Commentary: Cougars continue to struggle against ranked opponents
Running into a string of tough competition, the No. 15 Cougars’ success has come to temporary halt as they have dropped three of their last four games.
The Cougars have struggled so far this season against ranked competition. Houston is just 2-7 against ranked opponents and has been outscored by a combined 51-28 in those games.
Looking to shake off their 7-2 midweek loss to the No. 1 Texas A&M University Aggies, the Cougars traveled to Greenville, North Carolina last weekend for a series against the No. 19 East Carolina University Pirates.
The series marked the start of conference play for the Cougars, and the team attempted to get off to a hot start as it sent its top two pitchers to the mound.
Junior Andrew Lantrip started Friday’s game against the Pirates but failed to earn a victory.
Lantrip pitched eight innings in which he surrendered three runs and recorded four strike outs. The right-hander entered the game with just one walk in the entire season but allowed two to the Pirates.
Unable to plate runs, the Cougars fell 3-1 on Friday.
Sophomore Seth Romero took the hill on Saturday having only given up two earned runs in his first five appearances.
Unlike his other starts, Romero gave up five runs in just five innings of work.
With the offense only able to manage one run late in the ninth inning, the team suffered its second consecutive loss to ECU by a score of 5-1.
Saturday’s loss marked the fourth consecutive loss to ranked opponents, but the Cougars ended the streak on Sunday.
The hitters finally found their stride Sunday when they scored six runs on 10 hits. Senior Josh Vidales, who recently returned from injury, went 2-3 and recorded three RBI.
Four errors by the Pirates coupled with a solid pitching performance from freshman Mitch Ullom helped the Cougars avoid the sweep, winning the finale 6-1.
“Mitch Ullom was huge for us today. I thought he pitched really, really well,” head coach Todd Whitting said in a news release.
“That is one of the better teams in the country. To come in here and scrap one after falling into a little bit of tough luck during the first two days was big.”
Despite the rough patch of losses, the team has a 17-10 record as of Monday.
Now 1-2 in conference play, the Cougars will look to claw their way back to the top in their conference series matchup this weekend against the University of Central Florida Knights.
And unlike those losses on the road, Houston has felt right at home at Schroeder Park this season, as they are 13-4 at home.
Freshman Joe Davis had a hot start for the Cougars early in the season, but has since cooled down, going just 2-17 in his last 19 at-bats. In this span, his batting average has dipped to .358, a mark that is still top on the team.
Next up for the team is the UCF Knights Friday night at Schroeder Park. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.