UH jumps back into C-USA fray
The Cougars rediscovered their winning ways when they beat Texas-San Antonio 14-8 on Tuesday, snapping their three-game losing streak and pulling back to within three games of .500.
The next task for the Cougars (14-17, 2-4 Conference USA) will be to build on that victory and climb back into the C-USA picture when they take on the Memphis Tigers (15-18, 5-4) this weekend, beginning at 6:30 p.m. today at Cougar Field.
The Cougars got off to a great start in conference play when they took two out of three against UCF at Cougar Field on March 26-28. Rice then swept the Cougars a week later at Reckling Park. As a result, UH is only one game ahead of Southern Miss’s last place in C-USA.
Against Memphis, the series will feature two teams who have struggled all year on the mound. The Cougars’ team ERA is 5.54, while Memphis’ team ERA is 5.94. Just last Tuesday, against UTSA, UH’s pitchers gave up eight runs, including five in the fourth inning, after being staked to a 7-0 lead. Still, head coach Rayner Noble was proud of his pitchers.
“You take away that fourth inning, and I think our pitchers really pitched the ball well,” Noble said. “I was proud of the job our pitchers did, and that’s what we need. We need guys to come out and throw with conviction, and that’s what they did.”
The story of the game was Austin Gracey’s three-homer, seven-RBI performance, but the understated performance award goes to lefty Ty Stuckey.
Gracey hit a three-run homer in the top of the fifth inning, but in the bottom half William Kankel gave up two runs and the score was 10-7 UH. With runners on third and first with two outs, Stuckey struck out Tyler Carpenter to end the rally.
“I thought it was big because they had a lot of momentum at the time, and Ty was fabulous. I think what I’m probably going to do is start him Sunday,” Noble said.
“That would be nice if Ty can slide into one of those weekend slots. I mean, he’s definitely got the stuff to do that. Tonight he pitched three innings, gave up two hits and struck out six. He had quite a bit on the ball, which was very encouraging.”
The Cougars will go up against a Memphis team featuring Chad Zurcher, hitting .414, and Tyler Huelsing, hitting .370 with 11 homeruns.
The UH pitching staff’s main issue has been walks, and Memphis doesn’t draw many. The Tigers are last in the conference with 113, but they can swing the bat with a .305 team batting average.
Noble said the key is keeping the ball down in the strike zone, particularly with runners in scoring position.
“We just need to understand that when we pitch, if we keep the ball down, we’ll be fine,” Noble said. “I mean we got hurt Tuesday only because the pitches were elevated, and it just happened to be with runners in scoring position. So we’ve just got to do a better job of pitching with runners in scoring position.”