UH pitching shuts out Lumberjacks
Houston’s mid-week starting pitching has resembled a roulette wheel this season – never knowing whose number will be called from week-to-week. When Tuesday’s matchup against Stephen F. Austin landed on sophomore John Touchton’s red number 34, it was a definite winner.
Touchton dominated the Lumberjacks for six innings, not allowing a run and giving up just four hits in a 5-0 shutout win. While striking out six of the 21 batters he faced, he didn’t allow a walk, showing that he’s regained the control he seemed to be missing earlier in the season.
Head coach Rayner Noble liked what he saw from the right-hander.
"He was very sharp. He threw all three pitches for strikes and he pitched very well," Noble said. "He kept them off balance for six innings and he was really never in any trouble. He did not walk anybody and when you do those kinds of things, you’re going to have a great performance and he did."
After Tuesday’s performance, Noble feels that his starting pitching has found a winning pattern. Touchton (3-2) will likely start the remainder of the weekday games, which will allow freshman Jared Ray to fall into the weekend rotation.
"This is our last two games during the middle of the week so I feel very good about John handling the Tuesday games and creating the possibility of Jared Ray maybe sliding into a Sunday situation as a starter," Noble said. "It’s good to see John do that because he’s capable. He just needs to get into a rhythm."
The Cougars’ offense proved once again that it could knock the ball around any park on any day, scoring three runs in the first three innings off the Lumberjacks (14-21), then adding solo runs in both the sixth and seventh.
Senior infielder Bryan Pounds led the charge once again, going 3-for-5 with two runs, two RBIs and a homerun, his eighth on the season. Senior second baseman Ryan Lormand and sophomore catcher Chris Wallace each contributed with a hit and an RBI.
Noble likes the production he’s getting from the middle of his lineup, but would like to get senior outfielder Jake Stewart’s bat hot again to deliver a stronger punch.
"(The offense) is going pretty good right now. Pounds is continuing to hit, but we need to get Jake Stewart rolling," Noble said. "I just like him a lot in the two-hole because he’s handled the bat pretty good. He’s a little bit in a slump, but he’s capable of getting hot at any time and if he does, with the addition of (junior infielder Jimmy Cesario) coming back in the lineup, we’ll have more strength in the middle."
Houston (23-12) will face Sam Houston State (21-13) at 6:30 p.m. today at Cougar Field. With only 21 games remaining, the Cougars are prepared to make a strong run for the postseason. Fifteen of those games will be against Conference USA teams, who Houston will need to beat to make a strong bid for the NCAA Regionals.
"We just need to do our part offensively and drive in those runs when they’re out there," Noble said. "If we can pitch – take this Tuesday as an example and start pitching this way – I like our chances a lot."