HOUSTON (CBS-Houston) – One of these teams is a veteran 8-0 club and ranked number 5 in the nation with a projected finish of a possible College World Series. The other is 4-3, young and fearless, and also has big goals. The 8-0 team is Rice and the young and fearless team is Houston. They will host the Rice Owls in a non-conference matchup at Cougar Field on Tuesday night in what will be a battle for bragging rights in the City and continued momentum for the season.
Rice is coming off of a weekend sweep of 2011 Super-Regional finalist Dallas Baptist at Reckling Park. The Owls 8-0 start is the best since 2001. Conversely, the Cougars lost 2-of-3 over the weekend to 2011 Southland Conference Champ and Regional Finalist, Texas State.
However, they did fare better this season winning one versus last season as they were swept in San Marcos. It’s the small steps towards progress that has Houston Cougar Head Baseball Coach, Todd Whitting fired up about his team.
“As I look back over the weekend, one thing you got to constantly evaluate the ball club is the attitude, effort, and energy that they give me. You look back over the weekend (and) we had great attitude, great effort, and great energy for three games. We played well enough to win all three. I mean the two games we lost were way closer than the score, they were tight games.”
Whitting’s team won 2-1 on Friday night, but lost 6-1 on Saturday and 6-0 on Sunday. Meanwhile the Rice Owls defeated Dallas Baptist 6-5, 2-0, and 7-3.
BOTH HAVE BIG GOALS
It’s been well-documented that the Rice Owls have Omaha on their minds and in their hearts. Especially the seniors since they are the first class not to have competed at Omaha since Rice won the CWS in 2003.
Their desire is evident says junior leftfielder Michael Ratterree who keyed a 4-run 5th inning with a bases-clearing double to help his team defeat Dallas Baptist 7-3 on Sunday and complete the sweep.
“They’ve really come out strong this year. You can see it when you look at them. There’s something different about them and it shows in the way they’ve been pitching. They just really want to get there and we just got to continue to improve as a team.”
Ratterree is correct. Senior pitcher Matthew Reckling, who is Conference USA’s pitcher of the week, and Taylor Wall are undefeated at 1-0 and 3-0 respectively. Andrew Benak, who is a redshirt junior, but started at Rice with the senior class, is also 1-0 after his performance against New Mexico State. He will get the start against Houston.