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.

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 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 Series in Wichita, Stands Alone in Second in American

Houston closed out their weekend series at Wichita State on Sunday

Houston took their second straight conference road series with an 11-8 win over Wichita State in Wichita on Sunday.

With two outs in the top of the first inning, Alez Lopez extended the inning when he singled to reach base . . . Anthony Tulimero then homered to left field to give the Cougars an early 2-0 lead.

Over the first two innings, the Shockers scored three runs to take a 3-2 lead into the third inning.

Brandon Burckel walked and Brandon Uhse singled to set the table in the top of the third inning for Houston . . . Lopez singled home a run before Tulimero was hit by a pitch to load the bases . . . Cameron Nickens and Ryan Hernandez each singled home a run . . . Ian McMillan doubled to the wall in left field to drive in another run.

A fielder’s choice on a batted ball by Santiago Garcia resulted in a rundown between third base and home plate, as Garcia made for second base, the throw to attempt to get him out was well wide of the base and a sixth and final run scored in the frame and Houston led 8-3.

Houston starter Nathan Medrano took the game into the third inning and gave way to Logan Clayton with two outs in the inning.

Still leading 8-7 in the sixth inning, a lead off walk to Hernandez got the inning started  . . . Two walks and a fielder’s choice put runners on base for Uhse who delivered a two RBI single . . . Arnold drove in the third run of the inning on a ground out to third base and Houston took an 11-7 lead.

Ben Sears entered the game in the fifth inning with two outs in relief of Clayton and pitched the final 4 1/3 innings of the game, only surrendering a run on a solo home run with two outs in the ninth inning . . . Sears improved to 7-2 on the year with the win.

In a reversal of what happened in 2021, where the Shockers took seven of eight against the Cougars, Houston won four of six contests this year . . . The Cougars are now alone in second place in the American Athletic Conference, behind only East Carolina, with two big weekend series remaining . . . The Cougars will face UCF at Schroeder Park next weekend, they lead the Knights by one game, and then Houston closes out the regular season the following weekend in Greenville against East Carolina.

The Cougars return home on Sunday evening and will face Sam Houston State on Tuesday at Constellation Field in Sugar Land in the third and final game of the 2022 Don Sanders Cup, which Houston won in April after taking the first two games of the series . . . First pitch on Tuesday is scheduled for 6:30pm in Sugar Land.

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.