Fred Villarreal Drafted by the Mariners

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Right-hander Fred Villarreal was drafted by the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday in the 25th round of the Major League Baseball amateur draft.

Villarreal was electric on the mound this season for the Cougars, he stayed healthy this year and was mostly automatic when he entered a game, many times he was asked to go more than one inning to close out a game . . . In the process, Villarreal picked up ten saves in thirty-three appearances with a 2.29 ERA.

Seattle Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter had these things to say about their evaluation of Villarreal, “He has what our guys call a ‘real’ slider and his velocity is in the 88 to 91 range and they think if he can come in and start gaining a few more miles per hour, he could have the real potential to move in our system.”

Hunter added, “We identify guys that can throw a ton of strikes and have really good breaking balls. We think over the last few years we’ve really been able to start developing velocity for guys in what we call our “gas camp.” We try to identify a few of those guys that we can build upon where if we can increase their velocity just a little bit, they can become real prospects.” –

Cougars Lose American Championship Opener

Houston Cougars Baseball

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. –

Cougars Drop Regular Season Finale in 11

Houston Cougars Baseball

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. –

Cougars Shutout UCF 2-0, Even Series

Houston Cougars Baseball

After a lopsided shutout on Thursday night, Friday night’s game between the Houston Cougars and the UCF Knights proved to be more of a taste of a series between two teams with nearly identical records.

Clay Aguilar took the hill for the Cougars and though he was laboring through long innings early, he was putting up zeroes and keeping the Knights off the board . . . He parted the game with a runner on but no outs in the fifth in favor of Sean Bretz, who subsequently ended the inning and pitched two scoreless innings on the night.

The game slugged along with base runners, but stranded base-runners . . . Neither team scored until the top of the seventh, and neither team scored after that frame.

Joe Davis would provide all the offense the Cougars needed on Friday night when he hit a two-run homerun to center in the seventh, his seventeenth of the season, and his first since April 12th at Wichita State . . . For Davis the homer was part of a 2-for-3 night, only Brad Burckel joined Davis with multiple hits in the game.

Fred Villarreal pitched a scoreless final three frames to earn his tenth save of the year . . . For UCF, this was their first nine-inning shutout of the season . . . Sean Bretz picked up the win, his second of the year . . . Clay Aguilar lowered his ERA to 2.65, which is an extraordinary number for someone who did not start the season as the “Saturday starter” but has moved into the role nicely.

The Cougars can claim the road series on Saturday when they conclude the series with UCF at 5pm Houston time in Orlando. –

Cougars Sweep UNLV with 9-2 Victory

Houston Cougars faces UNLV Sunday at Schroeder Park. Photo by @5_Coogs via Twitter.
Houston Cougars faces UNLV Sunday at Schroeder Park.
Photo by @5_Coogs via Twitter.

A sunny and hot afternoon with clouds dotting the sky greeted the UNLV Rebels and the Houston Cougars Sunday afternoon at Schroeder Park . . . The Cougars arrived winners of two straight, including a 2-0 shut-out of UNLV on Saturday night.

Left-hander Clay Aguilar started Sunday’s game and surrendered a run in the opening frame, Cougars would get it back quickly when Jared Triolo hit his sixth homerun of the season to leadoff the bottom of the first . . . For Aguilar, the looping single by Bryson Stott to leadoff the game was the last batter to reach base until the fifth inning, Aguilar retired thirteen straight Rebels in that span . . . For Triolo, the leadoff homerun was the first of five hits in the game in a 5-for-5 afternoon that included five RBI.

The Cougars started their half of the sixth with three straight doubles followed by a single, they would score two runs in the inning to extend their one-run lead to 5-2.

Clay Aguilar exited the game in the sixth with two outs and runners on second and third . . . Sean Bretz entered the game and walked the bases loaded, but clutch pitching left the bases loaded for the Rebels in the sixth and Bretz would work out of another bases-loaded situation in the seventh inning . . . Bretz went a total of 1 1/3 innings scoreless to bridge the game from Aguilar to Villarreal.

The Cougars offense scored two runs in four different innings on Sunday . . . The offense also pounded out seventeen hits and even though they scored nine runs, they had plenty of opportunities to score more runs leaving eleven runners on base . . . Every Houston starter got at least one base hit, with Derrick Cherry and Kobe Hyland both getting two hits, and Grayson Padgett got two hits going 2-for-2 off the bench.

Righty Fred Villarreal handled the final two innings of action on Sunday, entering the game in the top of the eighth . . . Villarreal retired all six batters he faced, getting four groundballs to help his cause, and he did it all on only eighteen pitches . . . Aguilar collected his sixth win on the year in his tenth start, he allowed only two runs in his 5 2/3 innings and struck out four.

The Cougars are off now until Wednesday when they face Florida Atlantic University at Schroeder Park . . . Houston takes a three-game winning streak into the midweek matchup . . . First pitch is at 6:30pm on Wednesday. –

 

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Cougars Take Cincinnati Series in 8-4 Finale

Sean Bretz pitches in the 9th against Cincinnati on Saturday at Schroeder Park. Photo by Cougars Beat.
Sean Bretz pitches in the 9th against Cincinnati on Saturday.
Photo by Cougars Beat.

The Houston Cougars and the Cincinnati Bearcats played a series-deciding game Saturday afternoon at Schroeder Park and the game could not have been played in a better atmosphere: occasional breezes, sunny sky, no clouds, and plenty of Cougars fans in the seats . . . The series would be decided after two straight low-scoring games setting up the final game.

The Cougars did not score in the first, but they did score first, in the second inning when Jared Triolo hit a two-out bases loaded single to left that put the Cougars up 2-0 . . . For Triolo that hit was part of a 3-for-4 3 RBI afternoon.

Houston chased Cincinnati starter Garrett Schoenle in the third inning after a Rey Fuentes walk and a single by Grayson Padgett, followed by a RBI single to left field by Tyler Bielamowicz . . . Brad Burckel would follow with a sharp grounder to short that could not be fielded cleanly, it was ruled a hit and it drove in the Cougars second run of the inning while the Cougars took a 4-1 lead.

Brayson Hurdsman started on the mound for the Cougars and went 2 2/3 innings . . . Hurdsman only allowed one run on five hits and struck out four . . . Carter Henry and Nolan Bond would be called on first out of the bullpen to keep the game moving . . . Devon Roedahl relieved Bond in the fifth to protect the 4-2 lead and worked 1 2/3 scoreless innings with three strikeouts.

Houston padded its lead in the sixth when they scored three runs . . . It began with walks to Triolo, and Joe Davis. A fielder’s choice would erase Davis and put Jonathan Thomas at first. Thomas attempted to steal second, but as the throw went to second, Triolo broke for home from third . . . Cincinnati shortstop Joey Bellini cut the throw off short and tried to get Triolo at home, but Triolo scored and Thomas was safe at second . . . Then Padgett walked.

Tyler Bielamowicz appeared to end the sixth with a long fly out to center, but a balk had been called, so Tyler was not out and got to bat again, and Thomas scored from third on the balk . . . Bielamowicz then dropped a single in to center field for a run-scoring single to give the Cougars a 7-2 lead. 

The Cougars offense was  oddly limited in a game where they ultimately scored eight runs on eight hits . . . Bearcats pitching walked nine Cougars batters, and they struck out nine . . . Only four Cougar batters got the eight hits: Triolo had three, Padgett and Bielamowicz each had two, and Burckel had a single.

Fred Villarreal entered the game in the seventh inning with a 7-2 lead . . . A single, a walk, and a hit batter loaded the bases for the Bearcats, but Villarreal made his pitches and got out of the inning unscathed, and he followed that with a scoreless eighth . . . Sean Bretz entered the game in the ninth to get the final two outs and hold on to the 8-4 lead . . . Bretz got two fly-outs to end the game and earn his first save, he retired both batters he faced . . . Devon Roedahl earned the win with his outing, he improves to 6-2 on the year.

For Houston, the series win helped improve their conference record to 8-7 and their overall record to 24-16.

The Cougars will be off Sunday and Monday and will return to action Tuesday night at 7pm in Sugar Land at Constellation Field. –

 

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Cougars Bounce Back, Win 3-1 Over Cincinnati

Kobe Hyland bats against Cincinnati on Friday at Schroeder Park. Photo by Cougars Beat.
Kobe Hyland bats against Cincinnati on Friday at Schroeder Park.
Photo by Cougars Beat.

A very windy afternoon with a cloudless sky greeted the Houston Cougars and the Cincinnati Bearcats for game two of their series Friday at Schroeder Park.

The ballgame got off to an ominous start as Clay Aguilar walked the leadoff batter. Then, he promptly picked-off the runner at first base for the first out of the game.

Part of the winning formula for Houston in recent weeks has included scoring runs early in the game . . . The Cougars returned to that formula on Friday when they jumped on Cincinnati starter Evan Shawver early . . . Jared Triolo worked a leadoff walk on seven pitches . . . Two outs later, Rey Fuentes lined a double all the way to the wall in right-center to score Triolo from first . . . Derrick Cherry hit the next pitch on the ground between the shortstop and the third baseman into left field, Fuentes was racing home from second and was going to beat any type of throw home, but the throw from left fielder Joey Wiemer was off and eventually ruled an error, which allowed Cherry to end up at second base.

The early 2-0 lead was just what the doctor ordered . . . Aguilar was able to pitch with a lead, he was changing speeds well, and he was getting his fastball high and low and got some ugly swings from Bearcat batters.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati’s Evan Shawver was on his game, after the run-scoring first inning, Shawver struck out eight Cougar batters and had 1-2-3 innings fives times in the game in his seven innings of work.

Houston only had five hits in the game, two of them by Kyle Lovelace in a 2-for-3 performance that raised his batting average again, he now sits at .232 on the year, a marked improvement over where he was just two weeks ago, and he is batting .313 in conference play this season.

Clay Aguilar went 6 1/3 innings allowing just one run on six hits while striking out five . . . Sean Bretz entered the game to relieve Aguilar and serve as a bridge to getting the ball to Fred Villarreal . . . Bretz was clocking 94mph as he worked a scoreless 2/3 of an inning to get the Cougars out of the seventh . . . Villarreal started the eighth as he was once again called upon to get six outs on his way to a save.

The two runs in the first would be all the Cougars would get until they tacked on another run in the bottom of the eighth in what could have been an explosive inning after Jared Triolo was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs . . . The Cougars settled for one run on a ground-out to short by Grayson Padgett which plated Lovelace from third to give Houston a 3-1 lead.

Over his two innings of work, Fred Villarreal struck out two and only allowed one hit in earning his ninth save on the season . . . Clay Aguilar picked up his fourth win of the year with his performance . . . The Cougars evened their conference record at 7-7 with the 3-1 victory.

The Cougars and the Bearcats conclude their weekend series with a rubber game Saturday at 1pm at Schroeder Park. An Easter egg hunt for the kids follows the game, so get to the ballpark on Saturday and bring the kids. –

 

Newspaper column version of this recap

Cougars Take Conference Series Over Wichita St.

Houston Cougars Baseball

Just when the Houston Cougars were getting accustomed to warm Texas weather, they went on the road to Wichita State and the weather has been nothing like the recent Texas weather . . . The game time temperature on Saturday afternoon was 53 degrees with wind and clouds . . . Fortunately for the Cougars, the bats stayed hot.

After an offensively balanced performance Friday night, the Cougars were up for more of the same on Saturday . . . Houston got on the board in the first when Rey Fuentes drove in Grayson Padgett on a two-out single, Fuentes had a single in his first two at-bats . . . The Cougars scored one in the second, and two runs in the third . . . All but two Cougars starters got a hit in the game, the Cougars had twelve hits in the game, and they scored in five of the nine frames.

Clay Aguilar went 5 1/3 innings allowing two runs on three hits and striking out seven . . . For Aguilar it was another nice Saturday outing after having mostly been a midweek starter or a reliever . . . Devon Roedahl relieved Aguilar in the sixth and got the final two outs to end the minor threat from the Shockers.

Wichita State starter Liam Eddy had a rough first three innings, but settled down after that to quiet the Cougars bats for four innings, but Houston got to him once again in the eighth when with two outs Kobe Hyland doubled to right, one pitch later Brad Burckel singled to right and the throw home to try to catch Hyland allowed Burckel to get to second, as the Cougars took the 5-2 lead, Eddy’s day was done.

Kyle Lovelace greeted the pitching change with an infield single that the shortstop was unable to get a handle on, Burckel was moving on contact with two outs and never stopped running and would score on the play to put Houston up 6-2 . . . Lovelace was 3-for-3 with a sacrifice bunt, a nice job for the ninth batter in the lineup . . . The Cougars manufactured another run in the ninth, taking advantage of two walks and a single that loaded the bases, they only got one run out of it, but it made the score 7-3 going to the bottom of the ninth.

Roedahl would go 2 1/3 innings before giving the baseball to Fred Villarreal with two outs on the eighth . . . Villarreal recorded the final four outs and secured the victory and the series win for the Cougars . . . The 7-3 win was Clay Aguilar’s third win of the season, and it was the 20th win on the year for the Cougars.

Houston and Wichita State conclude their weekend series at noon on Sunday in Wichita. –

 

Newspaper column version of this recap

Cougars Win Slugfest in Huntsville 12-7

 

Houston Cougars Baseball

Two weeks ago to the day, the Houston Cougars and the Sam Houston State Bearkats hooked up in a classic 2-1 ballgame at Schroeder Park . . . It would not have been unreasonable to expect the same type of result when the Cougars traveled to Huntsville on Tuesday night . . . Instead, the two teams combined for nineteen runs between them.

The Cougars scored a run in the top of the first, the Bearkats countered with two runs of their own. The Cougars then pounded out seven runs in the top of the second and were leading 8-2. The Bearkats got three back in the bottom of the third . . . It was that kind of night.

When the Cougars scored eight runs in the first two innings, it easy to assume Joe Davis was in the middle of the mayhem . . . In this case, that would be wrong. The Cougars did their damage despite the fact that Davis was intentionally walked in one at-bat and harmlessly flied out to center field in the other at-bat, though he did see twelve pitches in the at-bat.

Joe Davis would get in on the act later on with one out in the fourth when he hit his fourteenth homerun of the season, part of a 2-for-4 night for the Cougars first baseman . . . Jared Triolo also hit a homerun in going 3-for-6, as did Tyler Bielamowicz in a 3-for-5 night, and Kobe Hyland got the scoring started in the second with a solo homerun to lead off the inning.

Devon Roedahl came in to the game in the fifth to relieve Brayson Hurdsman and provided a very good outing that stopped the Bearkats from scoring, and as importantly, bridged the Cougars from the fifth until it was time for Fred Villarreal to go to work in the eighth . . . Villarreal got the final five outs by throwing seventeen pitches, fourteen of them for strikes . . . The 12-7 lead was too big for a save, otherwise Villarreal would have another one to his credit

The Bearkats did not score after the fifth, and they only got three of their eleven hits in the final four frames . . . The Cougars pitching staff only walked two batters in the game . . . Houston only used four pitchers on the night, compared to the nine that Sam Houston St. used, so there are plenty of fresh arms left for this weekend.

The Cougars continue their road trip now and head up to Wichita, Kansas where they will take on the Wichita State Shockers in a three game weekend series . . . First pitch from Wichita is at 6pm on Friday. –

 

Newspaper column version of this recap

Cougars Top FIU in the 9th

Jared Pettitte's first pitch of the game against FIU on Wednesday at Schroeder Park.
Jared Pettitte’s first pitch of the game Wednesday at Schroeder Park.
Photo by Cougars Beat.

The threat of rain hung over Schroeder Park on Wednesday night as the Florida International University Panthers brought their shiny chrome batting helmets for the midweek matchup . . . The Houston Cougars countered with what has been a semi-regular formula for victory this year: A late rally, and a closer on the mound that is tough to score against.

A couple of wrinkles along the way told the story in this one though.

Jared Pettitte made his second consecutive Wednesday start for the Cougars . . . After a quick first inning where he retired the Panthers in order, striking out two, he gave up a leadoff homerun to the FIU clean-up hitter after he had fallen behind him 3-1. Pettitte brought a fastball and that was what right fielder Adan Fernandez was looking for and he sent the pitch over the wall in left-center . . . Pettitte would get the next batter to pop up to second.

Panthers first baseman Logan Allen then hit a lined shot off of Jared Pettitte’s throwing arm, the ball did not go far, and Allen reached first on a single and Pettitte stayed on the ground for a while as Cougars staff rushed out to check on the sophomore left-hander . . . Pettitte would walk off the field on his own, but he was in visible discomfort on his left side . . . X-rays would later show no break, we will know more in the coming days.

Ron Brown had the difficult task of relieving Pettitte under the circumstances and a rushed warm-up, and after yielding two runs and recording an out, lefty Spencer Hynes entered the game with two outs in the second and pitched an outstanding three innings, keeping the Panthers from increasing their lead and keeping the Cougars within striking distance . . . A bevy of relievers would provide scoreless, quality work out of the bullpen on the night, including Carter Henry, Brayson Hurdsman, and Devon Roedahl.

Brett Esau got a rare start on Wednesday in place of an ailing Kobe Hyland . . . Esau played third base which moved Jared Triolo to Hyland’s usual shortstop position . . . Esau had the FIU pitching figured out as he went 3-for-4 with two doubles down the left field line . . . And for his part, Triolo played short like he had been playing there his entire life.

FIU starter Christian Santana was touched up for four total runs before he left in the fifth . . . Santana was throwing hard all night, reaching 94 at one point, his command and consistency were off though, and that allowed Houston to continaully chip away at that early deficit.

The only inning where FIU actually did some damage on offense was in the 2nd, most of it after the injury to Jared Pettitte . . . Catcher Kyle Lovelace picked-off Logan Allen at second when Allen strayed too far toward third after reaching base on a double to lead off the sixth, this heads up defensive gem was a key out for the Cougars, it only goes down as a 2-6 on the scorecard, but it was a big play at the time.

Neither team would score in innings five thru eight . . . With the score tied at four, Fred Villarreal came in to the game to make sure FIU did not score in the ninth . . . Fred accomplished this mission on eight pitches.

In the bottom of the ninth, with one out Kobe Hyland pinch hit for Kyle Lovelace and was hit by a pitch, and one out later he would steal second . . . The Cougars were down to their final out when Tyler Bielamowicz singled home Kobe Hyland from second as Hyland had been moving on the pitch . . . Bielamowicw was 3-for-4 on the night with a walk . . . FIU pitcher Christian Dearman, in his second inning of work, had fallen behind Bielamowicz, and with Joe Davis standing on-deck, Dearman had to get Bielamowicz . . . The Cougars won 5-4, Fred Villarreal earned the win to go to 3-1 on the season.

The Cougars have tomorrow off and then they welcome East Carolina University (ECU) for a weekend conference series . . . First pitch on Friday night at Schroeder Park is at 6:30. –

 

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