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Thursday, June 8, 2023


Houston comes out with narrow wins over No. 24 Arizona

Junior Lael Lockhart Jr. had six strikeouts Sunday to keep the Cougars in the game. | Ahmed Gul/The Cougar

The Cougars defeated the No. 24 Wildcats in two close games, but lost the Sunday finale in a blowout.

It was Houston’s second series win of the season and improved the team’s record to 4-3.

“Good weekend against a team that I would not be surprised to see in Omaha,” said head coach Todd Whitting. “That’s a really good ball club, and they are very well coached.”

Close opener

Houston took the first game against Arizona this weekend 2-1 after a late-game home run and pitching heroics sealed the game.

Junior LHP Tyler Bielamowicz started on the mound for the Cougars and gave up only two hits in the six-inning outing, his longest of the season so far.

The Wildcats opened up the scoring early on in the top of the third inning with a home run from sophomore outfielder Blake Paugh.

UH quickly responded just an inning later in the fourth after hits by sophomore outfielder Drew Minter and senior outfielder Grayson Padgett set up junior infielder Kobe Hyland for an RBI single right up the middle to tie the game.

Both teams had several chances throughout the game, but it was not until the bottom of the eighth that the score sheet saw a change.

Senior designated hitter Joe Davis launched his third home run of the season to left center to put the Cougars up.

Making his third appearance on the mound this season, junior RHP Fred Villarreal needed just three outs left for the victory.

Villarreal, who ended up taking the win over junior Randy Labaut, saw three batters in the top of the ninth. All three grounded out to finish the game for the Cougars.

Clinching win

The Cougars took the series against Arizona with a 9-7 win in game two Saturday.

Houston took an early 5-1 lead in the second inning followed by an uneventful next couple of innings until Arizona posed a threat in the fifth inning. Luckily, it was shut down quickly by senior pitcher Ryan Randel.

The Cougars dominated in pitching with Randel on the mound. Randel went three innings in a row going three up, three down, keeping the Cougars ahead through six innings. With Randel’s outstanding pitching and the offense’s consistent hitting, the Cougars had no trouble staying on top.

Arizona threatened again in the seventh, but Bielamowicz made a heroic play in the outfield and robbed a home run at the wall, keeping the score 7-3 Houston.

The Cougars tagged on a couple of runs in the seventh to increase the lead, but the Wildcats made it a close game in the eighth inning by adding three runs to make the score 9-6 Houston.

Closing it out

Houston was unable to sweep the series and fell 9-4 on the final day of action.

Day three got off to a rough start as junior Lael Lockhart Jr. allowed two quick runs before settling down.

Davis hit his fourth home run of the season in the fourth inning to close the lead to 2-1, but it did not last long.

Lockhart Jr. threw three scoreless innings with six strikeouts after the first two runs before struggling in the fifth inning. After allowing a pair of runs and loading the bases, Lockhart Jr. was pulled for junior pitcher Carter Henry.

Henry did not fare much better and allowed a pair of hits to send four runners home to make the game 9-1. Houston came back to score three more runs but could not catch up.

“We had chances. A couple swings and we are in it just like Arizona did to us (on Saturday),” Whitting said.

Whitting said he wasn’t happy with the team’s intensity Sunday and would make sure to fix the problems.

Houston plays at Lamar on Tuesday and then opens the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic against TCU on Friday, Texas State on Saturday and Texas A&M on Sunday.

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