TAMPA — The Houston Cougars got eight innings from starter Mitch Ullom, and Connor Wong, Corey Julks, and Joe Davis hit home runs to back up the effort in a 7-3 win over the University of South Florida at the USF Baseball Stadium Friday night. With the win, the Cougars improved to a 28-13 overall record and a 9-4 mark in American Conference action, while USF fell to 32-10 overall and 7-6 in league play.
Ullom allowed just six hits and three runs (two earned) to go along with two walks and one strikeout. Aaron Fletcher relieved Ullom in the ninth, allowing one walk, and finished with one strikeout to end the game.
For the Bulls, Phoenix Sanders pushed his way through six innings, and allowed 10 hits and seven runs (six earned). He walked one and struck out five. His record falls to 5-2 on the year.
Houston started the scoring early. Wong took the second Sanders offering he saw over the left center field wall, his fourth home run in a week and his ninth on the season. Houston tacked on runs in the third and the fifth for a 3-o lead.
After the Bulls pulled within a run in the fifth, 3-2, Corey Julks homered to left field and Joe Davis lasered a two-run homer of his own to left center for a 7-2 Cougar lead, a lead Houston would not surrender.
Houston head coach Todd Whitting told me after the game “Thats a good team over there and we played as well as we have played in a while. It was good to see.”
The two teams will hook up again tomorrow for game two of the three-game set. Peter Stezelecki will start for USF and Trey Cumbie for Houston with the game scheduled for 6:30 PM.
Houston’s Mitch Ullom probably threw 80-85% fastballs that had some sink and induced 13 ground ball outs, including two double plays. Houston now has 37 home runs on the season with 19 coming in American Athletic Conference play. I have covered Houston teams that have won more games, but this one seems more balanced than the ones in the past. A tough non-conference schedule has prepared them well for conference games.
USF has made its way to 32 wins this year primarily with pitching and defense. Neither was particularly sharp tonight. When that happens, the offense has to pick up the team. Six hits in tonight’s game was not going to be enough.
Duke Stunkel Jr. returned to action for the Bulls and batted leadoff and played right field after missing time with a wrist injury. Meanwhile, Kevin Merrell missed his fourth consecutive game with a muscle strain in his foot. The Bulls are 1-3 in those games. This is the first time all season that the Bulls have lost three straight games. Getting those two back in the lineup at the same time is key for the Bulls.
Garret Zech hit his first collegiate home run and it was not a cheap one. Chris Chatfield hit his fifth homer of the season with a solo shot in the seventh.