305 batting average to their opponents.

The Tigers will look to win the pitching battle against the Shockers in order to keep their winning streak untarnished. 

Hitting

Both Memphis and Wichita State have some of the best hitters in the AAC. For the Tigers, sophomore Ben Brooks and junior Alec Trela has been the dynamic duo at the plate. Brooks begins league play with a team-high .342 batting average. Trela during the last eight games has posted a .458 batting average. He also has added six RBIs, five doubles and a home run in those games.

One interesting stat for Memphis in hitting is the doubles. They rank second in the AAC in doubles with 44. Freshman Hunter Goodman leads the conference with 10. The Tigers are hoping that all three of those players continue their hot bats on the road in Wichita. For the Shockers, they have a dynamic duo of their own with seniors Jordan Boyer and Luke Ritter. Boyer has a batting average of .435, while Ritter is .405. Both are top three in the league in hitting. There might be some high numbers put up in Wichita when these two teams meet over the weekend. 

Keeping the momentum

Unlike last year, Memphis is coming into the conference play with a winning record. Last year, Memphis only won seven games before the league started. They increased that number by three and decreased their losses by four. The Tigers will look to right the ship from last year when they lost all three games at Houston at the  start of league play. 

With the young guys having a great start to the season with the returning veterans, I like the chances the Tigers have to start league games. 

Overall 

Memphis and Wichita State meet for only the second series in each program’s history. Last year, Memphis lost that series losing two out of the three games, so revenge will be top of mind for the Tigers. Trela and Brooks will need to bring their hot bats on the road, and pitching must be on point. 

One name to keep an eye on for this series is senior Kyle Ouellette. He finished the series against the Shockers last year batting 7-12 at the plate and adding four RBIs.

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