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Friday, January 22, 2021

Baseball

Rice shows UH no Silver Glove love


Even Chris Wallace’s two home runs Saturday were not enough to help the Cougars avoid a three-game sweep against Rice. UH dropped the finale, 8-7, for its fourth loss to the Owls this season. | Justin Flores/The Daily Cougar

Several sporting events mark the official arrival of spring every year: March Madness, MLB’s Opening Day and the start of the NBA playoffs, just to name a few.

UH fans can add the Cougars losing the Silver Glove Series to in-town rival Rice to that list, and this season is no exception.

In sweeping this weekend’s three-game series at Reckling Park, the Owls proved they could win in a variety of ways.

Rice dominated on the mound in Thursday’s 6-0 win and did the same in the batter’s box during Friday’s 11-2 blowout. The Cougars put up their best fight of the series Saturday, but Rice still won, 8-7 in 12 innings, to take the Silver Glove Series trophy for the 10th consecutive year.

“This (team) is a whole lot better than that, and it hasn’t been for a lack of effort,” UH head coach Rayner Noble said. “We’ve got to develop some quality pitching, and that falls on my shoulders. I’m in charge of these pitchers, and I’ve just got to do a better job of getting these guys prepared.”

While Thursday’s putrid showing at the plate and Friday’s ineffectiveness on the mound were equally frustrating for Noble, Saturday’s effort provided some ray of hope that the Cougars can still compete with the Owls.

The Cougars (12-14, 2-4 Conference USA) got on the board in the first inning with two runs, but UH starter Eric Brooks had control problems. Brooks walked five and surrendered six runs in just one inning, the biggest blow coming on Anthony Rendon’s first-inning grand slam. Of Brooks’ 43 pitches, 26 were balls and he was lifted after walking the bases loaded without recording an out in the second inning.

The Cougars scored a run in the second and third innings, and Matt Creel shut down the Owls for five innings after relieving Brooks to keep the score at 6-4. In the eighth inning, UH’s Chris Wallace, who homered in the second inning, hit a three-run shot to vault the Cougars ahead 7-6.

The Cougars’ opportunity for redemption was short-lived, however, as Ty Stuckey gave up a run in the bottom half of the eighth. The score remained tied until the 12th inning when Craig Manuel drilled a shot to right field off of Taylor Hammack for his first career homer and a walk-off win for Rice (17-12, 4-2).

“We just gave them too many fat pitches,” Noble said. “I don’t know, I think we had 10, 11 walks, but it’s been our Achilles’ heel all season long, and it’s going to be a bumpy ride for us the rest of the way if we continue to walk guys at the clip that we’ve been walking them.”

The Cougars will try to snap their four-game losing streak when they face Sam Houston State at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Cougar Field.

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