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Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Baseball

Cougars drop anvil on Roadrunners


In Tuesday’s game against Texas-San Antonio, it was almost as if the Cougars and Austin Gracey had had enough.

It was almost as if they were sick of their recent funk, which saw them drop seven of their last eight games, and Gracey literally took the game into his own hands.

Gracey hit three home runs to tie a UH single-game record and drove in seven runs to lead UH to a 14-8 victory over the Roadrunners. They were both career highs for Gracey, and the last UH player to hit three home runs in a game was Jake Stewart on April 18, 2008.

“It’s amazing, all three of his home runs were like Groundhog Day,” head coach Rayner Noble said. “They were all the same. It was like he hit one, it landed over the left field fence, and then the next two he hit were almost identical, the way he hit them, and where they landed.

“He just absolutely single-handedly won the game for us. I mean, we had every guy have good nights, but he set the tone.”

Lead nearly wasted

With seven runs through the first three innings, it was an opportunity for the Cougars’ struggling pitching staff to try and get its confidence back with a comfortable lead and little pressure to try to be perfect.

Mo Wiley, though, who was making his fourth start and has struggled mightily himself, nearly coughed up the lead in the fourth. Wiley gave up five runs and three extra base hits, including a three-run homer and two-run double.

“He gave us three solid innings and then the little small things happened to him. He ended up giving up a double with the bases loaded, gave up three runs and then a two-run homer, because he was elevating the ball, but I was fairly pleased with the way he threw,” Noble said. “This was — for three innings — one of the best stints I’ve seen him have.

“For three innings he was solid, what we’ve got to do is be able to stretch him out to where he doesn’t implode like that.”

Gracey to the rescue

Gracey, though, wouldn’t allow the Cougars to lose. He ignited the Cougars’ six-run second inning with a critical three-run homer, then hit a solo shot in the third to UH (14-17) a 7-0 lead.

After the Roadrunners (13-18) closed the gap to 7-5 in the fourth, Gracey hit another three-run homer in the sixth inning to push UH’s advantage to 10-5.

However, that lead was threatened again when the Roadrunners answered with two runs off lefty reliever William Kankel in the bottom of the fifth.

Lefty Ty Stuckey came on and allowed runners to third and first with two outs and fell behind 3-1 to Tyler Carpenter, but struck him out to end the inning.

Noble said escaping that jam was just as important as the offensive explosion the Cougars unleashed.

“I thought it was big because they had a lot of momentum at that time, and you know Ty was fabulous tonight,” Noble said. “He pitched three innings, gave up three hits, and struck out six so, he had quite a bit on the ball which is really encouraging.”

The Cougars went on to score a run in the sixth and three in eighth to put the Roadrunners away for good.

UH returns to action when it hosts Conference-USA rival Memphis for a three-game series beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

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