Houston’s Season Ends in Clearwater in Championship Final

Maddux Miller pitches against ECU in Clearwater on Sunday (Photo credit: American Athletic Conference/Mary Holt)

The Houston Cougars saw their season come to end on Sunday afternoon in Clearwater as they fell 6-1 to East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference Championship final.

While East Carolina was able to jump out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning, the Cougars found no such luck with the Pirates pitching staff.

Freshman Cameron Nickens was 3-for-3 on Sunday afternoon and drove in the only Cougars run on a single in the top of the seventh inning . . . Nickens accounted for half of the Cougars six base hits in the contest.

Maddux Miller pitched 2 2/3 innings out of the bullpen at a critical point in the game and he was outstanding, striking out five Pirates batters . . . Ben Sears followed Miller and was equally great, also over 2 2/3 innings where he did not allow a hit and struck out three batters.

Where Houston saw its season end on the second day of the AAC Championship in each of their last two appearances, the Cougars made it to the final game in 2022 and the very young Cougars team experienced what it takes to play big time, competitive baseball.

Ryan Hernandez played his final game as a Houston Cougar on Sunday, and just as he has been the epitome of class and hard work during his three years with the program, he was just as classy and prideful in his postgame comments.

“I’m very proud of this team,” Hernandez said. “I love being a Houston Cougar. When I first committed here, I committed as soon as I got the opportunity to commit here.”

Head coach Todd Whitting was still hopeful and positive about both the season and the future after the loss Sunday.

“This is still one of my favorite teams I’ve ever had,” Whitting said. “Coming off a tough year last year, just the unbelievable commitments to the program, to the University of Houston, and to what we were trying to do.”

“We got a couple of holes to fill going in to next year, I feel good about it. We start three freshmen every day, we got a ton of guys coming back. The future is bright at the University of Houston,” Whitting said.

Reflecting on some of the great times during his career at Houston, Hernandez said, “I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve had a great time here and I’m really appreciative of that.”

Hernandez was selected to the All-Tournament Team after Sunday’s game, along with teammates Jose Torrealba, Santiago Garcia, and Anthony Tulimero.

The Cougars finish the season 37-24. The 2022 offseason begins now.

Cougars Lose Late, Retain Second Spot in American

Kyle LaCalameto got the start against UCF on Friday at Schroeder Park

The Houston Cougars lost a late lead on their way to dropping Saturday night’s middle game to UCF, 6-5.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning, Zach Arnold reached base with one out on an error at shortstop . . . Alex Lopez kept things going by taking a walk . . . Anthony Tulimero singled to right field on a low liner that the right fielder lost in the sun . . . Cameron Nickens then singled up the middle to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead going to the second inning.

Houston starter Kyle LaCalameto exited the game after the fourth inning, turning the game over to the bullpen . . The Knights took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fifth inning on a two-run home run to right-center.

Malachi Lott led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a single and then he stole second base . . . A single to left field by Brandon Uhse drove in Lott from second base to tie the game . . . Arnold singled to keep the inning going . . . Lopez grounded out to shortstop behind second base, but the go-ahead run in Uhse crossed the plate . . . Nickens then delivered a two-out RBI single into shallow right-center field and the Cougars led 5-3 after the three run frame.

Cameron Prayer recorded the final two outs in the top of the fifth inning, a nice outing for the lefty.

Ben Sears came into the game in the eighth inning and retired the side in order . . . But UCF got two runs in the top of the ninth to take a 6-5 lead . . . The Cougars went down in order in the bottom of the ninth and suffered the late one-run loss.

The Cougars walked batters would eventually score in the Saturday contest . . . Houston remains a game ahead of the Knights to maintain the second spot by one game heading into Sunday’s action.

Houston and UCF conclude their weekend series with a series win on the line Sunday at Schroeder Park . . . Pre-game festivities include Senior Day recognition for three Cougars players . . . Houston has not announced a starting pitcher for the game, but expect to see Nathan Medrano on the hill . . . First pitch is scheduled for 12 noon.

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.

Cougars Erase Early Deficit, Win at Wichita State 7-4

Jaycob Deese faces Wichita State in the seventh inning on Friday

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.

Houston Takes Silver Glove Series with 8-2 Win

Brandon Burckel bats in the second inning against Rice on Wednesday

Houston captured the Silver Glove Series against Rice with a 6-2 victory over the Owls at Schroeder Park on Tuesday night.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the second inning, Ryan Hernandez (3-for-4) and Ian McMillan (3-for-3) hit back-to-back singles to reach base . . . Brandon Burckel (2-for-3) delivered a two-out single into left to score Hernandez and tie the game.

Still tied in the bottom of the third, Anthony Tulimero grounded to third base for what should have been the final out of the inning, but the throw was low and the first baseman could not make a clean catch, so Tulimero reached on the error . . . Cameron Nickens with a single to center and Tulimero reached third base to put runners on the corners . . . Hernandez followed with a double into left field that drove in both runners to give the Cougars a 3-1 lead.

Ian McMillan then hit a home run to left field, his seventh of the season, and Houston led 5-1 going to the fourth inning.

Colby Casey replaced Houston starter Logan Clayton in the sixth inning . . . Casey was followed by Cameron Prayer and Maddux Miller over the next two innings.

Houston added a run in the sixth inning after Burckel led off the frame with a double and moved to third base on a wild pitch . . . One out later, Zach Arnold grounded out to shortstop and scored Burckel.

McMillan doubled to lead off the bottom of the eighth, his third hit of the night . . . The straight walks followed and a single to right by Arnold scored two more runs and the Cougars led 8-2.

Jose Torrealba pitched a scoreless ninth inning, retiring all three batters he faced, to close out the win which gave the Cougars the Silver Glove Series for the first time since 2018 . . . Clayton improved to 3-3 this year with the win. 

Houston (30-15) packs up and hits the road for another weekend road trip . . . The Cougars will resume conference action on Friday at Wichita State against the Shockers . . . First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 6pm.

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.

Houston Defeats Memphis, Takes Series

Nathan Medrano throws the first pitch on Sunday against Memphis

Houston held on to a late lead, in a reversal of the previous two games, in a 7-5 victory on Sunday at Schroeder Park to take their second straight conference series. The Cougars had to win the final two games of the weekend to claim the series.

Houston took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on a bases loaded walk to Ryan Hernandez.

The score remained 1-0 until the fourth inning when Memphis tied the game on a bases loaded groundout double-play after having loaded the bases with no one out . . . Houston starter Nathan Medrano worked around further damage by getting a strikeout to end the inning.

Still tied in the bottom of the fifth inning, Alex Lopez (3-for-4) started a two-out rally with a double . . . Two walks loaded the bases for Hernandez who proceeded to hit a grand slam over the wall in left field for a 5-1 Houston lead . . . Hernandez accounted for five of the Houston runs batted in on Sunday.

The Tigers got two runs back in the top of the seventh inning and Medrano exited the game with two outs having allowed three runs, all of them unearned, on 104 pitches.

The Cougars added to their tally in the seventh inning as well . . . Lopez singled on the infield to lead off the inning . . . Anthony Tulimero doubled to the wall in center field to plate Lopez from first base . . . Cameron Nickens followed with a double to the gap in left-center scoring Tulimero and the Cougars had a four run cushion once again, 7-3.

Ben Sears came on in relief of Logan Clayton with two outs in the eighth inning and although Memphis got a run, Sears limited the damage . . . Memphis added another run in the ninth, but Sears limited it to that.

Medrano improved to 5-3 on the season with the 7-5 win and Sears picked up his eighth save in recording the final four outs . . . Lopez was the only Houston hitter with multiple hits in the game.

Houston ended its eight game homestand and will now be on the road for the next four games . . . The road schedule begins with a midweek matchup on Tuesday in Beaumont against Lamar, first pitch is scheduled for 6pm.

Houston Takes Tulane Series with 10-9 Win

Derrick Cherry opens up the Saturday finale against Tulane

Houston took advantage of a nine run inning on Saturday afternoon to claim their second conference series win in three attempts with a 10-9 victory over Tulane.

The Green Wave jumped out to a 3-0 first inning lead with the help of two home runs in the opening frame . . . While Houston was kept off the board in the meantime, Tulane added a run in the fourth and Houston went to the bullpen.

Houston got a run in the fourth when Cameron Nickens (2-for-3) doubled to the wall in right-center field and scored Anthony Tulimero from first base, but Houston trailed 4-1.

Logan Clayton took the mound in the fourth and also handled the fifth, striking out two batters while Tulimero caught another runner trying to steal second base.

The Cougars then exploded in the fifth inning . . . A two-out double to left-center field by Zach Arnold (3-for-5) scored two runs before Alex Lopez smoked a ball toward second base that the fielder had no chance on, but the ball made contact with him and lost momentum as it rolled into right field allowing Arnold to score from second to tie the game at four.

Tulimero singled and a walk to Nickens loaded the bases for Ryan Hernandez . . . Hernandez (3-for-4) drove a ball to left field that was mis-played by the left fielder which allowed the bases to clear and Hernandez ended up at second base with a double . . . Samuel Tormos (2-for-3) followed with his second single of the inning, this one drove in Hernandez from second base . . . Ian McMillan then homered to left field for the second day in a row and the Cougars led 10-4 having scored nine runs in the inning with two outs.

Ben Sears took the mound with two outs in the sixth inning and got a strike out to end the frame . . . Sears stayed in the game to record the final ten outs and despite allowing a pair of runs in the eighth inning, closed out the 10-9 victory to earn his seventh save of the season, while Clayton took the win and improved to 2-3.

The Houston offense scored ten or more runs in back-to-back games for the fourth time this season . . . Five different Houston batters had multiple hits in the Saturday game.

The Cougars are off until Tuesday when they will welcome Houston Baptist to Schroeder Park for a midweek contest . . . First pitch is scheduled for 6:30pm.