side bar
logo
Monday, October 3, 2022

Baseball

Cougars fail to rally, but end season with dignity


 

Resized-L5W4J

Senior Chase Wellbrock embraces a teammate as the Cougars finish up the post-season in Austin, Texas. | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

The Houston Cougars were dealt a rocky start as they took to Longhorn Country for the NCAA Super Regionals. These were the first super regionals the Cougars had been to in 11 years – for any university, the pressure was on. For UH, this was almost a chance for apotheosis: for a University on a mission to being taken seriously in athletics, this was a chance for rebirth.

Despite ending the season with a 4-0 loss that sent the Longhorns to the College World Series, the Cougars managed to accomplish it.

Facing off against the Longhorns in Game 1, Houston’s fate was sealed when Texas’ Mark Payton’s home run brought in two runs in the first inning, as the Longhorns had a man on first. Houston was able to counter with two more runs, but a few brows were raised at Texas’ 4-2 victory over Houston. It was a sloppy way to lose a game – it’s hard to get much closure from a performance that was doomed from the start.

However, Game 2 proved to be a completely different kind of ballgame – for the first four innings, was meat-and-potatoes baseball: no more, no less. What the Cougar’s performance lacked in glamour was undoubtedly made up in stats, at least in the earlier portion of the game. Initially, the bearded Aaron Garza started out with a killer performance, even by the standards he’s established for himself. Garza rang in the first inning with three up and three down. By the fourth inning, he had retired seven consecutive batters on 13 pitches.

Kevin Garza performed exceptionally in the early innings, even retiring seven batters on 13 pitches.  |  Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

Kevin Garza performed exceptionally in the early innings, even retiring seven batters on 13 pitches. | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

It was a ballet of keeping the chains moving, and started out more like an endurance test and less of a high-octane NCAA Super Regional. The Cougars were stacked on both fronts – senior Casey Grayson made a spectacle with a lunge-and-snag out for a Longhorn baserunner to finish to the second inning. Even Garza made his first out in a run to first base. For all intents and purposes, it was looking like Cougars could advance to Game 3 of the super regionals. All they had to do was keep up the momentum, and they’d be golden.

But a bottom-of-the-fourth flub by Houston’s outfield allowed Texas’ Matt Locus to land on second. The Longhorns quickly filled up the bases, and shortstop C.J. Hinojosa’s single brought in two runs for the Texas, giving the Cougars a 2-0 lead to overcome.

“C.J.’s batting broke the game open,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “It was the start of that momentum.”

At the next at-bat, Texas’ Madison Carter was sent home by a triple, courtesy of Longhorn junior Collin Shaw. One batter later Texas scored again, with Kacy Clemen’s single sending C.J. Hinojosa on an express route from second base to home plate. Coming into the fifth inning, pitcher Jared Robinson and the Cougars faced a four-run deficit.

“It’s frustrating,” said senior left-fielder Landon Appling. “We got people on base all weekend long  we just couldn’t get them across. We got the big hit last week at LSU, it just didn’t turn out too good for us today.”

“Once again, it’s about runs, not hits,” said Garrido. “They had 10, we had 8. So it’s about runs.”

After the odds piled up, it became a day of opportunities left unreaped. In the top of the fifth, Houston’s left fielder Michael Pyeatt failed to take advantage of a decked house. The bases were loaded, but no runs were scored.

“It’s frustrating,” said senior left-fielder Landon Appling. “We got people on base all weekend long — we just couldn’t get them across. We got the big hit last week at LSU, it just didn’t turn out too good for us today.”

The eighth inning ended when center fielder Ashford Fulmer stranded three more runners by grounding out to third, marking the second time that the Cougars failed to take advantage of loaded bases.

Chase Wellbrock on UH's super regional performance: "We just didn’t catch any breaks this weekend."  |  Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

Chase Wellbrock on UH’s super regional performance: “We just didn’t catch any breaks this weekend.” | Emily Chambers/The Daily Cougar

“Our team played today like we have all year, we never stopped. We just couldn’t get that knock. We couldn’t get that one hit,” said head coach Todd Whitting.

“It just didn’t happen. We ran out of gas. They were out there fighting as hard as they can go. It’s just as simple as that.”

Unlike Game 1, it wasn’t a prodigal at-bat that sealed Houston’s fate – it was a failure to play the game within the game. Initially, the chains were moving fluidly, but a shortage of elbow grease in the last five innings wound up handing those round-trip tickets to Omaha to the Longhorns.

“I’ve said it all weekend  the team that makes the least amount of mistakes is going to win, and that’s exactly how it played out,” Whitting said.

It wasn’t a completely fruitless weekend —  Houston’s baseball team hasn’t made it this far in over a decade, proof that Whitting’s magic has yielded some pretty incredible results. This may be the final page in Houston baseball’s chapter this season, but the ball’s still rolling for next year. With the Cougars, there’s no sign of stopping  according to Whitting, they’re only going to get bigger.

“We were so close with getting to the ultimate goal… You’re talking about a program that two years ago won 18 games,” said Whitting. “We were so far away from where we’re at now. I expect us to build and keep moving forward.”

[email protected]

 

 

Tags: , , , , ,


Back to Top ↑
  • Sign up for our Email Edition

  • Follow us on Twitter

  • Polls

    How are your classes going so far?

    View Results

    Loading ... Loading ...