Cougars Win 5-2, Sweep Minnesota

Alex Lopez is greeted by his teammates after homering Sunday in the 8th inning

Houston completed its first sweep of the 2023 season in Minneapolis on Sunday by topping Minnesota 5-2 at US Bank Stadium.

Houston trailed 1-0 going into the top of the third inning . . . With two outs in the frame, Drew Bianco singled to reach base . . . Malachi Lott (4-for-4) followed with a single that moved Bianco over to third base . . . A double-steal attempt allowed Lott to reach second, a throw by the second baseman to home plate was wild and allowed Bianco to score the tying run while Lott moved up to third base on the error.

Zach Arnold walked and stole second base before Alex Lopez (2-for-4) lined a single up the middle to score both Lott and Arnold to give the Cougars a 3-1 advantage.

Josh Ekness made his second start on the mound in less than a week, but he was practically just as effective as in the other two outings . . . Ekness departed Sunday’s game with two outs in the bottom of the third inning just shy of 40 pitches and still leading 3-1.

After the game, Head Coach Todd Whitting explained the early departure of Ekness. “Today was a good prep day for Ekness with regard to his routine to start next weekend,” Whitting said. “He was on a very low pitch count as today was more about mindset and preparation.”

With Houston leading 3-2 in the top of the eighth inning, Lott tripled to lead off the frame, it was Lott’s fourth hit of the game batting in the leadoff spot . . . Arnold plated Lott on a sacrifice fly hit to center field . . . Lopez followed with a solo home run over the tall right field wall in US Bank Stadium’s makeshift baseball setup and the Cougars took a 5-2 lead needing just six more outs.

A combination of pitchers followed Ekness after he left the game including Tommy Egan, Dan Wright, Brendan O’Donnell, Nick Ayers, and Justin Murray . . . Murray closed out the Gophers in the bottom of the ninth inning by striking out all three batters he faced.

Houston pitching allowed six runs over the entire three-game series in Minneapolis, two runs in each game.

Coach Whitting heaped praise on the entire team after the game, “Proud of the team for grinding out a road sweep.” And on Lott’s day at the plate Whitting added, “Lott showed what he is capable of every day. He has the ability to beat you with his bat and his speed.”

The Cougars are traveling home after Sunday’s game . . . Houston will then turn around and travel to Lake Charles, Louisiana on Tuesday to face McNeese at 6pm . . . The Cougars will then return home to host Southern on Wednesday night at Schroeder Park.


Houston Rallies in Final Frames to Take Series

Houston rallied for two runs in the ninth inning and two more in the tenth inning to earn a 4-2 victory in ten innings on Saturday afternoon at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

Right-hander Paul Schmitz made his second consecutive Saturday start for Houston and was really sharp despite two solo home runs, the only runs he allowed . . . Schmitz tossed 6 2/3 innings, the second day in a row the Cougars starter has pitched until they had two outs in the seventh inning . . . Schmitz was working fast and was very efficient on the mound, only yielding the two solo home runs and striking out seven and he also retired eleven straight batters between the second and the fifth innings.

Houston was hitless in the game until a two-out single by Alex Lopez in the top of the sixth inning, but first base was as far as Lopez would get.

Minnesota starter George Klassen pitched 7 2/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit baseball before being relieved on the mound having baffled Houston hitters all afternoon.

With one out in the top of the ninth inning, Zach Arnold singled to begin a rally, also extending his games-reached streak to 17 games . . . Justin Murray then pinch-hit for Alex Lopez and hit a game-tying two-run home run over the left field wall.

Still tied in the tenth inning, Ian McMillan hit a two-out double down the left field line . . . Drew Bianco drove McMillan home with a double of his own, and that was followed by a Cameron Nickens double to give the Cougars a 4-2 lead.

Brendan O’Donnell, Cade Citelli, and Owen Woodward all pitched in relief over the last 3 1/3 innings and kept Minnesota from starting anything resembling a rally with Woodward recording the final four outs of the game to secure the series win.

Houston and Minnesota conclude their weekend series in Minneapolis on Sunday at noon . . . Expect to see left-hander Malachi Lott on the mound to start the game as the Cougars go for their first sweep of 2023.

Houston Opens Minnesota Series with 3-2 Win

Houston has traveled north to face the Minnesota Golden Gophers this weekend in Minneapolis where the wind chills are not likely to rise above freezing before the Cougars leave town on Sunday . . . The freezing weather partially accounts for why only 247 people attended Friday night’s 3-2 Houston victory.

The two teams are playing this weekend in the unusual baseball setup inside US Bank Stadium, the home of the Minnesota Vikings.

Right-hander Maddux Miller made his first career start on Friday night and was extremely effective, taking the game into the seventh inning while keeping the Golden Gophers off the scoreboard.

With the game still scoreless, Justin Murray (2-for-3) led off the top of the fifth inning with a triple to deep left-center field . . . After a walk to Brandon Burckel and then a steal of second base, Ian McMillan grounded out to shortstop to bring Murray across the plate . . . Drew Bianco then put down a perfect bunt on a squeeze play to score Burckel and give the Cougars a 2-0 advantage.

Still leading 2-0 in the top of the seventh, Brandon Uhse (2-for-4) led off the inning with a single and then stole second base . . . Murray then singled up the middle to plate Uhse and extend the Houston lead.

Miller departed with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning leaving two runners on base as he was right at 100 pitches, easily his longest outing in a Cougars uniform . . . Braden Forsyth took the mound to get the final out and end the seventh inning threat.

Back-to-back solo home runs in the bottom of the eighth inning got Minnesota to within a run . . . But Forsyth stayed in and recorded the six outs he needed to close out the 3-2 road victory. . . Miller improved to 2-0 with the win and Forsyth earned his first save as a Cougar.

Houston and Minnesota resume the weekend series on Saturday . . . Paul Schmitz will be on the mound for his second straight Saturday start . . . First pitch at US Bank Stadium is scheduled for 2pm.