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.

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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 Opens Final Home Series with 9-6 Win

Ryan Hernandez bats in the second inning Friday night against UCF

The Houston Cougars defeated UCF 9-6 on Friday night at Schroeder Park, and they had to erase an early four run deficit to do it.

Houston faced an uncharacteristic 4-0 first inning deficit before they even came to bat on Friday night, but as often has been the case with the 2022 Cougars, they played nine innings of baseball and found a way to win.

Cameron Nickens led off the bottom of the second inning with a ground-rule double into right field . . . Ryan Hernandez (2-for-2) followed with a home run to center field that split the Texas and United States flags beyond the wall and the deficit was cut in half, 4-2.

Anthony Tulimero led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single and Nickens followed with a single, his second hit of the ballgame . . . Hernandez followed with his second home run of the game, a shot to left-center field, and Houston led 5-4 . . . For Hernandez the two homers were his fourth and fifth in the last five games, and his tenth and eleventh of the season.

One out later Malachi Lott tripled to center field . . . Brandon Uhse lined a two-out single to left field and the Houston lead increased to 6-4 going to the fifth inning.

Logan Clayton took the mound in the fifth inning with two runners on base and no outs . . . One run would score, but a sacrifice fly to center field turned wild on a throw that got past Zach Arnold at third base as the base runner was trying to tag up from first base to third base . . . Clayton was backing up third base and dove on the loose ball in front of the Cougars dugout, as the runner made for home, Clayton got up and fired a dart to Tulimero at home plate to catch the runner and end the frame with Houston leading 6-5.

Maddux Miller entered the game in the seventh inning with two down and got a swinging strike out to end the frame.

Ben Sears took the mound for the eighth inning protecting a one-run lead and retired the Knights in order, striking out two.

Leading by a run in the bottom of the eighth, Hernandez was walked for his second straight plate appearance, with one out . . . Ian McMillan doubled into the left field corner to put runners on second and third with one out . . . Santiago Garcia, pinch-hitting for Lott, swung at the first pitch he saw and unloaded on the baseball deep to left-center field for a three-run home run and a 9-5 Houston lead.

Houston benefited from the insurance runs because a two-out solo home run for UCF in the ninth inning made it 9-6, before Sears finished off the Knights and earned his twelfth save of the season . . . Clayton improved his record to 6-3.

With East Carolina winning on Friday night, the Pirates hold a two game edge over the Cougars, who continue to occupy the second spot in the standings, now two games ahead of UCF.

The Cougars (34-16) and the Knights continue the series on Saturday when they play again at Schroeder Park, first pitch will be at 6:30pm . . . Kyle LaCalameto will be on the mound for Houston.

Houston Takes Silver Glove Series with 8-2 Win

Brandon Burckel bats in the second inning against Rice on Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Houston Dominates USF 13-2

Zach Arnold is greeted by teammates after his second inning home run on Saturday

The Cougars utilized a seven run fourth inning to blow out South Florida 13-2 in Tampa on Saturday as Houston won for the second day in a row.

Scoreless in the top of the third inning, Brandon Uhse singled through the left side of the infield to reach base with two outs . . . Zach Arnold (4-for-5) followed with a home run to left field on a full-count pitch and Houston led 2-0 on Arnold’s eighth home run of the season.

A lead off walk to Ryan Hernandez was the beginning of a big fourth inning for the Cougars . . . Ian McMillan followed with a single to right field . . . After McMillan stole second base, Malachi Lott singled through the right side to drive in a run . . . Lott stole second base and was there when Brandon Burckel singled to left field two drive in two more runs and the Cougars led 5-0.

But the fourth inning kept going . . . After the Bulls went to the bullpen, Arnold doubled to left field to drive in his third run of the ballgame . . . Alex Lopez as the seventh batter of the inning, lifted a fly ball to center and drove in a run on the sacrifice fly . . . Cameron Nickens (2-for-3) capped the scoring with a two-run blast to left-center field, his fourth home run of the season, and Houston led 9-0 after the seven run fourth inning.

The Bulls scored a run in the fourth and another in the fifth, but the Cougars got those right back in the sixth inning . . . Arnold and Lopez les off the frame with singles . . . With two outs, Hernandez hit a sacrifice fly to right field and McMillan singled to shallow right and Houston again led by nine runs, 11-2.

Maddux Miller relieved Houston starter Kyle LaCalameto in the fifth inning with two outs to end the inning . . . Maddux also pitched a scoreless sixth inning.

Houston added two runs in the seventh, one on another sacrifice fly RBI by Lopez, and another when Anthony Tulimero singled, which also extended his reached-based streak to fourteen games, and the Cougars led 13-2.

Logan Clayton took the mound in the bottom of the seventh and retired all three batters he faced, striking out two, to end the ballgame at the end of the seventh because of the run rule . . . Clayton only threw seventeen pitches to end the game . . . Miller improves to 3-0 this season with the win.

The Cougars collected sixteen base hits in the seven inning game, including each starter, and the Cougars scored multiple runs in four different innings . . . Meanwhile, the trio of Houston arms limited the Bulls to just six hits while striking out nine.

Houston and South Florida have dodged the weather bullet, which rearranged the weekend schedule, thus far . . . If all goes as planned, the two teams will conclude their series on Sunday morning with another 9am central time first pitch . . . Expect Nathan Medrano to make the start for Houston as they go for the sweep.

Lamar Quiets Houston Offense, Takes Midweek Game

Houston faced Lamar in Beaumont on Tuesday

Houston traveled down I-10 to Beaumont to face the Lamar Cardinals on Tuesday, and fell by a final score of 4-1 in a game that took just over two hours.

This was the second midweek matchup of the season with Lamar, the last occurring on March 1st at Schroeder Park, a game the Cougars rallied late to win.

Derrick Cherry got the Tuesday start and was good over the first three innings, getting a double play to end both the second and third innings . . . Still scoreless going into the bottom of the fourth, the Cardinals scored three runs to take the lead and Houston went to the bullpen.

Houston was until the top of the sixth inning when Brandon Burckel hit a two-out single into right field, he was only the second baserunner of the game for the Cougars, but Houston failed to capitalize and they still trailed 3-0.

Maddux Miller out of the bullpen was very good, going 2 2/3 innings pitched with three strike outs and helping to carry the game through the middle innings.

Zach Arnold led off the seventh inning by hitting a home run the opposite way, over the wall in right field to plate Houston’s first run of the game . . . Arnold’s seventh home run of the season made it 4-1 Lamar.

Colby Casey pitched a scoreless seventh inning and Jackson Dannelley tossed a scoreless eighth inning out of the Houston bullpen.

The Cougars never got anything going offensively and they went quietly in the ninth as Lamar held on to win 4-1 . . . Houston only collected three hits in the contest, which lasted just six minutes over the two-hour mark . . . The Cougars lost only their second midweek game of the season.

The Cougars (26-15) have a couple of off days, and the team will be traveling to Florida to take on the University of South Florida this weekend in a three game conference series . . . First pitch from Tampa Bay is scheduled for 5:30pm on Friday.

Houston Wins Midweek Matchup, Three-Hits HBU

Nathan Medrano throws the first pitch against Houston Baptist on Tuesday

Houston continued its midweek success, improving to 9-1 this season, with a 4-2 win over Houston Baptist on Tuesday at Schroeder Park.

With the wind blowing up and out to left field for much of the game, scores could have been higher, but Houston got solid pitching from six pitchers to limit the Huskies to just three hits in the game . . . Tuesday starter Nathan Medrano set the tone early by retiring the first six batters he faced before Houston went to the bullpen.

The two teams were scoreless until the bottom of the fourth inning when the Cougars finally broke through . . . Alex Lopez (2-for-4) led off with a double and was standing on third when a passed ball allowed him to score the first run . . . Ian McMillan then hit a one-out single into left field to give the Cougars a 2-0 lead.

Kerry Wright and Maddux Miller followed Medrano on the mound and both tossed scoreless innings . . . Malachi Lott pitched 1 2/3 innings and Taylor Parrett recorded an out before the Cougars went to Jackson Dannelley . . . Combined, the Houston staff only allowed three hits in the contest.

Houston Baptist got its first run in the sixth inning to cut their deficit to a run.

The Cougars added two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning . . . Brandon Burckel singled home a run before Santiago Garcia’s sacrifice fly RBI made it 4-1 going to the ninth inning.

Houston Baptist picked up a two-out run in the ninth on a solo home run, but it was not enough as Dannelley, who was great over three innings, closed the door on the Huskies and preserved the 4-2 win . . . Miller picked up the win and improved to 2-0 this season.

Freshman Tab Tracy made his first collegiate start on Tuesday and responded by going 4-for-4, which included his first hit as a collegian.

The Cougars have two days off before they host the Memphis Tigers for a weekend conference series . . . This is only one of two weekend series at Schroeder Park left on the schedule this season . . . Friday’s first pitch is at 6:30pm, expect to see Jaycob Deese on the mound for Houston.

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.

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.

Houston Sweeps Sunday Twin Bill, Weekend Homestand

Logan Clayton faces UT Rio Grande Valley on Sunday

Sunday proved a tale of two very different ballgames for the Houston Cougars, with the common denominator being two victories to push the current win streak to four games with 16-10 and 3-1 wins over UTRGV.

Sunday’s first game was nearly a four hour event, and when it was over, the Cougars had handed the Vaqueros their first loss of the season, in a 16-10 marathon. The sixteen runs were the most runs scored in a game since the Cougars scored as many against Stephen F. Austin in 2019.

The Vaqueros led early as they took a 4-0 lead in the second inning . . . The Cougars got back in the game in the bottom of the second inning . . . It started with catcher Anthony Tulimero taking a two-out walk which also extended his reached base streak to six games . . . Skyler Trevino delivered the first of his three singles in the game, which was followed by three straight walks and a hit batter and the Cougars only trailed 4-3.

Houston tied the game at four in the third only to give the lead back in the fourth . . . Already leading 7-4, the Vaqueros added two runs in the sixth.

In the bottom frame, Zach Arnold hit a two-out two-run home run over the wall in right field for the Cougars first home run of the season and Houston was within three, 9-6.

Patrick Dunn and Maddux Miller both delivered scoreless relief in the middle frames of game one when the Cougars needed outs.

In the bottom of the seventh, an error in center field left two runners on base for Malachi Lott . . . Lott (2-for-3) tripled to the wall in right-center, the first hit of his collegiate career, and good for two runs batted-in . . . That was followed by a Brandon Uhse double and singles by Zach Arnold and Ryan Hernandez on the way to the first of two consecutive five run innings.

In the bottom of the eighth, Trevino, McMillan, and Lott all led off with singles to set up the top of the order . . . After Hernandez was walked intentionally, freshman Cameron Nickens picked up two RBI on the first base hit of his collegiate career . . . Tormos and Tulimero followed with run-scoring singles and the Cougars led 16-9.

Derrick Cherry handled the eighth and ninth innings on the mound, and though the Vaqueros got one run back in the ninth, it was not enough as Houston took the first game 16-10.

Logan Clayton took the hill for the Cougars in game two and set a different pace from game one.

Houston took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first on a groundout by Rey Mendoza . . . The Vaqueros tied the game in the third on a run-scoring double and the score would remain tied until the eighth inning.

Clayton exited after seven complete innings having allowed the single run on only two hits and adding five strike outs to his tally . . . Ben Sears took the mound in the eighth with the game tied at one.

Houston rallied for two runs in the bottom of the eighth, sparked by an Alex Lopez RBI single which was followed by a Tormos RBI single and the Cougars led 3-1 going to the top of the ninth.

Sears gave up two singles in the ninth, but another nice defensive play by Trevino at second base ended the game and made Sears (2-0) a winner for his two innings of scoreless work in the 3-1 victory.

McMillan was a star on the diamond again on Sunday, making at least three remarkable plays behind his pitchers in both games . . . Tulimero’s single in the second inning of game two extended his reached base streak to seven, all seven games of the season thus far.

Houston is now 4-3 on the year and they have a day off before they play host to Lamar at Schroeder Park on Tuesday night, first pitch is at 6:30pm.