UH sweeps Marshall
At first glance, it appeared the Cougars would have no trouble against the Marshall Thundering Herd on Sunday.
After all, the Cougars breezed through Friday’s and Saturday’s games en route to victories. So when the Cougars took a seven-run lead into the bottom of the sixth Sunday, they polished their broomsticks in preparation for the easy three-game sweep.
Marshall had other plans, as the Thundering Herd charged back with seven runs in the next three innings to force the game into extra innings.
But reliever Donnie Joseph, who didn’t have his best stuff but gave the Cougars a valiant effort, kept the Herd at bay so his team could score two in the top of the 10th inning. Right-hander Mo Wiley shut the door in the bottom half of the inning for the first save of his career, preserving a much-needed 9-8 victory over a Conference USA rival.
‘Any time you can sweep anybody in this league, it’s to your advantage,’ UH head coach Rayner Noble said.
‘With three weekends to play and the type of opponents that we have lined up in front of us (Rice, East Carolina and Central Florida), we pretty much control our own destiny.’
The Cougars (20-23, 10-5 C-USA) broke out the bats early, as they did Friday and Saturday. Blake Kelso led off the game with an infield single back to the pitcher and advanced to second on Zak Presley’s groundout.
Chase Dempsay laced a single into right field that scored Kelso and gave UH a 1-0 lead. Caleb Ramsey ended the threat by grounding into a double play.
The Cougars added a run in the third and fourth, respectively, before dropping a three-spot in the fifth. With Dempsay on first, Ramsey hit a one-out single into left field that advanced Dempsay to second. Chris Wallace brought home Dempsay with a single to center field and advanced when he and Ramsey took second and third, respectively, on a double steal.
David Murphy followed with a single to left field, bringing home Wallace and Ramsey, before he reached second on a throwing error by Marshall left fielder Adam Yeager. William Kankel popped up and Jake Runte struck out to end the inning, but the Cougars held a 6-0 advantage.
‘ After the Cougars stretched their lead to 7-0 with another run in the top of sixth, Marshall (16-25, 6-12 C-USA) began its comeback in the bottom frame against UH starter Wes Musick. Kenny Socorro walked with one out and advanced to third on Josh Valle’s double, down the left-field line. Victor Gomez scored Socorro with a single, reducing UH’s lead to 7-1.
Gomez was thrown out at second on Nathan Lape’s fielder’s choice, but Valle snuck home for Marshall’s second run during the play. Thor Meeks made it 7-3 with an RBI single through the left side before Musick struck out the next batter to escape the jam.
Chris Wright replaced Musick in the seventh, but quickly met trouble. The Thundering Herd cut the deficit to 7-6 when Gomez hit a two-out, three-run homer to right field, prompting the Cougars to replace Wright with Joseph.
The left-hander struck out Lape to end the inning, but struggled with his control in the eighth. Joseph (2-1) walked three batters and gave up a two-out RBI-triple to Kevin Shackelford that tied the game at 7.
Joseph finished the eighth and ninth innings without further damage, sending the contest into extra innings.
Noble said the lack of control by Joseph, Wright and Musick contributed to the Thundering Herd’s comeback.
‘We just needed to make better pitches,’ Noble said.
UH loaded the bases in the top of the 10th, setting up Kelso’s RBI single to right field that gave the Cougars an 8-7 advantage. UH pushed the eventual game-winning run across when Presley walked in Jake Runte.
In the bottom of the frame, Brandon Casamassima reached on a one-out single. Joseph walked Shackelford, bringing the possible winning run to the plate. However, Wiley, who entered the game for Joseph, induced a fly out from Yeager.
Socorro plated Casamassima with a single to center field before Presley threw out Eric Semenuik, who was pinch running for Shackelford, on a controversial play at third. Semenuik was trying to advance to third from first on Socorro’s hit. Although he argued hard, the umpires ruled him out.
The sweep moved the Cougars into third place in C-USA, one game behind frontrunner Rice (28-10, 11-4). But with the regular season winding down, Noble wants to see his team perform at a higher level during the middle of the week.
‘We need to savor this win, but come back and practice well on Tuesday (so we can) carry the momentum to McNeese State,’ he said.