A new look Houston Cougars squad took the field for the first time in 2022 against the Cal Golden Bears in Scottsdale, Arizona on Friday afternoon to open the MLB4 Tournament . . . Friday’s starting lineup featured six players new to the Cougars program, including one true freshman, two second year players with minimal playing experience in 2021, along with Ryan Hernandez and Ian McMillan as the only guys with extensive experience.
Right-hander Nathan Medrano, a junior college transfer, got the starting nod for Houston and he did not disappoint in his debut.
The Cougars offense had to deal with a tough starting pitcher for Cal in Josh White, one of the nations highest touted right-handers.
Both teams were scoreless through the sixth inning, Cal had gone to the bullpen with one out in the sixth as White’s pitch count climbed close to eighty pitches . . . Medrano remained in the game and surrendered his only run of the game in the seventh inning before finishing the inning just shy of eighty pitches.
Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning, the Cougars took advantage of a walk to Anthony Tulimero followed by an error on a ball put in play by Samuel Benjamin . . . With runners at first and second and two outs, pinch-hitter Cameron Nickens hit a grounder to the right side of the pitcher’s mound, which was fielded cleanly by Cal’s Chris Stamos, but Stamos threw wide of first base and eventually both base runners scored and Nickens stopped at third base and the Cougars led 2-1.
A solo home run in the ninth off of closer Derrick Cherry tied the game at two and after a scoreless bottom of the ninth, the two teams moved into the tenth inning . . . The Golden Bears plated two in the tenth which the Cougars were unable to match as they suffered the extra inning defeat to open the season.
For Medrano, his seven inning performance was the most innings by a Houston starter on Opening Day since Valentine’s Day 2014 when Aaron Garza went seven against Nicholls State . . . Medrano only allowed three hits and walked one while striking out six.
Head coach Todd Whitting was obviously pleased with what he saw from Medrano. “Thought Medrano gave us a great opportunity to win,” said Whitting, adding that Medrano had “excellent execution of all of his pitches and competed every pitch.” Whitting added, “He is going to be a great Friday night guy for us the rest of the way.”
Samuel Tormos started Friday in center field and made the play of the day when he tracked down a long fly ball to end the sixth inning behind Medrano . . . Tormos, going to his right and toward the wall in deep left-center, had to leave his feet and catch the ball back-handed as his face and body crashed into the wall before he went to the ground.
The Cougars will take the field again on Saturday at 6pm Central Time against San Diego State, that game could start a little later if the game prior runs long . . . Logan Clayton will make the start for Todd Whitting’s squad, making his first appearance in a Cougars uniform . . . No word yet on who will pitch Sunday’s finale with TCU, but the Cougars only used two pitchers in ten innings on Friday, so they have a lot of options going into the final two games in Scottsdale.