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Sunday, October 24, 2021

Baseball

Solid pitching, timely bunt help UH halt five-game slump


Caleb Ramsey drove in the winning run in extra innings for the Cougars, but it was the relief pitching of Tanner Shiflett that kept UH in position to claim an 8-7 victory over Lamar. | Daily Cougar file photo

In a rematch between Houston and Lamar at Cougar Field just a week after Lamar defeated UH on a walk-off home run, the Cougars won in walk-off fashion themselves.

With the game tied with one out in the bottom of the 11th inning, Caleb Ramsey was at the plate, with runners on first and third base. The center fielder was behind second base and the center field gap. Head coach Rayner Noble ordered a suicide squeeze and Ramsey popped up the bunt, but it dropped in, and Ryan Still scored the winning run, giving UH an 8-7 victory.

It was a game of base runners and missed opportunity on both sides, the type of game the Cougars tend to lose, but, with the win, they snapped their five-game losing streak and improved to 17-23.

Ramsey, who was 0-for-4 prior the at bat, said it felt good to just contribute.

“It was great, (because) I wasn’t really seeing the ball well tonight,” Ramsey said. “It was just good to be able to execute and put it down. It was just fun to get a win period.”

The Cougars struggled with runners in scoring position and with the bases loaded, where they were 0-for-4.

Noble said those are key situations.

“You’ve got to take advantage of those situations,” he said. “That’s where you break the opposition’s back, but we hit into a lot of double plays. It was just a hard fought night.”

One of UH’s two errors came at the hands of lefty Ty Stuckey, when he attempted to pickoff off Ted Zentek toward Lamar’s bullpen. Kevin Roebuck scored from third to tie the game at one a piece. Andy Mena proceeded to hit a two-run double to left center, and the Cardinals went up 3-1 after two innings.

Stuckey has been one of the Cougars’ best pitchers this season, with a 3.10 ERA. Stuckey’s problem, though, has been with his command. Coming into this game, Stuckey had walked 22 hitters in 20 1/3 innings pitched, and he was facing a patient team in Lamar, which has drawn 209 walks with a .398 on base percentage.

In addition to mistakes in the field, Stuckey issued six walks in 4.1 innings. Yet, despite it all, Stuckey was able to get through a jam with runners on second and first and nobody out in the first inning and a bases loaded jam in the third inning.

It came back to haunt him, though, when he allowed one run in the fourth and two in the fifth, putting UH in a 6-1 hole.

Lamar had their share of walks too in the bottom half of the fifth inning, when two of UH’s three runs were walked in and the lead was cut to 6-4. The Cougars then scored two runs in the eighth inning to tie the game at six, and the game continued into extra innings.

The Cougars had opportunities via 12 hits and five errors committed by Lamar. Both sides however were battling a tight strike zone and had plenty of walks. Houston walked 11 batters while Lamar walked nine.

The pitcher of the night for UH was Tanner Shiflett, who went 5 2/3 innings, walking three while allowing one run and striking out seven.

“It’s just nice to win again,” Noble said. “It’s been a little bit of a drought. The guys played hard tonight, and we got quality pitching out of Tanner Shiflett. It just goes to show you, good pitching usually results in a victory.”

The Cougars are next off to Birmingham, Ala., where they will play a conference series against UAB, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

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