Upstart, underdog Houston Baptist tries to take down top-seeded Houston _lowres

Southland Conference photo by ERIK WILLIAMS -- Houston Baptist players celebrate with Andrew Alvarez (36) after Alvarez scored during the Huskies' 6-0 win over Sam Houston State in the championship game of the Southland Conference tournament last Friday.

HOUSTON — Forget about the NCAA regionals.

Houston Baptist, which had never been there before, was in danger of missing the Southland Conference tournament. At the very least, the Huskies looked like a prime candidate to flame out early if they even made it.

HBU dropped 10 of its final 13 regular-season games and finished seventh in the Southland standings, all but staggering into nearby Sugar Land, Texas, for the conference tournament.

Less than a week later, behind four straight complete games from its starting pitchers, the Huskies lifted the championship trophy, happy first-time winners of the Southland’s automatic bid to the NCAA regionals.

“This is probably the greatest win of my career right now,” coach Jared Moon said afterward, “and hopefully there’s more conference championships to come.”

Now, at the Houston regional, Houston Baptist will attempt to go on an even more improbable run. At 2:30 p.m. Friday, the fourth-seeded Huskies take on top-seeded Houston — the very team that knocked LSU out of its own regional at Alex Box Stadium last season.

The Cougars, for their part, shook off a slow start to finish strong, as well. A preseason top-25 team, UH dropped five of seven games during a stretch in early April, struggling through the early part of its American Athletic Conference schedule.

The Cougars rebounded, stringing together eight straight wins before they fell to East Carolina 9-1 in the championship game of the AAC tournament.

“We were just kind of going out there and staying above water, but we kicked into pretty high gear here the last month,” Houston coach Todd Whitting said. “So really the mentality for us is to stay exactly the way (we’ve) been.”