Houston Loses Sunday, Evens Conference Record

Ryan Hernandez bats with two runners on base Sunday in Cincinnati

Houston took an early lead but was unable to stop the explosive Cincinnati offense on Sunday as the Cougars lost 9-6.

Two quick outs began the opening inning for the Cougars, but then Alex Lopez doubled and that was followed by a walk to Cameron Nickens . . . With a 3-0 count on him, Ryan Hernandez had the green light to swing, and he put a charge into the next pitch and sent it 441 feet over the wall in left field for an early 3-0 Houston lead.

Cincinnati got a run back in the bottom of the first before taking a 4-3 lead in the bottom of the second after the bases were loaded with the assistance of two walks and a hit batter.

In the top of the third, Malachi Lott led off the inning with a walk and one out later Lopez homered to give the Cougars a 5-4 lead . . . Lopez (3-for-5) finished the game a triple shy of the cycle and the home run was his second of the weekend.

Ian McMillan hit a one-out double in the fourth inning ahead of a single by Dylan Post . . . Brandon Burckel then put down a bunt single that was indefensible to plate McMillan and extend the Houston lead, 6-4.

Right-hander Maddux Miler took the mound in the bottom of the fourth with Houston pitchers struggling to eliminate free passes and Cincinnati runs . . . Miller pitched a valuable two innings to get the Cougars into the sixth inning . . . Houston pitchers walked six batters on Sunday, in addition to hitting two batters with pitches.

Ben Sears pitched the final 2 1/3 innings without allowing a baserunner.

Trail 9-6 in the ninth, Houston put two runners on base to start the inning, but a pop-up and a caught-stealing extinguished hope before a looking strike out ended the game and gave Cincinnati a home series win . . . The Cougars are now 3-3 in conference play and will take on Tulane in Houston next weekend.

The Cougars will return home now and have Monday off before they welcome UTRGV on Tuesday night for the second time this season . . . The first pitch at Schroeder Park is set for 6:30pm.

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Cougars Tame Panthers 13-1 Ahead of Conference Play

Logan Clayton gets the game started against the Panthers Tuesday at Schroeder Park

The Houston Cougars remained a perfect 7-0 in midweek games this season as they won 13-1 against Prairie View A&M on Tuesday before opening conference play this weekend.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Alex Lopez led off the inning with a double to the wall in left-center field . . . Anthony Tulimero then hit the first pitch he saw over the left field wall to put the Cougars in front by a run . . . Ryan Hernandez followed with a double to left field two pitches later . . . One out later, Ian McMillan flied out to center field and scored Hernandez to extend the Houston lead to 3-1.

Houston added a run in the bottom of the sixth on a RBI single by Zach Arnold and another run in the seventh to take a 5-1 lead . . . The Cougars put the game away in an eight run eighth inning where the Cougars collected eights hits, the big blow was a two out 416 foot home run to left by Hernandez, who was 3-for-4 in the game.

Logan Clayton started for the Cougars and handled the first two innings and allowed the only Panthers run of the game . . . The Houston bullpen sent six pitchers to the mound after Clayton, and no one surrendered a run . . . Taylor Parrett was impressive over two innings in which he struck out four of the six outs he recorded . . . Colby Casey, Jackson Dannelley, Cameron Prayer, Derrick Cherry, and Malachi Lott all pitched one inning in relief and 

Lott, batting lead off on Tuesday night, was 3-for-4 and reached base when he was hit by a pitch . . . Lott was part of the eighth inning onslaught when he doubled to the wall in center to drive in two runs . . . Another freshman in the lineup, Brandon Buckel, has improved quite a bit over the last couple of weeks after some early season struggles, he was 2-for-4 on Tuesday night and is now hitting .235 . . . Dylan Post was behind the plate on Tuesday, with Tulimero batting cleanup, and Post picked up his first two base hits of the season in a 2-for-5d effort.

Houston won 13-1 and knocked out nineteen hits against Panther pitching which sets a new high for the season, passing by two hits their previous season high from their game against UTRGV in February.

Houston’s pitching was a point of pride after the game for head coach Todd Whitting. “Very excited about the continued progress of our pitching staff,” Whitting said. “I feel like we have five solid starters fighting for three spots on the weekend. The back end of the bullpen led by Ben Sears has been outstanding.” Whitting added, “It’s great to see that unit come together under Coach Bunn”

The Cougars (17-8) have a couple of days off before they start conference play on Friday when they host the Wichita State Shockers for a weekend series, the first of six games against the Shockers this season . . . That first pitch at Schroeder Park is set for 6:30pm.

Houston Swept; Heads for Conference Tournament

The Houston Cougars and the Central Florida Knights closed out the regular season on Saturday with a briskly played, 2-1 game that the Knights won on their home field in Orlando.

Matt Lazzaro got the start for Houston for the second week in a row, his third start of the season . . . Lazzaro had everything working and he was cruising early.

With the game scoreless in the fourth, Tyler Bielamowicz hit a one-out single . . . Designated hitter Derrick Cherry then hit a liner toward the hole at second base into right field, Bielamowicz moved easily to third, but carelessness by the Knights defense allowed Bielamowicz to race home from third and just barely beat a throw home to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.

The Knights tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when a double to left-center allowed a runner on second to score . . . Central Florida took a 2-1 lead on a grounder to short that plated a runner on third.

Matt Lazzaro’s day was complete after six innings, another great outing for the lefty . . . Maddux Miller replaced Lazzaro, and after two quick outs to start the frame, he was hit on his pitching hand by a liner off a batted ball . . . Miller tried to stay in the game, but he threw one pitch which sailed high and away, and he was immediately replaced.

Colby Casey had another nice outing for the Cougars out of the bullpen, he recorded the final four outs.

The Cougars offense never threatened further after the run-scoring fourth, the team mustered just four hits, two on them by Dylan Post who was 2-for-4 in the loss.

The Cougars head to Clearwater now and will play their first game of the American Athletic Conference tournament at 3pm on Tuesday . . . Look for Robert Gasser to start the game for Houston in the double-elimination tournament.

Houston Wins in Comeback Fashion, 7-5

The Memphis Tigers looked headed to an easy win on Saturday at FedEx Park, before all things started working for the Houston Cougars who eventually took the game 7-5.

Houston starter Carter Henry did not seem long for the game in the first inning as Memphis took a 3-0 lead on three hits and two wild pitches . . .  The Cougars bullpen was active in the first, never a good sign . . . The Tigers added another run in the second when a two-out walk later came around to score.

Skyler Trevino walked to lead off the third . . . That was followed by singles by Brad Burckel and Tyler Bielamowicz to load the bases for Ryan Hernandez . . . Hernandez dropped a single into left field which scored Trevino and Burckel and cut the Memphis lead to 4-2.

Dylan Post and Ian McMillian hit back-to-back singles to lead off the fourth . . . Samuel Tormos delivered a sacrifice fly ball to center field to score Post and get Houston to within a run at 4-3.

Bielamowicz led off the fifth with a walk, and that was followed by Hernandez being hit by a pitch . . . Memphis went to the bullpen and then Steven Rivas delivered a game-tying double to left-center . . . Will Pendergrass was then hit by a pitch to load the bases . . . Post flew out to the left-fielder and Bielamowicz scampered home on the sacrifice as the go-ahead run at 5-4.

Trevino and Tormos both walked to get the Cougars sixth inning started . . . Burckel was ruled out at first on a batters interference call . . . Bielamowicz was batting when the Tigers catcher attempted to pick off Tormos at first, but the throw got past the first baseman and Trevino raced from second to score and increase the Cougars lead to 6-4.

Henry departed in the sixth after getting two outs, Derrick Cherry took the mound to get the final out and end the Tigers threat . . . Henry settled down after those first two innings and left the game with his team leading after blanking Memphis for his final 3 2/3 innings.

The Tigers got a run in the seventh on a leadoff home run to cut the Houston lead to 6-5.

Brandon Uhse led off the eighth with a pinch-hit double, Burckel was then hit by a pitch . . . After the Tigers went to the bullpen, Bielamowicz (2-for-4) singled to left to score Uhse and extend the Cougars lead to 7-5.

Cherry (5) pitched the final 3 1/3 innings to earn the save for the second time in as many days, he struck out the final two batters of the ninth to end the game, the final out being the conference leader in home runs, Hunter Goodman . . . The hard-earned win also improved Henry’s record to 2-4.

After being set down in order in the first two innings, the Cougars got their leadoff batter on base in each of the next four innings, all innings in which they scored at least one run . . . Two of those times it was the eighth spot in the order.

Houston and Memphis close out their weekend series on Sunday with a first pitch scheduled for 11am . . . The Cougars have not yet announced a starter at this time. –

Houston Drops Two as Tulane Continues Hot Streak

Three notable streaks were on the line as the Houston Cougars traveled to Turchin Stadium in New Orleans for a four-game American Athletic Conference (AAC) set this weekend with the Tulane Green Wave.

Tulane as a team entered play with a ten game winning streak . . . Tulane leadoff hitter Collin Burns entered with a seventeen game hitting streak . . . And catcher Bennett Lee entered with a sixteen game hitting streak.

There was also a great pitching matchup to open the weekend between Tulane’s Braden Olthoff and Houston’s Robert Gasser, two premiere pitchers not only in the AAC, but in all of college baseball.

Lefty Robert Gasser retired Collin Burns to open the bottom of the first before three straight singles plated the first run of the game, and Tulane led 1-0.

Houston did not get its first hit off of Olthoff until the fourth inning, the first of only five hits in the game. Meanwhile, Gasser was cruising as well, striking out eight as he went six complete innings and left trailing 1-0.

The Green Wave added two runs in the seventh off of Houston relief pitching, including the final run on a bases loaded walk that made it 3-0.

After a scoreless eighth for Olthoff, Tulane went to the bullpen to close out Houston in the ninth for the 3-0 five-hit shutout win . . . Gasser and the Cougars bullpen were able to end Burns’s hitting streak at seventeen games.

Houston struck first in Friday’s second game when they scored a run in the top of first on a Ryan Hernandez bloop single into right that brought Brad Burckel home from second . . . The Cougars added a run in the second on a sacrifice fly by Luke Almendarez to score Will Pendergrass and give the Cougars a 2-0 advantage.

In the third, Tyler Bielamowicz lined a one-out triple to right-center and he was brought home moments later on a Ryan Hernandez single into center to put the Cougars in front 3-0.

Tulane plated a run in the third off Houston starter Jaycob Deese to get back in the game.

Tulane’s starter left the game with one out in the sixth and two Cougars on base . . . Houston added a run moments later on a bizarre play at the plate on a wild pitch allowing Dylan Post to score and extend the Cougars lead to 4-1 . . . Post broke for home on a wild pitch, but the pitch ricocheted quickly back to Tulane’s catcher and he recovered the ball and raced back to the plate as Post went right at Hastings, but he snuck his left leg around the catcher and managed to touch home plate before he was tagged.

The Green Wave got a two-run home run in the sixth to get to within one at 4-3 . . . Collin Burns tied the contest at four in the seventh with a one-out home run to straight-away center field . . . Deese went 6 1/3 innings in a solid outing before exiting, but the game got away from the Cougars at that point. A few pitches later, a liner down the first base line drove in Tulane’s go-ahead run at 5-4.

The Green Wave scored six runs in the eighth while they scored ten unanswered runs overall and led 11-4.

Tulane closed out the contest in the ninth while extending their win streak to twelve games.

The two teams return to Turchin Stadium on Saturday with first pitch coming at 4pm . . . Ben Sears will take the mound for Houston. –

Houston Takes Finale, Splits Weekend Series with USF

Carter Henry throws the first pitch in Sunday’s second game at Schroeder Park

The Houston Cougars and South Florida Bulls got things started on Sunday at Schroeder Park with a 10am first pitch in the first game of a doubleheader . . . Like Saturday, the teams split the day and eventually the weekend series as the Cougars dropped game one 4-0 but won the second game 5-2.

Game one saw South Florida score a run in both the second and fourth inning as Ben Sears worked his way through the bright-and-early Sunday opener.

While the offense was quiet, Sears was working his way through the game . . . In the fifth, after a runner reached first on a throwing error, the next batter put a ball in play just in front of home plate, catcher Dylan Post fielded and threw to second base where Ian McMillan lept into the air to field the throw, he landed on second and fired the ball to first to complete the unconventional double play and erase the runner who had reached on an error.

Sears took the game into the seventh inning and exited with two outs in favor of Andy Belcik, one out away from a complete game (in seven innings) . . . After the Bulls increased their lead to 4-0, the Cougars went to the bullpen again, this time Matt Lazzaro got the call to get the final out.

The Cougars offense could put nothing together against Bulls starter Collin Sullivan despite three pinch-hitters also having a chance to take some swings . . . Houston had two total hits in the contest, a double by Brad Burckel and a double by Tyler Bielamowicz.

Ben Sears went 6 2/3 and allowed just two earned runs while striking out five but he was on the wrong end of a shutout and took the loss as the Cougars fell 4-0.

Carter Henry took the hill for a sunny afternoon game two and unlike Ben Sears, not only did Henry get run support, he got it early.

In the bottom of the first . . . Brandon Uhse hit a double to the wall in left, and Brad Burckel follow with a single and then stole second . . . Designated hitter Dylan Post hit a ball to the opposite field, dropping it just inside the left field foul line for a double that put the Cougars in front 2-0.

South Florida tied the game in the third scoring their only runs of the game on three singles and groundout.

Both teams were kept quiet offensively until the bottom of the seventh . . . With two outs, Brandon Uhse walked and Brad Burckel followed with an opposite field double that went to the wall in the left field corner scoring Uhse from first base . . . Tyler Bielamowicz walked and a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third . . . Ryan Hernandez in his second at-bat of the game having pinch hit in the fifth, powered a single to left-center which scored both runners widening the Houston advantage 5-2 going to the eighth.

Brandon Uhse was 2-for-3 and Brad Burckel was 2-for-4, accounting for four of the Cougars six hits in the second game.

Carter Henry kept the Bulls off the scoreboard through eight innings of terrific pitching . . . It was Henry’s second time in his three starts to go eight or more innings . . . Sean Bretz took the mound for the ninth inning and quickly got the Bulls down in order to close out the 5-2 victory . . . Henry improved to 1-2 with the win and Bretz earned his first save of the season.

The Cougars are off for a few days before heading to New Orleans for a series with Tulane beginning Friday at 2pm with a doubleheader as they conclude American Athletic Conference action. –

Cougars Continue to Struggle in Saturday Loss

Changing ballparks has not changed the outcome as the Houston Cougars continued to struggle against Wichita State Shockers in a 10-1 defeat on Saturday afternoon . . . After playing a Friday double-header on the Shockers home field at Eck Stadium, the action Saturday moved to a new minor league ballpark in downtown Wichita, but the song remained the same as the Cougars dropped their second consecutive conference series.

After not scoring in the top of the first, the Shockers got a two-run home run from Paxton Wallace for an early 2-0 lead on Houston starter Carter Henry.

A few wrinkles in the Cougars usual lineup offered some new looks, especially with Tyler Bielamowicz out with an injury suffered in Friday’s first game . . . Samuel Tormos got the start in left field, he reached base twice, once when hit by a pitch right on the helmet, and he also took a walk in his next at-bat.

Dylan Post handled catching duties on Saturday, giving Kyle Lovelace some time off after he caught parts of both games on Friday . . . Post doubled in the first . . . And Adam Becker played first base for the second day in a row and collected a base hit.

Henry lasted 2 2/3 innings and was relieved by Blake Schultz in the third . . . Schultz issued a bases loaded walk, but was injured on his last pitch and had to leave the game with the Cougars trailing 3-0 . . . Another bases loaded walk and an infield single added salt to the wound as the Shockers took a 5-0 lead by the time the third inning ended.

Not producing offensively, the Cougars pitching could not slow the damage as Hunter Gibson hit a grand slam in the fifth to give the Shockers a 9-0 lead.

Houston finally got on the board in the seventh when Ian MicMillian hit a two-out solo home run . . . Houston had six hits in the contest, all by different hitters, and McMillan’s home run accounted for the only run on Saturday as Wichita State starter Jace Kaminska pitched a complete game on 105 pitches.

Layne Looney pitched a scoreless sixth and seventh and allowed a run in the eighth as the Shockers took a commanding 10-1 lead which would hold up as the Cougars went down in order in the ninth.

The Cougars and Shockers play their eighth straight game against each other on Sunday in Wichita . . . Ben Sears will take the mound for the Cougars looking to make the best starting appearance of the weekend for Houston . . . First pitch Sunday morning is at 11am. –

Cougars Drop Two in Wichita on Friday

Will Pendergrass bats in game two Friday in Wichita

The Wichita State Shockers welcomed the Houston Cougars to Wichita, Kansas on Friday with two sound conference wins in a day-night double-header that the Shockers took by scores of 10-2 and 7-1.

Jaycob Deese got the start in game one on Friday and Deese was scoreless through four but ran into trouble in the fifth . . . The Shockers plated six in an inning where nothing went right for Houston, from bad luck and bad hops to odd plays that never felt right . . . Lefty Cameron Prayer entered the game with one out and the bases loaded he got one groundout that allowed a sixth run to cross the plate, but he got a flyout to end the inning as the Shockers took a 6-0 lead into the sixth.

In the sixth, Dylan Post reached base on a one-out single into right-center . . . Brandon Uhse followed with a walk . . . With two outs, Ryan Hernandez powered a single into left-center that plated Post . . . Tyler Bielamowicz followed with a run-scoring single to cut the deficit to 6-2 going to the bottom of the sixth.

The Shockers continued to pad their lead on Cougars pitchers Maddux Miller and Tristen Bayless eventually taking a 10-2 lead and final score in game one.

The Cougars mustered just six hits in game one, two of those were by Brad Burckel, who was the only Cougar with multiple hits in the game as he went 2-for-3 in the loss.

Robert Gasser took the mound in game two and the story of game two was much the same as the story of game one, the Shockers scored plenty while the Cougars offense scuffled.

Things started well for the Cougars as Brad Burckel worked a one-out walk, and after reaching second on a fielder’s choice, a wild pitch moved Brad to third, and another wild pitch allowed him to score and give the Cougars an early 1-0 advantage to end the top half of the first . . . But that would be the Cougars only run of the night.

The Cougars offense could not get anything going against Shockers starter Liam Eddy in game two . . . Aside from two hits, the last coming in the third, Eddy retired sixteen straight batters to close out his eight innings of work before giving way to the Wichita State bullpen for the ninth . . . Steven Rivas added a single in the ninth, but that would be all for the Cougars as they fell 7-1 in the nightcap.

Andy Belcik pitched 1/3 of an inning in relief of Gasser who went 6 2/3 innings . . . Dravin Barber got in two innings of work and allowed just one run as rain fell and the wind howled . . . Tyler Bielamowicz exited game one with an apparent back injury after making a defensive play and he did not play in game two.

The two squads return to action in Wichita on Saturday . . . Carter Henry will make his second consecutive weekend start after a tremendous outing last Friday . . . First pitch takes place at 2pm. –

Two Great Mound Starts Not Enough As Cougars Drop Two

Carter Henry delivers Friday’s first pitch at Schroeder Park

Cougars pitching stole the show Friday, as Carter Henry and Jaycob Deese each pitched brilliant games, but the Houston offense was stymied as Wichita State took both games of the weekend double-header by scores of 3-2 and 2-1 at Schroeder Park.

Carter Henry made the game one start, making his first start since the 2017 season, has been a reliever, and often a long reliever in the past . . . Last Saturday, Henry pitched a solid 5 2/3 innings in relief against UT Arlington . . . The Shockers got to Henry for a run in the first inning, one of three runs off Henry on the day.

Brandon Uhse hit a pitch that was over the middle of the plate over the left field wall for a leadoff solo home run to tie the game at one in the bottom of the first . . . An inning later, Will Pendergrass scored on a wild pitch, after reaching base with a single, to give the Cougars a 2-1 lead . . . The Cougars would not score again in game one.

Shockers tied the game in the fourth, at which point Carter Henry went the next four innings without allowing a run . . . With the game tied at two in the ninth, a leadoff home run by third baseman Paxton Wallace gave the Shockers a 3-2 lead.

The Cougars began a rally in the ninth when Steven Rivas hit a one-out opposite field double to left, the first Cougars hit since the second inning . . . The rally was not to be though as the final two batters could not plate Rivas to tie the game, which the Shockers took by a final of 3-2.

In a semi-repeat of game one, the Shockers got one run off Deese in the top of the first to take an early 1-0 lead . . . Deese was solid over the next 6 2/3 innings, holding the Shockers scoreless until they added a run in the eighth after Deese left the game with a runner on second . . . Andy Belcik did end the inning, but not before Wichita State had taken a 2-0 lead.

After fourteen scoreless innings on the day, the Cougars finally put a run on the board in the eighth when Will Pendergrass hit a sacrifice fly to right . . . Aside from that, Schocker pitching was tough on the Cougars on Friday, allowing three total runs on eleven combined hits in both games . . . Four Cougars had one hit in game one, and Dylan Post (2-for-4) and Ryan Hernandez (2-for-4) were the only Cougars with multiple hits in game two.

Both teams have scored eight runs in the series to this point, and Houston is 13-13 overall and now 1-2 in American Conference play . . . Henry and Deese were hard luck losers on Friday, each pitched well enough to win but for lack of runs to back them up . . . Henry tossed 8 1/3 innings yielding six hits and striking out five . . . Deese countered by throwing 7 2/3 innings allowing eight hits and striking out six.

The Cougars close out the homestand and the opening series of conference weekend on Saturday when they host the Shockers in a noon finale at Schroeder Park . . . Ben Sears will be on the mound for the Cougars. –

Houston Cougars Recap the 2020 TCL

Texas Collegeiate League TCL logo - Cougars Beat

The Texas Collegiate League (TCL) season came to an end on Saturday night in Bryan. The one-game championship proved to be an anti-climactic 13-2 affair, and was not typical of most of the month-long season which saw plenty of low scoring and quality baseball.

The Houston Cougars were represented on two of the ten TCL teams throughout the season. And one of them was on the winning side of that championship win.

The TCL is a wooden bat league, common for college play during the summer in the various leagues across the country that offer athletes the opportunity to play baseball when school is not in session. Five active Cougars and one incoming junior college transfer made up part of the roster for the Round Rock Hairy Men, which played their home games at Dell Diamond, the home of the AAA Round Rock Express. One other incoming junior college transfer found a spot of the Brazos Valley Bombers which played their home games at Travis Park in Bryan, just north of College Station.

Round Rock saw their season come to end with two regular season games remaining, and with a playoff spot almost certainly assured. Their final weekend series was a three game set with San Antonio, two of the games were to be played in Round Rock, with the middle game to be played in San Antonio. Rain forced the cancellation of Friday night’s game.

Then on Saturday came the announcement out of Round Rock that the Hairy Men would not be traveling to San Antonio and that in fact, the season was being put on ice amid Covid-19 concerns in the organization. In a statement released just six hours before the scheduled first pitch in San Antonio, Round Rock General Manager, Tim Jackson stated, “With just two games remaining in the season, out of an abundance of caution, we felt it was in the best interest of our players and staff to end the season now.”

Teams across the TCL had taken numerous player, personnel, and facility precautions in this shortened 2020 season, but the Round Rock team found itself erring on the side of caution and deciding to end the season with a couple of games left to go. As a result, the Hairy Men forfeited their final two games and declared they would not be taking part in a playoff series set to begin the following Tuesday, should their team have made it.

For the Houston Cougars on the Round Rock team, the cancellation of the season came at a time when they were playing some of their best baseball, including having just completed a three-game sweep of the eventual TCL champions, the Brazos Valley Bombers, at Dell Diamond.

From day one of the formation of the team, the Round Rock players and organization talked about the importance of baseball during the summer after the abrupt end of the college baseball season back in March.

The day before the season opened, the Cougars players voiced their thoughts about playing again, and to a man, they talked about improving their individual games and how much they really wanted to play again. They also noted the importance of having so many teammates with them in Round Rock.

Ryan Hernandez had one of the great seasons in the entire league. Just prior to the season, Ryan appeared dialed-in as he spoke about working each day with purpose and vision. He only lost the batting title on the last day of the season when the eventual leader went 4-for-4 lifting his average to .367 over Ryan’s .364. Hernandez also had multiple-hits in ten of his twenty-three games played, along with six home runs.

Reflecting on the season upon its conclusion, Hernandez echoed those pre-season sentiments again, “I saw this summer as an opportunity to work on stuff that I felt needed some fixing. My approach was the most important part of my game this summer and it’s going to continue to be that way. After refining my approach and honestly hunting pitches that I like, it got much easier to hit.”

Cougars freshmen Rey Mendoza and Luke Almendarez each found full-time roles with the Hairy Men, Mendoza in the outfield and Almendarez at second and shortstop.

On the challenge that the league presented to him, Mendoza offered this, “What surprised me about the TCL season is the amount of talent and competitiveness there was throughout the league. The pitching was definitely challenging in this league, and it was fun being able to face some great arms this summer.” 

Rey was no newcomer to the use of a wooden bat, but he explained that it had been a few years since the last time he played with one, “I hadn’t really used a wooden bat in a game since my junior year summer with my travel ball team. I tried to just stick with the same approach I have with a metal bat which is to hit a fastball up the middle or opposite field.” Rey hit in sixteen of his twenty-seven games played, a stat that is slightly misleading in that Rey had four games where he only had one at-bat as a late-inning defensive replacement or as a pinch hitter. Rey also was a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts.

Almendarez also took positives from the TCL experience, “I loved hitting with the wood bat this summer. Finding that one perfect wood bat is a great feeling. I learned a lot about my approach that will definitely transition to college.” Luke raised his batting average by forty-one points in his last nine games played. Luke’s summer play has him ready to return to campus to get back to the grind, “What I’m focused on most is staying healthy and working on my game as much as I can. I’m excited to get back to Houston and to get to work. I’m pumped to see all the guys again, hopefully very soon.“

Kyle Lovelace was a late season addition to the Round Rock team, and then platooned with the other catchers, including Cougars teammate Dylan Post. Kyle joined the team after the season got underway as the Round Rock organization went in search of a catcher after an injury sidelined their game one catcher in his first at-bat of the season.

Kyle enjoyed his time in the league and offered his thoughts as a catcher, “The quality of pitching this summer was phenomenal. The diversity of arms we had was incredible. Guys were able to command the zone well and throw multiple pitches for strikes. We had guys that were power arms and guys that could come in and mix-and-match. I really enjoyed being able to get back there and catch these guys.”

Kyle Lovelace takes the game seriously when he is behind the plate, whether in a college season or as a part-time player in a college summer league. Kyle’s defensive style only shocks those who have never seen him play. Opposing radio announcers seemed shocked at the number of times Kyle went hunting for base runners, with throws behind them or throws when the runners looked disinterested. Anyone who has watched Houston Cougars baseball in recent years is not surprised to see Kyle constantly checking on runners, and often clearing them off the base paths.

Most, if not all, catchers in the TCL called their own pitches, rather than looking to the dugout for each pitch. Asked how a veteran catcher prepares for calling a game in a wood bat league, Lovelace says, “The only thing that changed really was that we were a little more aggressive in because guys are holding sticks in their hands, maybe more aggressive with the fastball.“

“I know all of these guys well and have phenomenal relationships with them already,” Lovelace said of teaming-up with so many of his Cougars teammates this summer. As a team leader, Kyle is setting the standard, “All of the Coogs had a great summer, but it’s expected.”

Freshman Dylan Post was one of several platoon catchers for the Hairy Men and he had a great all-around season, both defensively and offensively. Runners attempting to steal did not find much success against Dylan. With the wooden bat, he hit .306 and hit two home runs in nineteen games.  In those nineteen games, Dylan had base hits in thirteen of them.

Incoming transfer Cole Turney, who last played college baseball this year at San Jacinto College, hit six doubles and three home runs in twenty-two games played while playing the outfield. Cole had at least one RBI in eight different games for Round Rock.

Jaycob Deese is another junior college transfer like Turney, though Deese is coming from Galveston College. Deese managed a 3.86 ERA with nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings pitched over four starts. Jaycob’s final outing was abbreviated after just one inning pitched by the right-hander.

Deese had a different journey into the TCL than the other Cougars. Jaycob was pitching in Bryan, at Travis Park, while playing in the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational (CSBI) in June. He was hitting 96mph during a bullpen session when a Brazos Valley coach approached him about playing for the Bombers in the TCL. Deese was on the team Saturday night when they picked up the championship over the Tulsa Drillers.

Once there, Deese enjoyed his time in the TCL, “It was a great experience. I had never played in front of that many fans. Galveston College was a really small school and playing in front of that many fans was cool,” he explained. Talking specifically about pitching, and pitching hard, in a wood bat league, Deese noted, “You can miss a spot and still miss a barrel and they can break a bat. Going inside is better too with the velo I had, it was easier.”

Ryan Hernandez was proud of his Cougars teammates when the season concluded, “It almost seems like everyday another Cougar was highlighted for their good work. I am really looking forward to this upcoming season since the Coogs are hot.”

Having so many Cougars on one summer league team was beneficial beyond measure in at least one respect. As Luke Almendarez put it, “Having Ryan Hernandez and Kyle Lovelace there was awesome. Those guys are leaders for us younger guys. You watch them play and they play the game the right way and they play hard.”

Talking with Ryan Hernandez, it is easy to see that he liked the discipline of the league, and perhaps that mentality paid dividends for the other Cougars, “We had some practices before every game to work on different skills everyday. I found it to be super beneficial to me and my teammates that we weren’t only just playing for fun but also still having some order and skill development too.” That is the type of “summer camp” that Almendarez and the “younger guys” got to be a part of this year.

As for the immediate future, these players have seen two baseball seasons ended early in the last five months because of Covid-19 concerns. There are no guarantees about the next season, or even the next academic year, but these ball players are hungry and they are ready to get back to work just over a week after their last season ended.

“I’m just eager to get back on campus and work out with my teammates,” said Rey Mendoza. Kyle Lovelace voiced similar sentiments about his fellow Cougars, “I’m really proud of them and looking forward to rolling that into a great season this spring.”

And Ryan Hernandez, ever the focused worker, is ready for what is next, “Now that the season is over I am going to start working on getting stronger and getting as fit as possible. Since we do have strength and conditioning workouts I look forward to getting my body right for the upcoming season. I am also planning on consistently talking with the other Coogs about approach and finding their moneymaker pitch so that we can be ready to roll once again.”

When it was over, the player excitement and optimism expressed prior to the season was still there. Rather than being disappointed the season ended earlier than planned and a playoff spot was forfeited, the Cougars looked back on the games they did get to play; at how they grew, not only as players, but as teammates.

The fall of 2020 awaits with no answers and no guarantees, and hope springs eternal that these young men take the field as a team in scarlet and white in February 2021. –