May 12, 2006
HOUSTON - University of Houston senior outfielder Matt Weston blasted a two-run homer, and junior righthander Brad Lincoln struck out nine with only five hits allowed in tossing his second shutout of the season to lead the 10th-ranked Cougar Baseball team to a 3-0 win over No. 1 Rice on Friday night in the opening game of a Conference USA series at Reckling Park.
In a game featuring two of the nation's premier pitchers, Lincoln came out on top and picked up his 10th consecutive win to improve to 11-1 this season. The Clute, Texas, native retired the first 10 batters that he faced while throwing at least seven strikeouts for the 14th time in 15 starts this season.
Lincoln retired the leadoff batter in eight of nine innings and allowed only two runners to reach base in the fourth and ninth innings. Rice staged its biggest threat of the game in the final inning, putting runners on first and second with only one out, but the Cougar hurler struck out Derek Myers and forced Jordan Dodson to fly out to right field to end the contest.
Meanwhile, Weston played a key role in all three Cougar runs. The Chino Hills, Calif., native drew a leadoff walk in the second inning and scored the first run of the game on Josh Stirneman's triple to the wall in right center.
Four innings later, Weston jumped into the team lead with his 12th homer of the season, a two-run shot that cleared the center field wall. He finished the night 2-for-3 with two runs and two RBIs as the only player for either team with more than one hit.
That would be all the run support that Lincoln would need.
Rice starter Eddie Degerman collected the loss and fell to 9-1 after giving up three runs off four hits with eight strikeouts in 8.2 innings of work.
With the win, the Cougars improved to 35-17 overall, 18-4 C-USA. Rice fell to 40-10 overall, 17-2 C-USA.
UH also snapped a six-game losing streak to the Owls at Reckling Park dating back to the 2003 NCAA Houston Super Regional. It also was the team's first regular-season road win on Rice's home field since Feb. 21, 2001, a span of 10 games.
The Cougars continue the series at 2 p.m., Saturday before wrapping up at 1 p.m., Sunday, at Reckling Park. Both games can be heard live over the Internet at www.UHCougars.com with former UH letterwinners Nick Torina and Pat Cauley calling all the action. Fans also can follow play-by-play action by clicking on the "Live Stats" link on the schedule at www.UHCougars.com.
Sophomore righthander Ricky Hargrove will take the hill against No. 1 Rice on Saturday. This season, the Katy, Texas, native has compiled a 7-4 record with 73 strikeouts and a 2.62 ERA in 86.2 innings of work. His ERA, innings pitched, wins and strikeouts are second among all UH hurlers.
In his last start, Hargrove struck out a career-best nine batters with only one earned run allowed in 8.1 innings of work during the middle game of the UCF series on May 6 at Cougar Field. His strikeout total topped his previous single-game high of set against C-USA foes Marshall and Memphis earlier this season.
After giving up single runs in the second and third innings, Hargrove settled down, facing only two batters over the minimum during a five-inning stretch midway through his stint.
Saturday's middle game at No. 1 Rice will be Hargrove's third appearance but second start against the Owls. In two previous appearances, Hargrove has posted an 0-1 record with five strikeouts and a 4.50 ERA in 6.0 innings of work. He competed in the third and fourth games of the 2005 Silver Glove Series.
Rice is slated to counter with sophomore righthander Bobby Bell. This season, Bell has compiled a 6-0 record with 45 strikeouts and a 2.77 ERA in 48.2 innings of work.
The Cougars struck for the game's first run in the second inning. Matt Weston drew a leadoff walk and came all the way around to score when Josh Stirneman laced a triple to the wall in left center for a 1-0 UH lead.
The score remained that way until the sixth inning. Isa Garcia led off with a single into right field. Two batters later, Weston launched an 0-1 offering over the center field to push the UH advantage to 3-0.