They waited an extra day to start their season due to inclement weather, but the results were worth the wait for the Cougars.
“A three-game sweep over a quality opponent is really good,” head coach Todd Whitting said. “You definitely want to start off the season 3-0 and not 0-3.”
Saturday’s doubleheader started out in dreary fashion, and it wasn’t just the drizzling rain and overcast skies. The Cougars went into the eighth inning down 5-0 before an argued call sparked a seven-run explosion that gave UH the win.
Landon Appling was hit by a pitch, but the umpire didn’t award him first base. Appling and Whitting argued the call, but to no avail.
That exchange sparked the Cougars. The team’s next six batters reached base and the Cougars batted around in the inning, scoring all of their seven runs. Jake Runte’s RBI triple and Price Jacob’s 2-RBI suicide-squeeze highlighted the offensive outburst.
“I’m really proud of the ball club,” Whitting said. “We want the ‘M-O’ of our team to be one that never stops playing and that was a perfect example of why you keep sprinting back to your position after outs, you keep hustling on and off the field. At some point, you’re going to have a chance to get momentum and that’s what happened tonight.”
Closer Mo Wiley entered the game in the ninth to preserve the UH victory.
“It was really frustrating, the first part of the game,” Wiley said. “Things just weren’t going our way. We lost a little bit of energy in the dugout, but coach Whitting picked us up. He had faith in the team the whole time.”
The momentum carried over to the next game as the Cougars crushed the Blue Hens, 16-1.
The Cougars got to Delaware’s pitching early and often, posting seven, one, two and five runs in the first four innings, respectively.
Landon Appling was once again the catalyst for the scoring, tattooing a lead-off home run to left field. Casey Grayson (3-for-5, 3 RBI) and Price Jacobs (3-for-4, 2 RBI) paced the Cougar’s attack, and Chase Jensen, Jacob Lueneberg and Taylor White each had two hits.
Starting pitcher Jordan Lewis stymied the Delaware offense, allowing no runs on four hits while striking out three in five and two-thirds innings.
“That was as good as he’s thrown,” Whitting said. “He had command of his pitches. He was flawless tonight.”
In the series finale, the UH offensive barrage continued as they demolished the Blue Hens, 9-2.
Delaware took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third, but the Cougars immediately responded in the bottom half of the frame by posting three runs of their own. They added two more runs in the fourth inning and an additional four in the ninth, quelling any hopes of a Delaware comeback. Delaware added one run in the ninth to get the score to the final mark of 9-2.
In his collegiate debut, freshman starting pitcher Aaron Garza tossed a solid six innings, allowing one run on five hits while striking out three.
“For us to come out and get a sweep against Delaware is huge for this team,” Garza said. “It took me a while to settle in, but after that first strike, I felt OK. (The win) felt great.”