The 2019 Conference USA Baseball regular season is in the books. Here are a few of the teams and players who stood out the most.
Credit is due to FAU, the 1-seed in the Conference USA Baseball Tournament and the top team in the regular season in conference play. Picked to finish third in the preaseason polls, FAU bested league-leading Southern Miss head on to earn the regular season crown.
On the other end, Western Kentucky broke through for their first CUSA Tournament appearance in school history while Rice made the postseason in the first year under head coach Matt Bragga.
Western Kentucky’s Jake Sanford was unbelievable in 2019. He was the only player in Conference USA to finish with a batting average better than .400 (.402) and he did it with a .828 slugging percentage, more than 160 points better than second-place Matt Wallner of Southern Miss. Sanford led the conference in on base percentage (.488), hits (84), RBI (65), home runs (22) and total bases (173).
Second to Sanford in most categories, Wallner would have been the front-runner for recognition had Sanford not had his incredible season. Wallner was a big bat and ended the season with eight multi-hit games over his final 14 appearances.
A trio of starting pitchers stand out among the many great options in CUSA. Walker Powell from Southern Miss led the conference in ERA, finishing the regular season at 2.58, complemented with a stunning 11 walks allowed in 83.2 innings pitch.
Rice’s Matt Canterino was equally impressive. The Owls’ ace held opposing batters to a CUSA-best .204 batting average against while completing more innings (93 than anyone else in the conference). He struck out 112 batters (37 looking), all the while working under the pressure of being the Friday night guy for a low-run producing offense.
Finally, UTSA’s Karan Patel earned his fair share of recognition. While not as overpowering as Canterino or as crafty as Powell, Patel mowed through innings like few others in CUSA. His 2.82 ERA was second in conference and he was one of four CUSA hurlers with 100+ strikeouts.