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 Walks-Off Memphis; Advances to Saturday at the AAC

The Cougars celebrate the walk-off win in shallow right field on Thursday in Clearwater (Photo credit: American Athletic Conference/Mary Holt)

Houston kept their season going by defeating Memphis 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth inning in Clearwater on Thursday night in the American Athletic Conference Championship.

Brandon Uhse (4-for-5) hit the first pitch of the bottom of the first inning over the wall in deep left-center . . . Alex Lopez (4-for-6) doubled down the left field line in front of Anthony Tulimero who hit a monster home run to left-center and the Cougars led 3-0 before an out had been recorded in the inning.

The Cougars added a run in the second inning when Lopez, attempting to steal second base, was caught in a rundown allowing Uhse to score from third base.

After the Tigers scored two runs in the top of the fourth inning, Uhse and Lopez led off the bottom of the fourth inning with a single and a double, respectively . . . Tulimero then delivered a double into left-center field to push the Cougars lead back up to four runs, 6-2.

A four-run top of the sixth inning tied the game at six as the Cougars used three different pitchers to get through the frame . . . Memphis then took a 7-6 lead in the top of the sixth inning.

The Cougars tied the game in the bottom of the seventh inning when a throwing error at third base allowed Brandon Burckel to score when the ball bounced into the Houston dugout.

Still tied at seven in the bottom of the ninth inning, Burckel led off with a single into center field and then he stole second base on a pitch that was up-and-in and delayed the Tiger catcher from making a throw to second base . . . Uhse was intentionally walked before a Lopez sacrifice fly to right field moved Burkcel to third base . . . Tulimero was the second intentional walk of the inning, which loaded the bases . . . Santiago Garcia laced a one-out single down the third base line to drive in Burckel from third base for the winning run as the Cougars walked it off 8-7.

The Cougars used six pitchers in the victory. Logan Clayton, Cameron Prayer, and Jose Torrealba all pitched scoreless relief . . . Houston out-hit Memphis nineteen to twelve in the game, and eight different Cougars had base hits . . . Houston continues to play solid defensively and did not commit an error on Thursday, while Memphis committed two errors.

“In that moment, it’s just going back to being a little kid,” Garcia said after the game. “Getting in situations like that, it’s fun. It’s really just taking a deep breath, enjoying the moment, trying to put a good swing on a ball, and whatever happens, happens.”

Head coach Todd Whitting has continued to reiterate that there are no roles right now, he and his staff are simply choosing players who they think can get the job done in certain situations, which is another way of saying it’s all hands on deck right now.

The Cougars now have a day off on Friday and will play their next game on early Saturday afternoon when they will face the winner of a late Friday afternoon matchup between Memphis and UCF . . . If Houston stumbles at any point, they know right now they have the luxury of needing to be defeated twice to be eliminated.

Cougars Erase Early Deficit, Win at Wichita State 7-4

Jaycob Deese faces Wichita State in the seventh inning on Friday

Houston opened up their weekend series in Wichita, Kansas on Friday with a 7-4 win over the Wichita State Shockers and finally exacted some revenge on an recent foe.

The Cougars of 2021 and 2022 had been unable to figure out Wichita State starter Jace Kaminska in three games last season and one game earlier this season . . . Over that stretch, Kaminska was 4-0 and had allowed just two runs in 32 1/3 innings, which includes a contest in the American Athletic Conference Tournament in Clearwater, Florida last May.

Trailing 3-0 in the top of the third inning, Brandon Burkel led off the frame with a single and then stole second base . . . Alex Lopez hit a two-out double into right-center to plate Burckel and cut the deficit to 3-1.

Houston starter Jaycob Deese faced the minimum in the third inning, getting a pickoff at first on a runner who had singled with two outs . . . Deese then faced just three batters in both the fourth and fifth innings, requiring just nine pitches in the fifth.

Lopez singled to lead off the sixth inning with the Cougars still trailing 3-1 . . . Anthony Tulimero followed with a walk, and Cameron Nickens was hit in the helmet by a pitch to load the bases with no outs . . . Ian McMillian batted a ball to deep short and before the ball could break free and run into left field, the Shockers shortstop stopped the ball on a dive, but he had no play as a run crossed the plate, the bases remained loaded and the Cougars trailed by a run.

Malachi Lott lined a ball down the right field line all the way to the wall to clear the bases and the Cougars took a 5-3 lead on the double by Lott.

Kaminska left the game after six innings pitched, having allowed five runs.

Ahead 5-4 in the top of the eighth inning, Tulimero led off the inning with a fly ball to center that looked like a sure out, but it was dropped by the center-fielder and Tulimero stopped at second base . . . One out later, Ryan Hernandez hit his seventh home run of the year over the wall in deep left-center field to push the Houston lead to 7-4.

Deese gave way to Ben Sears to start the bottom of the eighth inning with the three run lead . . . Deese did not allow a walk in his seven innings, and in uncharacteristic fashion, only struck out one batter.

Sears handled the final two innings, and while he did not look his sharpest (he walked two and hit a batter), it was nice to see the right-hander work through some adversity and record the six records he was tasked with getting . . . Deese improved to 5-2 on the year with the win and Sears picked up his tenth save.

Head coach Todd Whitting commented on his team coming back from a 3-0 deficit to take the road victory on Friday night, but also of the outstanding defense played behind his pitchers throughout the game. 

“Proud of our offensive unit tonight,” Whitting said after the game. “We had a great plan against one of the top pitchers in our league. We did a tremendous job of grinding out at bats and playing great defense.”

The Cougars and the Shockers are back in action on Saturday afternoon in Wichita . . . Kyle LaCalameto will be on the mound for the Cougars . . . The scheduled first pitch is at 2pm.

Cougars Tame Panthers 13-1 Ahead of Conference Play

Logan Clayton gets the game started against the Panthers Tuesday at Schroeder Park

The Houston Cougars remained a perfect 7-0 in midweek games this season as they won 13-1 against Prairie View A&M on Tuesday before opening conference play this weekend.

Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the fourth, Alex Lopez led off the inning with a double to the wall in left-center field . . . Anthony Tulimero then hit the first pitch he saw over the left field wall to put the Cougars in front by a run . . . Ryan Hernandez followed with a double to left field two pitches later . . . One out later, Ian McMillan flied out to center field and scored Hernandez to extend the Houston lead to 3-1.

Houston added a run in the bottom of the sixth on a RBI single by Zach Arnold and another run in the seventh to take a 5-1 lead . . . The Cougars put the game away in an eight run eighth inning where the Cougars collected eights hits, the big blow was a two out 416 foot home run to left by Hernandez, who was 3-for-4 in the game.

Logan Clayton started for the Cougars and handled the first two innings and allowed the only Panthers run of the game . . . The Houston bullpen sent six pitchers to the mound after Clayton, and no one surrendered a run . . . Taylor Parrett was impressive over two innings in which he struck out four of the six outs he recorded . . . Colby Casey, Jackson Dannelley, Cameron Prayer, Derrick Cherry, and Malachi Lott all pitched one inning in relief and 

Lott, batting lead off on Tuesday night, was 3-for-4 and reached base when he was hit by a pitch . . . Lott was part of the eighth inning onslaught when he doubled to the wall in center to drive in two runs . . . Another freshman in the lineup, Brandon Buckel, has improved quite a bit over the last couple of weeks after some early season struggles, he was 2-for-4 on Tuesday night and is now hitting .235 . . . Dylan Post was behind the plate on Tuesday, with Tulimero batting cleanup, and Post picked up his first two base hits of the season in a 2-for-5d effort.

Houston won 13-1 and knocked out nineteen hits against Panther pitching which sets a new high for the season, passing by two hits their previous season high from their game against UTRGV in February.

Houston’s pitching was a point of pride after the game for head coach Todd Whitting. “Very excited about the continued progress of our pitching staff,” Whitting said. “I feel like we have five solid starters fighting for three spots on the weekend. The back end of the bullpen led by Ben Sears has been outstanding.” Whitting added, “It’s great to see that unit come together under Coach Bunn”

The Cougars (17-8) have a couple of days off before they start conference play on Friday when they host the Wichita State Shockers for a weekend series, the first of six games against the Shockers this season . . . That first pitch at Schroeder Park is set for 6:30pm.

LaCalameto, Sears Lead Houston to Series Win

Ben Sears faces Western Carolina at Schroeder Park on Sunday

Houston concluded its final weekend before conference play begins next weekend by defeating Western Carolina 3-1 on Sunday afternoon at Schroeder Park.

The Cougars opened the scoring first when Alex Lopez hit a sacrifice fly to left field to score Brandon Uhse from third base for a 1-0 Houston lead . . . After Anthony Tulimero doubled into the right field corner, Ryan Hernandez doubled to left-center to score Tulimero and extend the lead to 2-0.

Kyle LaCalameto got the start for the Cougars, and aside from a single run in the second inning, he carried Houston through six innings and struck out seven batters along the way on just at one hundred pitches.

Still 2-1 in the bottom of the sixth, Hernandez hit his third home run of the season, a solo shot with two outs, to push the advantage to two runs.

Ben Sears took the ball in the seventh inning in relief of LaCalameto and went the final three innings to close out the game . . . Sears tossed two innings where the Catamounts went down in order, striking out three as well.

The Cougars added three runs in the eighth Zach Arnold led off the inning with a double and after moving over to third and then loading the bases, he scored on a wild pitch . . . Malachi Lott then hit an infield single that allowed two more runs to score before going to the ninth inning.

The 6-1 victory gave Houston another weekend series win . . . LaCalameto picked up the win to improve to 2-0 on the year . . . Sears earned the save, his fifth of the season.

After the game, head coach Todd Whitting was happy to talk about Sunday’s pitching duo, “Proud of Kyle for grinding out the W today. We had a few things go sideways early but he just kept competing.”

“Fired up for Ben and the success he is having,” Whitting said. “He and Coach Bunn have worked hard on a few mental and mechanical tweaks that have made him one of top closers in the nation.”

The Cougars have an off day before they host Prairie View A&M on Tuesday night . . . First pitch is scheduled for 6:30pm at Schroeder Park.

Cougars Get Strong Outing From Cherry, Lead Don Sanders Cup

Derrick Cherry looks in for the pitch against Sam Houston State in Huntsville on Tuesday

When Houston completed the three-game sweep of Sam Houston State to claim the Don Sanders Cup on April 23, 2019, no one could have foreseen that the next game in the series would not take place for nearly three years . . . The series resumed Tuesday night in Huntsville and the Cougars once again took control of the series with a 9-1 win over the Bearkats.

Derrick Cherry started on the mound for the Cougars and in his typical role as a reliever, it was easy to assume this midweek game was going to be a bullpen game, as was the case the last time Cherry started a game . . . The game played out differently.

Scoreless in the fourth inning, Alex Lopez and Ryan Hernandez both walked to get on base . . . With two outs, Cameron Nickens lined a ball the opposite way down the right field line to score both Lopez and Hernandez and the Cougars led 2-0.

Still 2-0 in the fifth, Ian McMillan (2-for-3) singled to lead off the inning and then stole second base . . . After moving to third base by tagging up on a fly ball to center, Zach Arnold drove in McMillan with a run-scoring single to extend the Houston lead, 3-0.

Houston further added to the lead in the sixth when a Malachi Lott single to right scored one run and an error by the right fielder allowed a second run to score and Lott ended up on third base . . . McMillan scored Lott on a sacrifice fly to right and the Cougars led 6-0.

The Bearkats got a run back in the bottom of the sixth and the Cougars responded with three runs on a two-run home run by Lopez (3) and a solo shot by Hernandez (2) and Houston led 9-1 going to the stretch.

Head coach Todd Whitting said of Cherry pre-game, “we’ll let him go as long as he can.” . . . Cherry was done for the night after the seventh inning and his 121st pitch . . . Cherry struck out nine and allowed just the one earned run . . . Brandon Uhse singled in the top of the eighth with two outs to extend his consecutive game hit streak to seventeen games.

Cameron Prayer came in to handle the eighth inning and retired the side in order . . . Patrick Dunn came in from the bullpen to close out the ninth inning and like Prayer, he retired the Bearkats in order to close out the 9-1 win and give the Cougars the advantage in the Don Sanders Cup series.

Cherry earned the win and is now 2-1 this season.

“Huge outing for Cherry,” Coach Whitting said after the game, “appreciate his effort the last few weeks with Coach Bunn and trusting the process.” “He was dominant tonight against a very talented Sam Houston State University offense.”

Houston has two days off before they welcome Western Carolina to Schroeder Park on Friday night for the final non-conference weekend matchup of the season . . . First pitch Friday night is scheduled 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 Wins 8-2 Over Texas A&M

Ian McMillan bats with the bases loaded in College Station on Tuesday night

The Houston Cougars scored seven runs in the final two innings to leave College Station with an 8-2 victory over the Texas A&M Aggies on Tuesday night.

Left-hander Kyle LaCalameto took the mound for Houston and allowed just one run over four innings . . . Scoreless in the bottom of the fourth, the Aggies took advantage of a walk and a stolen base when a single into right field gave them a 1-0 lead.

Jackson Dannelley tossed a scoreless fifth inning as he continues to work his way back from an injury he sustained on opening weekend in Scottsdale, Tuesday night was just his second appearance since his return, his other outing was in Lafayette on Saturday.

Still 1-0 in the top of the sixth, Brandon Uhse led off the inning with a double . . . One out later, with Uhse at third base, Alex Lopez grounded out to second base allowing Uhse to score the tying run.

The Aggies re-took the lead 2-1 in the bottom of the seventh before Ben Sears took the mound in relief of Logan Clayton and got a strike out to end the inning with Aggie runners at first and second base.

Uhse led off the eighth inning by reaching on an error at third base . . . Zach Arnold (3-for-5) then singled, which was followed by an infield single by Lopez (3-for-5) that tied the game . . . The Cougars would load the bases before another infield single, this time off the bat of Samuel Benjamin, would give Houston a 3-2 lead and keep the bases loaded . . . Ian McMillan then tripled into the right field corner to clear the bases and give the Cougars a 6-2 lead.

After a scoreless inning from Sears to take the Cougars to the ninth inning, Houston continued their offensive output and added two insurance runs for an 8-2 lead . . . Sears set the Aggies down in order to finish the game and he picked up the win as he improved to 3-0 while retiring all seven batters he faced over his 2 1/3 innings.
“So proud of Ben and his embracing the role as closer,” head coach Todd Whitting said after the game. “He had to make some big adjustments for Coach Bunn to earn that job, and to this point has been awesome.”

The Cougars are now off until Friday night when they will host Columbia for a three-game weekend series . . . First pitch from Schroeder Park on Friday will be at 6:30pm.

Houston Tops Southern with Late Rally, Pitching

The victorious Houston Cougars on Wednesday night after defeating Southern

The Houston Cougars closed out a home schedule that had seen them play eight of their last nine games at home, with the other game being across town at Rice on Tuesday, by defeating the Southern Jaguars 7-4 on Wednesday night.

Brandon Uhse led off the bottom of the first with a single which was followed two outs later by a walk to Alex Lopez . . . Anthony Tulimero singled to center field, scoring Uhse and extending his reached base streak to thirteen games . . . Cameron Nickens followed with an infield single to shortstop that scored Lopez and the Cougars led early, 2-0. 

Jaguars scored a run in the top of the second and three in the fourth to take a 4-2 lead.

Still trailing by two in the bottom of the seventh, Tulimero led off the inning with a double to left-center, it was the first Houston hit since the first inning . . . With two outs, Ian McMillan tripled to the wall in right-center and scored Tulimero to get the Cougars to within a run, 4-3.

In the eighth inning, Uhse once again provided the spark with a single to get the inning started . . . Zach Arnold followed and was hit by a pitch . . . With one out, a walk to Lopez loaded the bases for Tulimero . . . Tuilmero (3-for-4) drove a ball the opposite way, to right field for a single, but the right-fielder mis-played the ball and it rolled to the wall allowing Tulimero to reach third base and the Cougars led 6-4 . . . A balk scored Tulimero from third and the Houston lead was 7-4.

Kyle LaCalameto took the mound for the Cougars to start the fifth inning and he struck out the side . . . LaCalameto stayed in the game and recorded the final fifteen outs and struck out five more for a total of eight . . . The left-hander picked up the win in the 7-4 victory and is now 1-0 on the year.

LaCalameto’s head coach was complimentary of his outing, “Huge night for Kyle,” Todd Whitting said. “Proud of him for coming in and giving our offense a chance to get going. He threw every pitch with purpose and great confidence.”

Houston went 7-1 in this eight game homestand after they opened the season with their first four games on the road.

The Cougars (9-4) have a day off before they face the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns on Friday at 6pm to open up a weekend set in Lafayette.

Cougars Open First Homestand with 11-4 Win Over TSU

Skyler Trevino apllies a tag on an attempted steal of second base Friday night

Houston was able to play the long game better than Texas Southern on Friday evening at Schroeder Park as the Cougars scored in each of their final four at-bats, nine runs in total after the fifth inning to take the 11-4 victory on opening night of their home schedule.

Kerry Wright was on the mound Friday afternoon for Houston after a disappointing opening start for him last Sunday in Scottsdale . . . After a scoreless first inning, Texas Southern scored in the second inning on a play that was close enough at the plate that it needed to be reviewed before it was confirmed.

The Cougars added two runs in the bottom of the second when Zach Arnold (2-for-4) singled with the bases loaded to put Houston in front 2-1.

The Tigers tied the game in the third . . . Wright gave way to Colby Casey in the fourth inning having struck out four in his three innings and allowing just the two earned runs . . . Casey went two scoreless innings in which he also did not allow a hit.

Houston catcher Anthony Tulimero, who is swinging a hot bat to start the season, is doing his part behind the plate as well, on Friday he had thrown out two base runners trying to steal, including speedy former Cougar Jonathan Thomas, by the end of the fifth inning.

With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the fifth, Samuel Tormos hit a drive deep the left that in normal conditions would have landed on Elgin . . . Instead, the drive off of Tormos’s bat was caught up against the left field wall and the ball was fired in to second base . . . Chaos ensued as the umpires gathered and tried to figure out what had just happened . . . Eventually, a run was counted as it crossed the plate before the runner was apparently called out at second for having left early trying to tag up . . . The inning came to an end on the double-play with the Cougars once again in the lead, 3-2.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Cougars added a run on a single by Ian McMillan (3-for-4) . . . Brandon Uhse keyed a three-run seventh inning with a two-out double off the right field wall to push the Cougar lead to 7-2 . . . Tulimero (3-for-5) drove in two more in the eighth with a double to right-center . . . An error on a fly to right field allowing another run was followed by a McMillan RBI single to left.

Jaycob Deese took the mound to start the sixth inning and his stuff was electric, despite the conditions outside . . . Deese struck out a career-high nine batters, of the twelve outs he recorded, in many cases he simply overpowered guys.

Head coach Todd Whitting was ecstatic about the performance from his right-hander out of the bullpen, “Difference in the game was Deese coming in and shutting down TSU.” Whitting added, “In those conditions tonight it took a tough competitor to come off the bench and give his team a great performance like he did.”

“Tuli has been exactly what we thought he would be coming into the season,” said head coach Todd Whitting after the game, “a great receiver and the ability to deliver at home plate in the clutch.” Of the runners Tulimero caught trying to steal Friday night, Whitting added. “His performance to shut down TSU’s running game was huge tonight.”

Casey (1-0) was the pitcher of record, so he picked up the win with Deese earning the save, his first of the season, with his four inning performance to finish the game . . . Ryan Hernandez was 3-for-5 in Friday’s game, and while the power numbers are not there yet, he is going to the gaps and hitting the ball hard.

Houston has won two straight games now and returns to action on Saturday afternoon against UT Rio Grande Valley, first pitch is at 4pm at Schroeder Park, with Nathan Medrano making his second start of the season.