UH could have used one of any number of things to pull out a comeback win against Collegiate Baseball No. 8 Rice on Sunday.
One big hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. One poor throw by a Rice infielder. One ball that didn’t get crushed for a home run. Or just one more at-bat.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, they received none of those things.
Instead, the Cougars saw a ninth-inning rally fall short for the second consecutive game, as the potential tying run was stranded at second base in a 6-5 loss in the Silver Glove Series finale before a crowd of 1,633 at Cougar Field.
The Cougars (22-25, 11-7 Conference USA) dropped their eighth decision in the last 10 meetings with the Owls, who claimed their ninth consecutive Silver Glove Series with four wins in five contests this season. UH also lost another game in the conference standings to first-place Rice (31-11, 13-5 C-USA), which is one game ahead of East Carolina and two games ahead of the Cougars with two C-USA series remaining.
A win Sunday would have put UH in a tie for first place with its crosstown rival. Similar to Saturday’s 7-5 loss, in which the Cougars failed to capitalize after loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth with no outs, this one came down to the last pitch.
‘It’s the same way it’s gone for us all year,’ said UH left-hander Wes Musick, who fell to 4-6 after giving up six runs in seven innings. ‘We were right there, and the little things caught us and ended up helping us falter. Today, we played hard and did our best. It was just one of those days where we just didn’t come out on top.’
UH entered the bottom of the ninth trailing 6-3, but made things interesting by placing runners at second and third with no outs against Owls reliever Matt Evers (3-2). Jake Runte drove in William Kankel with a groundout to shortstop, and pinch hitter Tom Wertz scored David Murphy from third with a double to left field to pull the Cougars within one.
The momentum died shortly after that. Evers was replaced by right-hander Kyle Reckling, who got Blake Kelso to ground out to shortstop on a close play at first. Reckling followed by striking out Zak Presley on three pitches to seal the win.
‘It’s so frustrating,’ said UH left-hander Donnie Joseph, who tossed two scoreless innings in relief of Musick and earned his seventh save in Friday’s 7-4 win. ‘There’s a difference between losing close to a team and losing close to (the Owls), especially when we were just one pitch away. It’s heartbreaking to our team. There’s a lot to learn from this and build off of, but it’s just tough right now.’
The Cougars fell into a 3-0 hole when Rice’s Jeremy Rathjen and Rick Hague took Musick deep for a solo homer and a two-run shot, respectively, in the third. UH, however, tied the score with three runs off Rice starter Jared Rogers in the fourth.
Musick settled down after that, allowing only one hit during the next four innings. But Musick ran into trouble in the eighth, giving up another two-run shot to Hague and a solo blast to Anthony Rendon, who was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Silver Glove Series.
Rendon’s homer proved to be the deciding run.
‘It was probably one of the best played series we’ve ever had against Rice,’ UH head coach Rayner Noble said. ‘We were just that far away from getting it done.’