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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Baseball

Cougars drop opening series to Huskies


Junior shortstop Kobe Hyland had four hits and scored two runs over the weekend for the Cougars. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Houston started its American Athletic Conference season with a series loss against UConn over the weekend.

The first two games were close battles, but the Cougars had costly errors in the third to drop the series.

Houston dropped game one against UConn 2-1, and both teams charted only four hits, which resulted in a pretty uneventful first four innings.

A throwing error at the start of the fourth inning by the Cougars allowed the Huskies to get in scoring position for the first time in the game.

Although junior LHP Lael Lockhart Jr. had a great showing, Houston could not capitalize on his pitching.

Despite a couple of great battles fought, including the nine-pitch at-bat by senior Grayson Padgett, the ability to score was lacking early.

The Cougars threatened in the sixth with a one-out walk for freshman infielder Derrick Cherry followed by a double from junior infielder Jared Triolo to get a runner in scoring position.

Then senior infielder Joe Davis was intentionally walked to load up the bases with one out.

A double play ended the threat, however, and left the men stranded.

Houston kept momentum through the seventh with a lead-off double by junior infielder Kobe Hyland and a bunt by freshman outfielder Johnathon Thomas to set up the first run for Houston.

Thomas stole second, and a throwing error on the play sent Hyland home to cut the lead in half 2-1. That was all the Cougars could muster as it lost the game.

The Cougars evened out the series 1-1 Saturday night after a narrow 5-4 home victory.

Senior pitcher Ryan Randel tallied 4.2 innings in his sixth start of the season, but the team’s strikeout leader found trouble early on against the opposition.

UConn got things started in the first inning after a series of walks and hits put the Huskies up 3-0.

It would not be until the second inning that Houston would start to see some production from its heavy hitters.

Davis singled to center field to begin the inning, then Lockhart Jr. and Hyland followed behind with singles of their own, but all three were left stranded to end the inning.

Houston would suffer through two more silent innings until finally finding its rhythm in the bottom of the fourth.

Lockhart Jr.’s second hit of the night sparked the offensive fire for the Cougars in its five-run onslaught during the inning, which saw UH hitters record four hits and cycle through its entire rotation.

The Huskies responded in the next inning, but it was too late as senior pitcher Nolan Bond came in as relief in the fifth to take home his first win and junior closer Fred Villarreal earned his team-leading third save of the season.

The Huskies came out firing Sunday in its 9-3 win to clinch the series. 

Junior Devon Roedahl made his first start of the season in his tenth appearance on the mound and struggled through the night, but not all the runs were his fault.

He allowed one earned run in the first inning, then two more earned and three unearned in the third inning. Houston made two crucial errors in fielding that would have ended the third inning earlier.

A couple bright spots were Cherry, who hit his first home run of the year, and freshman Brad Burckel, who hit two doubles and scored two runs.

With the lead 6-1 in UConn’s favor, Houston answered with solo runs in the third and the fifth, but UConn fired back in the seventh with a home run to make it 7-3. UConn scored twice more in the eighth before the game ended.

The Huskies did a good job neutralizing Davis for most of the series. The slugger was just 1-for-10 at bat, though he was walked three times.

Houston will play two midweek games: one at home against Sam Houston at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday and one away at 2:00 p.m. Wednesday at Stephen F. Austin.

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