HOUSTON – Frankie Ratcliff and Justin Montemayor each drove in a run to lead Houston to a 3-2 Conference USA baseball victory over Southern Miss in the first game of the series at Cougar Field here Thursday night.
The Golden Eagles (27-24 overall, 14-8 C-USA) now holds a one-game lead over Memphis, Rice and UCF in the league standings with two games to play. Game two of the series is set for 6:30 p.m., Friday.
Mason Robbins led the Golden Eagles with two of the team's seven hits, while the Cougars collected seven hits as well.
Southern Miss jumped out to an early lead with a solo run in the first. After a walk to Dillon Day to lead off the game and a sacrifice bunt by Travis Creel, Southern Miss put together three singles in a row by Isaac Rodriguez, Mason Robbins and Bradley Roney. Rodriguez extended his hitting streak to a team season-best 17 games and Robbins then drove in a run for the 11th game of the last 12 with his one-base hit.
Tim Lynch then hit into a fielder's choice with Rodriguez being thrown out at the plate and Blake Brown grounded out to short to end the first.
The Cougars (34-19, 12-10) then tied the score with an RBI double by Montemayor in the bottom of the first. UH then took the lead for good on a run-scoring triple that hopped over the first-base bag into the corner by Ratcliff in the bottom of the third and UH added their final run in the fifth on grounded into double play.
Southern Miss added its final run in the seventh. After Brown opened the inning with a double, Dillon Day hit into a ground out, which moved Brown to third before he scored on a wild pitch. Day was ejected from the game at the end of the half inning for arguing his out call at first base.
Despite throwing a complete-game eight innings, Andrew Pierce suffered the loss to fall to 9-2. Pierce allowed three runs (two earned) with eight walks and no strikeouts.
Daniel Poncedelon (7-4) went 7 1/3 strong innings, allowing a pair of runs on seven hits with five walks and two strikeouts to capture the victory. Chase Wellbrock threw the final 1 1/3 to earn his 10th save.