HOUSTON — Three hours after No. 3 seed UL-Lafayette rallied to overcome a four-run deficit and advance to Saturday’s winner’s bracket game, No. 1 seed Houston did the same thing.
The Cougars put together a six-run third inning to spark a 6-4 win over No. 4 seed Houston Baptist on Friday night in the Houston regional at Cougar Field.
Freshman Corey Julks hit the decisive shot during the rally, a three-run homer over the left-field wall to give the Cougars a 5-4 lead.
The Cougars (43-18) will play UL-Lafayette (40-21) at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the winner just a victory away from a super regional berth.
“I didn’t think we panicked when we were down,” Houston coach Todd Whitting said. “Once we scored that first run, we settled in and the crowd got into it and you could feel the dugout relax.”
Connor Wong had three hits and scored a run for the Cougars, while Kyle Survance added two hits and a run.
Julks made his one hit count, hitting the homer with two outs and the Cougars trailing by two.
“I was just trying to stay aggressive and not try to do too much,” Julks said. “I’ve just been getting more relaxed and getting more reps.”
On the mound, Houston starter Andrew Lantrip settled down after giving up five straight hits and three runs to start the game.
“The first two innings, I just felt like I was overthrowing and I didn’t have a great feel for everything,” Lantrip said. “Later in the game, the fastball had a little more jump out of my hand and I was just trying to go pitch by pitch and finish the thing off.”
The sophomore right-hander did just that, shutting HBU out over the final seven innings with eight strikeouts.
“I was extremely proud of him,” Whitting said. “He struggled early, but he settled in and, at that point, I thought he was as good as he’s been all year long. It shows how much he has grown up over the last few years. I think he won the game for us.”
HBU (28-26) was led by Zach Nehrir, who had two hits, including a solo home run in the second inning.
The Huskies will play Rice at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in the first elimination game.
“I thought both teams squared the ball up real well; their hits just all fell in during one inning and ours all fell in with no one on,” HBU coach Jared Moon said. “All in all, we couldn’t ask much more out of our hitters. It just didn’t fall in for us tonight.”
Five batters into the game, it looked like the Huskies were on their way to their second upset of Houston this year.
HBU beat the Cougars 2-1 in the teams’ only other meeting this year March 3.
On Friday, Samm Wiggins had an RBI single, and Andrew Alverez followed with a two-run single to put the Huskies up 3-0 with nobody out in the first inning.
Lantrip was able to buckle down after the rough start, getting three straight outs to strand two HBU baserunners and limit the damage.
The Huskies got right back at it in the second inning. Nehrir launched the first pitch he saw over the left-field fence to extend HBU’s lead to 4-0.
After the home run, Nehrir had seen a total of two pitches in two at-bats and had scored two runs before the Cougars got their first baserunner.
UH didn’t wait long to battle back. Josh Vidales and Jacob Campbell delivered RBI singles in the third inning before Julks came up with the three-run difference-maker.
The Cougars tacked on a sixth run with an RBI double from Ian Rice two batters later.
Matthew McCollough pitched 7.2 innings for HBU, only giving up the one big inning.
“That is not a normal No. 4 seed,” Whitting said. “I knew we were in for a tough night, and I don’t think they are done in this tournament.”