Cougars lack timely hitting at C-USA championships
The Cougars ended their Conference USA championship tournament at 36-22 and on the bubble for a NCAA regional berth at Reckling Park on Saturday.
It would have been the Cougars 37th win of the season at the Championships had they not suffered a 3-2 loss to Tulane.
“It’s baseball. It’s a tough sport. It’s a tough game.” said head coach Todd Whitting.
The Cougars could not overcome their rough hits-to-runs ratio. In Saturday’s game they put up nine hits, but only scored two runs. In Friday’s 4-2 loss to Southern Miss, the Cougars scored only two runs on 12 hits.
“We have a really good team, we just didn’t play well the last two games,” Whitting said. “We didn’t catch any breaks and we basically gave a game to Tulane. I don’t feel they did one thing to win the game.”
Post-loss anger and disappointment aside, the Cougars put up numbers for the three-day weekend that were better than one win would illustrate.
UH had 34 hits in three games, but couldn’t get timely hits to change the course of the game.
Junior outfielder Landon Appling went 5-11 for the series with a stolen base. Sophomore outfielder Michael Pyeatt stretched his on-base streak to 16 games and freshman outfielder Kyle Survance stole his 20th base of the year, the first time a Cougar has stolen more than 20 bases since 2011.
The Cougars’ starting pitchers was 1-2 on the weekend but never surrendered more than four earned runs in any of the trio of games. Senior right-hander Austin Pruitt, in what could be his last collegiate game, picked up his 10th win of the season on Friday. Junior right-hander Chase Wellbrock appeared in two of the three games, striking out five in 4.3 innings and not allowing an earned run.
“Through the first six innings, that was probably the best I’ve ever pitched in my life,” said freshman right-hander Jake Lemoine. “Unfortunately in the seventh inning, things went South for me.”
Lemoine started the finale of the series and allowed only two runs in 6.1 while striking out three. He was in-tune enough on the mound to retire sixteen consecutive Tulane batters.
Tulane, through hits and a walk was able to put runners on base and push two runs across the plate. From there, and with the aid of an error, scored the go ahead third run.
“That was the best outing he’s had all year. He was absolutely outstanding today,” Whitting said of Lemoine’s effort. “A couple breaks here and there and we win that game. It just didn’t happen for us today, we didn’t catch any breaks all weekend.”
Despite the less than fortuitous outcome, Whitting said he was proud of the season they had put together.
“When you step back, this team has dealt with a lot of things on and off the field. They’re pretty resilient. They play hard and I’d like to see any team in the country come back from the injuries and the (MLB) draft and still win 36 games,” Whitting said. “You’ve got to tip your hat to them.”