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Friday, May 20, 2022

Baseball

Comeback kids seal the deal against Central Florida


UH baseball, for all its statistical marvels, seems to specialize in one specific thing: the art of the comeback. Trailing 3-2 going into the ninth inning against UCF, UH put together a series of fortunate move that let it leave Cougar Field with its ninth win in American Athletic Conference play.

With two outs, a sure sign of baseball drama, head coach Todd Whitting called on sophomore outfielder Ashford Fulmer to pinch hit. The result, by way of an unfortunate changeup from UCF pitcher Trent Thompson, was a solo home run over the leftfield wall that tied the game at 3-3. The next batter, senior outfielder Landon Appling, singled and then promptly took second base on a steal and third base on an error. Senior catcher Daniel Smith earned a walk and sophomore outfielder Kyle Survance knocked in Appling to plate the final run and cap the comeback.

“It’s been a trait of our team all year,” Whitting said. “We play hard until the end and what we lack in sometimes not getting that big hit … you can’t underestimate their (the team’s) will. They have a huge will to win. That was a big win tonight. We were staring down the barrel of having our eighth one-run loss of the year, and most of those were in conference play. I’m just proud of them. They never stop. I think it was two strikes when Ashford hit his home run and we’ve done that all year long.”

Fulmer, who tied the game coming off the bench with his fourth home run of the season, credited his patience at the plate to the eventual high success of the at-bat.

“I was just trying to stay back and then that happened and I just hit it a long way,” Fulmer said.

Having trailed for most of the game despite a seven-inning, five-strikeout, one-walk and three-run performance by sophomore right-hander Jake Lemoine, redshirt sophomore reliever Bubba Maxwell trotted out from the bullpen and put together two 1-2-3 innings of shutout pitching. Maxwell, who got his third win of the year and improved his ERA to 1.42, struck out six and allowed no runs or walks.

“Jake Lemoine threw a heck of a game,” Maxwell said. “The offense did a heck of a job there as well in the last inning. That’s pretty much all you can ask for from a team standpoint.”

Maxwell, who is coming off labrum surgery, needed only 24 pitches to get the win and hold UCF at bay.

“It’s definitely adversity,” Maxwell said. “Regardless of what injury it is or what sport, that’ll make anybody stronger when you come back. Once you come out here and once these lights get turned on, you don’t think about that sort of thing.”

Whitting, who has overseen a pitching staff that has been nationally ranked for the vast majority of the season, was quick to praise the right hander with his due credit.

“Bubba’s a guy coming off arm surgery. We really liked him in junior college and then he tore his labrum up. He’s coming off that surgery, and he’s only about a year out of it. Now we’re starting to see, in the last couple of outings, what we thought we were getting from him. He was lights-out tonight,” Whitting said.

The inevitable question of momentum coaxed a laugh out of Whitting, who shrugged off any ambitious or deep meaning.

“It’s a grind. The season is an absolute grind with these bats. There’s no offense and every game is like a soccer match,” Whitting said concerning the NCAA rule change regarding the bats. “It’s stressful, and you just got to grind it all out. We got a lot of season left. There’s a lot on the line to play for.”

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