UH rebounds, dodges sweep
This was becoming an all too familiar scene.
After all, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles had always found ways to torment the Cougars in previous meetings. They’ve made an art form of dominant pitching, using dazzling displays of hitting with efficient fielding to sweep the Cougars in three-game series in 2007 and 2008. So after the Cougars lost the first two games (13-8 and 3-1 respectively) of their three-game set with Southern Miss, all they wanted was to avoid another sweep.
The Cougars got their wish as they played flawless defense and scattered 12 hits, led by shortstop Blake Kelso’s 5-for-5 night at the plate, before handing the rest over to starter Wes Musick. The left-hander threw 6 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on seven hits with three walks.
Reliever Donnie Joseph pitched the final 2 1/3 innings to pick up his fourth save of the season, giving up two hits and no runs while striking out three batters to ensure the Cougars’ 4-3 victory Saturday at Cougar Field.
‘I knew that our team needed a big start out of me, especially with us being down 0-2 in the series, so I got into the mind frame that I was going to go out there and pitch deep into the ballgame,’ Musick said. ‘Hopefully this win will get us going in the right direction again and we can carry this (momentum) into the Sam Houston State game on Tuesday and into the Memphis series this weekend and get us back to .500.’
With severe weather making its way into the area, Sunday’s game was sandwiched into a Saturday doubleheader. Maybe it was the threat of rain or perhaps the determination to avoid another loss, but the Cougars (15-19, 5-4 C-USA) played with a sense of urgency from the start. They sprayed hits around the field like it was batting practice, chasing Golden Eagles starter Scott Copeland after only 1 2/3 innings.
UH got things going in the first when Kelso stroked the first pitch he saw off the left-field wall for a double. He advanced to third on Zak Presley’s groundout and came home on Caleb Ramsey’s single to give UH a 1-0 lead.
The Cougars added two more in the second when, with William Kankel on first and Taylor White on third and no outs, Matt Murphy singled up the middle to score White. After Jake Runte botched a sacrifice bunt attempt by popping it up to the catcher, Kelso continued his torrid night at the plate by lacing a single up the middle that scored Kankel and gave the Cougars a 3-0 advantage.
The Golden Eagles (22-12, 8-4) pulled within a run by scoring once in the third and fourth innings respectively, but UH created breathing room in the sixth. Runte walked and advanced to second on Kelso’s infield single. Presley followed with a groundout that advanced both runners before Ramsey plated Runte with a single into left field to make it 4-2.
Southern Miss added one more run in the seventh when, with two on and two out, Joseph relieved Musick and gave up a single to Joey Archer that brought in Brian Dozier from second base to cut the Cougars’ lead to 4-3.
Presley was relieved to see the Cougars avoid a sweep in a crucial conference series.
‘After losing the earlier game today, we had one thing on our mind, and that was to avoid the sweep, so it was a huge win for us,’ Presley said. ‘Our starting pitching was really good today, and we scratched out enough runs for Wes. Donnie came in and held on for the win, so it was a huge day for the pitching staff, and it was great that the offense could help them out.’