HOUSTON — The University of Houston just hasn’t been the Arizona Wildcats’ favorite place this year.
For the second straight night, Arizona baseball’s potent offense was stifled by the Houston Cougars.
This time it was only for seven innings though.
UH clinched the series with a 9-7 victory Saturday evening, but things got interesting late.
Down 9-3 heading into the eighth, Arizona’s first two runners reached base, bringing up preseason All-American Cameron Cannon.
The junior shortstop did not disappoint, as he launched a three-run bomb off the Houston Baseball sign in left-center field to bring the Wildcats back within three runs.
After keeping Houston off the board in the bottom half, Arizona’s offense got right back to it in the ninth. Once again, the first two Wildcat hitters reached base, and both moved into scoring position on a Dayton Dooney groundout.
This brought up the top of the lineup and Matt Fraizer.
The center fielder lifted one to left, but was too shallow to allow the runner at third to tag up. Cannon came back up to the plate, this time as the potential tying run with just one out left.
“Absolutely,” head coach Jay Johnson said afterwards if Cannon was exactly who he wanted up in that situation. “He’s hitting like .500 or something and shown the ability to drive the ball. It was good to get him. That’s why he’s hitting in the two-hole.”
Cannon grounded the ball to the left side of the infield, but the Cougars were unable to make the play at first, allowing Arizona to bring the potential winning run to the plate in Ryan Holgate.
On Holgate’s first pitch, he chopped one back to the pitcher, and that was that as the Cougars clinched the series.
Arizona rallies but came up just short as a bouncer back to the pitcher ends it. Houston wins 9-7 pic.twitter.com/A2GSe9z0Qp— Jason Bartel (@jasonbartel) February 24, 2019
Even with the loss, perhaps the last two innings were something Arizona can build off of moving forward.
“I think we got our mojo back,” Johnson said of the end of the game. “They hadn’t really been hit with much adversity through the first five games and it was a really good college baseball game last night. I thought the confidence got a little shook early in the game today but they got it back...it just took us too long to do that.”
Things started out promising for the Cats from Tucson. Fraizer led the game off with a single and advancing to second on a throwing error. Fraizer would move to third on a Cannon groundout, and then score when Holgate did the same.
But Houston answered right back as their leadoff hitter Brad Burckel also singled, and eventually scored after a Nick Quintana throwing error. Tyler Bielamowicz tacked on a second Cougar run with an RBI single up the middle to give the home team the lead. UH would not look back, but it was definitely not the last we would see of Bielamowicz in this one.
Arizona starter Andrew Nardi retired the first two Cougar batters in the second, and looked to be settling in. It was not the case, however, as the next five UH hitters reached base, resulting in three runs to make the score 5-1.
Bielamowicz led off the third with a solo shot over a leaping Fraizer, extending the Houston lead to 6-1. Nardi would record one more out before being taken out of the game. The junior lefty surrendered six hits and four walks (two intentional) in his 2 1⁄3 innings of work. Ten of the 15 batters he faced reach base.
Nate Brown took over on the mound and quieted the Cougars a bit. This allowed Arizona to get back within three after Tate Soderstrom yanked a Ryan Randel pitch over the right field fence for a two-run dinger in the fifth.
“It’s not a surprise,” Johnson explained about this being Soderstrom’s first collegiate home run. “He’s always had good bat speed. He swings aggressively. It’s nice to see that for him but I didn’t know that was his first but good for Tate.”
Randel lasted six innings and left with a four-run lead thanks to a leadoff triple by Kobe Hyland in the bottom of the sixth off of Jonathan Guardado. Hyland scored when Burckel bounced one back up the middle to the second baseman for an RBI fielder’s choice.
Matthew Dyer had a home run in the seventh for Arizona, but the left fielder Bielamowicz (this guy again), leaped over the fence and brought the ball back with him. Houston tacked two more runs on the scoreboard in the bottom half thanks to a double play ball and a popped up bunt that had some serious english on it.
The Wildcats, now sitting at 5-2 this season, will look to salvage a game in this series on Sunday. First pitch is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. MST. Bryce Collins is slated to start on the mound for Arizona against UH’s Lael Lockahart Jr., who was 0-for-3 with a walk on Saturday as the Cougars’ DH.
A late rally wasn’t quite enough for Arizona Baseball on Saturday but they’ll use the last two innings as a springboardPosted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, February 23, 2019