Baseball Rolls to C-USA Tournament Opening Win

May 24, 2006

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HOUSTON - Sophomore righthander Ricky Hargrove allowed only one run through seven innings to help lead the 11th-ranked University of Houston baseball team to a 9-1 win Wednesday during the opening round of the 2006 Conference USA Tournament at Rice's Reckling Park.

Hargrove, who improved to 8-5 with the win, scattered seven hits during his outing while adding three strikeouts. Although the Katy, Texas, native allowed at least one baserunner every inning, he was able to take advantage of numerous ground balls that induced a pair of double plays and allowed him to wiggle out of any jam.

Meanwhile, the Cougar offense remained patient throughout the day before breaking the game open with six runs off seven hits during the final two innings. The Cougars, who outhit Marshall 13-8, struck for five double and a home run to win their C-USA Tournament opening game for the fourth time in the last five seasons.

Four Cougar sluggers rapped out at least two hits in the game with junior outfielder Jake Stewart leading the way after batting 3-for-4 with a double and two runs. Senior infielder Isa Garcia went 2-for-4 with two doubles, two runs and an RBI, while junior infielder Josh Stirneman batted 2-for-5 with a run and RBI. Junior DH Brad Lincoln batted 2-for-5 and launched a solo home run.



Marshall starter Chris Koutsavlis picked up the loss and fell to 6-7, allowing three runs (two earned) off six hits with a strikeout in 5.1 innings.

Outfielder Chris Ptacek batted 3-for-4 with a run to lead the Thundering Herd.

The Cougars (37-19) continue their stay at the tournament at 4 p.m., Thursday when they meet No. 6 seed East Carolina, which upset No. 3 seed Tulane in the opening game of the day.

All Cougar postseason 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.

Junior righthander Brad Lincoln, winner of his last 10 decisions, probably will make the Thursday start for the Cougars during the 2006 C-USA Tournament. This season, Lincoln leads the Cougars with 141 strikeouts and only 26 walks in 113.0 innings of work. The Clute, Texas, native joined Brad Sullivan (2002-03) and Shane Nance (1997, 1999) as the only pitchers in UH history to record 100+ strikeouts in two seasons during his collegiate career.

In addition, his 141 strikeouts to date this season ranks as the fourth-highest total in UH single-season history and is only 16 Ks away from tying the UH record of 157 set by Brad Sullivan in 2002.

Earlier this week, Lincoln was honored as the league's Pitcher of the Year and was named to the All-Conference USA First Team. He also earned a place at DH/UTL on the All-Conference USA First Team. He also recently garnered honors as a semifinalist for the Dick Howser Trophy, Roger Clemens Award and Brooks Wallace Award.

Lincoln saw his streak of 10 consecutive starts with at least seven strikeouts come to an end in the first game of the series at No. 22 Southern Miss on April 14. However, he has struck out at least seven batters in 13 of his 14 starts this season.

In a game that featured two of the nation's premier pitchers, Lincoln came out on top during his last pitching start. He allowed only five hits while striking out nine in tossing a shutout at No. 1 Rice in the opener of a C-USA series at Reckling Park on May 12. Lincoln retired 20 of the first 23 batters that he faced, including each of the first 10.

For that performance, he was honored as both the Pro-Line Cap National and C-USA Pitcher of the Week. It was his fourth C-USA award this season and the second national accolade during his career.

Lincoln has competed in four C-USA Tournament games, starting two of those. During his career, he has compiled an 0-1 record with 10 strikeouts and a 3.21 ERA in 14.0 innings of work.

Besides his pitching prowess, Lincoln also is a regular in the heart of the Cougar lineup, playing DH or at first base on the days he does not pitch. This season, he has compiled a .288 batting average with 11 home runs and a team-best 50 RBIs.

East Carolina is scheduled to throw southpaw Dustin Sasser. This season, Sasser has posted a 5-6 record with 51 strikeouts and a 4.35 ERA in 80.2 innings.

The Cougars struck for the game's first run in the first inning. Stewart led off with a double to right center and moved up base following Isa Garcia's fly ball to deep right field. Dustin Kingsbury drew a two-out walk and, after a fake steal attempt of second base drew a throw down, Stewart raced in to steal home plate and hand the Cougars a 1-0 lead.

Marshall (22-31) tied the game in the next half inning when Adam Ptacek scored from third base on a Cougar infield miscue.

The Cougars regained the lead in the bottom of the second when Brad Lincoln launched a 2-1 offering from Koutsavlis over the right-field wall.

The score remained that way until the sixth inning when the Cougars took advantage of a hit and error to push their lead to 3-1. Bryan Tully reached on an infield error and moved up a base when Luis Flores drew a walk. After Stewart's single to right field loaded the bases, Isa Garcia lifted a sacrifice fly into right field to plate Tully.

The Cougars broke the game open in the seventh inning with four runs, thanks in part to four straight one-out hits. Garcia started the rally with a double to right field and scored easily on Matt Weston's double to right field. Kingsbury then laced an RBI-single through the right side to score pinch runner Matt Farrington.

Josh Stirneman slapped a single into left field and Kingsbury came around from second to score on a Marshall infield error that allowed Stirneman to reach third base. Tully followed with an RBI-single into shallow center field that scored Stirneman and gave the Cougars a 7-1 cushion.

In the eighth inning, the Cougars scored their final runs of the day. Stewart led off with a double and raced all the way to third base on Garcia's double down the right-field line. Two batters later, Kingsbury grounded out to shortstop, allowing Stewart to score easily. After a wild pitch allowed Garcia to move to third base, Stirneman slapped an RBI-single up the middle for the final margin of 9-1.

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