Injured catcher returns with hit
After missing 18 games because of a facial fracture, UH catcher Chris Wallace was ready to make up for lost time when he returned to the lineup against Texas-San Antonio on Wednesday.
So far, he’s making good on that goal.
Wallace torched the Roadrunners’ pitching staff with two home runs, leading the Cougars to a 14-7 win at Nelson Wolff Stadium in San Antonio.
Wallace finished 4-for-5 with three runs, a walk and six RBIs in his first game since being hit below the right eye by a pitch from Texas A&M’s Barret Loux in a 5-3 loss March 1. Wallace had to undergo surgery to repair a fractured orbital bone and was expected to miss eight weeks.
Fortunately for the Cougars (10-17), Wallace was able to recover in a month and propel them to their third consecutive win and sixth in the last eight games.
‘I can’t say enough about that kid. He’s just a tough guy,’ head coach Rayner Noble said. ‘He was just chomping at the bit to get back in the lineup. He wanted to play last weekend, but you have to kind of ease yourself back into this. I guess he proved me wrong.’The Cougars, who avenged a 14-8 loss to UTSA on March 4, produced 18 hits, providing more than enough support for their pitching staff. Starter Mo Wiley had a shaky outing, giving up four runs on five hits in 3 1/3 innings, but reliever William Kankel (1-1) tossed 2 2/3 shutout frames to earn the win.
Right-hander Jared Ray followed up his 5 2/3-shutout innings performance in Sunday’s 4-3 win against Tulane with one shutout relief inning and two strikeouts against the Roadrunners (15-12). He was brought into the game after UTSA placed runners at second and third against right-hander Barry Laird in the seventh. Ray worked out of Laird’s mess, retiring all three batters he faced, with one runner scoring on a groundout.
‘Jared Ray emerged today,’ Noble said. ‘He was 93 to 95 (miles per hour) on the radar gun, and they didn’t have a chance against in the short spread that he was in there.’
The Cougars jumped on UTSA from the outset, taking a 5-0 lead in the top of the first off Roadrunners starter Andy Benedict (1-1). Caleb Ramsey and Kankel opened the scoring with RBI-singles before Wallace crushed a three-run shot to center field.
UTSA scored four runs in the third to reduce its deficit to 5-4, but the Cougars responded immediately.
Zak Presley scored on a two-out wild pitch in the fourth, and UH picked up three more runs on Taylor White’s RBI-double and Zak Presley’s two-run single. Wallace gave the Cougars an 11-4 lead with his second homer – a two-run blast – in the sixth.
The Roadrunners scored once in the seventh and twice in the eighth to pull within 11-7, but UH responded with three runs in the ninth to put the game out of reach.
Wallace drove in the final run with a two-out double.
‘He really got after it tonight, not only at the plate, but also behind home plate,’ Noble said. ‘He took a couple of foul tips off the bat, and it didn’t even faze him. It’s a good way for him to come back into the action, and it’s just a real boost for the whole team, from an inspirational and a toughness standpoint.’