With two-thirds of their non-conference schedule out of the way, the Cougars will now set their sights on Conference-USA play.
The University of Houston team will travel to Hattiesburg, Miss. for their first conference series of the season to take on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles for a three-game set. The series is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m. Friday at Pete Taylor Park.
“Opening conference play on the road against Southern Miss, obviously it’s a big series for us,” head coach Todd Whitting said. “The way the NCAA is set up and the way they select for the NCAA tournament at the end of the year, every weekend is big.
“This weekend we are going to try to solidify ourselves at the top of the rankings, but also continue to build our resume so we can be in the field of 64 at the end of the season.”
With this upcoming series, the Cougars wrap up a stretch where 13-of-14 games have been played away from Cougar Field. And so far this season, they haven’t faired so well away from their home field. They are 2-5 on the road, 5-4 at Cougar Field and 2-1 at neutral sites (Minute Maid Park).
“We’ve played at two pretty tough places to play in going to Ole Miss and Oklahoma State,” sophomore center fielder Landon Appling said. “We’ve got a lot of young players that haven’t really experienced the atmosphere of being on the road. Coach Whitting tells us all the time that the game is the same; the only thing that changes is the atmosphere around the ballpark.
“I think we’re getting a lot of confidence knowing that we can play with some really good teams.”
According to several websites, the Cougars’ strength of schedule has been among the top 20 in the nation. This may account for some of their losses.
“This is an extremely tough schedule, probably more than this club was ready for,” Whitting said. “But we’ve had some good weekends, getting a win against Arkansas, who’s only got two losses this year, and going on the road to Oklahoma State, beating a very good team in their home ballpark. They’re showing signs of maturing and getting better.”
UH is going into the series with three wins out its last four games, while the Golden Eagles lost three out of their last five.
Last season, the Cougars won their series against the Golden Eagles, taking two out of three games.