Oct. 16, 2011
Austin, Texas - The University of Houston baseball team wrapped up fall baseball practice when they traveled to Austin to meet the Texas Longhorns in a scrimmage on Sunday.
The scrimmage was the second of two for the Cougars during their fall season. The first was a meeting with Rice earlier in the week at Cougar Field.
On a day where offense seemed to be at a premium, the Cougar pitching staff stepped up in a big way to keep the game close. Through the first 13 innings of the scrimmage the Cougars allowed only one earned run to cross the plate. That came on an RBI single in the fourth inning. After that, the Cougar pitchers held the Longhorns scoreless for the next nine innings.
After a quick top half of the first inning, the Longhorns came out swinging in the bottom half of the inning. After a leadoff error, followed by a base hit, Texas had runners on the corners with nobody out. Senior pitcher Jared Ray got a little help on a diving catch by first baseman junior Casey Grayson who fell onto the base for the double play. Ray finished pitching out of the jam by striking out Jonathan Walsh with two outs and a runner on third. Ray would go on to throw a perfect one-two-three inning in the second.
The Longhorns took advantage of a few mistakes in the third inning but after the fourth inning, junior Austin Pruitt, senior Mo Wiley, freshman Aaron Garza, junior Matt Hernandez and senior Codey Morehouse combined to hold the Longhorns to just five hits over the next nine innings.
The Cougar pitching staff would go on to strike out nine Longhorn hitters and walk just four over 14 innings.
"The strength of our club is going to be our pitching," head coach Todd Whitting said. "We have a lot of veteran senior pitching, which as you saw today is really good. We only walked four in 14 innings. I'm really pleased with the pitching staff. We hit two batters, but we threw strikes. That was the challenge I gave them after Tuesday. I wanted them to come out and throw strike one. We walked 12 on Tuesday and only four today. They stepped up and answered the call."
The Cougars would have to rely on pitching to keep the scrimmage close.
On what started out as a sluggish day at the plate the Cougars finally got going in the ninth. With one out, freshman Michael Pyeatt was hit by a pitch and moved to third on a single by freshman Cory Kay. With the Cougars first baserunner on third, junior Wes Theiss laid a safety squeeze down the first base line. Nobody covered first and everyone was safe including Pyeatt, who scored on the play.
The Cougars kept the bats going and struck again in the 11th inning. After senior John Cannon drew a one out walk, Theiss lined a 1-2 pitch to the gap in left center. Cannon came around to score from first, giving Theiss his second RBI of the game and the Cougars their first extra-base hit.
In the eighth, Theiss showed he could make plays with the glove as well, making a sliding catch on a pop up in foul territory. Freshman Zack Gibson joined the web gem action in the bottom of the 12th when he smothered a ground ball off the bat of Landon Steinhagen to hold a runner at third base.
With the conclusion of the game, the Cougars ended their 2011 fall practice. They will go into the 2012 season young but with important in-game experience.
"The experience was invaluable," Whitting said. "I wanted to play good opponents in the fall. The reason we play these fall games is to get experience and get the guy's feet wet. We literally threw them into the fire against really good teams. We're getting inexpensive experience, which means we're getting to fail and do well, but it doesn't cost anything. It doesn't cost us a win or hurt our stats. I'm really pleased with the effort today."
UH opens the 2012 season at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 17 against Delaware at Cougar Field. The weekend series will continue at 6:30 p.m., Feb. 18 and conclude at 1 p.m., Feb. 20.