May 31, 2003
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Cole Bruce batted 3-for-4 with four runs and four RBIs to help lead the University of Houston baseball team to a convincing 16-8 win over No. 23 Alabama on Saturday in an elimination game at Olsen Field at the NCAA Regional at College Station.
Bruce, who came just a single short of hitting for the cycle, is batting .545 at the Regional with five of his six hits going for extra bases, including two home runs. In addition, the Clute, Texas, has recorded six RBIs and posted an amazing 1.455 slugging percentage through the team's first three games.
The Cougars, who eliminated the Crimson Tide from the tournament and earlier eliminated Oral Roberts with a 4-2 win on Saturday morning, will now meet host Texas A&M at 2 p.m., Saturday. UH must win twice on Sunday to win the Regional and advance to the NCAA Super Regional to face the winner of the NCAA Regional at Houston, hosted by Rice.
Bruce was just part of a dominating offensive attack by the Cougars. Seven of the Cougars' nine starters recorded at least one hit AND one RBI in the game while eight of the nine starters rapped out at least one hit in the contest.
UH scored at least three runs in four consecutive innings midway through the contest to take control of the game.
Travis Tully batted 3-for-5 with a run and RBI, while Gabe Lucas, Hyung Cho, Brad Sullivan and Thanos Papavasiliou each pounded out two hits as the Cougars tied their season high in runs scored. Papavasiliou came off the bench to blast a three-run homer and tied with Bruce for game-high honors with four RBIs in the win.
UH reliever Brian Henderson took a large burden off the Cougar bullpen in collecting his fifth win of the season. The Sugar Land, Texas, native scattered three runs off four hits with five strikeouts in 4.2 innings to improve to 5-4 this season.
Alabama reliever Taylor Tankersley dropped to 7-5 after giving up five runs off four hits with three walks and a pair of strikeouts in only two innings.
After loading the bases in the bottom of the first, Alabama scored the game's first run when Al Hecklinski lifted a sacrifice fly into foul territory in right field to score Travis Garner from third base.
However, the score would not stay that way for long. Bruce blasted a 1-1 offering from Norris over the right field wall to tie the game at 1-1.
Bruce struck again in the third inning to give the Cougars the lead. Lucas started the rally with a single and moved to third on a walk to Cho. After a passed ball, Bruce smashed a sacrifice fly to deep center field to score Lucas and hand UH a 2-1 lead.
In the fourth inning, Beau Hearod laced an RBI single up the middle to score Evan Bush and tie the game at 2-2.
UH broke the game open in the fifth inning with five runs. Michael Bourn walked to lead off and moved to second base on Gabe Lucas' sacrifice bunt. After a walk to Cho and intentional walk to Bruce - following a double steal -Sullivan lifted a looping single into shallow right field to plate Bourn.
From there, Tully scored Cho on an infield single and Bruce scored on an Alabama infield error. Stuart Musslewhite then slapped a single into left field to score both Sullivan and Tully and hand the Cougars a 7-2 lead.
The Crimson Tide cut into that lead with three runs of its own in the bottom of the inning. Ryan Beagle ripped a double into right center to score Al Hecklinsk, who was hit by a pitch to lead off. After an infield error and walk loaded the bases, Beagle scored on a passed ball and pinch hitter Marshall scored on another passed ball to bring Alabama to within 7-5.
Alabama continued to threaten with the bases loaded and only one out, but Henderson forced Hearod to ground out into a third base-to-catcher-to-first base double play and end the threat.
In the sixth, the Cougars erupted for three runs from their first three batters of the inning. Cho led off with a single to right field and moved to third on Bruce's double to right center. Pinch hitter Papavasiliou then blasted the first pitch he saw from Beagle over the right field wall for a 13-5 UH lead.
However, again Alabama would answer in the bottom of the inning with two runs. Travis Garner's RBI-single plated Allen Rice, who reached on a single and Evan Bush scored on Adam Pavkovich's sacrifice fly to center field to trim the Cougar lead to 13-7.
UH pushed its lead to 16-7 in the eighth inning with three runs. After Bourn was hit by a pitch and Cho walked, Bruce plated both runners with a triple off the center field wall. Bruce then scored his season-best fourth run of the game on Papavasiliou's single to left field.
The Crimson Tide scored their final run of the game in the bottom of the ninth on a wild pitch for the final margin of victory.
Travis Garner bated 3-for-6 with a run, double and two RBIs to lead Alabama with Hearod, Beagle and Allen Rice each recording two hits.