HOUSTON -Down by three in the early innings, No. 3 Houston Baseball never backed down and battled back to earn an impressive 5-4 walk-off win over Minnesota in the bottom of the ninth on Sunday afternoon to sweep the Opening Weekend series at Cougar Field.
With the win, Houston finishes off the first weekend of play with a 3-0 record, while Minnesota fell to 0-3. The sweep marked the second straight season the Cougars won all three games in the first weekend of play after sweeping Nicholls State in a three-game series one year ago.
Tied at 4-4 in the bottom of the ninth after surrendering a late run to Minnesota in the upper half of the frame, Houston managed to load the bases on two hit by pitches and an intentional walk - which left freshman Connor Wong at the plate with one out. Wong placed the ball in the right spot down the third base line, reaching on an RBI-fielder's choice, scoring junior Ian Rice for the game-winner.
Four Cougars notched RBI in the game, led by Rice (1x2, R, 2 RBI) - who singled and drew a bases loaded walk on the day. Junior Chris Iriart (2x4, RBI) and freshman Zac Taylor (2x4, 3 R) each led Houston with two hits, while combining for two RBI and three runs scored on the day.
Junior Josh Vidales (1x3, R, RBI) knocked in the go-ahead run in the sixth for Houston on an RBI-single, while Wong (1x5, RBI) added a base hit and drove in the winning run. Junior Justin Montemayor (1x3, 2 BB) walked twice and singled.
Houston starter Aaron Garza (5.0,5,3,3,1,2) went 5.0 complete innings, allowing three runs on five hits and a walk with two strikeouts, but was credited with the no decision. Senior reliever Jared Robinson (3.2,3,1,0,1,1) was affective in his 3.2 innings of relief work, not allowing an earned run with just three hits and a walk surrendered, while fanning one. Making one pitch in the top of the ninth and being the pitcher of record when the Cougars earned the walk-off win, junior Bubba Maxwell (0.1,0,0,0,0,0) picked up the victory out of the pen for his second career win in a Cougar uniform.
Minnesota took its first lead of the series when it plated a run in the first inning, following a leadoff single to open the game. The Gophers padded their lead with two more runs on a two-run single in the second - which saw three hits added to the board.
Down 3-0, Houston's Taylor led off the half with a bunt single, which opened the scoring gates for the Cougars. Rice and Iriart notched back-to-back singles through the left side of the infield, scoring both Taylor and Vidales - who walked to make it a 3-2 game in the third inning.
Four walks led to a run in the fourth inning for Houston as the Cougars tied the game on a bases-loaded walk by Rice - his second RBI of the day.
Taylor, again got things rolling for Houston in the sixth with a leadoff double down the left field line. He would eventually score on a one-out, RBI-single by Vidales to give the Cougars their first lead of the day.
A scoreless seventh and eighth innings happened for both teams until Minnesota was able to make it interesting by tying the game at 4-4 in the top of the ninth. A leadoff single, followed by a pickoff attempt error put a runner at second with no outs. A groundball would advance the runner to third before an RBI-single into left field would tie the score.
Houston used five hitters in the ninth for the walk-off win, the first of the year.
- First walk-off win for Houston this year.
- Freshman Connor Wong delivered the game-winning RBI.
- Houston registered nine walks and two hit-by-pitches on the afternoon.
- Cougars sweep Opening Weekend for the second straight season.
- Connor Wong had an RBI in all three games during his collegiate debut weekend.
Head Coach Todd Whitting
On the overall game and effort by the Cougars...
We go down 3-0 early and come back. You're not going to play well every single game and to not have your best game and come out with a win - that's a plus. That shows resiliency by the ball club. I'm proud of their efforts. We made big pitches all day long. We got out of a lot of jams.
You have to tip your hat off to Minnesota, that's a really good ball team. Once they get outside to the warm weather, they're going to be one to contend within the Big Ten. They played extremely hard all the way throughout.
On the effort of freshman Connor Wong all weekend...
I thought he played great. The thing I'm looking for from him is playing steady defense and chipping in on offense every now and then. He's going to be a great offensive player but for right now we need him to play really good defense. He had good hits for us all weekend and good at bats. One at bat was a 10-plus pitch at bat and then wound up out. I think things are ahead for him and we're going to be good. He just has to keep plugging it away.
Houston will continue its home stand when it welcomes Texas Southern to Cougar Field on Tuesday, February 17 for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch.
Tuesday, February 17 vs. Texas Southern
First 500 fans through the gates at Cougar Field receive RED Mardi Gras beads in honor of Fat Tuesday.
**University of Houston students - FREE with your Student ID.
With 31 home games set for 2015 at Cougar Field and a Top 10 nationally-ranked preseason program representing the University of Houston, the Cougars are proud to announce that single-game tickets are now on sale at UHCougars.com/Basetickets.
Along with the online option, fans can purchase tickets by visiting the Athletics Ticket Office at TDECU Stadium Monday through Friday, 10 a.m., to 5:30 p.m. or can call 713-GO-COOGS.
Houston Baseball will offer variable pricing on its single-game tickets and group rates.
For the first time ever, the pricing breakdown will be determined whether or not you purchase your single-game tickets online vs. at the gate the day of the game as well as whether the Cougars play on a weekday (Monday-Thursday) or weekend (Friday-Sunday).
Weekday: Monday-Thursday; Weekend: Friday-Sunday.
As noted in the table, variable pricing occurs. For weekday (Tuesday nights) online purchases, fans can take in a game, ranging from $5-$7 depending on the choice of seating. If you choose to purchase the day of the game as a Weekday Walk-Up, you will pay roughly $2 more than the online price ($7-$9).
Weekend (Friday-Sunday) online pricing will range from $6-$8 per game, while Weekend Walk-Up pricing the day of the game will run a fan anywhere from $8-$10.
Group rates are also available (as noted in the table). Weekday (Tuesday) and Weekend (Friday-Sunday) pricing occurs. Groups of 10-24 are set at $4-$5 per person, while groups of 25+ are $3-$4 per person.
With single-game tickets available now, Houston Baseball still encourages supporters to become Season Ticket members and enjoy the attractive pricing and rewards that come with up-front purchasing for the entire 2015 season.
WHY ARE SEASON TICKETS MORE ATTRACTIVE?
Season Tickets are as low as $99 for general admission seating and the program offers an Anytime Tickets package that allows fans to use the 31 tickets how they choose (1 per game, multiple per game or all in one game). The Anytime Tickets are only available in general admission seating.
For just $200, you can enjoy reserved chairback seating on the lower level of the concourse at the stadium.
A new additional "Reserved 2" seating option for the 2015 season is also available with an assigned seat in sections 200, 201 and 202 for $150.
If you breakdown the season ticket pricing of $99 General Admission, the pricing of $150 for Reserved 2 or even the pricing of $200 for Reserved 1 (chairback), you are spending less money per game than purchasing single-game tickets.
HOW TO PURCHASE
To purchase tickets in advance, fans must visit the Athletics Ticket Stadium Office located on the northeast corner of TDECU Stadium, just outside of Gate 1 off Cullen Boulevard. Parking is available in the TDECU Stadium parking garage with the first 30 minutes free of charge. Regular business hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m., to 5:30 p.m. or you can call 713-GO-COOGS.
JOIN THE DUGOUT CLUB
Nationally-ranked Houston Baseball would like to encourage those wishing to support the efforts and success of the baseball student-athletes to consider joining the Dugout Club for as low as $25 a month or $300 annually.
For a minimum monthly installment of $25 or a minimum one-time gift of $300, supporters can take advantage of the Pinch Hitter level, which will guarantee an invitation for two to exclusive Dugout Club events and Houston Baseball team apparel.
For a minimum monthly installment of $100 or a minimum one-time gift of $1,000, supporters can take advantage of the Diamond level, which will guarantee batting practice passes for two to any home game, invitation for two to exclusive Dugout Club events and Houston Baseball apparel.
**Cougar Pride points will be applied accordingly.
For more information on joining the Dugout Club, please contact the Houston Baseball office at (713) 743-9396.
For more information regarding Cougar Pride, please call (713) 743-GOUH.
A LOOK AT THE 2015 SCHEDULE
For the ninth consecutive season, Houston will open its slate at Cougar Field, having accumulated a winning record of 14-6, which includes three straight weekend sweeps the past three seasons under Whitting - who will begin his fifth season at the helm.
"I'm really excited about this year's schedule," Whitting said. "It is probably one of the most competitive ones we have made since our staff took over in 2010."
Houston will open the season hosting Minnesota on Feb. 13-15. The Cougars and Gophers will meet for the first time since 1987 as they have met 25 previous times.
The home slate for the Cougars will continue with their third straight weekend series at Cougar Field when it welcomes first-time opponent Columbia for a four-game series, set for Feb. 27-March 1.
"Our fans will have a great opportunity to see us play against great opponents here in our city," Whitting said.
31 home games; 36 in the city of Houston
First seven games of the season played at Cougar Field
19 of first 21 games played in the city of Houston
First five weekends played in city of Houston - four at Cougar Field
Houston will host Opening Weekend for the ninth consecutive season
Cougars are 14-6 all-time during Opening Weekend under Whitting
Cougars have swept the last three Opening Weekend series under Whitting
Stay up to date with all Houston Baseball news and highlights by following us on Twitter @UHCougarBB or on Facebook at /HoustonCougarBaseball. Fans can also follow head coach Todd Whitting @toddwhitting on Twitter.