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Volume 72, Issue 97, Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Sports

Hard-nosed pitching, hitting leads to UH victory

Seven-run fifth inning key to Cougars victory 
against winless McNeese State

by RONNIE TURNER
The Daily Cougar

For a change, Houston got an equal performance out of both its offense and young pitching staff.

The Cougars scored runs at will and received a strong outing from its pitching staff in a 12-4 victory over McNeese State on Tuesday night at Cougar Field. On this particular occasion, there was plenty of offense to go around.

All but one Houston starter scored at least one run and all but three recorded at least one hit. And though the score may indicate otherwise, the game was close at the outset.

The two teams entered the bottom of the fifth inning tied at 3, but the Cougars broke the contest wide open by scoring seven runs in the frame to take a 10-3 lead. The bullpen took care of the rest to help the Cougars (4-5) snap a three-game losing streak.

"You see the result when we have the pitching and the hitting stays: an eight-run victory," said senior third baseman Dustin Kingsbury. 

"Our pitchers threw well for the most part. They were a little shaky at some points, but for the most part, it was a really solid performance."

McNeese State (0-8) got the bulk of its offensive output with three runs off sophomore reliever Barry Laird, but got nothing much after that. Freshman John Touchton and sophomore Jimmy Raviele combined to allowed only one run over the final 4 2/3 innings.

Touchton (1-1) earned his first career victory after going two and one-third innings and allowing only a run on three hits while striking out three batters.

The performance of the pitching staff was a vast improvement from the past weekend, when the staff posted a 10.67 ERA in a three-game series sweep at the hands of UC-Irvine. 

"I thought our pitching was a whole lot better tonight," UH head coach Rayner Noble said. "Barry had a very rough outing, but I thought, it was an about-face without pitching, (considering) what I saw last weekend." 

Several Cougars produced big hits during the team's seven-run output in the fifth inning, but the biggest blow was provided by Kingsbury, who smacked a two-out, two-run double to give the Cougars a commanding 8-3 lead. 

Kingsbury finished the game 2-for-4 with a double and 4 RBIs to raise his batting average to .350.

"He's starting to heat up at the right time," Noble said. "Hopefully, he can continue (that performance) heading into this weekend's tournament (the Southwest Diamond Classic)." 

Meanwhile, the season continues to spiral out of control for the McNeese State, who is dealing with troubling issues. Chad Clement, who led the Cowboys to the 2006 Southland Conference Championship, resigned from the head coaching post last week and the team is expected to hire a new coach sometime this week. 

Send comments to dcsports@mail.uh.edu

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