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Friday, March 24, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 118

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UH and Tulane square off in key conference battle

By Anna Sivadasan
Daily Cougar Staff

In the last three years, the Conference USA's regular season and postseason title has basically come down to the same two teams.

And they will both be on the diamond this weekend at Cougar Field.


UH head coach Rayner Noble will not be in the dugout for the three-game weekend series with Tulane beginning tonight. Noble is in California with his ailing father.

Pete Medrano/The Daily Cougar

Since 1997, any time the No. 5-ranked UH baseball team (19-7 overall, 3-0 C-USA) and the Tulane Green Wave played a game, something was always on the line.

The last time the two teams played in 1999, the C-USA championship was there for the taking. The Green Wave won three of four contests from the Cougars last year, including a 12-9 decision in the C-USA title game.

"It's pretty much a case of we don't like them and they don't like us," UH catcher Jarrod Bitter said. "It's the same way when we play Texas and A&M, but those games are for bragging rights. When we play Tulane, it's conference games, so it means more."

And because of their history, this weekend's three-game series is shaping up to be a big series for both teams.

UH will start staff ace Kyle Crowell in tonight's series-opener. Crowell brings a 5-1 record and a 1.84 ERA into the game. The junior right-hander leads the team in wins, strikeouts, games started and innings pitched.

"If we take care of business this weekend against Tulane, it could put us in good position for the conference," Crowell said. "But if we don't, it could be a battle."

Junior lefty Jerret Sykes will probably get the nod for the injured Shane Nance in Saturday night's game. Sykes has filled in for Nance the last two weekends and was 2-0 with a 3.27 ERA against Southern California and North Carolina-Charlotte.

"After my first start in Austin (against Texas), I got down on myself," Sykes said. "And when Shane got hurt, I just knew that it was time for me to get over my insecurities and just pitch with some confidence."

Following Crowell and Sykes in the rotation will most likely be freshman Bryan Harris (2-0, 7.07).

The Green Wave is 14-9-1 overall and 1-1-1 in the conference, with a win, a loss and a tie against Louisville last weekend. Tulane had a six-game losing streak earlier in the year, but since that stretch, the Green Wave has won nine of its last 12 games.

TU's scheduled starters for this weekend will be seniors Henry Bonilla (3-1, 4.30 ERA), Jared Berkowitz (5-1, 3.12) and Dan O'Gara (1-3, 6.68).

"Last weekend, (North Carolina) Charlotte had some good pitchers, but we swung the bats really well," second baseman Sean Allen said. "We took advantage of their mistakes, and we're going to have to do the same thing this weekend because Tulane also has some good pitchers."

This weekend's series marks UH's first at home since March 7 against Texas A&M. The Cougars are 7-5 at Cougar Field and 12-2 on the road.

Game times are set for 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday.
 

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