The Houston Cougars righted the ship on Saturday night at Schroeder Park behind good pitching and one offensive inning against the Connecticut Huskies . . . Having dropped game one on Friday night, the Cougars not only needed some offense, but they needed a win.
Right-hander Ryan Randel was on the mound Saturday night . . . Randel had a difficult first inning in which the Huskies plated three runs, but he rebounded nicely and faced only three batters per inning over the next three innings.
Houston missed a grand opportunity in the second when they loaded the bases with three straight singles, but it was to no avail as UConn starter Jeff Kersten would strike out two and get a ground ball out to escape the inning.
But Kersten’s night would come to an end in the fourth inning when the Cougars offense exploded . . . The big blow was off the bat of Derrick Cherry when he hit a laser to left field to clear the bases, there was a play at home on Grayson Padgett, but the ball slipped past the catcher and Cherry was standing on second with a double, his first collegiate hit and RBI . . . The Coogs would send eleven batters to the plate in the inning as they took a 5-3 lead.
The Huskies would get a run back in the fifth and in the process would chase Randel from the game . . . Nolan Bond would relieve Randel with runners on the corners. Bond walked the first batter he faced to load the bases, but the Cougars would get out of the inning with a ground ball to shortstop . . . After a difficult first inning, Randel settled in and left the game with his team leading 5-4.
Bond got a 1-2-3 sixth with the help of a couple of consecutive defensive gems by third sacker Jared Triolo, then he faced just three batters in the seventh with another defensive gem behind him when Brad Burckel made a leaping snag of a line drive and was able to recover quickly enough to double-up the runner who was on first.
Fred Villarreal entered the game in the eighth and retired all six batters he faced to help the Cougars secure the 5-4 victory . . . Villarreal was incredibly efficient throwing eighteen pitches to get his six outs and earn his third save of the season while lowering his ERA to .98 . . . Nolan Bond earned the win for his solid effort, his first win on the year . . . Together, Bond and Villarreal pitched 4 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball.
The Cougars and the Huskies conclude their series with a rubber game on Sunday at Schroeder Park . . . Please note an earlier than usual start time for a Sunday (or any day) of 11:30am.