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Saturday, September 30, 2023


Baseball: Cougars prepare for end of season with 16 games left

Some things may never change, but for the members of the Cougar baseball team, they certainly hope some things will.

Last season Houston held a 21-17 record with 16 games remaining in the season and was 8-3 in Conference USA. They closed the regular season 7-9 (4-9 C-USA) and fell in their only two games in the conference tournament.

This season’s team is 26-14 (8-4 C-USA) with 16 games to go and will play 12 conference games, beginning with today’s 6:30 p.m. matchup against Southern Miss in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The road won’t be easy for the Cougars, who will play Memphis (4-8), Rice (13-2) and Marshall (7-7) to close out the conference schedule as they play for their fourth C-USA title.

Head coach Rayner Noble understands the importance of these games.

"We’re at the juncture in the season, with 16 games left, where they’re all very large," Noble said. "We can’t say that one game is bigger than the other. Obviously our conference games are what matter from here on out, but we’ve still got four non-conference games left. We need to win those to run our win total up, so they’re all big from here on out."

Junior infielder Jimmy Cesario said that this team’s mindset is different from last season’s – something that will keep them from faltering down the stretch.

"It’s always going to be tough when you play in a quality conference and you’re playing good teams every weekend," he said. "I think this team’s mental approach has stayed steady. We go to the park everyday looking to win and compete, and if we keep that approach, like we’ve had all year long, I think that’ll prevent some kind of collapse."

Houston will need to continue its hot hitting and pitch well to stay on top of the Golden Eagles. Houston brings a .305 team batting average into the weekend, good for fourth in the conference.

The reemergence of Cesario after returning from a wrist injury has helped the team keep pace.

On the mound tonight will be sophomore Wes Musick, who is looking to rebound after earning his second loss of the season last week to Alabama-Birmingham. He will face a struggling Southern Miss offense, which carries a .275 team batting average and has struck out 320 times this season, both good for second worst in the conference.

With only four weeks left, the Cougars feel prepared to make their run for the top prize in the conference, beginning with this weekend’s series.

"We realize that our goal is still to win a conference championship, and in order to do that, we’ve got to win games," Cesario said. "I think this team’s ready to make a push. I think we’re ready to go out there and compete for the rest of the way, and we’re determined. I think it’ll be a good situation for us."

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