Baseball Sports

UH sweeps Minnesota with a balanced effort


Freshman shortstop Connor Wong had a huge start to his season as he went 5-12 at the plate with a home run and 5 RBI over the weekend.  |  Sarah Hoffman

The No.3 Houston Cougars outplayed the Minnesota Gophers to pick up their first sweep of the season after opening weekend at Cougar Field.

Houston began the opening series playing explosively by outscoring the Gophers 9-1 in the first game with junior catcher Ian Rice scoring a two-RBI homerun in the bottom of the second and junior designated hitter Chris Iriart following suit at the bottom of the fifth with a solo home run. Freshman shortstop Connor Wong was not to be left out as he put out a two-RBI homerun in the bottom of the seventh.

Iriart would be driving force through game two as he scored his second RBI homerun of the series against pitcher Dalton Sawyer. Junior first baseman Justin Montemayor was walked afterwards, but would wait patiently as Wong tripled to right center, giving the Cougars their second run of the night. Freshman third baseman Corey Julks was next at bat and singled down the foul line for an RBI as Wong scored the Cougars’ third run.

The game remained scoreless until the bottom of the eighth when freshman left fielder Zac Taylor reached first on a bunt and advanced to second after a Minnesota passed ball. Junior right fielder Kyle Survance then reached first with a bunt back to the pitcher, allowing Taylor to advance to third. After Survance stole second, junior second baseman Josh Vidales stepped up to bat and doubled to give Houston the last two scores of the night.

The combined efforts of junior pitcher Jake Lemoine and freshman pitcher Seth Romero, who kept Minnesota scoreless, gave the Cougars their shut-out win of the series.

Minnesota proved to be a challenge in the third game of the series as they scored three runs in the first two innings against senior pitcher Aaron Garza. The Cougars would trail behind until the bottom of the third when Rice hit a single to left field, allowing to Taylor to score their first run.

Despite not hitting a home run in the third game, Iriart still caused trouble for Minnesota with his RBI-single to left field, scoring Vidales. The Cougars would take the lead in the bottom of the fourth and hold it for the majority of the game, but the Gophers answered back in the top of the ninth as they tied the game against senior pitcher Jared Robinson.

Wong would be the hero of the evening as he put the ball in play with bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to score Rice and give the Cougars their first walk-off win of the season.

With many strong performances over the three games, head coach Todd Whitting was full of praise after Sunday’s walk-off victory.

“We pitched really well all weekend,” said head coach Todd Whitting after the game. “We are going to give up runs; that’s just part of the game. We were in certain tight situations, but we played well. We made pitching to get out of innings and that’s what’s really important.”

Offensively, the Cougars shared the wealth when it came to clutch hitting and smart base running. Many players would share the credit afterwards, but a few stood out in Whitting’s eyes.

“It’s hard to say who our MVP of the week was,” Whitting said on the series. “I mean, Connor played great defense. Iriart hit a couple of homeruns. Taylor, at Friday night, played lights out. It’s what you like to have; multiple guys on great weekends.”

The Cougars’ close call of a third game nearly put a damper on the opening series, but it was nothing that Whitting would be worried about.

“We were just a little flat and their pitchers did a good job of making pitches well, and I thought we competed well,” Whitting said. “Minnesota’s a good team; good teams are going to score runs.”

Houston hopes to continue its winning streak as they face off with Texas Southern University at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at Cougar Field.

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