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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Baseball

Cougars hope to rebound against UCF


One way to test a team’s character is by seeing how they bounce back from a tough loss.

After Tuesday’s 14-5 mauling at the hands of the Baylor Bears, the Cougars will have a chance to show their grit when they welcome the University of Central Florida for a three-game series that gets underway at 6:30 p.m. on Friday at Cougar Field.

“(Central Florida) has had an excellent season to this point, but the past doesn’t equal the future,” head coach Todd Whitting said. “Just because they are 20-6 and we are 10-13 doesn’t mean that they just come in here and win the series.

“I expect us to win this series or sweep this weekend.”

The Cougars’ (10-13, 1-2 Conference USA) struggles thus far could easily have the team down on itself, but players know that despite the sub-.500 record, they are still early in the conference schedule and have a lot of baseball left to play.

“We’re only one game out of first place,” shortstop Chase Jensen said. “We’re staying confident and we’re just going to keep coming out and play as hard as we can.”

One of the reasons for the team’s struggles, Whitting said, is their inability to stop errors from snowballing into big innings for their opponents.

“We need to start taking negatives and start making them quick positives, instead of continuing to let bad things happen to us,” Whitting said.

With the meat of the conference schedule still to on the plate, the team has a rough road in the following weeks.

“Baseball is the elite sport in C-USA,” Whitting said. “It’s the fourth-ranked conference right now and it’s very tough.

“We didn’t get any scheduling favors this season. What I perceive as the top four teams in the league, we play them on the road. We have Southern Miss on the road, East Carolina on the road, and Rice on the road.”

But before they hit the road, they need to take care of business against Central Florida (20-6, 2-1 C-USA) at home. The Knights come to Cougar Field with a 7-1 record in their last eight games. They are led offensively by outfielder Alex Friedrich and power-hitting first baseman D.J. Hicks. Friedrich leads the Knights with a .380 average and 11 doubles. Hicks is leads UCF with seven home runs.

For the Cougars, Chase Jensen goes into the weekend leading UH with a .321 batting average and riding a four-game hitting streak. He has seven hits during the stretch.

Last season, the Cougars won their series with the Knights 2-1.

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