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Saturday, December 4, 2021

Baseball

UH not planning to overlook struggling Owls


After their pitchers failed to hold onto a late lead against UTSA, the Cougars will look for sophomore Michael Goodnight to deliver a solid performance against Rice today at Reckling Park. | Justin Flores/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars begin a three-game series today against in-town rival Rice at Reckling Park, where they will try to bounce back from a difficult loss to Texas-San Antonio on Tuesday.

The Cougars took the lead against UTSA by scoring two runs in the third and fourth inning. After UH starter James Conlee allowed three runs in only three innings, the Cougars’ bullpen maintained a 4-3 lead for four innings before coughing up three runs in the ninth to end the game in a 6-5 loss.

The loss dropped the Cougars to 12-11 on the season and squashes some of the momentum they gained by winning two of three against Central Florida last weekend. Going into the series against Rice, which begins at 6:30 p.m. today, head coach Rayner Noble knows his team is far from reaching its potential.

“We’ve got a long way to go as a team, and our team knows that,” Noble said. “Our pitching has to get a whole lot better. Offensively, we’ve got to do a better job of hitting the off-speed pitches. We know we have a long way to go, and by no means do we feel we’ve hit any kind of a stretch.”

Against the Roadrunners, Conlee ended up as just another of UH’s starting pitchers who couldn’t last four innings. Conlee became the eighth pitcher to go less than four frames this season.

The other nine Cougar arms have gone at least five. Michael Goodnight delivered UH’s longest outing this season against Texas on March 6 in the Houston College Classic.

“I knew that our pitching staff was so thin that Tuesdays were going to be holy gully,” Noble said. “I mean, it’s going to be like this. We’re going to have to rely on some young arms on Tuesdays.”

Perhaps overshadowing Houston’s erratic play has been the uncanny struggles of Rice (14-12, 1-2 Conference USA), which recently lost two of three to Memphis.

The highlight of the Owls’ season so far was a 10-6 win over No. 7 Texas, which capped a three-game winning streak. Since then, the Owls have dropped five of eight contests.

The Owls’ team ERA is 4.63, but of their five starters that have at least three starts, Boogie Anagnostou has the lowest ERA at 4.24.

However, the Owls can still hit, with two players having stellar seasons in Michael Fuda and Anthony Rendon. Fuda is hitting .382, and Rendon is hitting .354 with a .558 on-base percentage and 10 home runs.

Noble said that, despite the Owls’ struggles, his team must not be lulled into a false sense of confidence.

“Baseball is baseball. We’ve just got to tend to our business,” Noble said. “If we would have tended to our business (Tuesday), we would have won the ball game, but we didn’t. That’s what we’ve got to do against Rice.

“We have got to play good fundamental baseball, and block the ball in the dirt when it’s time to block the ball in the dirt. It’s just the little things we’ve got to do better.”

Rice and UH played March 2 when the Owls won 8-2 to capture their 82nd win in the all-time series. The Cougars have 69 victories.

After the series against Rice, UH will take on Sam Houston State at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cougar Field.

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