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Saturday, September 22, 2018

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Baseball loses bite on road


Last week, the Cougars talked a good game and played one too, for the most part. But the show they put on display against Marshall this weekend was anything but good.

There’s not much positive the Cougars can take from this series, which they ended with a 10-4 defeat Sunday at Appalachian Power Park in Charleston, W.V. That loss handed Marshall a 2-1 Conference USA series victory and sent Houston into an unbelievable free fall.

The Cougars, who stand on the fringe of an NCAA Tournament berth, needed to win this series in the worst way. Entering the weekend, Houston had a ratings percentage index of 50, and Marshall (19-23, 4-10 C-USA) had an RPI of 201. The Cougars’ weak showing won’t sit well with the tournament committee.

Houston (24-19, 10-5 C-USA) could have easily avoided this fate with a victory on Sunday. With the series tied 1-1, the Cougars sent freshman right-hander John Touchton to the mound with hopes of stealing one more win.

Touchton (4-4) labored through four innings, giving up three runs on seven hits and two walks. With the Cougars trailing 3-1 and struggling to score runs, skipper Rayner Noble replaced Touchton with sophomore reliever Barry Laird to start the fifth. That decision would prove to be fatal.

The Thundering Herd chased Laird for six runs (five earned) in that frame to increase its lead to 9-1. The Cougars would later score a run in the seventh and two in the ninth, but at that point it was too little too late.

Marshall starter Jeremy Slone (3-2) earned the victory after going eight 1-3 innings and limited the Cougars to three runs on seven hits and four walks.

Similar to their 12-11 loss in the opener on Friday, the Cougars’ pitching staff failed the team. The starting rotation was particularly disappointing aside from freshman left-hander Wes Musick, who tossed seven solid innings and allowed only a run in the Cougars’ 8-2 win Saturday.

Luckily for Houston, it retains its hold on second place in conference for another week. The Cougars remain only a game ahead of third-place Memphis, which sat idle this weekend.

However, Houston fell further behind conference frontrunner Rice (37-11, 16-2 C-USA), which swept Alabama-Birmingham in a three-game road series.


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