The University of Memphis baseball team (13-25, 1-8 American Athletic Conference) will face its fifth top-25 team of the season this weekend in a three-game home series against No. 11 Eastern Carolina University (27-9, 5-4 AAC).
Memphis picked up a much-needed 6-1 win against Mississippi State at AutoZone Park on Wednesday. Connor Alexander got the start, and Hunter Smith relieved him in the seventh inning as the Tigers held the Bulldogs to one run.
Alec Trela went 4-for-4 at the plate with two doubles and one home run. The win marked Head Coach Daron Shoenrock’s 400th career victory.
The Tigers will look to build off that win this weekend against ECU, but the degree of difficulty is high, as they will face one of the top squads in the nation.
The series opens Friday at 6:30 p.m. The teams will also meet Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at noon. All games will be played at FedEx Park at South Campus.
A look at the opponent
The Pirates are coming off a pivotal 9-3 win against No.3 Duke earlier this week. The win marked their seventh win over top-25 opponents this season, as ECU continues to bolster their RPI ranking.
ECU has been dominant in road games this season, losing just two out of their 13 away matches. Their only losses on the road came at UCF and across the country at Washington.
What to watch
ECU possesses four players in their starting lineup with a batting average of .350 or more. They are 46th in the nation with a cumulative batting average of .291.
The Pirates reached double-digit runs in eight games this season, including an 18-4 blowout victory against Maryland.
ECU has scored 231 runs and hit 35 home runs this season.
Memphis has one win against AAC opponents, and this series will be crucial if they want to make more of an impact in conference.
The Pirates have struggled in the AAC, losing four out of their nine AAC matchups. The Pirates fell once to both Wichita State and UCF and twice to USF. The Tigers will look to take advantage of their conference struggles.
The Tigers are looking for their tenth win at home, and if they sweep ECU, the team will be 12-12 at home.
Players to watch
Memphis outfielder Tyler Webb
The senior leads the Tigers’ bats in nearly every category. Webb has the best batting average (.313) and on-base percentage (.380) on the team. He also leads Memphis with 20 total runs. He has 12 multi-hit and four multi-RBI games this season. The Tigers will need to rely on Webb and his offensive abilities once again in this series.
ECU pitcher Chris Holba
Holba is undefeated (8-0) and is having a career year in his third collegiate season. The ace is tied for the best record of any pitcher in the NCAA and is one of two pitchers with an 8-0 record. He has pitched the most innings (53) and has the third-best earned run average on the team (1.52).
Tyler Webb takes a swing. The Texas native is one of five seniors on the 2018 roster
Nick Vaage records a hit against University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The Minnesota native played in 26 games for the Tigers during his freshman season