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Friday, April 9, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 127

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Billikens invade Cougar Field for three game series

By Tom Carpenter
Daily Cougar Staff

The Saint Louis Billikens arrive in town today to begin a three game series with the Cougars this evening. The first game is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. tonight at Cougar Field.

As hot as the Cougar bats have been recently, it's the Billikens that lead Conference USA in hitting with a lofty .348 team batting average. The Saint Louis hitters also lead the league in fewest strikeouts, recording only 153 K's in conference games, demonstrating great patience and selectivity at the plate.

Even though they lead the league in hitting, the Billikens rest at the bottom of the conference standings with a 1-8 record. The problem for the Billikens has been their pitching. The pitching staff has a whopping 9.63 earned run average, the worst in the conference and almost four runs higher than the league average. Opposing teams are hitting at a prodigious .386 against the young Saint Louis pitchers.

Despite the Billiken sky high earned run average, Cougar Head Coach Rayner Noble believes the series will be decided by pitching.

"I don't see the series being a slugfest by any means because we'll put some pitchers on the mound that should keep their offense down. I expect them to have a couple of guys to put on the mound that will have pretty good stuff. If we attack them like we did UT, we'll be just fine," said Noble.

The Cougars have been hitting the ball at a torrid pace in the past five games, out-hitting their opponents 85-46. Noble believes his team can continue the hot hitting.

"If we show patience at the plate this weekend and wait for a good pitch to hit, because judging by their stats the Saint Louis opponents are getting good pitches to hit, we'll be all right. I think that's the key, just being patient," he said.

Saint Louis has yet to win a game at night in league play, and the Cougars hope to take advantage of that fact.

"We've got that in our favor with two of our three games at night. With Kyle Crowell on the mound Friday with his good velocity, it'll be a little harder to see the ball at night. We hope to use that to our advantage," said Noble.

The Billikens will be facing a formidable trio of pitchers. Ace right-hander Kyle Crowell will be taking the mound for the opening game, followed by southpaw Jerret Sykes in game two, and fellow lefty Shane Nance in game three Sunday. The Cougar pitching staff is ranked fourth in C-USA with a 4.48 ERA. Crowell leads the league with a sparkling 1.76 ERA, a phenomenal achievement in an era of exploding batting averages.

With the No. 4 Rice Owls next on the schedule, followed by the Tulane Green Wave, who are tied for the conference lead with the Cougars, Coach Noble isn't worried about his team overlooking the Billikens.

"If we overlook Saint Louis, we don't deserve any shot at the C-USA title. Saint Louis is the kind of team that will come in here and take three games from you if you're not ready to play. Our guys understand the significance of playing each game, regardless whether it's Texas, Rice or Saint Louis," he said.

Saint Louis pitchers have allowed 27 home runs, 82 doubles and 14 triples in conference play so far this season. If the Cougar hitters maintain their focus and concentrate during each at bat as they have in the past five games, there could be some explosive offensive performances this weekend. That would definitely entertain the Cougar fans who decide to attend the games and enjoy the team's run for the C-USA title.


 
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