ORLANDO, Fla. -- Big pitches and big swings by the Cougars in clutch situations lifted No. 15 Houston Baseball to a 7-5 win over No. 6 UCF in Orlando, Fla. to even the weekend series Saturday in American Athletic Conference play.
The win improved Houston's overall record to 19-8, while UCF fell to 21-7. Both teams now sit at 1-1 in conference play, heading into the rubber game on Sunday, set for Noon CT.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
2 -- Saturday marked the second straight game Houston had multiple homeruns in the contest (Iriart, Fulmer).
3 -- Kyle Dowdy held the nation's leading offense to just one run through 7.0 innings for his third win of the year.
4 -- Four Cougars notched a multi-hit game, led by Josh Vidales with three hits.
5 -- The Houston pitching staff held UCF to just five runs -- the first time since March 7 vs. Columbia.
7 -- Freshman reliever Seth Romero struck out seven in just 2.0 innings of work (struck out the side in both).
10 -- Kyle Survance drew a 1-out walk in the ninth to extend his on-base streak to 10 straight games.
12 -- Chris Iriart homers and now rides a 12-game on-base streak.
13 -- Connor Wong has reached base in 13 straight games as a true freshman led off the fifth with a single.
20 -- As a team, Houston now has 20 homeruns on the year -- four coming in this series alone. The Cougars only had 17 total in 2014.
30 -- Josh Vidales has reached base in 30 straight games, dating back to 2014.
Led by a stellar pitching performance from junior starter Kyle Dowdy (7.0,7,3,1,3,3) and playing errorless baseball, Houston piggybacked his effort and scored seven earned runs against the Knights en route to the win.
Dowdy held the nation's leading offense to just one run (a solo homerun in the fifth), while scattering seven hits in 7.0 complete innings, while walking three and striking out three to improve to 3-0 on the year.
He handed the ball over to freshman Seth Romero (2.0,1,2,0,0,7) -- who was literally untouchable as the southpaw struck out seven in 2.0 innings of work. He struck out the side in both the eighth and ninth (which also included a fourth strikeout as the runner reached on a passed ball).
Romero became the first Cougar to strike out the side in back-to-back innings since Mo Wiley accomplished that feat on April 20, 2012 vs. Marshall.
Houston's offense was steady following the fifth inning as it scored in four of the final five innings to cap the win. The Cougars out hit UCF, 10-8 and four Cougars notched a multi-hit game, led by junior Josh Vidales -- who was 3-for-5 with two runs -- while extending his on-base streak to 30 consecutive games.
Homeruns once again made a difference in the winning team's effort as the Cougars drove in three of its seven runs on two homeruns hit by junior Chris Iriart -- who was 2-for-4 with his two-run homerun -- his eighth long ball of the year, while junior Ashford Fulmer added to the power mix -- going 1-for-1 with his solo homerun - the first of the year.
Freshman Connor Wong went 2-for-4 with a run scored and two huge RBI in the eighth inning, which lifted Houston to its 6-1 lead. Junior Robert Grilli, off the bench, had a 2-for-2 day -- notching his first hits as a Cougar -- and helping Houston to first run of the game in the fifth.
A scoreless game was played until the fifth when Houston struck first with a run after Wong opened the frame with a leadoff single, moved to second on a pinch hit bunt single by Grilli -- his first hit as a Cougar. The duo advanced another base on a perfect sacrifice bunt by freshman Corey Julks and Wong scored on an RBI-suicide squeeze from Taylor.
Ahead 1-0, Dowdy was in control, having held the potent UCF offense scoreless through 4.1 innings, but a solo homerun that just cleared the short fence in right field by leadoff hitter Dylan Moore tied the game at 1-1 in the fifth.
Houston responded in the sixth when Vidales opened the frame with his second hit of the game -- a leadoff single. Iriart would then blast his eighth homerun of the year for a two-run long ball, putting Houston ahead 3-1.
Dowdy continued to work a strong outing late as he retired the Knights in order in the seventh, sending the Cougars back to bat where they strung together two hits and took advantage of an error and a wild pitch. Vidales singled and took second on a fielding error by UCF all with one out in the frame.
With two outs, Rice and Montemayor drew back-to-back walks to load the bases for Wong. Vidales would score on a wild pitch as Rice and Montemayor moved up one more base. With a 2-2 count, Wong drove a ball into right center, plating two to put the Cougars ahead 6-1 in the eighth.
UCF would open the latter half of the inning with a leadoff double and follow up with a single to put runners at the corners with no outs. Romero took over for Dowdy and fanned the first hitter he faced. A second strikeout came, but the hitter reached on a passed ball. With just one out, UCF made it 6-2 on a sacrifice fly -- which should have been the third of the inning.
Romero hit the next Knight hitter to reload the bases and then UCF would make it a one-run game on a bases-clearing double. A 6-5 game with a runner at second and two outs in the eighth, Romero got leadoff hitter Moore looking at the final strike as the freshman struck out the side to escape the inning with Houston still holding the lead.
Fulmer, in his first at-bat of the game, after entering into centefield as a defensive replacement, would drive the 0-1 pitch he saw over the left center wall, giving Houston a two-run lead at 7-5 heading into the bottom of the ninth.
UCF would continue make noise as another strikeout swinging victim reached due to an errant pitch. Romero struck out the next hitter and then hit the following batter. With runners at first and second with two outs, Romero would find a way out of it, striking out the final two and stranding two Knights on the bases.
UCF starter Robby Howell (7.0,7,3,3,1,4) suffered the loss, falling to 4-2 on the year.
Head Coach Todd Whitting
"That was a hard-fought win for us. UCF is a very good offensive team and were never out of the game, even being down by five runs. We just fought hard. We scored a few early and then it got a bit dicey as we had a few things go wrong there in the eighth inning. Pretty resilient bunch as they keep playing and I'm really proud of [Seth] Romero for coming in in that tough situation and closing it out."
Houston and UCF will wrap up it series in Orlando with a Noon CT start on Sunday.
With 31 home games set for 2015 at Cougar Field and a Top 10 nationally-ranked 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.
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.
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.