Cougars get swept, slide continues
If the season is a roller coaster ride of up and downs, then the Cougars are in another freefall.
The Central Florida Knights (23-6, 5-1 Conference-USA) rode into Cougar Field and swept the Cougars in the three-game series. With the losses, UH fell to 10-16 overall and 1-4 in Conference USA.
“It seems right now if it’s not one thing, it’s another,” head coach Todd Whitting said. “If we hit, we don’t pitch and if we pitch, we don’t hit. And our defense is pretty consistently bad.
“Until we can start putting at least two of the three together at one time, this is going to continue to happen.”
In the series, the Cougars stranded 37 runners and were outscored 20-5
“We went out there and played our hardest,” infielder/pitcher Codey Morehouse said. “The cards aren’t falling our way right now. We just got to keep going out there and play as hard as we can.”
In Sunday’s series finale, the Cougars had a battle on hand, but the Knights outlasted the Cougars 3-1 in a 10-inning affair.
After giving up a home run to UCF centerfielder Ronnie Richardson, starting pitcher Austin Pruitt kept settled down and kept the Cougars in game. He pitched 8 1/3 innings, tossing a career-high 125 pitches (80 for strikes), allowing one run on six hits with six strikeouts.
“I thought Pruitt was outstanding. He’s given us a chance to win just about every time he’s pitched,” Whitting said. “He is far and away the most consistent guy in our pitching staff right now.
The Cougars tied the game up in the fourth inning when Price Jacobs laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Morehouse from third.
The game stayed knotted up at one run apiece until the Knights put a two-spot on the board in the 10th frame for the win.
Saturday the Cougars jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Landon Appling’s fielder’s choice scored Jacobs, who reached base via a Knights’ error. Unfortunately, that was the only run the Cougars would push across on the night.
UCF’s starting pitcher, Chris Matulis, went six innings allowing one run on three hits with three strikeouts.
The Cougars had five hits for the game and stranded a season-high 15 runners.
Taylor White led the offense with a 2-for-3 performance and three other Cougars had one hit apiece.
The Knights used a six-run fifth inning to break the game open and they never looked back. They added two more runs in the seventh and an additional run in the eighth to bring the score to its final mark of 9-1.
In the series opener, the Cougars fell by the mark of 8-3.
The Cougars surrendered a second inning run that put the Knights up 1-0. UH responded in the bottom half of the next frame by pushing two runs across for a 2-1 lead. The lead was short lived though, as the Knights came back and scored one run in the fourth, three in the fifth and two in the seventh, to balloon their lead to 7-2. The Cougars and Knights each scored one more run in the final frames.
The good news for the Cougars is it is still early in the conference schedule, but the bad news is it doesn’t get any easier. After a midweek matchup with McNeese St., the Cougars head to Greenville, N.C. to take on East Carolina for their third C-USA matchup.
“We know that there is still a lot of season left to turn it around. There’s going to be bumps along the way , but if we keep playing, we’re going to be fine.