Cougars head west for series with Anteaters
Hot off a 16-3 victory over Texas Southern that improved their winning streak to seven, the Cougars return to action this weekend for their final non-conference series of the season.
No. 20 Houston makes their final trip to California this year as they ready for a three-game series against No. 27 UC Irvine starting Friday. Meeting for the first time since 2009, the Anteaters have won their last five games against the Cougars.
If the Cougars (15-5) are to right the course against the Anteaters (11-6), they will need to rely on their dominant pitching staff.
Currently ranked No. 4 in the NCAA with a 2.08 ERA, the trio of junior Seth Romero, sophomore Mitch Ullom and senior John King have combined to go 8-4 with 97 strikeouts. Romero currently leads the nation averaging 16.03 strikeouts per nine innings and 57 total strikeouts.
They will face an Anteater offense that is ranked No. 33 in the nation with a .308 batting average. Led by redshirt senior outfielder Evan Cassolato, the Anteaters feature four batters with at least 20 hits and five with double-digit RBIs.
Across the diamond, the Cougar offense has cooled off a bit since the start of the season. Despite ranking No. 50 in the NCAA in batting average (.298), the Cougars have outscored opponents 126-61.
Houston’s offense has been led by junior shortstop Jake Scheiner. The only California native on the team currently ranks in the top-12 nationally in both average (.455, 10) and RBIs (29, T12). He is tied for the lead with nine home runs.
Scheiner enters the series as the reigning National Player of the Week after going 13-for-16 with eight runs, 15 RBIs and six home runs.
The Cougars have been aggressive on the base paths, ranking No. 36 in the country with 30 stolen bases against seven caught stealing. They are led by junior catcher Connor Wong, whose 14 stolen bases are tied for No. 3 nationally.
Houston aims to beat an Anteater staff currently ranked No. 230 in the nation with a 6.07 ERA. Junior pitcher Louis Raymond leads UC Irvine with a 3-1 record in five starts despite a 4.74 ERA.
The first pitch of the series is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Friday, and the teams will return to action at 4 p.m. Saturday with the conclusion of the three-game series at 2 p.m. Sunday.