Tide picks up final game against commanding Cougars
For the first nine innings of their three game series, Alabama and Houston played the pitching and defensive duel that their fan bases expected. A 3-1 Houston win on Friday had a Chris Iriart home run as the only real scoring display of note.
But sometime on Saturday evening, the event horizon of offense was crossed, with Houston surviving a back-and-forth 14-9 night before Alabama found their bats and took Sunday’s game 8-3. A total of 25 runs spread through the trio of games dispelled any notion that the first game was a harbinger of slow, one-run-at-a-time defensive struggles.
With Houston standing at 6-1 for the season, head coach Todd Whitting wasn’t satisfied with just winning the series.
“I thought we had a good weekend. We had a chance to go for the killshot in the middle of the game, but we didn’t take advantage of it,” Whitting said.
“Alabama’s a good program, a post-season program that’ll probably be in Omaha. When you have opportunities on Sunday, you’ve got to take advantage.”
The Houston pitching staff started strong with right-handers Andrew Lantrip and Bubba Maxwell both moving to 2-0 on the season. Lantrip went seven innings, handcuffing the Alabama batters on Friday, while Maxwell played fireman during the offensive brawl on Saturday.
The final game saw senior pitcher Aaron Garza stay solid through five innings before giving way to the bullpen and seeing the Alabama hitters take control.
Alabama head coach Mitch Gaspard, who finished his college baseball-playing career as a Houston Cougar, was pleased with his team win in the finale game.
“After a long night (and) tough game, I thought our guys responded well,” Gaspard said. “We were able to put some offense together, especially in the middle of the game. It was a good game for us.”
The game and series for Alabama centered the singular performance of Alabama rightfielder Casey Hughston, a one-man band of hitting who finished the series 5-12 and hit a mythical 19-25 on the season.
“It feels good, but never perfect,” said Hughston of his swing, good for three RBI during the series. “I guess there’s always something you need to work on.”
Called everything from Babe Ruth to Roy Hobbs by his teammates and media, the sophomore played down any overwhelming feelings of drama.
“They’re a really good team,” Hughston said of the Cougars. “We had to fight and keep throwing punches. That’s what this team is.”