May 25, 2008
NEW ORLEANS - Freshman righthander Jared Ray allowed only two hits through 6.2 shutout innings to help lead the University of Houston baseball team to a 3-1 win over UAB on Saturday night in an elimination game at the 2008 Entergy Conference USA Championship, hosted by Tulane at Greer Field at Turchin Stadium.
Although he came into the Championship with a 7.53 ERA and .353 opposing batting average, Ray showed the poise of a veteran to thrust the Cougars into the Championship game. The Waco native allowed a leadoff single to UAB's Jonathan Merritt and then did not allow another hit until the first batter of the seventh inning.
Ray, who allowed only two hits and two walks with six strikeouts, tied his career high in innings pitched, set earlier this season against Oklahoma at the Houston College Classic. He also retired 12 consecutive batters early in his stint as the Cougars built a 2-0 lead and improved to 3-2 with the win.
That would be enough offense for the Cougars. Sophomore southpaw Wes Musick made his second career relief appearance, tossing 1.1 shutout innings with a pair of strikeouts, while junior righthander Chris Wright allowed only one run in the ninth inning to pick up his second save.
The Cougars recorded their second win of the day against the Blazers and advanced to the C-USA Championship Game for the sixth time in school history. UH will meet the winner of the No. 2 seed Southern Miss-No. 6 seed Marshall game at 1 p.m., Sunday.
Southern Miss and Marshall square off in an elimination game at 9 a.m., Sunday before the Championship game.
Fans can hear all Cougar Baseball games live at UHCougars.com by clicking the appropriate links. Jeremy Branham will call the play-by-play action while former letterwinner Pat Cauley provides color analysis.
Fans always can follow live stats by clicking on the Gametracker link.
Sunday's Championship game also will be televised on tape delay at 9 p.m. (CDT) on CBS College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 610, Dish Network Ch. 152) with Tom Hart calling the play-by-play action and former Major Leaguer Kevin Stocker providing color analysis. This will be the third time that the Cougars have appeared on television in 2008 after splitting the first two games of a C-USA series against Tulane at Cougar Field on April 11-12.
The Cougars improved to 38-22 overall, while UAB finished its season at 26-34.
Freshman shortstop Blake Kelso went 3-for-5 to lead the Cougar offense, which outhit the Blazers 11-5. Senior third baseman Bryan Pounds batted 2-for-3 with a pair of walks, while sophomore centerfielder Zak Presley went 2-for-4, scoring all three Cougar runs.
UAB starter James Oliver collected the loss and fell to 4-5 after allowing two runs (one earned) off six hits and four walks with a strikeout in six innings.
The Cougars grabbed the early lead with a run off a hit in the second inning. Presley reached on a fielder' choice and moved into scoring position following a walk to Bryan Tully. Caleb Ramsey then lined a single into center field to plate Presley and hand the Cougars a 1-0 lead.
UH pushed its lead to 2-0 in the fourth thanks to a hit and UAB error. Presley led off with a single through the left side and moved to third after a pair of groundouts. Austin Goolsby then hit a slow dribbler to Oliver, but Oliver's throw to first base was off the mark, allowing Presley to score.
The score remained that way until the eighth inning when the Cougars pushed across another run. Presley led off with an infield single to second base and moved to third following Tully's sacrifice bunt and a groundout. Pinch hitter Chris Wallace then laced an 0-1 offering through the left side to score Presley for a 3-0 Cougar lead.
The Blazers threatened in each of the final two frames. In the eighth inning, UAB loaded the bases with two outs on a hit and two walks but Musick forced Phil Bell to fly out to right field to end the rally.
In the ninth inning, the Blazers pushed their lone run across on Billy Lichtner's RBI-single up the middle and brought the tying run to the plate twice. However, Wright forced Allen Aubin to groundout and Jonathan Merritt to fly out to center field to end the game.