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.

Houston Advances to American Championship on Late Tulimero Home Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston Walks-Off Memphis; Advances to Saturday at the AAC

The Cougars celebrate the walk-off win in shallow right field on Thursday in Clearwater (Photo credit: American Athletic Conference/Mary Holt)

Houston kept their season going by defeating Memphis 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning in Clearwater on Thursday night in the American Athletic Conference Championship.

Brandon Uhse (4-for-5) hit the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning over the wall in deep left-center . . . Alex Lopez (4-for-6) doubled down the left field line in front of Anthony Tulimero who hit a monster home run to left-center and the Cougars led 3-0 before an out had been recorded in the inning.

The Cougars added a run in the second inning when Lopez, attempting to steal second base, was caught in a rundown allowing Uhse to score from third base.

After the Tigers scored two runs in the top of the fourth inning, Uhse and Lopez led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single and a double, respectively . . . Tulimero then delivered a double into left-center field to push the Cougars lead back up to four runs, 6-2.

A four-run top of the sixth inning tied the game at six as the Cougars used three different pitchers to get through the frame . . . Memphis then took a 7-6 lead in the top of the sixth inning.

The Cougars tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when a throwing error at third base allowed Brandon Burckel to score when the ball bounced into the Houston dugout.

Still tied at seven in the bottom of the ninth inning, Burckel led off with a single into center field and then he stole second base on a pitch that was up-and-in and delayed the Tiger catcher from making a throw to second base . . . Uhse was intentionally walked before a Lopez sacrifice fly to right field moved Burkcel to third base . . . Tulimero was the second intentional walk of the inning, which loaded the bases . . . Santiago Garcia laced a one-out single down the third base line to drive in Burckel from third base for the winning run as the Cougars walked it off 8-7.

The Cougars used six pitchers in the victory. Logan Clayton, Cameron Prayer, and Jose Torrealba all pitched scoreless relief . . . Houston out-hit Memphis nineteen to twelve in the game, and eight different Cougars had base hits . . . Houston continues to play solid defensively and did not commit an error on Thursday, while Memphis committed two errors.

“In that moment, it’s just going back to being a little kid,” Garcia said after the game. “Getting in situations like that, it’s fun. It’s really just taking a deep breath, enjoying the moment, trying to put a good swing on a ball, and whatever happens, happens.”

Head coach Todd Whitting has continued to reiterate that there are no roles right now, he and his staff are simply choosing players who they think can get the job done in certain situations, which is another way of saying it’s all hands on deck right now.

The Cougars now have a day off on Friday and will play their next game on early Saturday afternoon when they will face the winner of a late Friday afternoon matchup between Memphis and UCF . . . If Houston stumbles at any point, they know right now they have the luxury of needing to be defeated twice to be eliminated.

Regular Season Ends with Loss, Conference Tourney Begins Tuesday Night

Jose Torrealba threw two innings of scoreless relief Saturday at East Carolina

Houston fought until the end on Saturday afternoon, but fell 3-2 in ten innings to East Carolina to close out the regular season schedule ahead of the conference tournament next week.

After a double play cleared the bases in the top of the second inning, Santiago Garcia reached base with a single into center field . . . Malachi Lott then bounced a ball high and over the outstretched first baseman for a double, moving Garcia to third base . . . Samuel Benjamin followed with a double to right-center field plating both runners and Houston led 2-0 after three straight two-out hits.

The score remained 2-1 until the bottom of the eighth when back-to-back doubles by the Pirates tied the game.

Still tied in the bottom of the tenth inning, the Pirates took advantage of a one-out double when an infield single allowed the winning run to round third base and score safely at home for the 3-2 win.

Neither team committed an error in the contest, as both finish the season ranked high in defensive percentage . . . The Pirates only out-hit the Cougars by one, nine to eight.

Houston will stay in Greenville tonight and then will travel to Clearwater, Florida on Sunday . . . The Cougars do not yet know their first opponent in the conference tournament, but they do know they will play the final game of the day on Tuesday which will sure last late into the evening.

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.

Cougars Lose to UTRGV, Get Ready for Tulane

Nathan Medrano throws the first pitch against UTRGV Tuesday

It was a night where few things went right for the Cougars at Schroeder Park on Tuesday night as they lost to UTRGV 9-1.

The Vaqueros used five pitchers to limit the Cougars to just eight base hits in the game, and no Houston hitter had multiple hits . . . Meanwhile, Houston used nine pitchers in the defeat . . . The Cougars got scoreless innings from Jackson Dannelley, Jose Torrealba, and Colby Casey.

The sole Houston run came in the sixth inning when Cameron Nickens grounded out to shortstop and scored Alex Lopez from third base.

The Cougars are off only one day this week before weekend action begins . . . Houston will welcome Tulane to town on Thursday to begin the third week of conference action . . . The weekend schedule this week is different because of Easter Sunday, and will continue Friday and conclude on Saturday . . . First pitch on Thursday will take place at 6:30pm.

Houston Wins 20th Game of 2022, Retains Don Sanders Cup

Tuesday night’s first pitch from Logan Clayton against Sam Houston State

The Houston Cougars retained possession of the Don Sanders Cup for another year after a late rally in a back-and-forth game, eventually winning 8-6 on Tuesday night. The win over Sam Houston State did two other things: It kept Houston a perfect 8-0 in midweek games this year, and it gave the Cougars their 20th win of the season after they won 19 games a season ago.

After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first inning, the Cougars tied the game in the bottom of the inning when Anthony Tulimero grounded out to short allowing Zach Arnold scored from third base.

The Cougars took a brief lead in the third inning when Ryan Hernandez plated Alex Lopez with a two out single.

Logan Clayton started for Houston and handled the first three innings of work in what seemed like a bullpen game as the Cougars used six pitchers after Clayton, including: Jose Torrealba, Jackson Dannelley, Cameron Prayer, Taylor Parrett, and Kyle LaCalameto.

The Bearkats tied the game in the top of the fourth and took a 3-2 in the top of the fifth.

With two outs and runners on second and third, Malachi Lott put down a bunt toward short on a perfect line that no fielder was close to as Lott crossed first base, and Arnold scored the tying run easily from third base.

Still tied in the sixth, Brandon Burckel reached base on a one out bunt single . . . With two outs in the inning, Arnold landed a ball on Elgin Street, a home run measuring 411 feet, and the Cougars had a 5-3 advantage . . . Arnold was 3-for-5 on Tuesday night.

Sam Houston State scored three runs over the seventh and eighth innings to take a 6-5 lead.

In the bottom of the eighth, Brandon Uhse hit a three-run home run with one out to put Houston in front 8-6 . . . Ben Sears who handled the eighth inning, set down the Bearkats in order in the ninth inning to close out the victory.

Houston now has a couple of days off before opening up another American Athletic Conference weekend series on Friday, this time in Cincinnati . . . First pitch on Friday is set for 4pm.

Cougars, Medrano Rebound Against Columbia

Nathan Medrano throws the first pitch in Saturday’s contest with Columbia

Houston evened its series with Columbia with an impressive 10-4 victory Saturday night at Schroeder Park.

Nathan Medrano took the mound for the Cougars and was dealing from the outset.

Scoreless in the bottom of the third, Zach Arnold (3-for-4) worked a seven-pitch at-bat before dropping a single into shallow right-center to score Ian McMillan from second base and giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead, their first lead of the weekend series . . . Alex Lopez batted next with two runners on base and homered over the right field wall to clear the bases of Cougars and extend the lead to 4-0 going to the fourth . . . For Lopez (2-for-4) it was his second home run of the season.

Brandon Burckel led off the bottom of the fifth with a triple that rolled to the wall in right-center . . . Brandon Uhse then grounded out to shortstop allowing Burckel to cross the plate and push the Houston advantage to 5-0.

Malachi Lott made an amazing catch on the warning track in right-center for the second out in the top of the sixth inning . . . Lott had to leave his feet, jumping toward the wall, after he caught the ball, he collided with the wall before falling to the ground while hanging on to the ball . . . In the bottom of the inning, Lott got a five-run inning started with a two-out RBI single through the right side to make the score 6-0 . . . Taking advantage of three hit batters in the inning and a Lott steal of third base, the Cougars loaded the bases for Uhse who powered a grand slam over the left field wall to push the lead to 10-0 going to the seventh . . . Uhse’s third home run of the season also extended his hitting streak to fifteen straight games.

The Lions got two runs back in the top of the seventh as Medrano exited with one out having allowed six hits and one earned run while striking out eight . . . Two Houston relievers closed out the inning as Columbia loaded the bases, Jose Torrealba got the final two outs of the top half of the inning and also handled the eighth . . . Maddux Miller handled the ninth inning for the Cougars, closing out the 10-4 win which improved Medrano’s record to 3-0.

Freshman Burckel was 2-for-3 adding a double to his triple, he was also hit in the helmet with a pitch.

Head coach Todd Whitting got what he wanted from Medrano’s start, “We needed a great start tonight and Medrano delivered.” “When he pounds the zone and gets through the mitt, he is very tough to hit,” Whitting added.

Houston and Columbia conclude the weekend series with a game Sunday at noon . . . Jaycob Deese will be on the mound for the Cougars as they look to take the series.

Cougars Defeat Cards, Extend Win Streak to Six

Jaycob Deese pitches to the Cardinals leadoff batter Friday

A five game winning streak was on the line Friday night at Schroeder Park as the Cougars welcomed the Cardinals of Incarnate Word University for a weekend series . . . Houston would put together another late offensive attack to eventually walk away 5-2 winners.

Jaycob Deese was on the mound for the Cougars, his first start of 2022, but his third appearance thus far . . . Deese was overpowering early in his appearance, striking out the side in both the second and third innings.

Samuel Tormos got the Cougars on the board first when he hit a solo home run to left field with one out in the bottom of the second, his first home run of the year . . . Catcher Anthony Tulimero followed with a single to extend his reaches base streak to all nine games to open the season.

The Cardinals tied the game at one in the top of the fifth.

Batting with the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Alex Lopez lined a single into right field scoring Malachi Lott, while Brandon Uhse was thrown out at the plate, but the Cougars regained the lead 2-1 . . . The Cardinals tied the game again in the sixth on a solo home run.

In the bottom of the sixth, Lott drove a ball deep to right and the Cougars took a 3-2 lead on the sacrifice fly . . . Uhse and Zach Arnold each followed with RBI singles to push the Cougars advantage to 5-2 going to the seventh.

Derrick Cherry took the mound in the seventh and delivered a scoreless inning . . . The Cougars then went to the bullpen again in the eighth in favor of Jose Torrealba . . . Torrealba pitched the final two innings and did not yield any ground as he closed out the 5-2 Houston victory and pushed the winning streak to six games in a row.

Left-hander Cameron Prayer picked up the win for his inning of work in relief, his first win of the season . . . Torrealba picked up the save, his first of the season, for his two innings to close out the win.

The Cougars host the Cardinals again on Saturday night at 6:30pm . . . Logan Clayton will be making his third start of the year for Houston.

Cougars Claim First Victory of 2022, Win 3-2 at McNeese

Houston faces McNeese in Lake Charles on Tuesday

After a disappointing weekend in Arizona, the Cougars picked up their first victory of the season against McNeese in Lake Charles on Tuesday.

Samuel Tormos got the scoring started for the Cougars in the top of the first when he singled home two runs with two outs and the Cougars took the early lead.

Derrick Cherry started on the mound for the Cougars . . . Coach Whitting said pregame they wanted two to three innings out of Cherry, they got two scoreless as Cherry yielded one hit and struck out three and he left with the Cougars leading 2-0.

McNeese tied the game in the bottom of the third on a two-run home run . . . The game would remain tied until the top of the sixth when a bases loaded grounder off the bat of Ian McMillan scored Santiago Garcia from third base and the Cougars led once again, 3-2.

Ben Sears threw four scoreless innings with seven strike outs while allowing just two hits, and no walks . . . It was a solid outing for the right-hander from Rhode Island as he was efficient with his pitches and got a lot of first pitch strikes.

Jose Torrealba, who left Sunday’s game in Scottsdale after being hit by a batted ball, returned for the Cougars on Tuesday night and retired the only three batters he faced, two of them by strike out . . . Nathan Medrano took the mound for the ninth inning and struck out the first two batters on the way to closing out the 3-2 victory and picking up the save, his first of the season . . . Ben Sears earned the win and is now 1-0.

Coach Todd Whitting was pleased with the outcome and had high praise for his pitching staff. “Great display of Grit and courage by Cherry and Sears tonight, this was a game where their team needed a great performance and they both delivered,” Whitting said. “Overall great performance by the entire staff tonight with Torrealba and Medrano slamming the door.”

The Cougars offense only had two hits in the win, but it was enough to win on this night.

The Cougars head back to town and will open up the home portion of their season on Friday night when they face Texas Southern at Schroeder Oark . . . First pitch on Friday is at 6:30pm.