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Saturday, October 24, 2020

Sports

Cougars look to avoid letdown


Looking at what’s ahead of the Cougars, it’s easy to see how they might somehow slip up and overlook tonight’s non-conference matchup with McNeese State.

With three important conference series left on the slate, including a three-game set against Rice this weekend, a midweek game in Lake Charles, La. may appear unappealing to UH. But that’s exactly the kind of attitude head coach Rayner Noble wants to avoid when his team takes on the Cowboys at 6:30 p.m. today at Cowboy Field.

The Cougars (20-23, 10-5 Conference USA) are coming off a three-game sweep against Marshall last weekend and want to ride that momentum into tonight’s game, but UH’s struggles in their last matchups have been a concern for Noble.

‘We desperately need to play well in the midweek and not just take a day off,’ Noble said. ‘I felt like last week we took two days off and didn’t even compete (losses to Stephen F Austin and Lamar).’

Left-hander Donnie Joseph admitted the Rice series is on Cougars’ minds, but he also knows how important a win would be for the team’s confidence.

‘We’re all thinking about (the Rice game), but we know that we can’t overlook (tonight’s game) and that we have to continue to ride the momentum into the weekend,’ Joseph said.

Though the Cougars will make a game-time decision of who to send to the mound, they are leaning toward William Kankel. If Noble goes with Kankel, who is 1-1 with a 6.89 ERA this season, it would be the southpaw’s first career start.

Cougars’ pitching staff will face a balanced Cowboys lineup that is batting .360 cumulatively and has nine guys batting higher than .300, entering Tuesday. Infielder Lee Orr leads McNeese State with 13 home runs this season.

The Cowboys (19-22, 8-16 Southland), who have been streaky all season, are coming off a 4-1 loss to Louisiana-Lafayette on Tuesday. They were outscored 40-12 as Texas State swept them in a three-game series last weekend in San Marcos.

UH hopes to continue its offensive tear after racking up 37 hits during its sweep of Marshall. The Cougars played solid defense as well, committing only one error.

McNeese State will be the Cougars’ last non-conference opponent in the regular season. In six days, the two teams will once again meet up at Cougar Field in UH’s last non-conference contest of the regular season.

The Cougars realize the charge toward a conference crown won’t be easy.

‘We’re just excited right now that we’ve put ourselves in a position to potentially win the conference,’ Joseph said. ‘(These coming games are) going to test our toughness and prove to the conference that we’re a great team, and that we can win it.’


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