UH looks to get back on track

Only a week ago, the Cougars were cruising along.

They entered last weekend with a seven-game win streak and 10 victories in 12 games, including an upset of Texas A&M on April 7. From pitching to hitting, UH had everything going in its favor.

Suddenly, the wheels fell off and the Cougars’ ride came to a crashing halt.

They dropped two of three games to Southern Miss last weekend, barely winning the series finale to avoid a sweep. The slump continued with Tuesday’s 11-2 loss at Sam Houston State, a game where UH’s offense was held scoreless for the final eight innings.’

With 19 games remaining in the regular season, the Cougars (15-20, 5-4 Conference USA) have only one thing on their minds heading into this weekend’s three-game series at league rival Memphis: a sweep.’

‘We’ve got to sweep Memphis on the road,’ catcher Chris Wallace said. ‘We need three wins bad.’

The teams will open their series at 6:30 p.m. today at USA Stadium in Millington, Tenn. The Cougars will start right-hander Jared Ray (1-2, 6.33 ERA) today and follow with right-hander Michael Goodnight (4-2, 3.63) and left-hander Wes Musick (3-5, 6.18) on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Ray, who will make his first start since March 4, has been one of the Cougars’ most dominant pitchers out of the bullpen.’

‘We need big wins on Friday in conference,’ Ray said. ‘This is a tough conference, and you’re going to run into some tough weekends. Friday really sets the tone for the weekend, so it feels good that (head coach Rayner Noble) has confidence in me to be that guy who sets the tone for the weekend for the whole team.’

Right-hander Frank Corolla’s poor start during last Friday’s 13-8 loss to Southern Miss prompted Noble to insert Ray back into the starting rotation.’

‘Hopefully, he reacts in a positive way to this start coming up,’ Noble said. ‘If he just relaxes and does what he’s been doing, we’ll be just fine.’

Memphis (16-20, 3-6 C-USA) has been on a small roll lately, winning five of its last seven games. The Tigers will start left-hander Brennon Martin (5-1, 3.38) today.

The Tigers are tied with Alabama-Birmingham and Tulane for sixth place in C-USA and have a dismal Ratings Percentage Index of 154. Still, the Tigers present a challenge for the fourth-place Cougars, who are only 6-7 on the road.

‘It’s a big series for us,’ Noble said. ‘We’re going to have to play like men on the road.’

With their chances of slipping back into discussion for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament all but gone, they’ll need to take at least two of three games against Memphis to stay on track.

‘We’re just going to go out there, play the game we know to play and hope that it turns out the best for us,’ shortstop Blake Kelso said.

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