ALBUEQUERQUE, N.M. – Houston Cougars (16-7) junior righty Kyle Dowdy tossed 6.2 innings and allowed three earned runs in just his second career start as the Cougars clinched the series with a 6-5 win over the New Mexico Lobos (11-9) on Saturday at Lobos Field. The Lobos would make another late run to cut into the Cougars lead but would fall for the second consecutive game by a 6-5 margin.
The Cougars may finally have things rolling again as they’ve now won eight straight games, their longest winning streak since opening 2014 with nine wins in a row. Houston is poised to sweep this bracket critical road series when the two teams finish the series on Sunday.
Garza In The Pen
Senior right-hander Aaron Garza started the year in the weekend rotation but began battling with nerve issues in his arm and as a precaution, Cougars head coach Todd Whitting starting using him in shorter stints. What this has meant was more appearances in the closer role which has been an effective adjustment for the bullpen.
Garza came into the game with a runner on in the ninth and surrendered a single that put runners on first and second. After a pair of fly outs the physical sophomore Chris DeVito drove a 2-2 delivery into the gap in left for a two-out, two-run double to pull the Lobos within a run at 6-5.
After allowing in infield single in the next at bat, Garza would settle in and induc the game-ending groundout to notch his third save on the year. As Garza becomes more acquainted with his new role the Cougars are sure to reap the future benefits.
DeVito Dailing In
New Mexico can thank its’ three-hole hitter for making a game of it tonight as the sophomore had a two-hit night but was the key man with runners on base. The 6’2” 220-pounder out of Northridge, California slapped a pair of late-inning, RBI doubles that got the Lobos offense started.
In the sixth, sophomore Lane Milligan (C) led off with a double to the gap in right and DeVito sent a double to the same spot to drove him in and cut Houston’s lead to 4-2. Pinch hitters Ryan Padilla (Sr.) and Jack Zoellner (So.) led off the ninth with singles before DeVito drove them in with his other double on the night.
DeVito is the Lobos’ best hitter at this point in the year with a slashline of .314/.586/.437 and the team lead in homers (4), RBI (20) and runs scored (13).
No. 3 hitter Chris Iriart (Jr., 1B) led the Cougars with two hits on the night while scoring a run and driving in another. However, this squad continues to get consistent production out of the 1-4 spots in the lineup and the consistency is getting results.
Leadoff hitter Kyle Survance (Jr., RF) got on base two more times and both produced runs while he also drove in a run. Junior second baseman Josh Vidales scored and drove in a pair of runs and Justin Montemayor (Jr., 3B)added a pair of RBI as well.
Survance, Vidales and Iriart each are hitting .300 on the year with plus .400 on base averages while Survance also added a stolen base for his 17th on the year. Vidales has reached base in 26 straight games.
In only his second start as a Cougar, Dowdy put up a quality start, allowing three earned runs over 6.2 innings pitched. The San Diego, California native allowed five hits and a pair of walks while striking out three to improve to 2-0 on the year.
This was an impressive outing for Dowdy as he was a spot, fill-in for the injured pre-season All America selection Jake Lemoine (Jr., RHP). The first runner to reach on a ball hit safely out of the infield didn’t occur until Lobos’ shortstop Dalton Bowers led off the fifth with a double.
Dowdy gave up back-to-back doubles to plate a run in the sixth before striking out two of the next three hitters to get out of the inning. He was pulled in the seventh after sandwiching a pair of groundouts between a hit batsman and a walk.
Overall, his outing was effective in that he gave his team a chance to win and my hunch is that is all Houston is going to need, just the opportunity to win.
Houston looks for the series sweep, and the accompanying RPI boost, on Sunday as coach Whitting noted post-game, “This was a huge weekend for us as far as RPI goes. Going on the road against a good RPI team and coming away with a series win and a chance to sweep tomorrow is always good.”