Andrew J. Ferraro
For whatever reason, University of Houston pitcher Alex Jackson just can't catch a break.
For the second time in as many weeks, the sophomore from Houston pitched a remarkable game and came up empty-handed.
With two on base and one out in the top of the ninth inning, University of Texas first baseman Shawn Schumacher's single proved to be the difference as the Longhorns defeated the Cougars 3-2 in front of 923 fans at Cougar field.
Jackson, however, wasn't on the mound at the time. He was lifted in the sixth inning after yielding just two runs (one of which was earned) on three hits, walking one and striking out a career-high seven batters.
Instead, it was UT pitcher Frank Halter who stole the show as he came in and blew the Cougars away with a good fastball and an even better curve.
Halter pitched the final three innings for the Longhorns and yielded just one walk and struck out five.
"We did not capitalize on the opportunities that we were given early in the game," junior outfielder Mike Medrano said. "The last time we played these guys (a 5-4 win on Mar. 18) we made the most of our chances. Today we had those same opportunities but didn't get the job done."
Save for a two-RBI double by freshman first baseman Jayme Sperring in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Cougars hit into three double plays ending the first, second and fourth innings and struck out to end the fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth innings.
With the Cougars down 2-0 and Texas starter Kurt Kautsch retiring 15 of the first 17 batters he faced, Sperring launched the first pitch he saw in the sixth inning into the gap in left center and tied the game.
The rally started when juniors Bruce Rios and Medrano singled with two outs, but ended after freshmen Jason Pekar and Kris Wilken followed with walks and freshman Jarrod Bitter struck out with the bases loaded.
"The offense will come around," Jackson said. "Right now I just need to worry about going out there and throwing strikes. There's no need to panic. The offense will come around."
After giving up a first inning homer to UT's Mark Cridland, Jackson settled down and struck out four of the first six batters he faced, collecting one in every inning he pitched.
Coming into his third start of the season, Jackson had a team-leading 3.10 ERA, giving up just 10 earned runs in 29 innings of work.
"Tonight I was just hitting my spots and got a lot of batters out that way," explained Jackson. "My breaking ball was working real well, too, and that was how I got most of my strikeouts."
Medrano added, "We just weren't patient at the plate tonight. We need to relax when we get up there and not worry about what we need to do. We just need to get up there and do it."
Tuesday: Texas 3, Cougars 2
On deck: Cougars vs. UNC
Charlotte - 6 p.m. Friday at Phillips Field
* All home games are free to UH students