Houston Eliminates UAB From Conference USA Championship

Digger Towe had two hits and an RBI in Friday's loss.

May 22, 2009

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HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- For the second game in a row, an impressive pitching performance doomed the UAB baseball team Friday as Houston eliminated the Blazers from the Conference USA Championship with a 4-1 victory at Pete Taylor Park.

Houston starter Michael Goodnight controlled the game on the mound, working 8.1 innings and holding UAB to one run on six hits. Goodnight, a freshman, struck out 10 batters. His effort came one day after Rice starter Ryan Berry two-hit the Blazers to send UAB into Friday's elimination game.

"Once again, kind of like yesterday, Goodnight was just a little too good for us," UAB head coach Brian Shoop said. "We just couldn't figure out Goodnight on the mound. We have to tip our hats to him."

Sixth-seeded UAB (31-26) gave itself an opportunity in the bottom of the ninth when singles from Brint Hardy and Digger Towe put runners at the corners with one out. But Houston closer Donnie Joseph came out of the bullpen and needed only two pitches to induce a game-ending double play.

Third-seeded Houston (27-30) recorded four twin-killings in the game with UAB also lining into a double play in the third inning and grounding into one in the fifth. The Cougars also recorded one of the strike-him-out, throw-him-out variety in the fourth.

Offensively, Houston put the leadoff batter on in each of the first six innings and scored in three of them. The Cougars started quickly with a pair of two-out, RBI singles in the first inning from Chase Dempsay and Chris Wallace. Later, a third-inning RBI double from Dempsay and a fourth-inning leadoff homer from David Murphy staked Houston to a 4-0 lead.

UAB picked up a run in the fourth on an RBI double from Towe, but the strike-him-out, throw-him-out double play hurt the Blazers chances to do more damage.

Towe and Hardy finished with two hits each to lead UAB, and Hardy was also hit with a pitch once to reach base in three of his four plate appearances. Dempsay led Houston at the plate with a 2-for-4 effort and two RBI.

Houston's first three runs came against UAB's Beau Pender, who missed his last start and took the loss Friday in his first appearance in two weeks. The fourth run was charged to reliever Blake Huddleston, who came out of the bullpen to pitch 5.1 innings and stabilize things, allowing one run on four hits. Nick Graffeo pitched the final 1.2 innings.

Huddleston's outing matched the longest of his career. The sophomore right-hander also went 5.1 innings in relief back on March 6 against UC Irvine at the QTI Baylor Classic.

Friday's meeting was the fifth of the season between UAB and Houston with the Cougars winning three of them. Houston avenged an 8-3 loss to the Blazers in Wednesday's tournament-opening game.

The teams have now met eight times in C-USA Championship history and five times in the past two conference tournaments with Houston winning three of those five meetings.

Houston advances to meet No. 2 seed Rice at 4 p.m. (CT) Friday and will have to beat the Owls twice to reach Sunday's championship game.

UAB went 1-2 at this year's tournament to reach 31 wins, marking the program's highest win total since tallying 31 victories in 2005.