HOUSTON -- The University of Houston baseball team held cross town rival Rice, the No. 1 ranked team in the country, in check for eight innings Tuesday afternoon at Cougar Field, but for the third time in the last four games the UH bullpen could not close the door on an opponent's late-inning rally and fell to defeat. With a 5-2 win Rice moved to a perfect 8-0 on the year and took a 1-0 lead in the annual Silver Glove series to determine the city's collegiate champion.
The Cougars failed to hold off rallies in San Diego over the weekend and dropped two-of-three to San Diego State. The tone was similar Tuesday. Houston held a 2-1 advantage over Rice heading into the top of the ninth, but the Owls loaded the bases with no one out and took their first lead of the game with a dramatic, grand slam home run to left field by catcher Phillip Ghutzman.
Houston jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the second when freshman shortstop Hyung Cho doubled to right center with two men on and two away. Rice answered with one run in the top of the next frame when Ghutzman doubled and scored on a single by Matt Cunningham.
Rice appeared to be on the verge of a big inning in the top of the seventh when the Owls led off with back-to-back singles. Reliever Matt Hooper however came in and closed the threat with a double-play ground ball and fly out. Hooper was in control until the ninth when the Owls again led off with consecutive singles.
Hooper was relieved by freshman Brad Sullivan who walked a man to load the bases before surrendering the grand slam. Rice reliever Philip Tribe was solid in relief for his first win, surrendering just two hits while striking out five in a season-long 5.0 innings. A fine starting pitching performance by UH junior Keith Whatley was turned into a no-decision after the lefthander scattered just four hits and struck out a career-high five in working a career-long 5.2 innings.
With the loss Houston falls to 3-4 on the season. UH and Rice will play four more games throught out the year. The Cougars will next be in action on the road against defending national champion LSU for a three-game weekend series Feb. 16-18.
College Baseball Linescore Rice 001 000 004 -- 5 11 0 Houston 020 000 000 -- 2 9 0Steven Herce, Philip Tribe (5) and Phillip Ghutzman; Keith Whatley, Nathan Mitchell (6), Matt Hooper (7), Brad Sullivan (9), Nick Torina (9) and Chris Snyder.
WP- Tribe (1-0). LP - Hooper (0-1). Save- none.
2B- RU: Ghutzman, Cunningham; UH: Snyder, Cho.
HR- RU: Ghutzman (1); UH: none.
Team Records- Rice 8-0; Houston 3-4.