The baseball team will have a bit of an unusual schedule this weekend as they travel to the University of Houston for a three-game series at Cougar Field.
Head coach Rob Sheppard said that a non-conference series is not concerning to him.
“I don’t think it’s a benefit or a loss,” Sheppard said. “It gives us an opportunity to give some other guys some work. We’ve been playing pretty well on the weekend and we want to continue to do so.”
Usually once Big East play begins, teams will play only in-conference foes on the weekends, while playing non-conference teams during the week. With the departure of West Virginia after last season the Big East was left with only 11 teams, forcing one team to have a week off from conference games.
“Houston was a team that we chose only because we were supposed to be in the conference with them,” Sheppard said. “They’re a very good opponent. It’s going to be a good challenge and we’re getting an opportunity to travel a bit and we’re looking forward to getting out there.”
Houston was supposed to join the Big East next year, but will now become a part of the former Big East, which will be called the American Athletic Conference.
This will be the first meeting between the Cougars and the Pirates.
The Hall has won six of their last seven, including a 2-1 series win against Rutgers and a 12-5 win over Wagner on Wednesday afternoon.
Pitching and defense have been the keys for the Pirates this season. All of their regular weekend starters, ace Jon Prosinski, senior Greg Terhune and junior Josh Prevost have a sub-3.0 ERA.
Prosinski captured his third Big East Weekly Honor Roll for pitching a complete game in a 15-1 win on the road over in-state rival Rutgers last Friday.
“Our staff has done a great job,” Sheppard said. “As we go through the season, guys roles will start to develop.”
Houston comes into the series 24-9 (6-3 Conference USA) which includes a 15-3 record at home. The Cougars have struggled of late, losing four of their last five.
Freshman infielder Justin Montemayor leads the team with .323 batting average and 42 hits on the season. Montemayor was named C-USA Hitter of the Week on March 4.
Similar to the Pirates, Houston has a dominant pitcher in freshman Jake Lemoine. Lemoine has made 10 appearances including five starts for the Cougars. He holds a 5-1 record with a 1.69 ERA.
Sheppard said that the tough pitching and home success from the Cougars will not be a problem if the Pirates can continue their style of play.
“We just have to keep playing solid baseball,” he said. “That’s the key. When you have the opportunity to go and play a good, quality opponent on the road that has a pretty good streak like that you have to get out there and play our style of baseball.”
T.J. Brennan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.