Fast start propels Cougars to victory against Longhorns
UH needed only four runs to hold back Texas at Cougar Field on Tuesday. Despite some fireworks in the sixth inning, the Cougars outlasted another Big 12 rival from Texas with a 4-3 victory.
After the win, the Cougars (17-4) moved to 11-2 at home and are riding a six-game winning streak with conference play starting Friday.
“I thought when the game was on the line, our guys stepped up,” said head coach Todd Whitting. “The plays that (Frankie) Ratcliff made, the plays that (Kyle) Kirk made — those made the game. As long as we throw strikes and let our defense play, we’re going to have a lot of success.”
The defense was matched on the mound by sophomore Aaron Garza and junior Chase Wellbrock. Both teamed up to hold the Longhorns to four runs on seven hits with three walks. For Garza, the 5 1/3 innings pitched with no earned runs was his third win of the season against no losses, and it was Wellbrock’s second save, a reward for 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. The Cougars have yet to lose to a Big 12 school.
“You have to have a lot of confidence in your defense,” Garza said. “It’s easy when you have a catcher like (Caleb) Barker who isn’t afraid to drop and block for you. It’s good to have those kinds of guys behind you.”
“They were in our territory,” Garza said. “So we wanted to claim this territory. The whole State of Texas is our territory, so we want to be able to claim that, and I think we did that tonight.”
Freshman infielder Kyle Kirk fielded well-placed UT bunts and was able to turn them into outs three times in the game, including one to end the seventh inning that junior catcher Barker described as the biggest play of the game.
“Those were outstanding bunts, and one of them was with the tying run on third base, and he threw the guy out at the plate,” Whitting said.
A wild sixth inning started with a close play at the plate and ended with the umpires herding players from both teams back to their dugouts. Texas scored three unearned runs in the inning, but it would be the only times they would score in the game.
“For a young team, they are resilient, and they never give in,” Whitting said. “We bent as much as we possibly could tonight, but we never broke.”