Houston opened up their weekend series in Wichita, Kansas on Friday with a 7-4 win over the Wichita State Shockers and finally exacted some revenge on an recent foe.
The Cougars of 2021 and 2022 had been unable to figure out Wichita State starter Jace Kaminska in three games last season and one game earlier this season . . . Over that stretch, Kaminska was 4-0 and had allowed just two runs in 32 1/3 innings, which includes a contest in the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Clearwater, Florida last May.
Trailing 3-0 in the top of the third inning, Brandon Burkel led off the frame with a single and then stole second base . . . Alex Lopez hit a two-out double into right-center to plate Burckel and cut the deficit to 3-1.
Houston starter Jaycob Deese faced the minimum in the third inning, getting a pickoff at first on a runner who had singled with two outs . . . Deese then faced just three batters in both the fourth and fifth innings, requiring just nine pitches in the fifth.
Lopez singled to lead off the sixth inning with the Cougars still trailing 3-1 . . . Anthony Tulimero followed with a walk, and Cameron Nickens was hit in the helmet by a pitch to load the bases with no outs . . . Ian McMillian batted a ball to deep short and before the ball could break free and run into left field, the Shockers shortstop stopped the ball on a dive, but he had no play as a run crossed the plate, the bases remained loaded and the Cougars trailed by a run.
Malachi Lott lined a ball down the right field line all the way to the wall to clear the bases and the Cougars took a 5-3 lead on the double by Lott.
Kaminska left the game after six innings pitched, having allowed five runs.
Ahead 5-4 in the top of the eighth inning, Tulimero led off the inning with a fly ball to center that looked like a sure out, but it was dropped by the center-fielder and Tulimero stopped at second base . . . One out later, Ryan Hernandez hit his seventh home run of the year over the wall in deep left-center field to push the Houston lead to 7-4.
Deese gave way to Ben Sears to start the bottom of the eighth inning with the three run lead . . . Deese did not allow a walk in his seven innings, and in uncharacteristic fashion, only struck out one batter.
Sears handled the final two innings, and while he did not look his sharpest (he walked two and hit a batter), it was nice to see the right-hander work through some adversity and record the six records he was tasked with getting . . . Deese improved to 5-2 on the year with the win and Sears picked up his tenth save.
Head coach Todd Whitting commented on his team coming back from a 3-0 deficit to take the road victory on Friday night, but also of the outstanding defense played behind his pitchers throughout the game.
“Proud of our offensive unit tonight,” Whitting said after the game. “We had a great plan against one of the top pitchers in our league. We did a tremendous job of grinding out at bats and playing great defense.”
The Cougars and the Shockers are back in action on Saturday afternoon in Wichita . . . Kyle LaCalameto will be on the mound for the Cougars . . . The scheduled first pitch is at 2pm.