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Sunday, September 24, 2023


Cougar baseball starts strong, looks to beat Rice

UH senior outfielder Jake Stewart has his health and his familiar spot near the top of the batting order, which so far has worked wonders for his hitting.

Stewart continued his torrid stretch of hitting by going 3-for-4 with a grand slam in the Cougars’ 8-1 win over Texas State on Tuesday night at Cougar Field.

The outing raised Stewart’s batting average to .625 (10-for-15) after the Cougars’ first four games. That’s a notable achievement for the fifth-year senior who missed nearly all of last season after suffering a torn rotator cuff.

"It feels great," Stewart said. "This is the game I love, and I like to play with these guys. These guys are good, and when you have a good team, it’s fun to play."

Stewart’s productive night at the plate helped make things easier for freshman pitcher/outfielder Chase Dempsay, making his first collegiate start on the mound. Dempsay, a right-hander, located his fastball well and picked up his first win after allowing only one unearned run on two hits and a walk with two strikeouts.

"Chase has got good sink to his fastball, and when it’s on, its tough to hit, and when you do hit, you usually bang it down into the ground," UH head coach Rayner Noble said.

"His location was good. He did a marvelous job."

The Cougars (3-1) quickly jumped on the scoreboard with a run in the bottom of the first inning. Freshman shortstop Blake Kelso and Stewart opened the frame with consecutive singles, and both moved up a base after Texas State sophomore right-hander Zack Boles (0-1) committed a balk. Kelso later scored from third on senior second baseman Ryan Lormand’s sacrifice fly to left field.

Boles ran into more trouble in the second after Dempsay reached on an error, and sophomore catcher Chris Wallace and Kelso reached on a walk and a hit-by-pitch, respectively, with one out.

That loaded the bases for Stewart, who took Boles’ first offering and punched it just over the wall in right field for a grand slam upping the Cougars’ lead to 5-0.

UH’s lead jumped to 7-0 after senior pitcher/outfielder Bryan Tully scored on a two-out error by Bobcats sophomore first baseman Paul Goldschmidt in the third, and Lormand drove in Kelso with a sacrifice fly in the fourth.

UH had fairly little trouble dispatching Texas State (3-1), but its next opponent won’t be as easy. The Cougars will face cross-town and Conference USA rival Rice (2-2) at 4 p.m. today at Reckling Park for the first of five meetings between the two in this season’s Silver Glove Series. The Owls, who are ranked No. 15 by Baseball America, defeated Texas A’M-Corpus Christi 11-7 on Tuesday.

The Cougars have had a tough time with the Owls, having dropped seven consecutive Silver Glove Series, and Stewart expects nothing but the Owls’ best effort for today’s matchup.

"Every time you tee it up against Rice, you know that they’re good," he said. "You know that they’re going to be able to pitch, and it’s a lot tougher to hit against them. Rice is Rice; they’re always strong. They’re always (in) the top 10 in the nation with a good shot of going to Omaha every year (for the College World Series). Every year you play Rice, you better come to play."

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