Cougars Set to Play East Carolina for Conference USA Championship
May 25, 2002
University of Houston catcher Chris Snyder and first baseman Brett Cooley smacked back-to-back bombs over the left-center fence in the fifth inning and Snyder added a second two-run shot in the seventh to lift the No. 10-ranked Cougars past Tulane by a final of 7-2 on Saturday morning (May 25) in the third round of the 2002 Conference USA Tournament at Grainger Stadium.
With the win, No.1-seed Houston (44-14) advances to the championship game of the annual league tournament and will face tournament host East Carolina at 1:00 p.m. (CST) on Sunday, May 26.
The game will mark the fourth time since the league's inception in 1996 that Houston has reached the championship game, having won titles in both 1997 and 2000 and falling to Tulane by a final of 12-9 in 1999.
Today's win also marks Houston's 11th straight, its longest such streak since posting 13 straight victories during the 1990 campaign. In addition, the win was Houston's 44th of the year, matching the 1985 (44-17) and 1990 (44-23) clubs for the second-highest season win total in school history.
"We are playing pretty well," said Houston head coach Rayner Noble after the game. "We are pitching as well as we have all year. I would like to see this momentum going."
The Cougars, who have scored first in each of the three tournament games en route to outscoring their opponents 19-3, struck for the game's first two runs in the second inning when Michael Bourn hit a two-out single to left to knock in Hyung Cho, who reached on a walk, and Gabe Lucas, who reached on a bunt to third.
Tulane tied the contest at 2-2 in the top half of the fourth on a two-run double by 2002 C-USA Player of the Year James Jurries. Jon Kaplan led off the inning with single and Aaron Feldman followed by reaching safely on a fielder's choice before Jurries brought them both home on his hit to the centerfield gap.
After Tulane's Turner Brumby led off the fifth with a single and reached second on a sacrifice, Houston freshman Ryan Wagner came in to relieve starter Gene Flores and halt the Green Wave's scoring opportunity with two quick outs.
The Cougars' answered with three runs in the bottom of the fifth to recapture the lead for the final time. With two outs, Sam Mitchell started the rally with a single to left before Snyder sailed the first of his two-run shots on a 1-0 pitch to put Houston on top, 4-2. Cooley then followed with a solo homer, marking the first time the Cougars have put together back-to-back home runs since Michael Bourn and Jesse Crain at Louisiana-Lafayette on March 10 earlier this season.
Houston added their final two runs in the seventh on Snyder's second bomb of the day, which also scored Michael Bourn, who had reached safely on a throwing error by Tulane pitcher Ricky Fairchild. In addition to tying his career high with two home runs in the game, Snyder became the first Cougar to hit two homers in a game this season since Jesse Crain smacked two in Houston's 8-4 win at Charlotte on May 11.
Wagner closed out the game for Houston, earning the win to even his overall season record to 1-1 after shutting down the Tulane offense in his 4.2 innings of work. Tulane starter Kris Kline suffered the loss, falling to an even 4-4 after surrendering five earned runs on six Cougar hits.
In addition to Snyder, Bourn and Cooley each collected two hits for Houston, while Snyder led all players with four runs batted in and two runs scored.
Today's game also marked the thirteenth time this season two-or-more Cougars have connected for home runs in the same game, including each of the last two.
The C-USA Championship game can be heard over the airwaves in Houston at 1520 AM. The game is being televised by the C-USA Television Network, with the satellite coordinates as Galaxy 11, Transponder 13, KU Band.