Houston Walks-Off Memphis; Advances to Saturday at the AAC

The Cougars celebrate the walk-off win in shallow right field on Thursday in Clearwater (Photo credit: American Athletic Conference/Mary Holt)

Houston kept their season going by defeating Memphis 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning in Clearwater on Thursday night in the American Athletic Conference Championship.

Brandon Uhse (4-for-5) hit the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning over the wall in deep left-center . . . Alex Lopez (4-for-6) doubled down the left field line in front of Anthony Tulimero who hit a monster home run to left-center and the Cougars led 3-0 before an out had been recorded in the inning.

The Cougars added a run in the second inning when Lopez, attempting to steal second base, was caught in a rundown allowing Uhse to score from third base.

After the Tigers scored two runs in the top of the fourth inning, Uhse and Lopez led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single and a double, respectively . . . Tulimero then delivered a double into left-center field to push the Cougars lead back up to four runs, 6-2.

A four-run top of the sixth inning tied the game at six as the Cougars used three different pitchers to get through the frame . . . Memphis then took a 7-6 lead in the top of the sixth inning.

The Cougars tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when a throwing error at third base allowed Brandon Burckel to score when the ball bounced into the Houston dugout.

Still tied at seven in the bottom of the ninth inning, Burckel led off with a single into center field and then he stole second base on a pitch that was up-and-in and delayed the Tiger catcher from making a throw to second base . . . Uhse was intentionally walked before a Lopez sacrifice fly to right field moved Burkcel to third base . . . Tulimero was the second intentional walk of the inning, which loaded the bases . . . Santiago Garcia laced a one-out single down the third base line to drive in Burckel from third base for the winning run as the Cougars walked it off 8-7.

The Cougars used six pitchers in the victory. Logan Clayton, Cameron Prayer, and Jose Torrealba all pitched scoreless relief . . . Houston out-hit Memphis nineteen to twelve in the game, and eight different Cougars had base hits . . . Houston continues to play solid defensively and did not commit an error on Thursday, while Memphis committed two errors.

“In that moment, it’s just going back to being a little kid,” Garcia said after the game. “Getting in situations like that, it’s fun. It’s really just taking a deep breath, enjoying the moment, trying to put a good swing on a ball, and whatever happens, happens.”

Head coach Todd Whitting has continued to reiterate that there are no roles right now, he and his staff are simply choosing players who they think can get the job done in certain situations, which is another way of saying it’s all hands on deck right now.

The Cougars now have a day off on Friday and will play their next game on early Saturday afternoon when they will face the winner of a late Friday afternoon matchup between Memphis and UCF . . . If Houston stumbles at any point, they know right now they have the luxury of needing to be defeated twice to be eliminated.

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