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Sunday, December 6, 2020

Sports

UH inches closer to nemesis


This one stings a little bit more than the Cougars’ other gut-wrenching losses to their pesky crosstown rival Rice.

Forget that the Cougars’ 6-5 loss on Sunday moved Collegiate Baseball No. 8 Rice two games ahead of the Cougars for first place in Conference USA. Forget that the Owls are now in the drivers’ seat to capture their 14th consecutive conference championship. It stung because this wasn’t just another opponent. It stung because, for a moment, it seemed as if the tables had turned and UH (22-25, 11-7 C-USA) would finally persevere and be the team on the winning end of this lopsided series.

The Cougars played with more grit and determination than they ever have before. They envisioned themselves finally hoisting that coveted Silver Glove Trophy, only to see it snatched away from them once again.

But that’s been the recurring theme when these two teams face off in this annual series. The Owls (33-11, 13-5) seem to always make the extra play and get the timely hit that solidifies why they are a top five program and a thorn in the Cougars’ side every season.

‘That’s why (Rice has) done what they’ve done over the past decade or so,’ UH center fielder Zak Presley said.’ ‘They’re always in the game, and they’ll strike fast on you. No matter how big the lead is on them, you don’t really feel comfortable.’

Rice made a habit of having ‘the big inning’ in recent series against the Cougars, grouping a couple of hits together before smacking the big home run that put the game away. But it was much different this weekend, as the Cougars continually answered with ninth-inning comeback attempts before falling short in their two losses.

They loaded the bases with no outs Saturday before Rice closer Jordan Rogers induced a double play and a fly out to erase the Cougars’ hopes. UH got within a run in the ninth Sunday, proving just how far the Cougars have come as a team. It also gave the Cougars confidence that they can play with top programs like Rice.

‘I think we caught them by surprise,’ UH pitcher Wes Musick said. ‘I think they came over here thinking we were going to just fold to them like we always did (in the past), but we put up a hard battle all three games, and it just came down to the little things we couldn’t get done.’

Still, as gratifying as it is to know the Cougars have showed signs of progress, they’re getting fed up with the same disappointing results.

‘We fought all series and to win one and then lose the next two by (one and two runs, respectively), it’s heartbreaking,’ Musick said.

The Cougars will have to wait another year for a shot at redemption, as Rice leads the all-time series, 78-68. UH hasn’t won a Silver Glove Series since 2000, but it can’t be unsatisfied with its effort.

‘I think we really proved a lot to ourselves,’ Presley said. ‘We fought all weekend and were right there with them the whole time. A big hit here, a big hit there, a bounce here, a bounce there and we could have won this series.’


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