CLEARWATER– There are constants in place at the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship each year. The UConn Huskies will come in playing their best baseball of the year and the Houston Cougars find a way to the final. Yesterday the two team met and lets just say those constants will remain, as this one was on of the better games of the tournament this year.
Tyler Bielamowicz went 2-for-3 with a double and a home run as Houston came away with 7-6 win against UConn to advance to the semifinal round of the American Athletic Conference Baseball Championship at Spectrum Field. The Cougars will face either UConn or Memphis Saturday at 10 a.m. ET.
The Cougars Mitch Ullom made his team-high 15th start of the year and went 6.1 innings, allowing just one earned run on nine hits, one walk with three strikeouts in the no-decision.
Tim Cate got the start for the Huskies, pitched 5.1 innings, allowed five runs on eight hits, walked three and struck out four.
UConn had built a 4-2 lead in the top of the third inning thanks to Isaac Feldstein’s three-run home run after a pair of Houston errors kept the inning alive. The Cougars tied the game at 4-4 when Jake Scheiner tripled off the wall in right-center, scoring two runs. Scheiner was thrown out at the plate in his bid for an inside-the-park home run.
Corey Julks broke the tie for the with his sixth home run of the season, a solo shot to left-center to lead off the bottom of the sixth inning, giving the Cougars a 5-4 lead. The Huskies came back in the top of the seventh to tie it when Keith Kruger led off with an infield hit, moved to second on a sacrifice and scored on Anthony Prato’s base hit up the middle to make it 5-5.
The Cougars took advantage of two UConn errors to reclaim the lead as Connor Wong reached second when his fly ball to rightfield was dropped, and the Huskies misplayed Connor Hollis’ sacrifice bunt, allowing Wong to score to make it 6-5.
Bielamowicz’s RBI double that made it 7-5 proved to be a valuable insurance run as the Huskies got one back in the top of the ninth on John Toppa’s RBI single to make it 7-6.
Houston closer Aaron Fletcher left the tying and go-ahead runners stranded as he got Feldstein swinging to end the game.
Game Notes and Observations:
In a pre-game chat Cougars Head Coach Todd Whitting told me, “Cate is really good, maybe we can get something going against him today.” Check that box coach.
I’ve seen the Cougars 6 or 7 times this year and countless others over the past 4 years. I am not sure I have ever seen a Houston team play this loose.
“I’m not loose during the game I can tell you that,” lamented Whitting afterwards. “They have confidence, they have played from behind so much this year, we have had so much adversity this year, they are pretty resilient. We may lack a few things here and there, but they are really a team and as a head coach thats what you want, a good team and thats what they are. Completely selfless.”
The Houston club has plenty of firepower to make a run not only to finish this week, but into the Regionals. Jake Scheiner, Connor Wong, and Joe Davis are key contributors obviously.
Special mention goes out to Corey Julks. I have always enjoyed watching him play. I was heaping praise on him to my press box brethren in his at bat in the sixth inning. He launched a home run a pitch later. Thanks Corey for making me look good.
“He’s the leader of our team, I’m really proud of him, he didn’t get off to a good start and turned it around. He is really good player and our guys follow him,”said Whitting.