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Volume 72, Issue 135, Monday, April 23, 2007

Sports

Cougars deliver the broom to Green Wave

Three-game sweep puts UH in second place in Conference USA

by LOUIE VERA
The Daily Cougar

The Cougars completed their sweep of Baseball America No. 23 Tulane behind a solid pitching performance and clutch hitting in a 6-4 win Sunday afternoon at Zephyr Field in New Orleans.

"We came off of not a very good game against Texas A&M on Tuesday (an 8-3 loss)," UH head coach Rayner Noble said. "We needed some new life and we got that this weekend with strong pitching, great defense and timely hitting. Everything seemed to click and I think anytime you can pitch and play good defense you'll always have a chance."

Freshman right-hander John Touchton gave up three runs on seven hits and three walks in 6.1 innings of work to improve to 4-3 on the season.

Touchton worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam in the first inning after inducing back-to-back fly outs to keep the Green Wave off the board.

"Anytime you put a freshman out there in a big conference game, he's going to have a little bit of nerves," Noble said. "The encouraging thing is he worked himself out of a pretty good jam. That's a good sign from a young pitcher with his back against the wall when he can make some adjustments and make the big pitches, and that's what he did." 

It was a different story when the Cougars (22-17, 9-3 Conference USA) loaded the bases with one out in the top of the sixth. Sophomore catcher Luis Flores smashed a two-run single to left field to give the Cougars a 3-1 lead. Freshman outfielder Zach Presley followed with an RBI-single to up Houston ahead by three. 

The Cougars tacked on two more runs in the top of the seventh to move ahead 6-1. Tulane (28-14, 8-7 C-USA) responded by scoring three runs in the bottom frame to reduce the Cougars' lead to 6-4.

Tulane would get no closer than that. UH sophomore reliever Barry Laird held the Green Wave scoreless over the final 2.1 innings to earn his first save of the season.

With the sweep, the Cougars now have sole possession of second place in the conference standings.

"We took advantage of Tulane mistakes (this weekend) and it leads us right in the hunt for the title," Noble said. "We just need to continue and maintain this type of play."

The Cougar pitching staff was in top form during the three-game set, giving up a mere five runs. The defense complimented the pitching by committing zero errors.

"We didn't hurt ourselves with walks (in the series)," Noble said. "When you don't walk that many guys and you don't hit guys it makes the opposition earn everything they get. We made great pitches when we needed to and wiggled out of some big jams."

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