Baseball Sports

Cougars clinch spot in AAC title game

Sophomore Connor Wong accounted for two runs and two RBIs in the Cougars 6-2 victory over Tulane. | Sarah Hoffman/The Cougar

The Cougars are headed to the American Athletic Conference Championship game for the third consecutive season after defeating the top-seeded Tulane University for the second time this week.

Now 3-0 in the double-elimination conference tournament, Saturday’s 6-2 win over the Green Wave gives the Cougars two opportunities to take the league championship.

Great pitching has been the theme of Houston’s success all season and Saturday proved to be no different. Freshman right-hander Mitch Ullom earned his seventh win of the year in impressive fashion.

Ullom looked uncomfortable to start his outing, allowing an RBI single to Tulane’s first baseman Hunter Williams in the first inning. The freshman then settled in and pitched five consecutive scoreless frames.

Trailing 1-0 early for the second time this week against Tulane, the Cougars began to claw their way back into the game.

Houston leadoff hitter Zac Taylor had a performance to remember, going 4-5 from the plate, including a game-tying home run in the third inning. The blast was just Taylor’s third home run of the season.

Taylor also recorded two singles, a double and had an outstanding diving catch in centerfield that prevented a leadoff hit for the Green Wave in the eighth inning.

The game was still in a 1-1 stalemate heading to the fifth inning until the Cougars struck for three runs in the top half of the inning. A Connor Wong single scored teammate Taylor, followed by a Joe Davis two-run homer that put Houston in the driver’s seat at 4-1.

Ullom worked his way through the first six innings, but ran into trouble when he came out for the seventh. Beginning to labor, Ullom allowed a solo home run to Tulane’s Hunter Hope to leadoff the inning.

With that, Ullom’s morning outing came to an end. The freshman notched the win by finishing the game with six innings of two-run baseball and three strikeouts.

A sacrifice fly hit by Connor Hollis in the eighth inning and an RBI double in the ninth by Wong put the Cougars comfortably ahead 6-2 heading to the bottom half of the ninth inning.

Wong was impressive, going 4-5 on offense while scoring two runs and driving two runs in. The Cougars 1-2-3 hitters combined to go 9-14 with five RBIs and two home runs.

Junior closer Nick Hernandez entered the game in the seventh inning ready to make his third appearance of the tournament and 28th of the season. Hernandez was as advertised, pitching the final two and one-third innings and striking out four batters to finish the game and seal the victory.

Tulane is now eliminated from the tournament, and the Cougars will advance to play the winner of the University of Connecticut and Memphis for the conference championship Sunday at 10 a.m.

An AAC title guarantees a spot in the NCAA Regionals next week.

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