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Saturday, April 1, 2023


Houston hands ECU first conference loss

Junior Lael Lockhart Jr. threw an immaculate 7.2 scoreless innings to raise the Cougars to a 2-0 win over the Pirates. | Ahmed Gul/The Cougar

Houston managed to take one game off of the American Athletic Conference-leading ECU, but it had no answer for the visitor’s stellar offense during the rest of the series.

The Cougars have still not won a series in the AAC this season but have avoided being swept each time.

Houston shut out No. 11 ECU 2-0 to win the first game of the series Friday night before Saturday’s doubleheader.

The Pirates threatened early in the first inning, but junior pitcher Lael Lockhart Jr. fought back from an error to end the top of the inning.

The Cougars struck quickly, leading off with a base hit by junior infielder Jared Triolo, who then stole second. Triolo came home on a two-out throwing error to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead.

Triolo then hit a solo home run, his fourth of the season, in the third that increased the lead to 2-0.

Senior outfielder Rey Fuentes III killed the Pirates’ attempt to cut the lead in the fourth with a diving catch in the corner and a double play to get the runner out at second to end the inning.

Lockhart Jr. dominated the mound and threw a career-high 7.2 scoreless innings. He held ECU to only four hits in the game before being relieved by junior Fred Villarreal, who got his seventh save of the season.

Sophomore catcher Kyle Lovelace also had a great night, as he threw out two runners that were trying to steal and had a hit.

The first half of Saturday’s doubleheader went poorly as the Cougars fell 15-3.

The Pirates made up for lost time and scored three runs in the first inning and another in the second before Lockhart Jr. answered back with a solo home run.

Junior Tyler Bielamowicz sent in another run in the fifth before ECU hit a four-run home run in the sixth and a two-run homer in the seventh to make it 10-2.

Due to Houston cycling through so many pitchers, Bielamowicz eventually came to the mound to close out the game.

The final game of the series was much closer, as sophomore Clay Aguilar had a fantastic performance similar to Lockhart Jr. on Friday.

Senior Joe Davis batted in the three spot, and his 13th home run of the season gave Houston a 1-0 lead in the first inning. Fuentes followed up with a hit before the inning ended, and that would be the last hit by either team until the fourth inning.

Aguilar threw six scoreless innings before giving a bomb to left field after one out in the seventh. He could not compose himself and gave up another pair of hits to give East Carolina a 2-1 lead before he was substituted out.

The Pirates started the eighth inning with a double. The next batter hit a single straight up the middle to send the runner home to make it 3-1.

With the game on the line, ECU sophomore Alec Burleson struck out three UH batters to secure the win.

The series wrapped up 10 games in 12 days for the Cougars, and the team will have a few days to rest before heading to Huntsville Tuesday to play Sam Houston. Its next conference series is at 3-3 Wichita State next weekend.

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