Cougars roll over Boilers to advance at Chapel Hill Regional
Houston overcame an early deficit to defeat Purdue 9-1 in the first round of the Chapel Hill Regional and advance to the winner’s bracket final.
The Cougars played a complete game with expert hitting and immaculate pitching to defeat the Boilermakers in a three and a half hour contest.
Starting pitcher Aaron Fletcher allowed just four hits and one run in a complete, nine-inning outing where he threw over 100 pitches.
Fletcher and Purdue senior Tanner Andrews kept things quiet in the first inning with 1-2-3 outings, but a deep ball in the second inning gave the Cougars a scare. Junior Grayson Padgett slammed into the outfield wall and fell to the ground, but he managed to hold onto the ball to end the inning.
In the third inning, Fletcher mishandled a bunt to allow the first hitter on base, then hit the second batter in the foot to put men on first and second. Purdue’s next batter sacrifice-bunted to move the runners up, and then a hit to center scored the man on third.
The runner on second tried to make it home, but a strong throw by senior Connor Hollis made it to home plate first and tagged the runner out. Fletcher finished off the inning with a ground out and kept Purdue at just one run.
The Cougars loaded the bases in the fourth inning, but a strikeout by junior slugger Joe Davis and a fly out from Hollis left all three stranded.
Senior Cooper Coldiron led the fifth inning with a double, and sophomore Landon Etzel hit the ball deep into center to send Coldiron home and tie the game.
After stealing second and getting to third on a ground out, Etzel made it home when sophomore Tyler Bielamowicz hit a fly ball deep and gave the Cougars a 2-1 lead.
Houston started the sixth where they left off as Davis hit a low pitch deep into center field to send two runners home for a 4-1 lead.
Fletcher allowed two batters on base after losing control of his pitches early in the seventh, but a quick trip to the mound by pitching coach Terry Rooney got him back on track, and he threw another scoreless inning.
Sophomore Lael Lockhart Jr. started the eighth inning by being walked, and Davis sent him to third base with a deep drive center. Hollis hit a left field drive to give Lockhart a run and the Cougars a 5-1 lead.
Houston cemented the victory by scoring four runs in the top of the ninth, including a three-run home run by Lockhart.
Fletcher finished the game for the Cougars by throwing a perfect three-out inning in the bottom of the ninth.
The top of Houston’s batting order had a combined 12 hits and three walks in the game, one of its best performances all year.
Houston will need that kind of firepower tomorrow when they face No. 6 in the nation North Carolina, who crushed North Carolina A&T, 11-0, early Friday.
The Cougars will likely field junior Trey Cumbie, the number one starter during the regular season.
After a week of rest, Cumbie will surely be ready for the important matchup tomorrow, 5 p.m. CT at Boshamer Stadium, North Carolina, which can be watched on WatchESPN.