HOUSTON, Texas – On Tuesday night, the fifth-ranked University of Houston baseball team managed only one run off three hits against No. 3 Rice.
However, that would be all the offensive support that UH pitchers Danny Zell, Austin Faught and Nathan Mitchell needed as the Cougars took a 1-0 win over the Owls at Cougar Field in Game Four of the Silver Glove Series. The win snapped a three-game losing streak to Rice this season and a five-game losing streak overall to the Owls dating back to last season.
It was UH's first shutout against Rice since taking an 11-0 win over the Owls on May 18 in the 1990 Southwest Conference Tournament and the team's fourth shutout of the year.
Zell scattered four hits and only one walk in a career-best 5.0 innings of work to improve to 2-0. The Houston native allowed only one runner to reach third base in the first inning but forced Vincent Sinisi to fly out to right field and end the threat.
He made room for Austin Faught who tossed 3.1 innings of relief and set the stage for Nathan Mitchell to enter the bottom of the ninth with one out and retire the two batters he faced on the way to his fourth save of the year. Neither Faught nor Mitchell were ever threatened by the Owl offense, which was held hitless and never pushed a runner beyond first base during the final four innings.
With his save, Mitchell tied Jesse Crain for the team lead with four saves and also tied Mike Walker for third in school career history with eight saves.
The Cougars (22-8) struck for an unearned run in the second inning, thanks to two Rice errors and a base hit. Stuart Musslewhite started the rally with a single up the middle. Anthony Scalise then laced a sharp ground ball to Sinisi who bobbled the ball at first base. Second baseman Eric Arnold collected the loose ball but threw wildly to pitcher Justin Crowder who was covering first base, allowing Musslewhite to score the only run of the game.
Musslewhite, Michael Bourn and Brett Cooley were the only Cougars to record hits in the game, but Musslewhite extended his hitting streak to a personal-best nine games, while Bourn pushed his streak to a season-long eight games.
Rice (26-6) dropped to 26-6 with the loss and picked up only its second loss in its last 16 games.
The Cougars return to Conference USA action this weekend when they meet East Carolina in a three-game series. That series starts at 6 p.m. (Central) Friday and continues through Sunday.