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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Baseball

UH’s timely plays keeps it undefeated


The UH fans in the bleachers gave a standing ovation as freshman infielder Jordan Stading ran back to the Cougars’ dugout, doing what was necessary to put the his team in striking position to score.

Stading hit a single in his first collegiate at-bat career, before being replaced by a pinch-runner, which helped set the stage two batters later for sophomore outfielder Ashford Fulmer’s hit into the left center field that drove in three runs in the seventh inning. With this, the Cougars secured a 4-3 lead, and completed the weekend sweep against Michigan on Sunday.

“Apparently, (the coaches) were calling my name for a couple minutes, then one of my teammates got my attention,” Stading said. “I had to throw off the shin guards, and that’s when it occurred to me that I’m going to the plate.”

Right plays, right time

UH had cold bats all weekend but made the plays that decided the game in selective innings. On Friday, the Cougars scored their only two runs in the fourth inning and three of their four runs in the seventh inning that made the difference, and they were able to throw strikeouts at significant points with runners in scoring position.

“Our pitchers have been keeping the game close and have given us that chance,” Fulmer said. “It’s hard to score runs in this league, and you never know which at-bat is going to win the game, and in this case, it happened to be in the seventh.”

On Saturday, sophomore outfielder Kyle Survance couldn’t get anything going at the plate. He was 0-4, including two strike-outs in his first two at-bats that led him to throw his bat and helmet out of frustration as he walked back toward the dugout.

But sophomore infielder Josh Vidales was in his ear throughout the game, insisting that the team was going to need him if they were going to walk away with a win, even after Survance’s previous opportunity to break the tie in the bottom of the eighth inning with runners in scoring positions failed.

“I told him, ‘Look, this is not your last at-bat — you’re going to have a big game. You just don’t even know it yet,’” Vidales said.

Vidales’ premonition came true, as Survance came through with a bunt in the bottom of the 10th inning that brought in the winning run from third base.

“It’s obviously frustrating, having at-bats where I could’ve drove runs across the plate. But a win is a win, no matter how ugly it is. I’ve had a couple of at-bats like that in high school, but nothing like that at the collegiate level,” Survance said.

Vidales said he told Survance as they took the field in the top of the 10th inning, “Your time is coming.”

Even though it was his worst game statistically, Survance made the play that put the Cougars, who were cold from the bats all evening, on top against the Wolverines. Survance finished the game 0-4, as his fifth at-bat didn’t count because it was a fielder’s choice.

“We have a saying in our program: ‘So what.’ The past never equals the future, and you can’t control it. All you can think about is the next pitch,” said head coach Todd Whitting said. “(Survance) had as bad a night you can possibly have at home plate, but when you come up in that situation, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

Whitting said he has profound respect for Michigan (1-4-1), a team that has struggled as of late, but is more satisfied that his team was able to make the necessary plays and persevered when it mattered most.

“They’re a pretty gritty bunch. We talked about it from the first day that they get here, and that it’s a nine-inning game,” said head coach Todd Whitting. “What you do in the first four innings doesn’t mean it’ll be the same in the last five innings. One thing I like about this team — that when we win, we don’t get too excited about it, and when we lose, we don’t get too down about it.”

UH’s stingy staff has now pitched four shutouts in seven games this season that have also been complemented by the field play.

“The defense was phenomenal,” said sophomore pitcher Jake Lemoine, who threw a career-high eight strikeouts. “We had some sticky situations there at the end, but it didn’t bother us one bit. We’re a scrappy bunch, and we thrive under pressure.”

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