They played the tenth annual Houston College Classic this weekend in a tournament of college baseball featuring three of the best college baseball teams in the country in Texas, TCU, and Rice along with Houston, Missouri, and Texas Tech.
The best day of the series was Saturday as all three games were one-run thrillers that went down to the last out.
The Cougars finished up the Classic going 3-0, including a fantastic 1-0 win over the number-three ranked Longhorns on Saturday, while also defeating Missouri and Texas Tech.
TCU went 2-1, losing a 5-4 thriller to Rice last night while defeating Texas Tech and Missouri. Texas defeated Rice and Missouri while losing to Houston, and Rice, along with beating TCU, defeated Missouri while losing a hard fought 2-1 battle to Texas on Friday. Missouri lost to Houston, TCU -- in a 10-inning 4-3 thriller on Saturday -- and Texas. Texas Tech was demolished by TCU and Houston but gave Rice a good battle before losing on Saturday night.
Houston defeated Texas 1-0 on Saturday afternoon. Houston's Blake Kelso took the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first inning and ripped it deep into the R/CF gap for a triple. The next pitch from Texas' Brandon Workman was a wild pitch, and Kelso scampered home, just beating the tag. That was it for the rest of the game as the pitching staffs for both teams shut down the other. Michael Goodnight pitched seven innings for the win, and Workman got the loss despite pitching a complete game
The Cougars defeated Texas Tech 15-8 yesterday in a game of bad defense, bad base-running, and even worse hitting. The highlight was Houston's M.P. Cokinos tying the Classic record with five RBI on one game. The lowlight was the inability of just about any pitcher on either team to find the strike zone in a game that lasted three hours and forty-five minutes.
The Houston Cougars won all three games, with the help of some previously unseen ace-type pitching from Goodnight on Saturday. The surprise being just how bad UH had looked in getting swept by Texas State to start the season. This was the first time that the Cougars have ever gone 3-0 in their ten trips to the Classic.
"We had some hard practices before we came in here, and the guys really responded," Houston coach Rayner Noble said yesterday. "They understood what me and my staff are looking for. What we need to do is capture this, keep it in a bottle, and understand that this is the key to success."
Then there was TCU's Matt Purke on Saturday afternoon. Purke was a first round draft choice of the Texas Rangers, but the Rangers and the lefthander couldn't come to terms. He was less than stellar in his first two starts of the season, but was dealing in 5.1 innings, throwing seven strikeouts while surrendering only five hits, one walk, and one run.
"When he's on, and when he matures and figures it out, there's not going to be too many better lefties in the country, I think," TCU manager Jim Schlossnagle said of Purke. "And certainly Major League Baseball agreed last year."
Houston shortstop Blake Kelso made a leaping grab with runners in scoring position for the last out to preserve Houston's 1-0 win over Texas.
"I'm glad that he's not five-foot-three," Noble said of Kelso's catch, "because he got enough of that to get the ball, and that's what mattered."
And then there's Texas centerfielder Connor Rowe who made a play against the left-field bullpen wall, nearly colliding with his left fielder, to get the out to start the second inning in Friday's game against Rice. Then he preserved the win over Rice by climbing Tal's Hill to make the final out of the eighth inning with a Rice runner on second base and the game tied at 1-1.
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Rice's Jimmy Comerota takes a 2-1 pitch and just gets it over the yellow line in the Crawford Boxes for a two-run homer to put Rice up 3-1 in the seventh inning over TCU last night. But that was topped by his teammate, Chase McDowell who, in the bottom of the ninth inning and with one out, singled up the middle to score Michael Ratterree with the game-winning run as Rice won 5-4.
BEST PITCHING PERFORMANCE:
It's easy to say Michael Goodnight of Houston, who pitched seven innings of no run ball while striking out nine and giving up only two hits in Houston's 1-0 win over Texas. But Texas' Brandon Workman was the star of that game (and the weekend), pitching the complete game while giving up only one run, four hits, and striking out seven.
BEST QUOTE OF THE SERIES:
Wayne Graham, coach of Rice, on whether his Friday night pitcher, Taylor Wall, went too deep into the game: "If a pitcher can't go 110 pitches in college baseball, he better just chalk up. A lot of times, you know, kids go 150. A 110 is nothing. If your starting pitcher can't make 110 pitches in college baseball you're in trouble."
MY MVP OF THE TOURNAMENT:
Matt Creel started in right field and first base in the three games for Houston. While he was only 1-for-9 from the plate, he had 2 RBI and scored twice. But he also closed out the Friday and Saturday games for Houston, getting the save both times while pitching a total of 2.1 innings and getting two strikeouts. Also under consideration would be UT's Rowe who played MMP's outfield like he's a major league veteran -- he looked as if he could Michael Bourn some pointers on handling Tal's Hill.