Houston Advances to American Championship on Late Tulimero Home Run

Anthony Tulimero rounds third base after his ninth inning home run Saturday in Clearwater. (Photo credit: American Athletic Conference/Mary Holt)

Houston had two chances to advance to the American Athletic Conference Championship final on Sunday and they capitalized on the second one with a 9-6 victory over UCF on Saturday night in Clearwater.

In the opening frame of game one, Santiago Garcia singled into right-center, scoring Alex Lopez from second base and the Cougars led 1-0.

Brandon Burckel hit a one-out double off of the wall in left field in the top of the fourth inning, forcing the Knights to go to the bullpen . . . One out later, Lopez hit the first pitch of his at-bat over the wall in right-center field and the Cougars lead was increased to 3-0.

The Knights rallied and scored four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take a 4-3 lead.

Ian McMillan tied the game in the top of the fifth inning with a two-out solo home run to right field . . . With the Cougars trailing 7-4 in the top of the seventh inning, McMillan hit his second home run of the game, a two-run shot to left field to get the Cougars to within a run.

Garcia led off the top of the ninth inning with a single into right field . . . Ryan Hernandez sent the next pitch over the wall in left field to tie the game at eight.

The Knights had an answer in the bottom of the tenth inning as they manufactured a run to walk-off as 9-8 winners, forcing a second game of the day to settle matters.

Houston jumped out to another early lead, this time with a three-spot in the opening frame . . . But the Knights answered right back with three runs in their half of the first inning.

Brandon Uhse stole second in the fifth inning and Tulimero drove him home on a two-out single to right-center field as Houston regained the lead 4-3.

After tying the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, UCF plated two runs in the sixth inning to take a 6-4 lead.

Houston tied the game in the top of the eighth inning when a one-out single by McMillian into left-center scored two.

Still tied in the top of the ninth, Tulimero hit a two-out three-run home run over the left field wall to give the Cougars a 9-6 lead going to the bottom of the ninth.

Jose Torrealba returned to the mound for the second time in the day to close out the victory that would send the Cougars to the Sunday championship game, and he retired all three batters he faced in the ninth after the hard luck loss in the first game walk-off loss.

Houston used seven pitchers in game two . . . Maddux Miller, Jackson Dannelley, Logan Clayton, and Torrealba all pitched a scoreless inning or more . . . Cameron Prayer went three innings at a crucial point and really helped stabilize things after a rough opening frame.

“You know, obviously any win is momentum,” Tulimero said after the game. “But we have a saying on this team, ‘if you sleep on the win, you’ll wake up to a loss.’ We’re gonna get in the clubhouse, celebrate a bit, flush it, come back tomorrow looking to win the championship.”

Houston will face East Carolina on Sunday morning, at 11am CT . . . A win on Sunday means a trip to a Regional next weekend, while a loss means the end of the season.

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.

Houston Loses Opener in Greenville, Conference Seed Still Unknown

Brandon Uhse takes a lead off first base against East Carolina on Thursday

The Houston Cougars could not stop their current slide as they fell to East Carolina 8-4 in Greenville, North Carolina on Thursday night.

Houston opened its final weekend of the regular season with the conference opponent a day earlier than is typical due to the fact that the American Athletic Conference tournament begins in Clearwater, Florida on Tuesday morning.

Ian McMillan led off the top of the third inning with a single just over a stretched out second baseman into shallow right-center . . . Malachi Lott added an infield single on a high bouncer beyond the reach of the Pirates first baseman and by the time a throw was ready to be made, no one was at first base to receive the throw as Lott sped his way down the line . . . Brandon Burckel put down a textbook sacrifice bunt that drew in the third baseman, who was just able to get Burckel at first . . . Brandon Uhse then delivered a one out single into left-center to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead.

Zach Arnold then drove a 2-2 pitch off a light pole beyond the left field wall for a two-run home run and a 4-1 lead . . . The home run forced the Pirates to their bullpen in the top of the third with just one out.

That was the end of the scoring for the Cougars on this night as the Pirates would tag Houston pitching for seven runs over the final two-thirds of the game to eventually take the 8-4 victory.

UCF, which started the night a game ahead of Houston in conference play, also lost on Thursday night, so the Cougars could possibly get the two-seed, but are guaranteed no worse than the three-seed.

The Cougars (34-20, 13-9 AAC) and the Pirates face each other again on Friday in Greenville . . . Houston has not announced a starting pitcher as of yet . . . Game time is scheduled for 5:30pm.

Houston Opens Final Home Series with 9-6 Win

Ryan Hernandez bats in the second inning Friday night against UCF

The Houston Cougars defeated UCF 9-6 on Friday night at Schroeder Park, and they had to erase an early four run deficit to do it.

Houston faced an uncharacteristic 4-0 first inning deficit before they even came to bat on Friday night, but as often has been the case with the 2022 Cougars, they played nine innings of baseball and found a way to win.

Cameron Nickens led off the bottom of the second inning with a ground-rule double into right field . . . Ryan Hernandez (2-for-2) followed with a home run to center field that split the Texas and United States flags beyond the wall and the deficit was cut in half, 4-2.

Anthony Tulimero led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single and Nickens followed with a single, his second hit of the ballgame . . . Hernandez followed with his second home run of the game, a shot to left-center field, and Houston led 5-4 . . . For Hernandez the two homers were his fourth and fifth in the last five games, and his tenth and eleventh of the season.

One out later Malachi Lott tripled to center field . . . Brandon Uhse lined a two-out single to left field and the Houston lead increased to 6-4 going to the fifth inning.

Logan Clayton took the mound in the fifth inning with two runners on base and no outs . . . One run would score, but a sacrifice fly to center field turned wild on a throw that got past Zach Arnold at third base as the base runner was trying to tag up from first base to third base . . . Clayton was backing up third base and dove on the loose ball in front of the Cougars dugout, as the runner made for home, Clayton got up and fired a dart to Tulimero at home plate to catch the runner and end the frame with Houston leading 6-5.

Maddux Miller entered the game in the seventh inning with two down and got a swinging strike out to end the frame.

Ben Sears took the mound for the eighth inning protecting a one-run lead and retired the Knights in order, striking out two.

Leading by a run in the bottom of the eighth, Hernandez was walked for his second straight plate appearance, with one out . . . Ian McMillan doubled into the left field corner to put runners on second and third with one out . . . Santiago Garcia, pinch-hitting for Lott, swung at the first pitch he saw and unloaded on the baseball deep to left-center field for a three-run home run and a 9-5 Houston lead.

Houston benefited from the insurance runs because a two-out solo home run for UCF in the ninth inning made it 9-6, before Sears finished off the Knights and earned his twelfth save of the season . . . Clayton improved his record to 6-3.

With East Carolina winning on Friday night, the Pirates hold a two game edge over the Cougars, who continue to occupy the second spot in the standings, now two games ahead of UCF.

The Cougars (34-16) and the Knights continue the series on Saturday when they play again at Schroeder Park, first pitch will be at 6:30pm . . . Kyle LaCalameto will be on the mound for Houston.

Houston Takes Series in Wichita, Stands Alone in Second in American

Houston closed out their weekend series at Wichita State on Sunday

Houston took their second straight conference road series with an 11-8 win over Wichita State in Wichita on Sunday.

With two outs in the top of the first inning, Alez Lopez extended the inning when he singled to reach base . . . Anthony Tulimero then homered to left field to give the Cougars an early 2-0 lead.

Over the first two innings, the Shockers scored three runs to take a 3-2 lead into the third inning.

Brandon Burckel walked and Brandon Uhse singled to set the table in the top of the third inning for Houston . . . Lopez singled home a run before Tulimero was hit by a pitch to load the bases . . . Cameron Nickens and Ryan Hernandez each singled home a run . . . Ian McMillan doubled to the wall in left field to drive in another run.

A fielder’s choice on a batted ball by Santiago Garcia resulted in a rundown between third base and home plate, as Garcia made for second base, the throw to attempt to get him out was well wide of the base and a sixth and final run scored in the frame and Houston led 8-3.

Houston starter Nathan Medrano took the game into the third inning and gave way to Logan Clayton with two outs in the inning.

Still leading 8-7 in the sixth inning, a lead off walk to Hernandez got the inning started  . . . Two walks and a fielder’s choice put runners on base for Uhse who delivered a two RBI single . . . Arnold drove in the third run of the inning on a ground out to third base and Houston took an 11-7 lead.

Ben Sears entered the game in the fifth inning with two outs in relief of Clayton and pitched the final 4 1/3 innings of the game, only surrendering a run on a solo home run with two outs in the ninth inning . . . Sears improved to 7-2 on the year with the win.

In a reversal of what happened in 2021, where the Shockers took seven of eight against the Cougars, Houston won four of six contests this year . . . The Cougars are now alone in second place in the American Athletic Conference, behind only East Carolina, with two big weekend series remaining . . . The Cougars will face UCF at Schroeder Park next weekend, they lead the Knights by one game, and then Houston closes out the regular season the following weekend in Greenville against East Carolina.

The Cougars return home on Sunday evening and will face Sam Houston State on Tuesday at Constellation Field in Sugar Land in the third and final game of the 2022 Don Sanders Cup, which Houston won in April after taking the first two games of the series . . . First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 6:30pm in Sugar Land.

Houston Loses Middle Game at Wichita State

Houston faced Wichita State in Wichita on Saturday

Wichita State evened the weekend series with Houston on Saturday afternoon with a runaway 12-4 win in Wichita.

Brandon Burckel reached second base on a one out double in the top of the third inning . . . Zach Arnold delivered a two-out RBI single to give Houston the early lead . . . After Alex Lopez singled to extend the innings, Anthony Tulimero delivered a two-out RBI single of his own and the Cougars led 2-0.

After the Shockers tied the game in the third, Ryan Hernandez led off the fourth inning with a home run high off the scoreboard in left field and Houston re-took the lead by a run . . . The home run was the eighth of the season for Hernandez, and his second in as many days.

After two quick outs, Burckel worked a walk and then stole second base . . . Brandon Uhse doubled to score Burckel from second base and Houston led 4-2 . . . A walk to Arnold spelled the end of the day for Wichita State starter Cameron Bye as the Shockers went to the bullpen.

However, the rest of the ballgame was all Shockers as Wichita State scored ten unanswered runs to take a 12-4 lead which stood up as the final score.

The Cougars could only reach the Shockers pitching staff for three base hits after the fourth inning, all singles, and they went down in order twice in the final five frames.

Maddux Miller tossed 1 2/3 innings of scoreless ball and Bryson Walker threw one scoreless inning, the only two pitchers of the six Houston used in the contest who did not allow the Shockers to score.

Houston and Wichita State will play the deciding game of the weekend series on Sunday morning . . . First pitch is scheduled for 11am, expect to see Nathan Medrano on the mound for the Cougars.

Houston Dominates USF 13-2

Zach Arnold is greeted by teammates after his second inning home run on Saturday

The Cougars utilized a seven run fourth inning to blow out South Florida 13-2 in Tampa on Saturday as Houston won for the second day in a row.

Scoreless in the top of the third inning, Brandon Uhse singled through the left side of the infield to reach base with two outs . . . Zach Arnold (4-for-5) followed with a home run to left field on a full-count pitch and Houston led 2-0 on Arnold’s eighth home run of the season.

A lead off walk to Ryan Hernandez was the beginning of a big fourth inning for the Cougars . . . Ian McMillan followed with a single to right field . . . After McMillan stole second base, Malachi Lott singled through the right side to drive in a run . . . Lott stole second base and was there when Brandon Burckel singled to left field two drive in two more runs and the Cougars led 5-0.

But the fourth inning kept going . . . After the Bulls went to the bullpen, Arnold doubled to left field to drive in his third run of the ballgame . . . Alex Lopez as the seventh batter of the inning, lifted a fly ball to center and drove in a run on the sacrifice fly . . . Cameron Nickens (2-for-3) capped the scoring with a two-run blast to left-center field, his fourth home run of the season, and Houston led 9-0 after the seven run fourth inning.

The Bulls scored a run in the fourth and another in the fifth, but the Cougars got those right back in the sixth inning . . . Arnold and Lopez les off the frame with singles . . . With two outs, Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly to right field and McMillan singled to shallow right and Houston again led by nine runs, 11-2.

Maddux Miller relieved Houston starter Kyle LaCalameto in the fifth inning with two outs to end the inning . . . Maddux also pitched a scoreless sixth inning.

Houston added two runs in the seventh, one on another sacrifice fly RBI by Lopez, and another when Anthony Tulimero singled, which also extended his reached-based streak to fourteen games, and the Cougars led 13-2.

Logan Clayton took the mound in the bottom of the seventh and retired all three batters he faced, striking out two, to end the ballgame at the end of the seventh because of the run rule . . . Clayton only threw seventeen pitches to end the game . . . Miller improves to 3-0 this season with the win.

The Cougars collected sixteen base hits in the seven inning game, including each starter, and the Cougars scored multiple runs in four different innings . . . Meanwhile, the trio of Houston arms limited the Bulls to just six hits while striking out nine.

Houston and South Florida have dodged the weather bullet, which rearranged the weekend schedule, thus far . . . If all goes as planned, the two teams will conclude their series on Sunday morning with another 9am central time first pitch . . . Expect Nathan Medrano to make the start for Houston as they go for the sweep.

Houston Takes Opener Against Bulls in Tampa

Houston traveled east to face the South Florida Bulls on Friday in Tampa, Fla

Houston defeated the South Florida Bulls by a final of 6-5 on Friday afternoon in Tampa, Florida to take the opening game of their weekend conference series. The start time for the game was moved up several hours because of threatening weather, so the first pitch actually took place just after 11am Houston time.

Jaycob Deese got the Friday start once again for the Cougars and he was sharp early, kept his pitch count respectable and despite a couple of mistake pitches, gave Houston a great start that positions them well for the rest of the weekend with regard to the bullpen.

Anthony Tulimero led off the second inning by walking to be the Cougars first base runner of the afternoon . . . Cameron Nickens doubled to the gap in right-center to score Tulimero and give the Cougars the early lead . . . Ryan Hernandez then singled into right against the shift to plate Nickens and Houston led 2-0 going to the bottom of the inning . . . Tulimero extended his current reached-base streak to thirteen games, he had a similar streak to begin the season that spanned the first fifteen games before it ended on March 13.

Trailing 3-2 in the top of the sixth, Houston got a one-out double from Alex Lopez to start a rally . . . A hit batter and a fielders choice loaded the bases and the Cougars tied the game on a wild pitch . . . Hernandez then drove a ball into left field allowing Tulimero to tag up from third base on the sacrifice fly and Houston led 4-3.

Samuel Tormos (2-for-3) led off the seventh with a single and Tab Tracy entered the game to pinch run for Tormos . . . Tracy stole second and was driven home on a double by Brandon Uhse off the wall in left field . . . Zach Arnold (2-for-5) followed with a single up the middle that scored Uhse and the Cougars had a 6-3 lead.

Ben Sears replaced Deese with two outs in the seventh inning to record the final seven outs leading by a pair of runs . . . After posting a zero in the eighth, the Bulls got a run off Sears in the ninth inning to narrow the deficit, but Sears got a key ground out and a fly ball to center to secure the 6-5 victory . . . Deese improved to 4-2 on the season with the win, and the save was the ninth for Sears.

The Cougars improved to 27-15 overall and 8-5 in The American . . . The eighth conference win surpasses the seven conference victories in all of 2021 with eleven conference games left to play this season.

Weather has moved the schedule around quite a bit this weekend, the Cougars and the Bulls will play the middle game of their series on Saturday morning, first pitch from Tampa is scheduled for 9am . . . Left-hander Kyle LaCalameto will be on the mound for Houston.

Tulimero Home Run Pushes Cougars Past Tigers

Kyle LaCalameto throws the first pitch Saturday night against Memphis

Memphis rallied late for the second night in a row, but on Saturday night Houston responded with a walk off home run to win 5-4 at Schroeder Park.

Brandon Uhse led off the Cougars first with a walk, and one out later Alex Lopez doubled to put runners at second and third . . . Anthony Tulimero singled to the gap in left-center to bring in the first two runs of the game . . . With Houston runners on second and third, Ryan Hernandez singled through the infield and the Cougars led 4-0.

Kyle LaCalameto departed after the seventh inning sporting a 4-1 lead . . . LaCalameto struck out eight and allowed just five hits on 125 pitches in an outstanding outing . . . LaCalameto also lowered his ERA to 2.92.

For the second night in a row, the Tigers rallied late to tie the game, this time it was with a three-run eighth inning against the Cougars bullpen.

The bullpen continued to struggle in the ninth and after the first two Tigers batters reached base, Houston went to the bullpen again, this time Ben Sears took the mound . . . Sears induced a groundout, a pop up on the infield, and a fly ball to center field to end the threat and send the game to the bottom of the ninth.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Anthony Tulimero hit a home run to deep left-center on a hanging breaking ball to make the Cougars walk off winners, 5-4 . . . The home run was Tulimero’s second of the season . . . Ben Sears improved to 6-2 with his inning of work in relief.

Houston and Memphis conclude the weekend series on Sunday with a scheduled first pitch at 1pm . . . At the moment, Houston has not announced a starting pitcher for the game.

Tulane Edges Houston 11-10 to Even Series

Kyle LaCalameto pitches against Tulane Saturday at Schroeder Park

Houston was edged out 11-10 by Tulane on Friday night to even their weekend conference series at Schroeder Park.

Tulane took a quick 2-0 in the opening frame to get the Friday evening game started.

Houston started the bottom of the second inning with three straight singles, the third was by Ryan Hernandez driving home Anthony Tulimero who had led off the inning with a single, Houston trailed 2-1 going to the third inning.

After a lead off walk to Brandon Burckel to begin the third inning, Brandon Uhse hit his seventh home run of the season over the left field wall to give the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

Trailing 4-3 in the fifth, Uhse (3-for-4) led off the inning with his second home run of the night, and his third in two nights, to tie the game.

Houston starter Kyle LaCalameto exited the game after five innings of work as his pitch count had reached over the century mark . . . Cameron Prayer took the mound for the sixth inning and retired the side in order in his only inning of work . . . Both LaCalameto and Prayer were long out of the game when this one was decided, so neither factored in the decision.

Still tied in the bottom of the sixth, Malachi Lott worked a lead off walk to open the frame . . . Ian McMillan then hammered the third pitch he saw over the wall in left field to give the Cougars a two-run advantage . . . With two outs in the inning, Alex Lopez singled to left field to bring home Brandon Burckel and Houston led 7-4.

Tied at seven in the top of the eighth, Tulane got to the Houston bullpen for three runs on a pair of home runs and took a 10-7 lead.

Houston answered right back in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game . . . After three walks loaded the bases with two outs, a wild pitch got the Cougars a run, but they still trailed by two . . . With runners at second and third, Tulimero (2-for-3) singled up the middle to tie the game at ten going to the ninth.

The Green Wave manufactured a run in the ninth to take an 11-10 lead which would stand up as the final score.

Houston and Tulane wrap up the weekend series on Saturday when the two teams meet for the deciding game with a 1pm first pitch at Schroeder Park.