Cougars split games with Bearkats in Sanders Cup
The Houston Cougars traded home wins with the Sam Houston Bearkats at Schroeder Park on Tuesday night in one of their best offensive showings of the season before losing in Huntsville on Wednesday.
It was sophomore Lael Lockhart Jr.’s second start at pitcher in his college career, and it started similar to his first against Rice. Lockhart loaded the bases early, but unlike the Rice game, Sam Houston was able to score twice off the opportunity before a diving catch by senior second baseman Connor Hollis ended the inning.
Houston loaded the bases themselves via a litany of pitching errors, and UH scored two runs.
Lockhart settled down in the second inning and threw three scoreless innings with five strikeouts before being substituted out in the fifth inning.
Meanwhile, the offense scored a pair of runs in the third and fourth innings to give the Cougars a 6-2 lead which the bullpen defended for the rest of the game, leading them to win 9-4.
Sophomore Jared Triolo was the Cougars’ leading hitter with three hits in five attempts, and junior Grayson Padgett led the team in RBIs with three off two hits.
“Overall, just great effort tonight,” said UH head coach Todd Whitting. “Sam Houston is one of the better offensive teams in the country. They had some opportunities where they could have scored a few more runs, but we got out of some jams and pitched our way through it. Really good effort by the offense (too).”
The Cougars have only played five games in a week twice this season. Playing five games in a week tests a team’s pitching depth, something Whitting was not concerned about.
“I like playing five-game weeks. I think it keeps you in a rhythm, and I don’t have any hesitations. I actually like those weeks because we can get some guys into the bullpen that hadn’t had a lot of work and get them some,” Whitting said.
The Cougars’ pitching faltered Wednesday night, and the Bearkats won 8-3 to even up the Sanders Cup.
Triolo and junior Joe Davis chained a pair of hits to put the Cougars ahead 1-0 in the first inning, but the lead did not last long.
Sophomore Fred Villarreal started his first game at pitcher this season, but it did not go well.
Villarreal gave up a triple and walk before a flyout to left field sent the first man home to start the scoring. Villarreal had two men on base with two outs, but a few throws got away from him, and Sam Houston scored another pair to take the lead 3-1.
Sophomore Brayson Hurdsman replaced Villarreal in the second inning, but Houston’s pitching was unable to stabilize and gave up another five runs.
Triolo was a bright spot for the Cougars, scoring one run and hitting .600 in five at-bats to lead the Cougars alongside junior catcher Tucker Redden, who had three hits of his own. The teams earned the same amount of hits, 11, but Houston was unable to chain any of them together to generate enough runs.
The Cougars are now 22-15 overall but still tied for first in the American Athletic Conference with a 7-5 conference record.
UH’s next series is this weekend against the 26-9 Wichita State Shockers, and the final match of the Sanders Cup will be on May 1 at Constellation Field in Sugar Land.