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Tuesday, October 3, 2023


Cougars look to corral Herd

With only 14 games remaining in the regular season, reality has long since set in for UH.

The Cougars (17-23, 7-5 Conference USA) practically have no shot at receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Their only path to the NCAA Tournament is to capture an automatic bid by winning next month’s C-USA Tournament in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Gaining favorable seeding in the league tournament would increase the Cougars’ chances, and they’re still on track to do that. UH sits comfortably in fourth place, two games ahead of Tulane and Alabama-Birmingham and only half a game behind Southern Miss.

The Cougars could easily move up the league standings by taking at least two of three games from C-USA rival Marshall in their series this weekend in Charleston, W. Va. The opener is scheduled for 6 p.m. today at Appalachian Power Park.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, they won’t ride into town with an ounce of momentum after their pitching staff was bashed in losses to Stephen F. Austin and Lamar on Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively.

‘We’ve got to regroup,’ head coach Rayner Noble said. ‘Hopefully, we can get some good starting pitching like we’ve been getting (on the weekends), because that’s a necessity.’

The Cougars should feel good about the three pitchers who will start this weekend. Right-hander Jared Ray (2-2, 5.18 ERA) will start the opener, followed by right-hander Michael Goodnight (4-3, 3.52) and left-hander Wes Musick (4-5, 6.12) on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Ray has been close to unhittable in his last few outings. He hasn’t allowed a run in his last 19 2/3 innings, striking out 20 batters during that stretch. Goodnight has pitched a minimum of five innings and given up no more than three runs in each of his last five starts, and Musick has won his last three starts.

Ray was promoted to the starting rotation from the bullpen in time for last Friday’s series opener against Memphis, tossing six shutout innings in the Cougars’ 1-0 victory.

He understands that a strong outing against Marshall could propel the Cougars to a series win.

‘It would be nice to take all three games, and it starts on Friday,’ Ray said. ‘You can’t look back at the end of the week. It’s always looking forward now, especially with where we are in conference.’

Marshall (16-22, 6-9 C-USA) hasn’t played since last weekend’s series against Rice. The Thundering Herd had to cancel midweek contests against Ohio, Morehead State and Georgetown (Ky.) because of inclement weather.

Marshall will send right-hander Dan Straily (3-1, 3.67 ERA) to the mound for today’s opener, but the quality of pitching decreases with the next two starters, left-handers Greg Williams (1-3, 8.90) and Mike Mason (1-0, 5.40).’

That’s probably a good thing for the offensively challenged Cougars, who have stranded at least 11 base runners in three of their last four games.

‘Hitting is a strange thing; it kind of comes and goes,’ Noble said. ‘Hopefully, we can retrieve it on the flight to Marshall, because we’re going to need to swing the bats.’

‘It’s a big series. We’ve got to go in there and do our thing.”

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