Cougar baseball knocks out Bearkats with 8-run inning
The Cougars have had almost everything working in their favor lately – strong pitching, solid hitting, efficient base running and reliable defense.
The combination of these elements continues to reap benefits for the Cougars, much in the same way it did for them against Sam Houston State on Wednesday night.
UH jumped out to an early lead and held on to defeat the Bearkats 9-6 at Cougar Field. It was the Cougars’ third consecutive victory and their eighth in the last 10 games.
The Cougars (24-12) pounded out 10 hits, six of them coming during a wild eight-run outburst in the second inning, stole five bases, committed only one error and got four consecutive innings of combined shutout relief from sophomore left-hander Donnie Joseph and junior right-hander Chris Wright, who earned his first save of the season.
Joseph was especially key to preserving the first career win for freshman right-hander Jared Ray (1-1). Ray surrendered six runs through five innings, giving the Bearkats (22-14) a chance to make a comeback, but Joseph stalled the threat by tossing three perfect innings with one strikeout.
"Tonight, I felt good," Joseph said. "I just told myself that I was going to go out there, just have fun and throw, and I happened to be successful. The team, like always, played good behind me."
The Cougars made sure that Ray would have all the run support he would need by scoring all nine runs through the first two innings.
UH jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on senior right fielder Bryan Tully’s RBI-single in the bottom of the first inning. The real fireworks, however, would come in the second, where the Cougars tagged Bearkats junior starter Will Skelton (2-3) for eight runs to take a 9-0 lead. UH had plenty of assistance from the Bearkats, who committed three errors in that frame.
Skelton allowed junior first baseman Jimmy Cesario and freshman designated hitter Matt Murphy to reach on a single and a walk, respectively, to place runners at first and second for sophomore center fielder Zak Presley, who put the ball in play down the first-base line on a swinging bunt.
Skelton fielded the ball and tried to get the force out on Presley by throwing to first base, but the bag had been vacated by Bearkats junior first baseman Nick Zaleski. The ball sailed down the right field line, allowing Cesario and Murphy to score.
Skelton’s error opened up the floodgates, as the Cougars would score six more runs in the frame.
"Whenever you get the opportunity to take advantage of an error like that and put a lot of runs on the board, it’s good for your team and good for your pitching," Cesario said. "Other than that error, we swung the bats pretty well, put some balls in play and guys hit some balls to us. It was a good inning for us and, obviously, it put us on top for the rest of the night."
The Bearkats scored three runs in the third, one in the fourth and two in the fifth to cut the Cougars’ lead to three, but they would come no closer with Joseph and Wright slamming the door shut from there.
"Eight runs in an inning (is) usually the kiss of death, and it was for us," UH head coach Rayner Noble said. "It’s amazing how that happens in the game of baseball, but we pitched well enough at the end to preserve that."