In the very competitive Atlantic 10 conference, only the Charlotte baseball team can truly say it is the cream of the crop.
The conference-leading 49ers (29-9, 12-3 A-10) average nearly 10 runs per game. The individual statistics for the 49ers jump off the page, as they feature seven players with at least a .300 batting average.
Leading the charge for Charlotte is junior Ryan Rivers, who was just awarded A-10 Player of the Week honors and is second on the team with a .397 average. It’s his power numbers though, that help propel his team to victory on a normal basis. Rivers has started all 38 games this year, registering 11 home runs and 50 runs batted in to go along with his robust average. The 6-foot-5, 230 pound Rivers is poised to have an even more productive year than his 2009 campaign, when he hit .313 with 18 home runs and 65 RBIs in 52 games.
Right behind Charlotte is George Washington (21-19, 10-5 A 10). Last weekend, the Colonials hosted the 49ers to a three-game series and lost, 2-1. After losing the first game, 7-4, George Washington turned to its ace, junior Eric Cantrell, to turn in a solid effort. He did just that, throwing eight innings while allowing three earned runs on eight strike outs.
The 132-pitch victory solidified Cantrell as one of the top pitchers in the conference. In 10 starts this year, Cantrell has compiled league-leading statistics in almost every major pitching category. He currently leads the A-10 in earned run average (2.99), wins (seven), and strikeouts (83). Cantrell is also second in the league in innings pitched (69.1) and batting average against (.234). Unfortunately for George Washington, it dropped the rubber game of the series the following day, 8-5.
Although the 49ers and Colonials are favorites to win the conference, one rival could spoil it for them – Rhode Island. The Rams (20-18, 9-6 A-10) currently sit fourth in the division behind Charlotte, George Washington and Saint Joseph’s. However, Rhode Island is also the only A-10 team to defeat Charlotte in a series. The series began on April 10th when the Rams hosted the 49ers for a double-header, which was split. The following day, the Rams defeated the 49ers, 5-3.
Recently, Rhode Island is riding the hot play of its junior designated hitter Kyle Borden, who was 9-for-19 (.474) while driving in and scoring nine runs over a five-game span. The Rams went 3-2 over that period, with two victories coming over conference rival Xavier.
Rhode Island’s next conference series is this weekend, when it will travel to Pennsylvania for a three-game set against lowly Duquesne (8-33, 4-11 A-10). The Rams will have to wait until the final weekend of regular season play to see how they fare against George Washington, when they host the Colonials from May 20-22.
The top four and bottom four teams in the A-10 are currently separated by six teams that own either an 8-7 or 7-8 record. Those teams include: Fordham, La Salle, Saint Louis, Xavier, Dayton and Massachusetts. With six spots available for the A-10 championships and the regular season coming down the home stretch, the race is on for those teams.
Steve Levine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.