Rice and UH Pitchers Do a Little Showing Off at C-USA Tourney

Categories: Sports

John Royal
It's Conference USA baseball tournament time
The college baseball season is a marathon. It's nice to sprint out to a lead at the start, but the finishing kick at the end is just as important. And with seven games left in the Conference USA baseball tournament at Rice's Reckling Park, eight teams are kicking into full sprints.

The most impressive kick so far is from the Rice Owls. The Owls went at a steady pace for the regular season, never getting too big a lead, winning the conference regular season title on the last day of the season. They've now won their first two games of the tournament with astounding ease, the team's pitching staff shutting down the opposition with ease, the offense actually showing some life. And if they can shut down the Memphis Tigers (also 2-0 in the tournament) tomorrow morning, the Owls will play for the tournament title and a NCAA regional bid on Sunday afternoon.

The Houston Cougars sprinted out to a quick start this season, but faded as the regular season hit the midpoint. But they started to get back into gear the last weeks of the regular season, and after yesterday's 9-4 win over high-seeded East Carolina, the Coogs find themselves in a strong position to battle Rice on Sunday -- if the Cougars can upset Southern Miss this afternoon and take out Tulane tomorrow.

The key for both teams this week has been pitching. Houston's Austin Pruitt overcame a rough start yesterday -- surrendering four straight singles and three runs in the first inning -- to get the complete game victory. The Cougar offense came to life in the third inning, scoring four runs to get UH the lead, and the team never looked back.

UH head coach Todd Whitting didn't like his team's start, saying the team was sluggish, and added that Pruitt struggled to find his groove. But his team didn't let the poor start get to them, and easily handled ECU the rest of the way.

"Scrappy effort," Whitting said. "That's kind of our MO the whole year; they don't stop playing. To go down 3-0 to one of the best teams in our league. I'm really proud of our kids."

Rice started the tournament with a 3-1 win over UAB Wednesday night, with staff ace Austin Kubitza getting the win. But as outstanding as Kubitza looked, his performance was outshone by mound-mate Jordan Stephens, who took a no-hitter into the sixth inning in Rice's 5-1 win over UCF last night (Stephens left after 5.2 innings, having given up 1 hit, 2 walks and just one run). Everything Stephens did worked, and the Owl relief corps kept up the superb pitching as UCF struggled to get runners on base.

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