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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


After winning final season series, Cougars look to C-USA tournament

In the last series of the season, the Cougars did what they’ve been doing at home, win, taking two of three games against Southern Mississippi at Cougar Field this weekend. The Cougars are 23-9 at home this season.

With the seeding set in the Conference USA tournament, the Cougars sit at No. 6 with a 13-11 conference record and a 35-20 overall record  a 17-win turnaround from last season.

Though the Cougars dropped a 6-5 decision in the final game of the series, head coach Todd Whitting said he liked what he saw from the club.

“We played hard today. I am proud of the way we settled down on the bump, and kept playing hard,” Whitting said after Saturday’s game. “We never quit and played until the final out. We made it really interesting in the last inning and were one swing away from winning the game.”

“That’s what I love about this team. They always play hard, and that’s going to pay dividends for them (in the conference tournament).”

On the mound, senior righthander Austin Pruitt got his ninth win of the season and junior righthander Chase Wellbrock notched his 11th save on Friday during a 7-5 victory.

Junior righthander Daniel Poncedeleon notched his seventh win of the season during a 3-2 victory on Thursday. Poncedeleon pitched into the eighth inning, giving up seven hits and two earned runs.

“I was able to get a good sink on my cutter and fastball tonight.” Poncedeleon said on Thursday. “I was able to get a lot of ground balls, and my defense played great behind me.”

The Cougars’ pitching staff has stepped up as the season has wound down. The starters have often sang the praises for the bullpen’s strong outings sometimes over long relief periods. Wellbrock has been described as a “tough as nails” closer, and senior lefthander Matt Hernandez has played an important role as a long-reliever.

As for the batters, UH put up 15 runs in the three games. Junior shortstop Frankie Ratcliff tripled for the eighth time to tie for the national lead. He chalked up his success to hitting behind freshman infielder Josh Vidales and freshman outfielder Kyle Survance.

“When those guys are ripping you want to do the same, and join in on the hit parade.” Ratcliff said. “When they get on early in the game it makes my job easier.”

With the regular season now officially behind them, the Cougars look now to the C-USA Championship at Rice University’s Reckling Park. Their first game will be against ECU on May 23 followed by games against Southern Mississippi and Tulane. The Cougars are 7-2 against the members of their pool.

“It’s a wide open field. It’s one of those tournaments that anybody who is in has the ability to win it,” Whitting said. “To me it doesn’t matter if we play the way we’ve been playing, we’ll win it.”

According to C-USA tournament format, the top eight teams make the tournament and are split into two pools dictated by seed. Each team is guaranteed three games in their pool. The team with the best composite record in each pod will advance for a single-elimination championship game.

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