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Tuesday, September 26, 2023


Cougars fulfill early promise by capturing AAC tournament title

After downing Conference foe Louisville in the AAC tournament title game, UH captured its first tournament win since 2008. | courtesy of UH Athletics

After downing Conference foe Louisville in the AAC tournament title game, UH captured its first tournament championship since 2008. | courtesy of UH Athletics

Back in April, after Louisville had taken three in a row at Cougar Field, Cardinal coach Dan McDonnell challenged UH fans to not give up on their team. UH would go on to have a great season, he said.

Turns out McDonnell, a friendly man given to wearing floppy fishing hats in batting practice, was quite the mystic, even though he probably would have taken issue with the endgame of his foresight.

UH beat Louisville 10-4 to win the American Athletic Conference Championship in the inaugural postseason tournament – the Cougars’ first since 2008 and head coach Todd Whitting’s first during his tenure at UH.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Whitting said of claiming the championship. “It’s a great feeling. I’m really happy for the kids, for the coaches. They’ve all worked their tails off the last four years to make this happen.”

Whitting’s previously mentioned mental strategy of turning fear into fun seems to have finally evolved into the results he thought it would produce. The fun manifested itself when the coach received a Gatorade shower at the end of his post-game press conference.

“This is the time of year when you want your team to start rolling and get hot,” Whitting said. “We picked a great time to do it.”

The game was a storybook, cliché aside, for senior first baseman Casey Grayson, who drove in four runs after being out of baseball for two years due to injury. Further down the pages of the UH fairy tale, sophomore second baseman Josh Vidales went 11-15 for the tournament and was named the Most Oustanding Player, with pitcher Andrew Lantrip, outfielder Kyle Survance and first baseman Casey Grayson joining him on the all All-Tournament Team.

“I was just trying to stay on top of the ball,” Vidales said, who had a career day, going 5 for 5 at the plate. “With a hard infield like this, you have to try to skip it through and get a few runs across. Other than that, I didn’t try to do too much at the plate.”

In regards to laying hands on the conference championship trophy, the second baseman expressed sentiments that one would expect, though that did not diminish his obvious joy.

“It feels awesome,” said Vidales. “All the hard work paid off. All those long practices.”

Despite a blip against a UConn team that jumped up at the wrong moment, UH pitching was what is has been all season; dominant, holding, bending but never breaking during their four game stay in Florida. The mounds men were bolstered by an offense that came alive to the display of 28 runs in four games.

The Cougars reached the championship game after finishing pool play with a 2-1 record. UH defeated No. 6-seed Temple and No. 2-seed UCF wrapped around a 7-2 loss to UConn.

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