Clearwater, Florida was supposed to play host for several days for the Houston Cougars . . . Instead, after a one-run loss on the last batter of the game on Tuesday, and a blowout at the hands of nationally ranked ECU on Wednesday, the rest of the American Championship will be played without the Cougars.
Wednesday, the Cougars had to face American Conference pitcher of the year, lefty Jake Agnos . . . As if that would not be difficult enough under normal circumstances, Houston was facing a team ranked nationally in the top ten, and a team also facing elimination.
Houston pitching was tagged for thirteen runs on fifteen hits against a very good East Carolina offense that was not ready to be sent home . . . It was a tough afternoon for the entire staff.
The Cougars scored their first run of the game in the second inning, without getting a hit . . . Brad Burckel walked to get on base, and after moving around, he would score from third on a wild pitch for the Cougars first and only run against Agnos.
Jared Triolo was 2-for-3 on the afternoon and after getting on base with a double, he would score from third on a Tyler Bielamowicz groundball out to make the score 10-2 . . . The game got further out of hand before finally ending at 13-2, eliminating the Cougars.
The Cougars now wait . . . They have been eliminated from the American Championship, so their fate lies with others . . . There will be a selection process taking place on Monday, and at that point the Cougars will know if they have been chosen to go to a regional, or not. –
The American Conference Championship got underway Tuesday morning in Clearwater, Florida with the first pitch between the UConn Huskies and the Houston Cougars . . . The ability for any team to determine its path can be realized by just playing one game at a time, keep winning, you keep playing, lose a game, and the slope becomes much steeper to climb.
Houston sent Lael Lockhart Jr. to the mound for the morning start, and Lockhart seemed to have adapted well . . . A mistake by Lockhart in the second inning found its way to the left field seats, but Lockhart was very much in control scattering just four other hits through six innings of work as Lockhart took the game into the seventh inning.
Trailing 2-0 in the fourth, Jared Triolo got the Cougars on the scoreboard with a no-doubter to left to cut the lead to 2-1 . . . The homerun was part of a 2-for-4 morning for Triolo . . . Joe Davis evened the score at two with a solo homerun of his own to left-center in the top of the sixth inning.
The Cougars took the lead in the top of the seventh when Kobe Hyland singled home Grayson Padgett to make the score 3-2 . . . Padgett had reached base when he was hit by a pitch and then stole second.
In the bottom of the seventh Lockhart surrendered his fifth and final hit, a homerun to left, which tied the game at three . . . Sean Bretz entered the game and eventually ended the inning, making way for Fred Villarreal . . . Villarreal pitched a scoreless eighth sending the tied ballgame to the ninth.
Houston loaded the bases in the top of the ninth but could not push a run across . . . In the bottom of the ninth, a leadoff single would eventually end up on second, and that run would be driven home by UConn third baseman David Langer with a single to center off of Villarreal to give the Huskies a 4-3 win.
The Cougars will play Wednesday at 2pm Houston time, the opponent is not yet known, but it will be the loser of the East Carolina and Wichita State game which starts forty-seven minutes after the Cougars game ended, so we will know the opponent soon enough. –
For the UCF Knights and the Houston Cougars, fifty-four games would not quite be enough to put the finishing touch on the 2019 regular season . . . The Knights and the Cougars went ahead and played eleven innings on Saturday night in Orlando.
The Cougars fail behind early, and the lesson is clear, digging yourself too deep a hole almost never works out . . . UCF was leading 7-1 by the end of the third and nothing in the Houston offense this week indicated that a comeback was possible . . . However, in the top of the fourth the Cougars put together a rally on a series of two-out two-RBI hits to plate four in the inning and get back into the game 7-5.
In the seventh, the Cougars tied the game at eight capped off by a two-RBI single to left by Joe Davis who batted with the bases loaded after having been intentionally walked three times up to that point (he would also be intentionally walked in the ninth).
The Knights got two runs back in the bottom of the seventh to take a 10-8 lead . . . In the top of the ninth, with Jared Triolo stealing third and Landon Etzel stealing second, the UCF catcher launched his throw into left field . . . Triolo scored easily, and Etzel just barely beat the throw home to score all the way from first on the play and tie the game at ten.
UCF finally broke through in the eleventh when they loaded the bases after an intentional pass and with the infield playing in with one out, a pop fly to left was just out of the reach of a hustling Blake Way, the ball fell in and the winning run crossed the plate for the Knights.
The 11-10 regular season-ending affair lasted just over five hours and the Cougars used six pitchers and plenty of bench players in the effort . . . Of the six pitchers used, Fred Villarreal who pitched two innings, was the only pitcher not to allow a run . . . Houston also left eighteen runners in scoring position . . . The big comebacks are always difficult, so much energy is expended getting the game back to even, that often nothing is left for what comes next.
The Cougars are off until Tuesday morning when they will open the American Conference tournament against UConn in Clearwater, Florida . . . First pitch is at 8am Houston time. –