Cougars struggle in American opener

With one weekend of play within the American Athletic Conference down on the ledger, UH stands at 1-2 in conference play after a trip to Orlando to face No. 6 UCF.  The Knights, who lead the nation in slugging percentage, were able to knock their way past UH by scores of 9-2 on Friday and 4-3 on the Sunday rubber game.

UH, which is 19-9 on the season overall, took its one series win during the Saturday game 7-5 behind the arms of Kyle Dowdy and Seth Romero.

“They’re a pretty resilient bunch,” said UH head coach Todd Whitting after the Saturday game. “They keep playing, and I’m really proud of [Seth] Romero for coming in in that tough situation and closing it out.”

The Sunday rubber game saw UH lead until the bottom of the ninth when UCF put together a rally consisting of a single, a hit by pitch, a sac bunt and an error on the throw by Romero set up UCF senior first baseman James Vasquez to single in the winning run.

“The infield was in, and I was just looking for a pitch to drive,” said Vasquez. “I was looking for a fastball early and wanted to put a good swing on it. That is exactly what I did.”

For UH, freshman Zac Taylor had a three-hit day on Sunday and pitcher Aaron Garza adjusted further to his new role as a reliever, going 4.2 innings and striking out six.

With the eight teams of the American Athletic Conference now vying for a spot in the conference tournament, the games add the oft-mentioned “extra importance.”

“Championship Sunday — that is what it was today. What a game. What a series,” said UCF head coach Terry Rooney.

“This series showcased two great college baseball teams. I could not be (more proud) of our players today. The guys hung in there and did a terrific job of executing late. They deserved to win the series.”

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