Shutout in Orlando on Saturday

The story of Saturday’s game in Orlando, Florida between the Houston Cougars and the Central Florida Knights was told in the first inning.

The Cougars were set down in order to open the game . . . Then the Knights came to bat.

Central Florida hit a leadoff home run, and five singles followed while the Knights quickly took a 4-0 lead and chased starter Carter Henry from the game with only one out in the first, and the bases loaded . . . Left-hander Ryne Huggins was brought in from the bullpen, and aside from a hit batter that allowed a fifth run, got the final two outs and ended the inning.

Huggins got the game into the fifth, keeping the Knights from adding to their lead . . . Following a leadoff walk, Cherry relieved Huggins after 3 2/3 innings of hitless, scoreless baseball . . . Cherry faced three batters and got three outs to end the fifth, but the Cougars still trailed 5-0.

Cherry would depart after two innings of work, he did not allow a run or a hit and struck out one . . . A solo home run in the seventh would extend the Central Florida lead 6-0 . . . Cameron Prayer struck out the side in the seventh and Layne Looney pitched a scoreless eighth.

Freshman Samuel Tormos, batting in the two spot on Saturday, singled in the eighth to extend his consecutive games-reached streak to five games . . . The Cougars offense was unable to threaten the Central Florida pitching staff, collecting eight hits in the game, with no Cougars batter having multiple-hits, as they fell 6-0.

The Cougars and the Knights do it one more time tomorrow in Orlando, for Houston it will be game number 50 . . . First pitch will be at 3pm . . . Houston has not yet announced a starting pitcher. –

Cougars Preparing for Clearwater, Drop Two in Orlando

With four regular season games left that will not have an effect on the conference tournament match-ups next week, the Houston Cougars opened up a weekend series in Orlando, Florida on Florida . . . In facing the University of Central Florida Knights, Houston wanted to remain healthy, and they wanted their pitching staff primed and ready to go when the action gets underway in Clearwater on Tuesday when the American Athletic Conference tournament opens.

Robert Gasser took the mound on Thursday knowing a pitch count was in effect, no matter what.

With one out in the second, Brandon Uhse drew a walk, and stole second a few pitches later . . . One out later, Samuel Tormos delivered a single to right on the first pitch he saw, Uhse was safe at home on a throw to the first base side of home plate and the Cougars led 1-0.

After two innings, and twenty-eight pitches, Gasser was finished for the day having not allowed a run in his brief outing . . . Jaycob Deese took the mound in the third after having missed all of last weekend with a hamstring injury.

The Knights took a 3-1 lead in the fifth on a three-run home run to left field, but Deese looked good in his outing otherwise, spotting good fastballs and countering with some filthy breaking pitches throughout.

Deese worked into the seventh inning, exiting with two outs in favor of Maddux Miller . . . Miller worked the rest of the way for the Cougars, keeping the Knights from scoring in the final 1 1/3 innings.

The Cougars were kept off of the scoreboard after the run in the second, and they fell in game one by a final of 3-1.

Ben Sears took the mound for Houston with a different mission that Gasser and Deese had in the first game . . . Sears would be allowed to throw a seemingly regular outing because he will not be pitching as soon as the Gasser and Deese will be early next week.

The Knights got a run off of Sears in the first, but the run was unearned, nonetheless, they led 1-0 going to the second.

While Sears was cruising, Houston did not get its first base hit in game two until the sixth inning when Ian McMillian hit a one out single to center field.

Sears departed after six innings, having allowed just one unearned run to go with three hits and three strikeouts . . . Central Florida added a run on a one out base hit in the seventh increasing their lead to 2-0.

Tormos singled with two outs in the eighth . . . Ian McMillan singled to center, the center fielder mis-played the ball by diving for it and the miscue allowed Tormos to score from first to close the deficit to 2-1 . . . But the scoring ended there and the Cougars were defeated by that 2-1 final in game two.

The Cougars and the Knights return to action Saturday with first pitching at 5pm . . . Carter Henry will make the start for Houston. –

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. –

Cougars Walk-off Winners in the Ninth, 6-5

Ben Sears delivers Saturday’s first pitch at Schroeder Park

The Houston Cougars and the Cincinnati Bearcats needed all nine frames to decide a winner at Schroeder Park on Saturday as the Cougars walked off winners 6-5.

Ben Sears was on the mound for Houston on Saturday and his first two innings were smooth as he was getting ahead of batters and getting first-pitch outs.

Cincinnati led off the third with a solo home run and added two in the fourth to take a 3-0 lead.

Ryan Hernandez led off the Houston fourth by hitting his eighth home run of the season over the left field wall on the first pitch of the inning.

Samuel Tormos, who collected his first college base hit on Saturday, added his second hit in the second inning on Saturday, a double to the left field corner . . . He added his first collegiate home run in the fifth when he hit a no-doubter over the wall in left, Tormos knew he had hit it well off the bat.

The Cougars were not done in the frame though, as three of the next four batters singled and Ryan Hernandez was hit by a pitch to walk in a run . . . Will Pendergrass followed with a single to center to put the Cougars in front 4-3 going to the sixth.

A Brandon Uhse single in the sixth scored Tormos from second and increased the Cougar lead to 5-3 heading to the seventh inning.

Cincinnati got a run back in the seventh on a leadoff solo home run which led to the exit of Ben Sears and the arrival of Derrick Cherry . . . Cherry retired the side to end the seventh, striking out two.

Cincinnati tied the game at five in the bottom of the ninth on a single to left that plated a runner from second base.

Ryan Hernandez (2-for-4) led off the ninth with a single deep behind second base, he was able to leg-out a close attempt at first to reach base . . . Samuel Benjamin pinch-ran for Hernandez and promptly stole second base . . . With one out, Steven Rivas was intentionally walked to put two runners on . . . Ian McMillan hit a ground ball through the hole at second and Benjamin raced around third and beat a throw to the plate to give the Cougars a 6-5 win.

Derrick Cherry, who pitched the final three innings in relief of Ben Sears, picked up the win, his second of the season . . . The Houston offense pounded out twelve base hits in the Saturday contest.

“The Coaches have been working with me and I’ve been squaring the ball up the last two days,” Tormos said after the game . . . “Awesome,” Tormos replied with a sigh when asked about his first collegiate home run . . . The freshman, who was 2-for-3 in the game with two RBI, expects to hit well after his stellar high school career and a solid fall camp which included a home run in the Red vs. White series . . . When asked how that first collegiate home run felt, and about the fact that he knew it was gone off the bat, Tormos just laughed and said, “yeah.”

The Cougars and the Bearcats close out the series and the final Cougars home game of 2021 on Sunday at noon . . . Prior to the game, Houston will recognize its seven senior student athletes . . . Carter Henry will be on the mound for the Cougars. –

Houston Walks-Off Series Finale in 10

Luke Almendarez makes a throw to first in Sunday’s series finale with UTA

Fresh off a Saturday double-header, the Houston Cougars and UT-Arlington Mavericks needed one extra inning to settle Sunday’s series finale at Schroeder Park . . . The Cougars prevailed 5-4 in ten innings to split the weekend series as heavy clouds and sporadic rain showers held of just long enough.

The Mavericks wasted little time getting things going, a two-out single was followed by a two-run home run to right for an early 2-0 lead against Houston starter Ben Sears.

Houston leadoff hitter Brandon Uhse was attempting to bunt and instead got a pitch right in the mid-section of his body . . . He stayed in the game long enough to take his base and was eventually erased on an inning-ending double-play, but he left the game and Jonathan Thomas took his place in the batting order and in center field for the remainder of the game.

Steven Rivas led off the second inning by hitting the first pitch saw over the right field wall . . . The next three straight batters reached base for the Cougars on two singles and a walk . . . Samuel Tormos then hit a chopper to short and the fielders choice allowed Will Pendergrass to score from third . . . With Brad Burckel on third, Tormos took off for second in an attempt to steal second, Mavericks catcher Andrew Miller fired to second and Burckel broke for home, second baseman Tommy Williams was not able to field the throw cleanly, Burckel crossed home plate just moments before Tormos was thrown out at first base allowing the run to count and giving the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

Ben Sears got two outs in the sixth and after a walk he was relieved by Derrick Cherry . . . Cherry got a fly out to center to end the sixth frame for the Mavericks who stranded runners on second and third . . . Sears went 5 2/3 innings and only allowed the two earned runs in the first inning, he exited with the lead and the chance to win the game if the Houston lead held . . . Sunday’s outing was a solid rebound outing for Sears.

Derrick Cherry followed with a scoreless seventh, but the Mavericks tied the game in the eighth as they manufactured the unearned tying run . . . A scoreless ninth for both offenses sent the game to an extra frame.

In extra innings, with the rule in place that a runner starts on second base to begin each inning, the Mavericks immediately bunted their runner to third . . . A shallow fly to right-center was then caught by Steven Rivas and with the runner at third tagging, Rivas fired home, the throw was wide and Houston catcher Kyle Lovelace had to move to his right to field the ball and then dove toward the plate to attempt to get the runner, but the runner was ruled safe at home and UTA took a 4-3 lead.

The Cougars began their half of the tenth with pinch-runner Andrew Papantois on second base . . . Brad Burckel hit a slow roller up the first base line that the pitcher was unable to get a grip on, Papantonis moved to third on the play . . . It was Burckel’s second hit of the afternoon and he was the only Cougar with multiple hits . . . Ian McMillan followed with a single toward second base that the second baseman fielded but his throw to first as he was falling away from first was weak, and it allowed McMillan to reach on the single while Papantonis scored the tying run.

Kyle Lovelace came to the plate with no outs and runners on the corners . . . Lovelace bunted the first pitch between the mound and first base, the first baseman fielded with his glove and tossed the ball home in the same motion but Brad Burckel snuck in around the catchers tag attempt to score the winning run and give the Cougars a 5-4 win.

Ryne Huggins picked up the win, his first of the season, as the result of pitching 1/3 of an inning, ending the tenth . . . All told, Derrick Cherry pitched four innings and did not allow an earned run and added two strikeouts . . . In ten innings, the Cougars offense managed just six hits, but it was enough as five runs scored . . . The Cougars improve to 12-11 with the win Sunday and they spilt the series with the Mavericks; a series which featured thirteen home runs over the four games between the two squads.

The Cougars open conference play Thursday at Schroeder Park when they host Wichita State University for a four game series . . . The Easter weekend schedule will open with Thursday’s game beginning at 6:30pm, a double-header will be played on Friday beginning at 2pm, and the concluding game will begin at 11:30am on Saturday. –

Future Cougar: Samuel Tormos

Houston Cougars signee Samuel Tormos at-bat for the Van Alstyne Panthers.
Samuel Tormos at-bat for the Van Alstyne Panthers.

Houston Cougars signee Samuel Tormos had every reason in the world to want a full 2020 baseball season. In his junior season, after having already committed to the University of Houston, Tormos led the Van Alstyne Panthers to the state 3A semifinals in Round Rock with a 29-6 record. Tormos did so by hitting .482 with 32 RBI, 2 homeruns, 18 stolen bases, and a .604 on-base percentage. Numbers good enough to earn Tormos the District 10-3A Offensive MVP.

Tormos also aided the Panthers on the mound by going 6-2 with a 1.67 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 46 innings.

Tormos is a three-sport standout, also playing on the school’s basketball team and running for the track team. “I played basketball and ran track because they were fun,” says Tormos. “It keeps you in shape, it works out different areas of your body.” The basketball team made a deep run in the playoffs, and that run overlapped with the start of the baseball season, so Tormos was late getting on the diamond this year. But already, he was hitting .625 with a .769 on-base percentage.

Then the now infamous second week of March started to play out. Tormos and his Panthers teammates were playing a tournament. With a division-leading record of 9-3, having won the night before, Van Alstyne was scheduled to play an early morning game. There was rain, which was possibly going to cause problems, but Tormos points out that they were playing the tournament on a turf field, so there was a good chance the rain was not going to cause cancellation.

But then, a text message. 

“Ok guys, everything is now cancelled,” read the text from head Coach Jimmy Haynes. “Tourney is canceled due to CoronaVirus.” The young players began to process all of this, and Tormos and his teammates were learning more about what was happening, “we started getting more information from the UIL tweeting out stuff and the district tweeting out as well,” he said.

Asked about how his numbers in his senior season were better from his junior season, Tormos pointed to some very specific improvements, “I got a lot stronger. Spraying the ball all over the field and I got better using a big part of the field a lot.” Work on these things began last summer after the state playoff run came to an end when he played travel baseball.

Now, with the pause in the season, Tormos is not alone in having to find ways to be ready, for either the resumption of the high school season, potential summer ball, or reporting to the University of Houston for the late summer and fall. “I’m working out a lot, getting stronger,” Tormos says. “I’m still long tossing, throwing. Hitting in the cage pretty much every day. Just trying to stay on top of the baseball skills.”

Houston Cougars signee Samuel Tormos at short for the Panthers in Round Rock.
Samuel Tormos at shortstop at Dell Diamond.

Samuel knows how to improve his game during summer ball, he knows how to utilize the time well. He does not know if there will be a summer ball league this year. If the summer league does happen, Tormos will be there, “you know, just to get some reps, live ABs.”

During the summer between Samuel’s sophomore and junior years, he was playing in a Perfect Game tournament in Georgia, and that is where the Houston Cougars reached out to him. Tormos says, “It seemed like an automatic fit, really.” He committed to the Cougars on September 11, 2018.

The kid who started playing coach-pitch baseball at the age of seven will soon go from being a Panther in Van Alstyne to a Cougar in Houston. “I’ve had the privilege to coach Samuel since he was a freshman. His natural ability was evident from the first time I saw him on a baseball field,” says his head coach Jimmy Haynes. “You could tell he was going to be a special baseball player. As he grew, his baseball ability grew as well. Samuel was constantly working to improve his baseball skills. I would see him working extra after practice each day whether it was fielding or hitting.”

This writer witnessed and wrote about Samuel Tormos and his Panther team during their playoff run last summer. I wrote then about Tormos’s fluid, easy movement around the baseball field, especially at the shortstop position. Being out there appears natural for him. He seems at home there. He admits to being relaxed on the baseball field and credits part of that to not over-thinking things, he lets the game happen.

What about his upside?

Coach Haynes notes, “As you know, Samuel has been dividing his efforts between basketball, track and baseball. Now that he’s going to be able to concentrate solely on baseball, it will allow him to really excel at baseball. Being able to concentrate on nutrition, strength building and baseball will only un-tap his potential. I believe, because of this untapped potential, you might see him have a chance to play at the professional level. Nothing Samuel achieves will be a surprise to me.”

Samuel Tormos indicates that he was recruited as an infielder, but can play anywhere on the diamond, and will even pitch if need be. The three-sport star can do three things well between the lines on a baseball field. The future Cougar who saw Houston as the “automatic fit” will soon find out where he fits with the baseball program as he focuses and devotes his time solely to the game of baseball. It is easy to expect big things from Tormos. Writers can see it. Coaches can see it. As important, Samuel Tormos sees it. –

“Officially a Coog!” Signing Day 2019

Cougars Beat National Signing Day

Nine high school baseball players made their commitment to Cougars Baseball official on Wednesday as part of official events for national signing day . . . Future Coogs Rome Shubert, Patrick Dunn, Brandon Uhse, Evan Maldonado, Ben Sears, Will Pendergrass, Samuel Tormos, Josh Brown, and Bo Hogeboom all put pen to paper to declare themselves “officially a Coog!”

HS Watch: Tormos Leads Panthers to State

Samuel Tormos of the Van Alstyne Panthers
Samuel Tormos #7
(Photo via Van Alstyne baseball Twitter account.)

The Van Alstyne Panthers became the last team in the state of Texas to advance to the state baseball tournament in Round Rock next week by virtue of the fact their game started last on Saturday night, by which point every other slot in the state had been determined.

Houston Cougars commit Samuel Tormos has led the Panthers all year long and Saturday was no exception . . . Batting in the bottom of the first inning with one out, Tormos doubled to score a runner from second base, the RBI gave Van Alstyne an early 1-0 lead . . . In the third inning with a runner on third, Tormos put a ball in play on the infield and an error allowed Van Alstyne’s second run to score to make it 2-1 as Tormos reached first base.

Tormos was playing great, error-free shortstop . . . Things got dicey in the fifth for Van Alstyne, and after two walks put runners on first and second with one out, Tormos was called upon to take the mound, leaving his shortstop position . . . Tormos got two strikeouts to end the inning and preserve the Panthers 4-3 lead.

Tormos returned to shortstop in the sixth inning as a collection of pitchers took turns finishing off the Harmony Eagles . . . With the 6-5 victory, Van Alstyne advances to the Texas 3A state baseball playoffs in Round Rock next week. –