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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Cougar pitching lassos Cowboys

Unlike their last three midweek matchups, the Cougars didn’t have pitching problems against McNeese State on Wednesday.

UH received a quality start from left-hander William Kankel, a solid performance from its bullpen and just enough offense to claim a 6-3 win at Cowboy Diamond in Lake Charles, LA.

The Cougars (21-23) extended their win streak to four games heading into this weekend’s showdown with cross-town rival Rice. Kankel, who made his first career start for UH, and the bullpen ensured the Cougars left Lake Charles with momentum.

Kankel (2-1) allowed only two hits and two walks in four shutout innings, and five of six relievers held the Cowboys (19-23) scoreless. McNeese State, which suffered its sixth consecutive loss, tagged struggling right-hander Frank Corolla for three runs in the eighth, but this was the only blemish for the Cougars’ bullpen.

This was quite an improvement for the pitching staff, which surrendered a combined 34 runs in its last three midweek contests.

‘I thought that all the way up until Corolla got into the game, we were lights out on the mound,’ head coach Rayner Noble said. ‘We didn’t really give them anything to hit. It was a much, much better job from our pitching staff in the middle of the week.’

The Cougars didn’t waste any time against McNeese State, taking a quick 4-0 lead in the top of the second.

Cowboys starter Jaden Dillon (0-2) struck out Kankel to open the frame, but allowed the next six batters to reach base. Chris Wallace singled through the left side and moved up to second on David Murphy’s single. Jake Runte drove in Wallace with a single through the left side, and Taylor White walked to load the bases with one out.

Blake Kelso stroked a single to left field to score Murphy and Runte and put UH ahead 3-0. Zak Presley capped the scoring with a single to left field that plated White.

‘Any time that you can put up a crooked number in an inning, it’s a good thing,’ Noble said. ‘We did a good job of swinging the bats in that inning and we had pretty good base running to accumulate those four runs. We picked up a couple more as we went along as kind of insurance.”

The Cougars recorded only four hits after the fourth. Two of those came in handy in the sixth, when they tacked on two more runs. Runte led off with a triple to left-center and scored on a wild pitch from Cowboys reliever Ryan Frantz. The next batter, White, walked and advanced to second on Kelso’s sacrifice bunt before scoring on Chase Dempsay’s two-out single.

McNeese State’s offense got going in the eighth against Corolla, who allowed the first two batters to reach on singles. One out later, Nick Eubank cracked a double to right-center, scoring Ryan Brauninger and Lee Orr, and advanced to third on the throw to the plate.’

Corolla was replaced by left-hander Jimmy Raviele, who prevented further damage by retiring two of the next three batters, with Eubank scoring from third on a groundout.

McNeese State made things interesting in the ninth when Sam Merrill and Brauninger reached on walks against Ty Stuckey. This brought the potential tying run to the plate with one out, but the left-hander struck out the next two batters to seal the win.

‘We were a little lethargic out there and probably could have swung the bats a little better, but it’s just good to see the guys go out there and pitch well,’ Noble said. ‘That’s the biggest thing.”

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