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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Baseball

Cougars drop series to Knights ahead of final road trip


Sophomore Lael Lockhart Jr. had a .700 on-base percentage with four hits and three walks against UCF this past weekend. Lockhart Jr. scored four runs for the Cougars including the game-winning one on Sunday. Thomas Dwyer / The Cougar

After defeating ranked opponents the past two weekends, the No. 19 Cougars dropped two games to lose the series against the unranked Knights this weekend at Schroeder Park.

Houston’s batters struggled to chain hits together in game one, then the pitching broke down late to give UCF game two. The Cougars fired on all cylinders in the final game to overcome the Knights and avoid the team’s first sweep of the season.

UCF sophomore Ray Alejo started game one by getting on base with a hit, and then a string of hits sent him home and loaded the bases.

Junior starting pitcher Trey Cumbie managed to save the situation and keep the Knights to just one run but continued to have an off night. Cumbie allowed seven hits and three runs in seven innings pitched to give the Knights a 3-2 win.

Sophomore Dallas Beaver was UCF’s other star of the match who earned UCF two of their three runs in the win.

Houston’s offense was cold all night and earned just four hits in the entire game.

Junior Aaron Fletcher took the mound for UH in game two but had a rough night, giving up three runs in the first three innings.

Houston’s offense roared back in the fourth and sixth innings with three runs of its own to tie the game.

Sophomore Jared Triolo made it to base off a throwing error by UCF, then junior Joe Davis followed him up with a big hit to send Triolo home for the lead in the eighth inning.

The Cougars led 4-3 heading into the ninth, but UCF senior Logan Heiser hit a double to start the inning. Then, freshman Adams Torres singled to left field to send Heiser home and tie the game.

Alejo and sophomore Rylan Thomas walked to start the twelfth inning before a pair of big hits sent the players home to give UCF the game-winning 6-4 lead.

It was junior pitcher Ryan Randel’s fourth loss of the season, but this time he was in a reliever role. Randel has started 10 games this season as a pitcher but was used as a reliever during the extra inning game.

The final game of the series started with Alejo making it to base because of a throwing error. Alejo then stole both second and third base before he stole home due to a wild throw by sophomore pitcher Brayson Hurdsman.

In the bottom half of the first inning, six different Cougars were either walked or made base hits to score four runs and take the lead.

UCF scored two more runs in the second inning to close Houston’s lead to just one, but Houston scored a pair of runs in the third to regain the three-run lead.

Randel had a chance at redemption when he was substituted into the game during the third inning, and he came through with five and two-third scoreless innings to secure the game for the Cougars.

“Randel was absolutely outstanding. That’s twice now we’ve been in must-win situations and he pulled us through it,” said head coach Todd Whitting, praising the pitcher for bouncing back from the loss.

Whitting also praised the toughness of the team needed to make it through the three-loss week.

“It was a tough week, we lost two games by one run and another in extra innings. We could’ve gone 4-0 as easily as 1-3. That’s a tough thing to go through mentally, and I’m proud of how we did today,” Whitting said.

The Cougars lead the American Athletic Conference with a 14-7 conference record but have played three more games than the second place teams — ECU, USF and UConn, who all have 11-7 records.

Houston plays their last home game of the season against Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday before going on the road against UConn and Southeastern Louisiana to end the season.

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