Cougars Rally in 9th, Fall Short 11-10

Houston Cougars Lael Lockhart Jr. 2-28-2020
Lael Lockhart Jr.’s first pitch against Texas State Friday night.

The Texas State Bobcats arrived in force at Schroeder Park on Friday night as they opened their series with the Houston Cougars with a big win.

The Bobcats got two quick runs in the first inning off of Cougars starter Lael Lockhart Jr. . . . After a strikeout to lead off the game, two singles and a triple added up to a quick 2-0 lead . . . Texas State would keep Houston off the scoreboard long enough to put up a three-spot in the third to take a 5-0 lead.

The Cougars put together a comeback of sorts in the fourth when they scored two after a leadoff single by Ryan Hernandez, one of his two hits on the night, and a double to right-center by Brett Cain . . . Tyler Bielamowicz was hit by a pitch for the fourth time already this season to load the bases for Ian McMillan . . . McMillan hit a sacrifice fly to right field to score Hernandez from third.

Freshman Rey Mendoza pinch-hit with the bases loaded and two-outs after a Kobe Hyland walk . . . Mendoza quickly fell behind 0-2, but he stayed patient and he did not chase, eventually he worked a big walk to score another run and get the Cougars within three at 5-2.

Texas State would get a run back in the fifth . . . The Cougars got that run back in the sixth when Kobe Hyland hit a solo homerun to right field . . . But the math was not adding up as the Bobcats plated five runs in their seventh and eighth innings to take a commanding 11-3 lead into the ninth . . . The Bobcats made the Cougars pay for defensive errors, those hitters scored to increase the pressure on the trio of Cougars pitchers that handled the duty on Friday night.

The Cougars mounted a rally of sorts to close the gap . . . Dax Dathe led off the inning with a solid single, and he would move to second on a wild pitch . . . An error by the Texas State shortstop would allow the Cougars runners on the corners with no one out . . . Derrick Cherry would deliver with an RBI single, his first hit of the 2020 season in his first game this year, and the Cougars were trailing 11-4 as Texas State went to the bullpen.

Another run would score on a Ryan Hernandez groundout to make the score 11-5 . . . Blake Way followed with a two-out two-run homerun to left-center to get the Cougars within four at 11-7 . . . Tyler Bielamowicz worked a two-out walk to keep the inning alive. Bielmowicz reached base in three of his five plate appearances, capping his night with a stolen base.

Ian McMillan kept the ninth inning going with a single to right . . . Freshman Luke Almendarez roped a two-out double into the left field corner and two runs would score to make the score 11-9 before Texas State went to the bullpen again . . . A single to right by Dylan Post would get the Cougars within one, but the rally would end there with the winning run base as the Cougars fell 11-10 despite scoring seven runs in the final frame.

Houston and Texas State are back at it on Saturday evening at 6:30 at Schroeder Park. –

Cougars Drop 12 Inning Thriller

Houston Cougars Spencer Hynes 2-25-2020
Spencer Hynes throws the first pitch against UTRGV Tuesday night.

The Houston Cougars and the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Vaqueros played a game Tuesday night that few who were in attendance will be able to forget; this game had it all.

After neither team could push a run across in the first inning, in the bottom second Ian McMillan put down a sacrifice bunt to score Brett Cain from third for an early 1-0 lead.

Spencer Hynes started the game on the mound and threw two scoreless innings . . . Nick Rupp followed Hynes and went three scoreless before yielding to Tanner Green . . . For Rupp, it was his first appearance for the Cougars.

The Vaqueros tied the game in the sixth with a run-scoring single . . . The next batter put a ball deep into the outfield and the runner from first had been moving on contact with two outs. Right-fielder Rivas threw to his cut-off man Ian McMillan who fired home to catcher Dylan Post to stop a go-ahead run from scoring by mere inches.

With the game tied at one in the eighth, UTRGV hit a grand slam to not only take the lead, but also to have some cushion . . . The Cougars would chip away at the four-run deficit by countering with three runs of their own in the bottom of the eighth, spurred by freshman Rey Mendoza’s first hit as a Cougar, a two-out, two-run single to center in the pinch-hitting role . . . Tyler Bielamowicz followed with a run-scoring single to get the Cougars within one at 5-4.

Bielamowicz in the leadoff spot reached base in five of six plate appearances, with two walks, a double on the first pitch of the night from UTRGV, an eighth inning single, and an error at second base that resulted in Bielamowicz safe at first . . . It is no secret that having a leadoff guy getting on base is crucial, and sometimes a ballplayer just has to put the ball in play to make things happen.

Steven Rivas stepped to the plate with one out in the ninth . . . Rivas went after the first pitch he saw from UTRGV’s Max Balderrama Jr. and drove it over the scoreboard in right-center field . . . The ball cleared the scoreboard by five feet and by the time Rivas crossed the plate, there was a brand new ballgame tied at five all . . . Rivas had three hits in the game, only he and Tyler Bielamowicz enjoyed a multi-hit game.

Before Rivas had a chance to tie the game, the Cougars had to get to that point . . . In the top of the ninth, the Vaqueros were threatening when Coleman Grubbs drove a ball toward the gap in left-center with two runners on base . . . Tyler Bielamowicz covered some real estate and then laid out for the catch of the year thus far . . . If the ball had dropped, a run would have scored, if the ball had gotten by and gone to the wall, two runs would have scored . . . Bielo ended the threat with a catch for the ages.

A scoreless tenth ran into a scoreless top of the eleventh . . . In the bottom of the frame, the Cougars loaded the bases with no outs . . . Jonathan Thomas put a pitch in play and when all was said and done, confusion and bewilderment on the basepaths resulted in an inning-ending triple play.

In the top half of the twelfth, The Vaqueros managed to get a run across on a sacrifice fly to deep left for a 6-5 lead . . . The Cougars went quietly in the bottom half and four hours and forty-two minutes after the first pitch, the game came to an end.

The Cougars return to action on Friday night at Schroeder Park when they play host to the Texas State Bobcats in a three-game weekend series . . . First pitch Friday is scheduled for 6:30. –

Cougars Fall to Texas Tech in 10

Round Rock Classic Cougars Beat

The Houston Cougars and the Texas Tech Red Raiders closed out the inaugural Round Rock Classic with a thrilling ballgame that was not decided until the last of the tenth inning Sunday night at Dell Diamond.

The Cougars got on the scoreboard in the top of the first inning when Tyler Bielamowicz walked, stole second, reached third on a wild pitch, and scored on a groundout to second by Brad Burckel . . . The lead would not last long though, as Texas Tech’s Dru Baker hit a homerun on the first pitch he saw to leadoff the bottom of the first.

The teams remained tied until the top of the fourth when Kobe Hyland roped a two-out double to right-center to plate Blake Way from first base, Way had reached base because of a two-out walk.

Houston starter Jared Pettitte pitched into the sixth inning, perhaps his best outing as a Cougar . . . Aside from the leadoff homerun and a triple to center that would eventually score, Pettitte was keeping his pitch count relatively low . . . Pettitte gave way to Carter Henry with one out and runners on the corners. Henry would load the bases, but he would escape the inning unscathed and go another scoreless inning in addition to that.

Neither offense was able to get a run across in innings six thru nine . . . In the top of the tenth, the Cougars were kept off the bases, setting up the bottom of the inning . . . The Red Raiders manufactured a run with a couple of base hits against Brayson Hurdsman who pitched three quality innings, the only run he allowed was the game-winning run in the bottom of the tenth to send the Red Raiders home a winner.

The Cougars hung tough with a top-ranked national team, but they fell just short . . . The solid pitching by the Cougars was not enough to outlast Texas Tech pitching. 

The Cougars head home now to face University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) on Tuesday evening at 6:30 at Schroder Park before welcoming Texas State to town for a weekend series to close out February and begin March. –

Cougars Fall to Tennessee in Round Rock

Round Rock Classic Cougars Beat

The Houston Cougars and the undefeated Tennessee Volunteers came into the second day of the inaugural Round Rock Classic having both won their opening games on Friday at Dell Diamond.

The Volunteers got on the board with three runs in the first off of Houston starter Clay Aguilar . . . Those would be the only runs until the fourth when Steven Rivas hit a two-run homerun to get the Cougars within one . . . For Rivas it was his second homerun on the season.

Houston would tie the game in the fifth when Ryan Hernandez hit a one-out double to the warning track that allowed Kobe Hyland to cross the plate . . . Clay Aguilar exited the game in the sixth as his pitch count reached 96, he went 5 1/3 striking out five and only allowing two earned runs . . . Tristen Bayless took the mound and got the final two outs of the inning to keep the game tied at three . . . Aguilar’s outing was quite good in the long run, stretching his start into the sixth kept the bullpen from being taxed too heavily.

The Cougars then took the lead in the sixth after Lael Lockhart Jr. got his first hit of the season to lead off the inning. Lockhart Jr. would score from second on an Ian McMillan infield single and a throwing error . . . It would be the only run of the inning as the Cougars took the 4-3 lead into the seventh.

Things came unraveled for the Cougars at that point as the Volunteers continued to get runners on base . . . Tennessee scored three in the seventh and two in the ninth to take an eventual 8-4 lead. 

Houston went hitless in its final three frames against Tennessee pitching . . . Ryan Hernandez was 2-for-3 on the afternoon, the only Cougar with multiple hits, and he got his season average up to .400 . . . It is worth noting that while Tyler Bielamowicz was 0-for-2 in the game, he was hit-by-pitch in his first two plate appearances and he continues to get on base for the Cougars so far this year . . .  The 8-4 loss dropped the Cougars to 2-3 on the young season.

The Cougars close out their action in the 2020 Round Rock Classic on Sunday at 3pm against Texas Tech. –

Cougars Defeat Stanford in Round Rock

Round Rock Classic Cougars Beat

The Houston Cougars opened up the inaugural Round Rock Classic with a win over the Stanford Cardinal on Friday night in Round Rock at Dell Diamond.

Stanford got on the board in the first with an early 1-0 lead off of Cougars starter Lael Lockhart Jr. . . .  The Cougars got the run back in their half of the second on a Blake Way sacrifice fly to left and the game was tied at one going into the fourth . . . For Way, it was the first of three RBI in the game.

The Cougars bottom of the fourth was an adventure for everyone at Dell Diamond . . . Houston sent eleven batters to the plate and eight of them reached base with seven of them scoring . . . The Cougars took advantage of three errors in the frame, including two on one play by Stanford’s first baseman . . . The inning also saw two stolen bases, one by Blake Way, the other by Brad Burckel . . . After the big inning, Houston took an 8-1 lead into the fifth.

Lockhart Jr. settled in after the allowing the run in the first inning and was crisp with his pitches and command into the fifth when he started to scuffle a bit . . . With two outs and the bases loaded, the Cougars went to Isaiah Blaylock who quickly shut down the threat with a strikeout and without allowing any runs to score.

Stanford once again loaded the bases in the sixth, this time with no one out, and Brayson Hurdsman was brought in from the bullpen and he escaped the inning with no damage done . . . The Cardinal would get three runs in their half of the seventh to make the score 8-4.

With the game still 8-4 in the bottom of the eighth, Ryan Hernandez hammered a no-doubt three-run homerun to put the Cougars back on top by eight heading into the ninth . . . Hernandez has homered in three of his first four games as a Cougar.

Tristen Bayless entered the game in the eighth and pitched the final two innings striking out three and securing for Lael Lockhart Jr. his first win on the season and a 1-0 record while the team evened its record at 2-2 . . . Leadoff batters reached base in six of the eight innings for the Houston offense, four of those were hits, one was a walk, and the other was a hit-by-pitch.

The Cougars return to action Saturday at 2pm at Dell Diamond against the Tennessee Volunteers. –

 

Cougars Fall in Finale, Series

Jared Pettitte throws the first pitch on Sunday at Schroeder Park.
Jared Pettitte throws the first pitch on Sunday at Schroeder Park.

The Houston Cougars dropped the rubber game against the visiting Youngstown State Penguins on Sunday afternoon at Schroeder Park . . . And for the second day in a row, the two teams needed extra innings to get things settled.

Jared Pettitte got the Sunday start and was sharp early, striking out the first two batters. Pettitte gave up a homerun in the second inning, and a manufactured run in the fifth.

The Cougars got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the first. After Tyler Bielamowicz walked and then stole second, setting the table for Ryan Hernandez . . . Hernandez went deep to left field for a two-run homerun and an early 2-0 Cougars lead . . . For Hernandez it was his second homerun in as many games, and part of an impressive first series with the Cougars.

Fellow newcomer Steven Rivas added a three-run shot of his own in the third, concluding a four-run inning for the Cougars and giving them a 6-1 lead.

Pettitte lasted into the fifth, striking out four, and exited because of a pitch count with a 6-2 lead and one out . . . Tanner Green entered the game to get two outs to end the inning and pitched another three innings in relief.

The Penguins stormed back in the ninth with their backs against the wall. A three-run homerun got them within a run, and after a pitching change, a solo homerun tied the game at six . . . The Cougars offense could not answer back in the ninth, sending the game to the tenth inning.

The Penguins continued their late-inning heroics by putting the ball in play and executing flawlessly . . . They would load the bases with no one out, Houston would make a pitching change, but eventually two Penguins would score to take an 8-6 lead into the bottom of the tenth . . . Despite getting a runner on base, the Cougars could not crawl back and Youngstown State took finale and the series.

The Cougars hit the road now, and they open up the Round Rock Classic at Dell Diamond next Friday at 3pm. –

Cougars Fall in Extras 6-3

Clay Aguilar winds up to face Youngstown State Saturday night.
Clay Aguilar winds up to face Youngstown State Saturday night.

The Houston Cougars and the Youngstown State Penguins needed extra innings Saturday night for the second of their three-game opening weekend series.

Blake Way got the scoring started for the Cougars with a two-out solo homerun in the second to give Houston a 1-0 lead.

Clay Aguilar got the Saturday night start and he did not disappoint . . . Aguilar kept the Penguins at bay for most of his outing, some of the hits against him were of the “tough luck” variety, not solid hits as if opponents had timed Aguilar perfectly . . . A defensive error would lead to three unearned runs in the sixth and that brought Aguilar’s evening to an end.

Tristen Bayless took the mound and got out of the sixth on his first and only pitch of the inning . . . Bayless returned to the mound and before it was all over, he had gone 4 1/3 innings of one-hit baseball while striking out eight on forty-eight pitches . . . Bayless was sharp and he had hitters fooled several times.

The Cougars would crawl back from a 3-1 deficit, first with a seventh inning homerun by Friday night star Ryan Hernandez, a blast off of the black Houston Baseball sign in left-center, followed by an eighth inning homerun by Kobe Hyland off of the scoreboard in right-center.

Extra innings beckoned . . . Both teams went quietly in the tenth, but the Penguins jumped ahead when Penguins first baseman Steven D’Eusanio hit a three-run homerun to left-center in the top of the eleventh . . . Despite a comeback of their own in the eleventh, aided by a dropped fly ball in right field and the tying run at the plate, the Cougars dropped their first game of the 2020 season 6-3.

The Cougars conclude their series with the Penguins with a rubber game on Sunday at noon at Schroeder Park. –

Cougars Begin 2020 With 7-3 Win

Lael Lockhart Jr. delivers the first pitch of 2020 on Friday night at Schroeder Park.
Lael Lockhart Jr. delivers the first pitch of 2020 on Friday night at Schroeder Park.

The Houston Cougars under Todd Whitting have a strong record on opening weekends, and Friday night at Schroeder Park was no exception . . . The Cougars played host to the Youngstown State Penguins to get the 2020 campaign underway.

Lael Lockhart Jr. got the Friday night start, a familiar role for him after taking over as the Friday night starter last season . . . Lockhart was perfect through three innings with six strikeouts . . . Lockhart surrendered his first hit and run both in the fourth . . . An inning later, as some tough luck and defensive miscues took place behind him, Lockhart would exit as the Cougars fell behind for the first time in the game.

Junior college transfer Ryan Hernandez introduced himself to the Cougars fans in a big way . . . In his first at-bat, Hernandez drove a pitch deep to left-center to score Brad Burckel all the way from first and give Houston a 1-0 lead . . . Hernandez’s next two plate appearances each resulted in singles, at that point Youngstown State had seen enough, they issued an intentional pass in his next at-bat.

Brayson Hurdsman was outstanding out of the bullpen for the Cougars going the final four innings and striking out six along the way.

In the sixth inning, junior transfer Steven Rivas used his first plate appearance as a Cougar to hit a bases loaded sacrifice fly to right to tie the game . . . Ian McMillan then punched a single into right field to give the Cougars a 4-3 lead.

Senior Tyler Bielamowicz got his final Cougars campaign off to a hot start with a 2-for-3 performance that included a walk . . . Bielamowicz drove in three runs on the night, including two in the seventh that placed some distance between the Cougars and the Penguins.

1,074 fans braved the chilly night of baseball and the home team delivered a 7-3 victory . . . The two teams return to the field at Schroeder Park on Saturday night at 6:30.

2020 Alumni Day Game Recap

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Red vs. White at Schroeder Park on Sunday.
(Photo courtesy of @Astronile on Twitter)

The 2020 baseball season got a step closer on Sunday at Schroeder Park as the Houston Cougars saw former ballplayers return home for a yearly event that included batting practice, players introductions, and this year, a solemn salute.

Prior to the game, a moment of silence was observed for John Altobelli, a tribute was read to the crowd while the video board displayed Altobelli’s picture with his years as a Cougar listed, then came the silence and head-bowing . . . The only time Schroeder Park is ever that quiet is when the games are over and the campus is empty . . . Coach Todd Whitting said before the game that he would be attending the memorial for Altobelli tomorrow in Anaheim, California at the Angels ballpark.

The game itself was basically an intrasquad affair, with former Cougars and now professional pitchers Joey Pulido and Nick Hernandez each throwing the first inning for Team White and Team Red respectively, but all fielders and hitters were members of the 2020 squad.

It is hard to tell much during what is an unpredictable game scenario of players switching sides, predetermined innings to pitch, along with only five innings of action to begin with . . . Spencer Hynes, Rey Mendoza, Nick Rupp, Tristen Bayless, Carter Henry and Randy Garza all saw some time on the mound.

Defensively there were some bright spots . . . Newcomer Ryan Hernandez is a big kid and he moves well at third base, he made at least one great play on a weak bouncer which he fielded cleanly and made an accurate off-balance throw . . . Kyle Lovelace threw out a runner trying to steal third . . . Newcomer Steven Rivas fielded a fly ball single on a bounce and the hitter tried to turn the single into a double, but Rivas’s throw to second was right on line and the runner was tagged out with room to spare . . . And Kobe Hyland continues to move smoothly at short.

All told the game ended after five innngs, as was scheduled . . . The rain in the forecast held off long enough for the game to be completed, the kids ran the bases, and autographs were signed in the Cougars dugout to cap off the day.

The Cougars start 2020 action on Friday at 6:30pm at Schroeder Park against Youngstown State, the first of a three-game weekend series to get the season underway.

Cougars Honor John Altobelli

John Altobelli is honored on Monday on the video board at Schroeder Park.
John Altobelli honored Monday on the video board at Schroeder Park.
Photo courtesy of Houston Cougars Baseball

Nearly the last thing a person would have thought about during the unfolding coverage of the crash of Kobe Bryant’s helicopter on Sunday was that there would be a University of Houston connection . . . And even if a connection was possible, it would have been easy to assume it was a basketball connection . . . Well, given enough time for the details to be discovered, sure enough, Cougars baseball was sadly part of an overall unbelievably tragic story.

Former Coogs baseball player and coach for a year, John Altobelli, along with his wife, and their daughter who played basketball with GiGi Bryant, were among the nine who died in the accident Sunday morning.

John Altobelli played for the Cougars in 1984 and 1985 and coached as an assistant in 1987, with a minor league stint in between . . . Altobelli took over the Orange Coast College baseball program in 1992, only leaving his previous coaching job at the time when the University of California Irvine shuttered its baseball program that year, the start of a ten-year hiatus from baseball for the school.

The next twenty-seven years were not easy for the baseball coach, but Altobelli compiled over 700 victories as a coach and he led numerous young men to be better men, better students, and better baseball players . . . All of this even as the game, and life in general, took its toll on him personally.

Asked in May of 2013 by the Orange County Register how much longer he would coach, Altobelli said, “I had open heart surgery a year ago last December. My knees aren’t holding up and I’m not throwing nearly as good in batting practice, but I’m still enthusiastic.”

Four years later, speaking with Spencer Golanka of Coast Report Online, Altobelli sounded the same note, “It [my body] has taken its toll, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. These guys know I’ll do anything for them.” He explained why the pains were worth it and why he would keep coaching, “I can still make an impact in young people’s lives, not so much x’s and o’s of baseball, but life things. I want to make sure they make good decisions off the field by being a good teammate and taking care of business”

Asked by the Orange County Register if hitting a baseball is the hardest thing to do in sports, Altobelli answered, “People that don’t really understand the nuances of the game will say that it’s not. But this is a sport that you have to grow up playing and you can’t take time off. I do think it’s the most difficult thing to do in sports, to hit a 93-mile-per-hour ball with a lot of movement on it.”

When a person is in the same place for 27 seasons, especially as something such as a baseball coach, they are doing something special, in John Altobelli’s case, what he was doing was bigger than just baseball.

Baseball tragically lost a great ambassador on Sunday . . . John Altobelli was a baseball man, he loved the game, he “felt it” in his blood, but his lasting impact was bigger than baseball . . . Cougars Nation can be proud we crossed paths with this servant leader for a short time; a short time with a lasting impact.