Feb. 14, 2014
HOUSTON - Highlighted by a dominating pitching performance by junior Aaron Garza and a 3-for-3 effort, including a home run by senior Casey Grayson lifted Houston Baseball to a season-opening 3-0 win over Nicholls State at Cougar Field on Friday night.
The Cougars jumped out to a 1-0 start for the 2014 season, while Nicholls State fell to 0-1.
Garza (7.0,2,0,0,1,6), who made his 24th career start, didn't disappoint for Houston as the righty from Galveston was lights out in his 7.0-inning shutout effort. Holding Nicholls State without a hit over the first 4.2 innings, Garza surrendered just two scattered hits and one walk in his outing to accompany his career-tying six strikeouts.
It didn't take long for Grayson to make his return a memorable one as the first baseman belted a solo homerun to deep right field on just the second pitch in his first at-bat as a Cougar this season to give Houston a 1-0 lead in the third.
Solid defense on the new FieldTurf and an impressive pitching performance kept Nicholls State intact all night as Garza held the Colonels out of scoring position in his 7.0 innings of work.
Holding on to a 1-0 lead, the Cougars welcomed in senior closer Chase Wellbrock (2.0,3,0,0,0,5) in the eighth, who fanned five of his nine hitters he faced for 2.0 shutout innings in relief to earn his first save and 13th of his career.
Despite a scare in the eighth, Wellbrock fanned the side after stranding runners at second and third to preserve a Cougars' lead heading into the bottom of the eighth.
Senior shortstop Frankie Ratcliff gave Houston a cushion in the eighth when he laced a sharp single up the middle to plate two and extend Houston's lead to 3-0. Scoring on that hit was sophomores Josh Vidales and Kyle Survance, each reaching on a walk and sacrifice bunt fielder's choice, respectively.
Grayson led the Houston offense with a 3-for-3 night, which included a homerun. He was followed by senior Caleb Barker (2x3) with two hits and Ratcliff (1x4, 2 RBI) with two RBI. Also notching a base hit were Vidales (1x2, R), Survance (1x3, R).
Garza (1-0) earns the win, while Wellbrock (1) picked up the save.
For Nicholls State, starter Taylor Byrd (5.0,5,1,1,1,6) suffered the loss after allowing one run on five hits over 5.0 innings.
Head Coach Todd Whitting
On starting pitcher Aaron Garza
"With [Aaron] Garza tonight that was legitimate Friday night stuff. The thing I really appreciate about his effort tonight was he was extremely aggressive towards the zone. He didn't pitch around the zone, he went right at that their hitters, and I know that's what Coach [Frank] Anderson preaches."
On Casey Grayson
"Yeah that's a storybook deal, your first at bat after literally being out two years you come back, and just drop an absolute bomb into the tree in right field. I was very happy, and proud for him."
Sophomore Aaron Garza
On his game tonight
"I felt pretty good out there. Waking up this morning I wanted to dominate every part of my day. Just coming out here today was fun, good to be back. I was a little jittery at first, but after I settled in after the first inning I felt fine."
On having Friday night stuff
"That's my goal, to take it one pitch at a time, whether it's Friday, Saturday, Sunday or even Tuesday. Whenever the team needs me to go out there. Luckily I got the win tonight, and it was great to be apart of."
Senior Casey Grayson
On getting back out there
"Yeah I was anxious at first. Coach Whitting came up to me since I was leading off saying get a pitch you can hit. Guy left the fastball over the plate, and I put a good swing on it, then it carried over the wall. The other two at bats I was just trying to lay off the off-speed, and jump on the fastball, and luckily I found some holes."
Houston Baseball will return to action at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for Game 2 of the three-game set with Nicholls State.
Any kid 8th grade and under wearing a Houston Baseball Camp t-shirt to any home game will received FREE ADMISSION!
SINGLE GAME TICKETS
Single-game tickets begin as low as $6 for youth and $8 for adults in general admission seating (Level 200) and as low as $8 for youth and $10 for adults in reserved seating (Level 100).
Premium games for the Cougars will include the Baylor midweek game (Tues., March 11), the Rice midweek game (Tues., March 25) and the Louisville weekend series (April 11-13). Premium games begin as low as $7 for youth and $10 for adults in general admission seating (Level 200) and as low as $12 for youth and $15 for adults in reserved seating (Level 100).
By visiting UHCougars.com, clicking the Tickets link, and then Purchase Tickets, while following the appropriate links to the Baseball page or by clicking here, fans can begin purchasing tickets for single games at Cougar Field this season.
FAMILY PLAN TICKET PACKAGE
Families can purchase the Family Plan for just $399, which includes two adult and two youth General Admission tickets to each of the 33 home games.
General Admission seats include 33 "Anytime Tickets". You may use one ticket to each home game, 33 tickets to one game, or any combination in between.
General Admission season tickets start for as low as $150 (33 home games/$4.50 per ticket), while Reserved season tickets start at only $200 (33 home games/$6.00 per ticket).
To purchase, visit the Tickets tab, Purchase Tickets, while following the appropriate links to the Baseball page under Season Tickets or by clicking here.
For questions or concerns, call or visit the Athletics Ticket Office at 713-GO-COOGS (462-6647) or 877-COUGAR-5 (268-4275).
Stay up to date with all Houston Baseball news and highlights by following us on Twitter @UHCougarBB or on Facebook at /HoustonCougarBaseball. Fans can also follow head coach Todd Whitting @toddwhitting on Twitter.