March 20, 2004
HATTIESBURG, Miss. - University of Houston pitcher Matt Varner came out of the bullpen Saturday to hold 18th-ranked Southern Miss to only two hits in 3.2 shutout innings of relief to help lead the Cougars to a 10-6 win in the middle game of a Conference USA series at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field.
The senior righthander entered the game in the fourth inning with UH clinging to a 4-2 lead with two outs and the bases loaded. However, Varner forced Jason Lowery to hit into a groundout to end the threat.
Varner improved to 3-2 this season and added a pair of strikeouts in the winning effort. He, starter Shea Hancock and reliever Rickey Putman combined to hold USM to only four hits through the first eight innings before USM rallied in the ninth inning with four runs.
USM starter Cliff Russum picked up his first loss of the year after giving up six runs off eight hits with two strikeouts and two walks in 4.2 innings.
The Cougars (8-13, 1-1 C-USA) displayed some offensive power of their own during Saturday's win. UH blasted 12 hits with six of those going for extra bases, including five doubles. Travis Tully and Patrick Gaylord led the way for the Cougars as each went 3-for-5 with two runs and RBIs with Tully adding a pair of doubles.
Brett Cooley batted 2-for-5 with two runs, a home run and four RBIs in the winning effort. Marc Maddox went 3-for-5 with two runs, a home run and three RBIs, while Beau Griffin batted 2-for-5 with a run, and RBI to top Southern Miss.
The Cougars wrap up the series at 1 p.m., Saturday at Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field. The game can be heard live on KAXF 88.3 FM or over the Internet at www.UHcougars.com with C.B. Devoy and Pat Cauley calling the action. Fans also can follow the action through live stats by clicking on the Gametracker at the bottom of the main page at www.UHCougars.com.
Freshman righthander Brad Lincoln (1-1, 6.43) is expected to make the start for the Cougars with Southern Miss slated to start righthander Patrick Ezell (1-0, 2.89).
UH grabbed the lead with four runs in the third inning. Gaylord led off with a bunt single and moved into scoring position on Tully's looping single into shallow left-center field. After Kevin Roberts' double down the left field line plated Gaylord, Cooley brought all the runners home with a three-run bomb over the wall in left center.
The score remained that way until the fourth inning when Maddox blasted a two-run homer over the center field wall. It was Maddox's third home run of the series.
However, the Cougars pushed that lead back to four runs of their own in the next half inning. Tully started the rally with a one-out double to left center. After a Roberts walk, Cooley blasted a double off the wall in left center to plate Tully. Cooley eventually came around to score on Rob Johnson's double down the left field line for a 6-2 UH lead.
In the seventh, the Cougars pushed their lead to eight runs with another four-spot on the scoreboard. After Patrick Breen walked and Cole Bruce singled to lead off the inning, Thanos Papavasiliou moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Brett Logan walked to load the bases, and Gaylord plated Breen and Bruce with a two-RBI single to right field. Both Gaylord and pinch-runner Matt Farrington moved up another base on a USM outfield error.
Tully slapped an RBI-double down the left field line to score both runners and give the Cougars a 10-2 lead.
USM made the game interesting with four runs in their final at-bat, thanks to Griffin's RBI-double, an RBI-double from Maddox and a two-run homer from Jarrett Hoffpauir. But UH reliever Brandon Roznovsky struck out pinch hitter Eddie Burger to end the threat and the game.