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Cougars hand Pirates C-USA opening loss, 7-2

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HOUSTON, TX -

Houston used a 13-hit attack and got eight strong innings from starter Daniel Poncedeleon as the Cougars (19-4, 1-0) cruised to a 7-2 Conference USA opening win over East Carolina (11-11, 0-1) Friday night at Cougar Field.

The Cougars scored runs in the first, second and fourth frames and pulled away with a four-run fifth en route to their eighth-straight win. Kyle Kirk's RBI ground out scored Josh Vidales from third after he leadoff the bottom of the first with a triple to left center. Another triple in the second, this time by Frankie Ratcliff, and an RBI line drive single by Ashford Fulmer with two outs gave Houston a 2-0 advantage.
 
Another two-out run in the fourth extended Houston's lead to three, 3-0. Ratcliff, who was a homer away from hitting for the cycle, singled to right field starting the stanza. A pair of passed ball's moved him to third with one out and Landon Appling's sac fly to right field pushed he across home.
 
Poncedeleon, who was effectively wild in the game, improved to 3-2 on the season scattering five hits over eight frames allowing two runs (both earned) with five walks and eight strikeouts. Dylan Rucker allowed a pair of base runners without recording an out in the ninth and was lifted for Chase Wellbrook, who worked a scoreless frame recording two strikeouts.
 
Jeff Hoffman (2-3) suffered the loss in his worst outing of the season. The right-hander was tagged for seven runs (six earned) on 11 hits with a pair of walks and one strikeout in 4.1 innings. Pirate relievers Dylan Dickens (1.2 IP, 2 H, 2 BB) and Brett Mabry (2.0 IP, 1 K) tossed a combined 3.2 scoreless frames.
 
ECU had a chance to push across a couple of runs in the second, but left the bases loaded. Poncedeleon walked Ben Fultz, Zach Houchins and Dylan Brown in succession with one out before fanning Chris Gosik (looking) and Travis Watkins (swinging) to get out of the jam.
 
The Pirates finally pushed across their first run of the contest in the top of the fifth, cutting the lead to 3-1. Watkins reached on a fielder's choice and Bass recorded the Pirates first hit of the night with a single through the left side. Jack Reinheimer walked to load the bases and Jay Cannon grounded out to short scoring Watkins.
 
Five hits in the bottom of the fifth led to four more Cougar runs extending the lead to 7-1. Ratcliff had a two-RBI double; Fulmer laced the third triple of the night scoring Ratcliff before he strolled home on another Pirate wild pitch.
 
Brown capped the scoring on the night smacking his first home run of the season to right field in the eighth inning, 7-2.
 
The Pirates left 12 runners on base and had multiple runners stranded in the second, fifth, sixth, seventh and ninth frames.

ECU will look snap a three-game loosing streak and pick up its first win in league play Saturday night when they meet Houston for game two of the three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. (ET).
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