Baseball opens conference play with Memphis sweep
The baseball team opened conference play with a 3-0 sweep of the Memphis Tigers.
At 16-8, the Cougars are winners of eight straight games and are firmly out of their early season slump. For the first time this year the pitching rotation was in sync as the three starters each were able to rack up strikeouts while getting run support from their offense.
“It’s huge to get off to a start, win the series and to sweep is even better,” said head coach Todd Whitting. “This league is tough. I think six out of the nine teams in our league have been ranked at some point. So every weekend you can put behind you and win a series is huge. Really happy with the team right now and how they’re playing. We’ve got a lot of momentum and a lot of confidence.”
Junior starting pitcher Trey Cumbie took to the mound for game one. Cumbie was coming off his first win of the season, a 1-0 complete-game shutout victory against the New Mexico Lobos.
Against the Tigers, Cumbie appeared to find the form that made him the ace of the pitching staff. For the second straight game he went all nine innings, giving up zero runs on three hits and striking out eight. Improving to 2-1 on the year, Cumbie now has 51 strikeouts on the year and his earned run average improves to 2.29.
Offensively, the team outhit the Tigers 6-3 but they struggled to rack up runs. Luckily for them, sophomore infielder Jared Triolo hit his first home run of his career to give the Cougars the 2-0 win Friday.
Saturday’s game was nearly identical to the first. Junior starting pitcher Aaron Fletcher took to the mound for his sixth start of the year and matched the performance of his teammate Cumbie.
Fletcher went the full nine innings for his first career complete game and first career complete-game shutout. Fletcher only gave up four hits, walked no batters and struck out nine as he improved his season record to 4-0. He now has an ERA of 0.95 and is second on the team with 32 strikeouts.
Triolo again had the only RBIs for the Cougars, going three for four with two RBIs. Sophomore infielder Lael Lockhart Jr. joined him with two hits on four at bats, scoring a run. The two helped the Cougars to a 3-0 win, outhitting the Tigers 7-4.
Junior pitcher Ryan Randel took to the mound for the series finale Sunday, but the day belonged to the hitters for the baseball team.
Randel pitched well, going 4.2 innings while only allowing three hits on five runs. Senior relief pitcher Joey Pulido ended up getting the win, but early run support ensured the Cougars had an easy victory Sunday.
Triolo solidified his position as the top hitter for the weekend with a three-run home run and an RBI single. Sophomore Landon Etzel followed Triolo with a two-run home run, his third of the year, helping the team coast to a 9-3 victory.
For the series the Cougars outhit the Tigers 27 runs to 12 and outscored them 14-3 to start conference play at 3-0.
“They kind of took it to us last year,” Triolo said. “So we’re ready to give them what they’ve got coming.”
Next up for the Cougars is the first game of the Silver Glove Series against the Rice Owls. The game will be played in Reckling Park at Rice University with first pitch scheduled for 6:30 p.m.