UTSA draws Charlotte in opening round of AAC tournament

By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay

The second-seeded UTSA Roadrunners will face the No. 7 Charlotte 49ers in the opening round of the American Baseball Championship on Tuesday at 3 p.m. in Clearwater, Fla.

The postseason tournament for teams from the American Athletic Conference will run from Tuesday through Sunday, May 26, at the BayCare Ballpark in Clearwater.

It’s a double-elimination format through the semifinals, with a winner-take-all championship set for May 26. The winner earns the AAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Top-seeded East Carolina likely is the only team in the eight-team field that could reach the NCAAs without winning the AAC tournament. The Pirates have won 40 games and have been ranked in the Top 25 all year.

For the Roadrunners to be successful, they must stay away from an opening-day loss against Charlotte. A loss would send them into a losers’ bracket game on Wednesday.

If they can beat the 49ers, they get a day off before they play again on Thursday against either third-seeded Tulane or No. 6 Florida Atlantic.

Should the top two seeds make the finals, it would be a single-game rematch of UTSA’s opening-weekend series victory over East Carolina in San Antonio.

UTSA and Tulane are the only two AAC teams in the field to win a series against East Carolina this season.

The Roadrunners have been playing well over the past eight days. They won two of three at home from South Florida. They won 13-3 at home last Tuesday against Incarnate Word in non conference. Finally, they won two of three at Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton.

They beat the Owls 14-1 (on the run rule, in 8 innings) on Thursday and 3-2 (in 10 innings) on Friday before giving up two late runs to fall in Saturday afternoon’s finale, 6-4.

American Baseball Championship

Tuesday, May 21
Game 1: No. 5 UAB vs. No. 4 Wichita State | 8 a.m. | ESPN+
Game 2: No. 8 Rice vs. No. 1 East Carolina | 47 minutes after Game 1 | ESPN+
Game 3: No. 7 Charlotte vs. No. 2 UTSA | 3 p.m. | ESPN+
Game 4: No. 6 Florida Atlantic vs. No. 3 Tulane | 47 minutes after Game 3 | ESPN+

Wednesday, May 22
Game 5: Loser of Game 1 vs. Loser of Game 2 | noon | ESPN+
Game 6: Loser of Game 3 vs. Loser of Game 4 | 47 minutes after Game 5 | ESPN+

Thursday, May 23
Game 7: Winner of Game 1 vs. Winner of Game 2 | noon| ESPN+
Game 8: Winner of Game 3 vs. Winner of Game 4 | 47 minutes after Game 7 | ESPN+

Friday, May 24
Game 9: Loser of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 5 | noon | ESPN+
Game 10: Loser of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 6 | 47 minutes after Game 9 | ESPN+

Saturday, May 25
Game 11: Winner of Game 7 vs. Winner of Game 9 | 8 a.m. | ESPN+
Game 12: Winner of Game 8 vs. Winner of Game 10 | 47 minutes after Game 11 | ESPN+
Game 13: Loser of Game 11 vs. Winner of Game 11 | TBD (if necessary) | ESPN+
Game 14: Loser of Game 12 vs. Winner of Game 12 | TBD (if necessary) | ESPN+

Sunday, May 26
Game 15: Semifinal Winners | 11 a.m. | ESPNEWS

Teams at a glance

1) East Carolina – The Pirates (19-8, 40-13) entered the final weekend on a five-game losing streak before winning three in a row at home against the Rice Owls to nail down their fifth straight AAC regular-season title.

2) UTSA – The Roadrunners (17-10, 32-22) won consecutive weekend series against South Florida at home and against FAU on the road to give them seven series wins out of nine in their inaugural AAC campaign.

3) Tulane – The Green Wave (15-12, 31-24) will enter the tournament as one of the hottest teams, having won five of their last six games, including three straight at home from May 10-12 against East Carolina.

4) Wichita State – The Shockers (15-12, 29-27) were slumping badly coming into San Antonio in May. At Roadrunner Field, they started a string of three straight AAC series wins against UTSA, Charlotte and Memphis, respectively. They took two of three games at UTSA en route to a 7-2 finish.

5) UAB – The Blazers (13-14, 26-27) won two of three against South Florida in Tampa over the weekend, so they will have an easy commute to the tournament ballpark in nearby Clearwater. UAB can be dangerous. The Blazers won Friday night games against both UTSA and Tulane.

6) Florida Atlantic – The Owls (12-15, 26-27) seemed a bit anemic offensively against the Roadrunners on Thursday and Friday but came alive late in the final game on Saturday to win the series finale.

7) Charlotte – The 49ers (12-15, 23-32) are in a funk. They’ve lost seven of their last eight, including two of three at home this weekend against the Tulane Green Wave. Coach Rob Woodard can be a difference-maker in the postseason. Even though this team is down, his 49ers squads have made NCAA tournaments in two of the past three seasons.

8) Rice – The Owls (11-16, 22-34) will open the tournament against East Carolina. Not a great draw for Coach Jose Cruz’s team given that it was swept by the Pirates over the weekend in Greenville, N.C.

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