CINCINNATI -- The University of Houston baseball team had another solid start from a freshman pitcher and used some key defensive plays to post a 6-3 Conference USA road win over Cincinnati Sunday afternoon at Johnny Bench Field in Ohio. With the victory the Cougars claimed the three-game weekend series 2-1 and stayed in sole possession of first place in the C-USA standings with an 8-1 league record.
Houston jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the top of the second inning when shortstop Keith Ahrens slugged a two-out single that scored two runs. Ahrens advanced to second base on an errant pickoff attempt and scored on the next play when Michael Bourn reached on a fielding error.
UH starting pitcher Gene Flores meanwhile was steady in the early going, allowing UC no hits until the sixth inning. The right-hander from Corpus Christi walked four hitters, but the Cougar defense held the Bearcats in check with three double plays in the first five innings.
Cincinnati scored its first run on no hits in the bottom of the second after a walk, steal, passed ball and fielder's choice that failed to get base runner Matt Singer sliding at the plate. After Houston stretched the margin to 6-1 with three more runs in the fifth, an improbable double-play prevented what could have been a disasterous fifth inning.
Two UH fielding errors and a catcher's interference loaded the bases with no one out, but the Cougars still converted on a double-play after a comeback shot to the mound bounced conviently to senior second baseman Sean Allen who was able to continue the twin-killing. A run scored but after a pop-up Flores was out ot the inning still having not allowed any hits.
Flores lost the no-hit attempt in the sixth and survived another bases-loaded situation in the seventh on the way to his third collegiate win. The Bearcats had one run in and loaded the bases with two away, but leftfielder Keith Whatley's spectacular diving catch of a shallow fly ball took away what could have been a game-tying hit.
In the ninth UC had two men on base with no one out and this time the Houston defense almost turned a round-the-horn triple-play, 5-4-3, to end the game. A speedy Brad Schutz beat out the final throw but the Cougars' fourth double-play had effectively ended the threat as UH claimed a 6-3 final.
The Cougars improved to 16-17 overall and 8-1 in conference. Cincinnati fell to 16-11 and 3-6 in league play. Houston will next face regional rival Baylor at home on Wednesday, April 4. First pitch is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. at Cougar Field.
Conference USA Baseball Linescore Houston 030 030 000 -- 6 7 4 Cincinnati 010 010 100 -- 3 3 3 Gene Flores, Bryan Harris (8), Nathan Mitchell (9) and Chris Snyder; B.J. Borsa, Kyle DiEduardo (5), Curtus Moak (8) and Chris Hamblen. WP- Flores (3-3). LP - Borsa (2-4). Save- N.Mitchell (1). 2B- UH: Cho; UC: none. 3B- none. HR- none. Time- 2:58. Att- 197. Team Records- Houston 16-17, 8-1; Cincinnati 16-11, 3-6.