May 23, 2013
HOUSTON - University of Houston Baseball overcame an early deficit and rode the arm of senior right-hander pitcher Austin Pruitt, who tossed his fifth complete game, in a 9-4 win over No. 3 seed East Carolina in the C-USA Championship opener at Reckling Park on Thursday.
Win: Austin Pruitt (10-5)
Loss: Jeff Hoffman (6-7)
NUMBERS OF NOTE
4 Houston improved to 4-0 this season against East Carolina.
6 With the win, Houston has now won six consecutive games in championship play against ECU dating back to 2005.
13 With his single in the second inning, freshman>Justin Montemayor has now reached base safely in 13 consecutive games.
22 As a result of his 4-for-4 game, Montemayor now has a team leading 22 multi-hit games.
With the win, the Cougars improved their overall record to 36-20 and have now won four straight over the Pirates this season, which fall to 30-25 with the loss.
The victory also marked the sixth straight win by Houston over East Carolina in Championship play dating back to 2005.
Pruitt (9.0,12,4,3,3,4) tossed his fifth complete game of the season to garner his 10th win and improve to 10-5 following a three earned run, 12-hit effort with three walks and four strikeouts.
In his impressive senior season, Pruitt notched a decision and lasted at least 6.0 innings in all 15 starts.
Despite falling down 3-0 in the first inning, Houston continued to fight and battle its way back, producing a four-run third and never looking back from that point on as Pruitt was sharp during the middle innings, holding East Carolina's offense to just one run over the last eight innings.
Houston recorded 12 hits of its own, led by freshman Justin Montemayor's 4-for-4 effort, which also included an intentional walk, two RBI and a run scored. The four-hit performance was the "Freshman of the Year's" second of the year.
Freshman>Josh Vidales (2x5, R, 2 RBI, BB) collected two hits and scored a run, while driving in two - and tallying his 47th walk of the yeast - now just three shy of tying Michael Bourn's all-time freshman walk record of 50 set back in 2001.
Junior>Landon Appling (2x4, RBI) and freshman>Jacob Campbell (2x4, 3 R) notched a multi-hit game and drove in a run, while junior>Jonathan Davis (1x2, R, RBI), sophomore>Michael Pyeatt (1x4, R, RBI) and freshman Kyle Survance (0x3, R, RBI, 2 SAC) all collected an RBI in the win, while junior Frankie Ratcliff (1x5, R) scored a run and added a hit.
Houston saw itself down 3-0 after a four-hit first inning by East Carolina, but Pruitt and defense didn't allow that deficit to face the young team as it battled back to score four runs in the third to take over the lead.
The four-run third came on three hits, which began by a single by Campbell, moved up a base with a walk by Davis, allowing Appling to lay down a perfect sacrifice bunt to send runners to second and third with no outs. Vidales drove in the Cougars' first run on a single up the middle and moved to third on an RBI-squeeze bunt by Survance, which plated Davis.
The big swing came by Montemayor, who drove a 0-1 pitch down the right field line for a stand up double, scoring both Vidales and Survance to put the Cougars ahead 4-3.
That lead was secured, as Pruitt was lights out following a rough first inning. The Gregg Olson Award Semifinalist for "Breakout Player of the Year" retired the next nine of 10 Pirates to hold on to a one-run lead. He was helped by an inning-ending double play in the fourth after a one-out walk.
Houston was able to provide Pruitt insurance runs with two more in the sixth after Pyeatt opened the frame with a leadoff single into centerfield. Campbell followed up with his second hit of the game. The Cougars came around to score on a wild pitch and an RBI-groundout by Vidales.
East Carolina would score a run in the sixth following three hits, but Pruitt escaped the jam with a much-needed strikeout looking and groundout to second base to strand runners at first and third.
The Cougars tacked on two more runs to their 6-4 lead in the seventh with three hits. Ratcliff opened the frame with a single through the left side, followed by a single by Montemayor that dropped in for a base hit just over the second baseman's head. Pyeatt's fielder's choice scored Ratcliff after the "Newcomer of the Year" made a tremendous slide to avoid the tag at home. After another Pirate pitching change, David drilled a ball down the left field line to plate Montemayor and give Houston cushion entering the final two frames.
The offense, however, didn't let up with a four-run lead to score one final run in the ninth when Campbell reached via a hit-by-pitch and scored on RBI-single by Appling.
Houston chased East Carolina starter Jeff Hoffman (5.1,9,6,6,2,3) out after 5.1 innings and allowing six runs on nine hits and two walks. The loss dropped Hoffman to 6-7 on the year as two of his seven losses have come against the Cougars.
HEAD COACH Todd Whitting
"Honestly it didn't look good early, but East Carolina has a tremendous ball club. (Jeff) Hoffman is a good as it gets in the country. When he's throwing 97 miles per hour and we're down by three runs things don't look real good. I'm proud of my guys, we had some clutch hits, and we played great defense. Once (Austin) Pruitt settled in after that first inning he was the Austin Pruitt we all know.
On executing pitches down the stretch:
"With pitching it came down to Pruitt executing pitches. For us to be able to scatter their hits was crucial, and our defense making plays. I knew it was going to be an offensive game from their end. East Carolina can really swing the bat.
On the importance of the first win:
"Well it's huge for us. Our pitching depth is a little bit of an issue for us. I have a lot of confidence in our pitching staff, but you don't want to get deep into your pen on the first day. It looked like we were going to have to go to the pen early. If you go early in the pen in game one it can be a tough road for you the rest of the way. For us if we're fortunate enough to play on Sunday, we'll have played four games in four days. I would have bet anything Pruitt wouldn't have thrown a complete game. For him to do that was big for us."
On>Justin Montemayor at the plate today:
"Big time players have big time games, and they step up. He is a big time player and I'm really proud of him. I'm proud of the entire team. They are a championship team, and they deserve to play at the end of the year, and I hope they get an opportunity to do so."
SENIOR RHP Austin Pruitt
On being able to settle down after a three-run first inning:
"The defense played incredible. We had a few big double plays. After the first inning I kind of got in a groove and kind of cruised."
On if nerves were the reason for a shaky start
"Kind of. Not really. I didn't hit my spots. I was putting balls over the plate and they were just finding holes."
On the offense picking him up with the four run inning:
"That was big. They came out and scored three runs, but we scored four. We want to win every inning."
On if nerves were the reason for a shaky start
"It was pretty cool for me. Last year during the conference tournament I didn't do as well as I would have hoped. This year, going nine innings was a lot of fun. We have a lot of good arms for the rest of the week."
FRESHMAN 1B>Justin Montemayor
Opening his thoughts on the game:
"(Austin) Pruitt came out early and struggled in the first inning, but then he settled down and pitched great the rest of the game. We strung a few hits together, and it all came together."
On the offensive play of the team
"Our goal every game is to get a double-double which is 10 runs and 10 hits. So we know we're going to come out and get hits, and that's what we did today."
On his approach that led to a 4-for-4 game at the plate
"I was just locked in and swinging at fastballs basically."
On what winning the first game means to this team
"It was great to come out here and do this in this atmosphere, and get a great win against a great ECU team and take this momentum into the next couple of days."
On the starting pitching effort of Austin Pruitt
"He's a great pitcher. He pitched great today. Phenomenal."
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Houston will meet (2) Southern Miss at 3 p.m. Friday for Game 2 of the C-USA Championship at Reckling Park.