The Cougars just can’t seem to beat the Owls.
UH fell to No. 5 Rice for the 16th straight time, dropping the first of five contests this season, 4-1.
Through four innings, it was a competitive game and the Cougars were up 1-0, but then things started to fall apart. The pitching started to fade and the Cougars made costly errors.
“We had a couple of things go wrong for us,” head coach Todd Whitting said. “We just made a couple of mistakes, which against a good team, they’ll get you when you do that.”
Starting pitcher Austin Pruitt brought his A-game and through four innings was awesome, but in the fifth, he got tired and the Rice offense took advantage. Pruitt went six innings, allowing three runs, two earned with seven strikeouts and two walks.
“(My) arm was kind of hanging a little bit and I wasn’t really getting on top of the ball as well as I wanted to,” Pruitt said. “I threw it okay for a little bit, but I kind of got tired.
“A couple of things didn’t go our way, but we played hard.”
Rice’s pitching and timely hitting proved too much for the Cougars.
“I think they’re the best team in the country, hands down,” Whitting said. “There’s nobody in the country that’s pitching like that.
“In the years that I’ve been involved with the University of Houston, playing Rice University, we’ve never had at bats that good against them. We had great at bats all night.”
Despite the loss, Whitting believes his team is on the right track and just needs a few plays here and there to go the Cougars’ way.
“If we have this effort and we play this hard, we’ll start getting those hits,” Whitting said.
UH got the scoring started in the fourth inning on an aggressive base running play by Casey Grayson. Grayson led off the inning with a single to left-center, and after a Chase Jensen one-out walk, Zack Gibson sent a shallow fly ball to center field. Grayson left second base taking a chance the ball wouldn’t be caught. He made the right decision and scored the Cougars’ only run of the game.
The lead did not last long though, as the Owls responded in the top of the next frame with two runs of their own. Shane Hoelscher hit an RBI single, driving in Michael Ratterree and the next batter, Ryan Lewis, doubled-in Hoelscher.
The Owls added additional runs in the sixth and seventh innings, pushing the score to its final mark of 4-1.
Up next for the Cougars is a match up against the Tennessee Volunteers at 3:30 p.m. Friday at the College Baseball Classic at Minute Maid Park.