Cougars reverse fortunes
The Cougars almost completely redeemed themselves one weekend after Texas State swept them.
The Cougars didn’t win all three of their games against the West Coast Conference’s Santa Clara, but they did take two out of three in the series at Cougar Field.
After winning Friday and Saturday 17-9 and 3-2, respectively, UH lost 5-3 on Sunday to fall to 2-4 on the season.
Head coach Rayner Noble said his team certainly showed improvement from last weekend, but it still has several issues to work out.
“We won two games,” Noble said, “That’s better than what we did last weekend, but we’ve got a whole lot to get better at. We’ll just go back to getting busy working on it.”
The Cougars came up with their grittiest performance of the year in Saturday’s victory.
With the score tied at 2 and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Joel Ansley reached base on an infield single.
During Blake Kelso’s at-bat, Ansley advanced to second base when Broncos’ catcher Geoff Klein threw the ball into center field in an attempt to catch Ansley stealing.
But Ansley kept churning, rounding third when center fielder Lucas Herbst mishandled the ball. UH third base coach Russell Stockton gave Ansley the green light, allowing Ansley to slide into home just before Herbst’s throw arrived.
“It feels good; that’s what it boils down to,” Noble said. “If you’re going to go places and get into the NCAA field, you’re going to have to win close games.”
The win was important for the Cougars, considering their 1-3 start to the season. But they certainly had many more opportunities to lose this game than win. UH benefited from erratic, but tenacious relief work and five double plays to prevent what could’ve been a blowout loss.
“We were very, very fortunate to win this game,” Noble said. “But our pitchers hung in there and just made pitches when they needed to — the double play was certainly our friend today.”
Starter Ty Stuckey and the relievers walked nine Broncos and hit four of them, but only allowed two unearned runs via two errors.
“It’s amazing how this game goes, because you would think with as many walks and hit batsmen that we would’ve lost this game by eight or 10 runs,” Noble said. “I keep preaching to our pitchers, ‘you’ve got to keep fighting, and see if you can’t get out of the inning with a double play,’ and that’s what we did.”
The Cougars’ pitching woes appeared to be back when Santa Clara scored three runs in the first two innings of Friday’s series opener. But UH’s bats woke up soon after, as the Cougars scored four in the third inning.
“From where we were last weekend, we’ll take it,” Noble said. “Our hitters came and did a good job, and that’s what we needed. Our pitching still has a long way to go.”
In the third inning, Caleb Ramsey singled to left-center with one out. He scored when Austin Gracey hit a spinning bouncer to shortstop Justin Viele who committed an error.
Matt Creel, who went 4-of-6 with seven RBIs, hit a two-run triple off the left-centerfield wall, tie the game at three. Presley followed with a chopper that landed between the mound and second base, allowing Creel score and give UH a 4-3 lead.
“We got a lot more hits together, instead of spread out like it was against Texas State,” Creel said. “Last weekend we got hits. We just didn’t hit enough combined. We got a lot more base runners on, and we got a lot more hits with runners on.”
The Broncos scored two runs in the fourth inning to regain the lead at 5-4, but the Cougars answered in the bottom of the fourth with five runs and never looked back.
UH had a chance for a sweep in Sunday’s game, but starter Eric Brooks gave up four runs in the fourth to put the Cougars in a hole they couldn’t climb out of.
The Cougars will begin their 2010 Silver Glove Series with Rice at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Reckling Park. This game will not count toward the Conference USA Standings.