Cougars annihilate 8-game losing streak

So that’s what it looks like when the Cougars put it all together.

After suffering through a dreadful Friday and Saturday in which their pitching staff was completely dismantled by Collegiate Baseball No. 17 California Polytechnic State University, the Cougars pounded out nine hits and played errorless baseball behind a dominant pitching performance from right-hander Michael Goodnight to take the series finale, 3-2, Sunday at Cougar Field.

UH head coach Rayner Noble was relieved to see his team end an eight-game losing streak that dates back to a 9-2 loss to Rice on Feb. 25.

‘It feels outstanding,’ Noble said. ‘It’s kind of like walking through the desert for about nine days without a drop of water and then a big keg of it gets poured on you.’

The Cougars, who dropped 13-5 and 13-9 decisions to Cal Poly (8-2) on Friday and Saturday, respectively, saw a change in their weekend rotation when Noble inserted Goodnight into the Sunday slot.

UH (3-10) wasn’t disappointed as he gave up two runs on three hits and struck out six batters in seven strong innings. A wild pitch and a solo homer in the seventh inning were Goodnight’s only blemishes.

Goodnight (2-0) had great command of his curveball, which kept the Mustangs hitters off balance all day. He was relieved by left-hander William Kankel, who came in from right field to pitch a scoreless eighth, before left-hander Donnie Joseph threw a perfect ninth to collect the save.

‘Goodnight really set the tone on the mound,’ center fielder Zak Presley said. ‘Coming off two losses (in the series), he gave us exactly what we needed by shutting (the Mustangs) down and giving us a lot of momentum.’

Goodnight wasn’t the only dominant starting pitcher Sunday. His counterpart, Cal Poly right-hander DJ Mauldin, was equally masterful. Mauldin (1-1) gave up two earned runs in eight innings while striking out 13 Cougars in eight innings.

Despite Mauldin’s dominance, UH managed to put together a solid all-around effort and finished the game strong.

Neither team could push a run across until the bottom of the third, when Blake Kelso (3-for-4, two stolen bases, a run and a RBI) reached on a double to right-center and scored on Chase Dempsay’s single through the left side.

The Cougars increased their lead to 2-0 in the fourth when a throwing error by Mustang shortstop Kyle Smith allowed Codey Morehouse to reach base and scored Presley, who had singled and stole second base.

After having perfect outings in the third, fourth, fifth and sixth inning, Goodnight found trouble in the seventh, when he gave up a leadoff double to Adam Melker, who scored on a wild pitch two outs later. Goodnight recovered by inducing two fly outs, but gave up a line-drive home run to designated hitter Luke Yoder that barely cleared the center-field wall to tie the game at 2. Goodnight struck out the next batter to end the inning.

The Cougars answered in the bottom of the seventh with Taylor White’s leadoff triple. Kelso continued his offensive onslaught by driving in White with a one-out single that put the Cougars up 3-2 and ultimately cemented the win they desperately needed.

‘We know we’re a good team; we’ve just been kind of slumping right now,’ Goodnight said. ‘Hopefully, this game will get us back on track, and we’ll go on a winning streak.’

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