Taking back the crown
The Cougars will try to do something tonight they haven’t done in nearly three years — beat Rice.
The latest installment of the Silver Gloves series gets underway at 6:30 p.m. at Cougar Field where the Cougars (4-3) welcome the No. 5 Owls (8-0) for a mid-week matchup.
Rice has dominated the series as of late, winning the last 15 contests dating back to 2009, 17 including Conference USA tournament.
The last UH victory came May 1, 2009, when the Cougars beat the Owls 7-4 at Cougar Field.
Rice holds the all-time series lead 94-69.
Despite the UH/Rice rivalry’s recent one-sidedness, the Cougars are confident that they can shoot down the Owls.
“It’s an opportunity for us to play against a great opponent,” head coach Todd Whitting said.
“You got a team coming in here that’s undefeated and is ranked in the top five. Year in and year out, it’s one of the best teams in the country. It’s a great test for us.”
Taking the hill for his first start as a Cougar is Austin Pruitt. Pruitt has four-and-one-third innings of relief work this season and has done enough for the coaching staff to pencil him in as tonight’s starter, replacing last Tuesday’s starter Matt Hernandez in the rotation.
“It’s not that Matt did not throw good, it’s that Austin was really good,” Whitting said. “(Pruitt) is a very confident kid. He can give you long outings and can throw a lot of pitches. He’s very competitive. I’m anxious to see what he does on this stage.”
UH enters the game having dropped its first series of the season to Texas State over the weekend. The team is getting solid starting pitching, but the offense has been lacking.
“I think the formula so far has been pretty good, except there’s one key ingredient missing — timely hitting,” Whitting said.
“We’ve played good defense, we’ve had solid pitching, we’ve been in every single game, but we haven’t been able to get the timely hit.”
A win over a highly-ranked club early in the season could give the team the spark and confidence it needs to play any team in the nation. Not to mention, finally beating Rice would be nice.
“It would be huge for us to win this game,” Whitting said. “I’d be crazy to tell you that it doesn’t mean a little bit more, because it is Rice, and we do sit here and share the same city. Every win this season is paramount for our program and to be able to get one against a quality program like that would be huge.”