Houston Swept; Heads for Conference Tournament

The Houston Cougars and the Central Florida Knights closed out the regular season on Saturday with a briskly played, 2-1 game that the Knights won on their home field in Orlando.

Matt Lazzaro got the start for Houston for the second week in a row, his third start of the season . . . Lazzaro had everything working and he was cruising early.

With the game scoreless in the fourth, Tyler Bielamowicz hit a one-out single . . . Designated hitter Derrick Cherry then hit a liner toward the hole at second base into right field, Bielamowicz moved easily to third, but carelessness by the Knights defense allowed Bielamowicz to race home from third and just barely beat a throw home to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.

The Knights tied the game in the bottom of the fifth when a double to left-center allowed a runner on second to score . . . Central Florida took a 2-1 lead on a grounder to short that plated a runner on third.

Matt Lazzaro’s day was complete after six innings, another great outing for the lefty . . . Maddux Miller replaced Lazzaro, and after two quick outs to start the frame, he was hit on his pitching hand by a liner off a batted ball . . . Miller tried to stay in the game, but he threw one pitch which sailed high and away, and he was immediately replaced.

Colby Casey had another nice outing for the Cougars out of the bullpen, he recorded the final four outs.

The Cougars offense never threatened further after the run-scoring fourth, the team mustered just four hits, two on them by Dylan Post who was 2-for-4 in the loss.

The Cougars head to Clearwater now and will play their first game of the American Athletic Conference tournament at 3pm on Tuesday . . . Look for Robert Gasser to start the game for Houston in the double-elimination tournament.

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. –

Cougars Drop Regular Season Finale in 11

Houston Cougars Baseball

For the UCF Knights and the Houston Cougars, fifty-four games would not quite be enough to put the finishing touch on the 2019 regular season . . . The Knights and the Cougars went ahead and played eleven innings on Saturday night in Orlando.

The Cougars fail behind early, and the lesson is clear, digging yourself too deep a hole almost never works out . . . UCF was leading 7-1 by the end of the third and nothing in the Houston offense this week indicated that a comeback was possible . . . However, in the top of the fourth the Cougars put together a rally on a series of two-out two-RBI hits to plate four in the inning and get back into the game 7-5.

In the seventh, the Cougars tied the game at eight capped off by a two-RBI single to left by Joe Davis who batted with the bases loaded after having been intentionally walked three times up to that point (he would also be intentionally walked in the ninth).

The Knights got two runs back in the bottom of the seventh to take a 10-8 lead . . . In the top of the ninth, with Jared Triolo stealing third and Landon Etzel stealing second, the UCF catcher launched his throw into left field . . . Triolo scored easily, and Etzel just barely beat the throw home to score all the way from first on the play and tie the game at ten.

UCF finally broke through in the eleventh when they loaded the bases after an intentional pass and with the infield playing in with one out, a pop fly to left was just out of the reach of a hustling Blake Way, the ball fell in and the winning run crossed the plate for the Knights.

The 11-10 regular season-ending affair lasted just over five hours and the Cougars used six pitchers and plenty of bench players in the effort . . . Of the six pitchers used, Fred Villarreal who pitched two innings, was the only pitcher not to allow a run . . . Houston also left eighteen runners in scoring position . . . The big comebacks are always difficult, so much energy is expended getting the game back to even, that often nothing is left for what comes next.

The Cougars are off until Tuesday morning when they will open the American Conference tournament against UConn in Clearwater, Florida . . . First pitch is at 8am Houston time. –

Cougars Shutout UCF 2-0, Even Series

Houston Cougars Baseball

After a lopsided shutout on Thursday night, Friday night’s game between the Houston Cougars and the UCF Knights proved to be more of a taste of a series between two teams with nearly identical records.

Clay Aguilar took the hill for the Cougars and though he was laboring through long innings early, he was putting up zeroes and keeping the Knights off the board . . . He parted the game with a runner on but no outs in the fifth in favor of Sean Bretz, who subsequently ended the inning and pitched two scoreless innings on the night.

The game slugged along with base runners, but stranded base-runners . . . Neither team scored until the top of the seventh, and neither team scored after that frame.

Joe Davis would provide all the offense the Cougars needed on Friday night when he hit a two-run homerun to center in the seventh, his seventeenth of the season, and his first since April 12th at Wichita State . . . For Davis the homer was part of a 2-for-3 night, only Brad Burckel joined Davis with multiple hits in the game.

Fred Villarreal pitched a scoreless final three frames to earn his tenth save of the year . . . For UCF, this was their first nine-inning shutout of the season . . . Sean Bretz picked up the win, his second of the year . . . Clay Aguilar lowered his ERA to 2.65, which is an extraordinary number for someone who did not start the season as the “Saturday starter” but has moved into the role nicely.

The Cougars can claim the road series on Saturday when they conclude the series with UCF at 5pm Houston time in Orlando. –

Cougars Drop Opener in Orlando

Houston Cougars Baseball

The season’s final series of the year got underway on Thursday evening in Orlando, Florida as the University of Central Florida Knights hosted the Houston Cougars . . . The Knights and the Cougars entered Thursday with relatively equal records overall, both in and out of conference.

Knights starter Grant Schuermann had the Cougars solved early on it seemed . . . Houston had a runner reach third only once, in the fourth inning . . . Schuermann went eight scoreless innings allowing only four Cougars hits.

Lael Lockhart Jr. was a tough-luck loser on the night, he pitched reasonably well and was not hit very hard . . . A pop foul that should have been caught by either Kyle Lovelace or Joe Davis was instead a second chance for catcher Dallas Beaver, who then walked, and would eventually score, while there were also two errors behind Lockhart in the inning, an inning where the Knights scored three times to take a 3-0 lead.

Nolan Bond relieved Lockhart in the sixth and took the game into the ninth when Spencer Hynes pitched a scoreless frame in his first game action since April 6.

Only five Cougars had base hits on Thursday, with Joe Davis collecting two of them in a 2-for-4 effort . . . The Cougars led off the ninth who two singles by Wendell Champion and Joe Davis, but they would remain on second and first respectively as the next three batters each went down on strikes and handed UCF an 8-0 shutout.

The final regular season series of the season continues Friday in Orlando at 5pm Houston time. –