MEET THE SABERCATS

New rugby team offers Houstonians a fun night out with family and friends

The Sabercats offer a great fan experience. Courtney Sellers

Many wondered if Houston would be able to support another professional team. We’ve got the big three teams, plus a men's and women’s soccer team, a minor league baseball team, and now a rugby club drawing the attention of Houston citizens. The Sabercats first game was a sellout – drawing over 5,000 fans in a blowout win over the Seattle Saracens. It was a fun night full of Rugby fans young and old, both new to the sport and veterans. There was a group of young English Rugby fans – living in the States who were excited to watch Houston’s first professional game. A father with his two young sons sat right on the pitch (just behind home plate if you’re thinking of Constellation Field like a baseball diamond) to watch their first match ever. An exciting time out with dad, they were eager to see how the game was played. A father who played rugby in high school watched with his parents, girlfriend, and young daughter explaining the game to the girl while she ate a box of Mike and Ikes on the grassy hill behind the Sabercat’s first half goal.

What draws people 17 miles from the city center to watch the sport? Billy, Tom, and Alex -- three guys I met on opening night -- all played rugby growing up and Tom has two caps with the English National Team. For them, it was exciting to watch the sport they grew up playing and missed here in the states live and in person right in the town they now call home. For Nick and his sons Oliver, 3 and Mason, 6 it was an opportunity to spend quality time together and see a new sport they had never thought of previously. Dane Butterfield enjoyed explaining the game to his girlfriend Taylor and daughter Zoe. His parents were also in attendance. Dane played football in the States before the family expatriated to England for his high school years. Football isn’t an option at the schools there, so Butterfield decided to join the Rugby team instead – its similarities to football the main draw. He played hooker – one of the front line positions -- until the family moved back to the States where he played for the inaugural Katy Barbarians club team – which is still in existence today as one of two rugby clubs in the West Houston/Katy area. Having the opportunity to enjoy a game with family while also passing on the love of the sport to his young daughter is exciting and the family plans to attend as many games at Constellation Field as they can. On opening night, they sat on the grassy hill but by game three they had moved to stands right on the 50-meter line – where the best action is.

Games two and three – both losses – had lower turn outs. More than 2,600 fans still came out for game two on January 13th, the freezing temperatures a deterrent to some, but not all as fans watched the Sabercats take on the Vancouver Ravens in a close loss. A crowd of 3,000 showed up for game three where the Sabercats again lost, this time to the Uruguayan National Team. With any new team, they’ve got some kinks to work out, but the atmosphere alone is enough to sustain the fan experience for a while longer. With football ending in just one week, that need we have for contact will be satisfied with the Sabercats.  

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Houston drops the opener

Angels use big sixth inning to take opener from Astros

Houston's offense started hot, then went cold Monday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With a 2-1 series win under their belt to start this ten-game homestand, the Astros turned the page to a three-game set with the Angels on Monday night. Things started strong for Houston, building an early lead, but it would erode in the middle innings as the Angels would respond with a big sixth inning to take the opener.

Final Score: Angels 5, Astros 4

Astros' Record: 18-17, tied for second in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jose Suarez (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (1-2)

Houston Builds an early lead

After a 1-2-3 top of the first by Luis Garcia, Houston would start the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Back-to-back walks set things off, setting up an RBI ground-rule double by Alex Bregman, giving them the 1-0 lead. Kyle Tucker lead the bottom of the second off with a double, then came around to score on an RBI single by Myles Straw, then Michael Brantley made it 3-0 with an RBI double later in the inning.

Los Angeles roars back to take the lead

Los Angeles trimmed the lead to two runs in the top of the fourth with an RBI double, but Houston was able to get that run back on another RBI by Straw in the bottom of the fifth. Things fell apart for Garcia in the top of the sixth, with back-to-back one-out solo homers trimming the lead to one run and ending his night there: 5.1 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, 2 HR, 92 P.

The Angels didn't stop there, getting two more runs to take the lead off of Brandon Bielak, who managed just one out while blowing the lead. Brooks Raley would enter to get the final out of the inning, then tried to keep the deficit at one run when he returned in the top of the seventh. It looked like things might unravel for him, allowing the first two batters to reach base on a walk and single, but he would battle back to strike out the next three straight to strand both.

Angels take the opener

Joe Smith took over in the top of the eighth, still 5-4, but would get two outs while allowing a double in his three batters before Houston moved on to Kent Emanuel, who finished the inning off. After another scoreless inning for Houston's offense, Emanuel remained in the game in the top of the ninth to keep a walk-off chance alive, and he would do so by erasing a walk to send the one-run game to the bottom half. The Astros wouldn't pull off a comeback, though, dropping the opener to Los Angeles.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will be another 7:10 PM Central start on Tuesday night. It shapes up to be an exciting pitching matchup, with Lance McCullers Jr. (2-1, 3.58 ERA) for Houston going up against the two-way star Shohei Ohtani (1-0, 2.41 ERA) for Los Angeles.

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