CLEARWATER, FLA. -- A four-run seventh inning and a 10-strikeout performance by sophomore starter Andrew Lantrip was the difference in Houston Baseball's 7-3 win over USF on Thursday afternoon in Game 2 of the American Athletic Conference Championship at Bright House Field.
With the win, the Cougars sit in the driver's seat as they will have Friday off and await the winner of USF-Memphis, who will meet Friday at 10 a.m. CT. The winner between the Bulls and Tigers will face Houston on Saturday at 9 a.m. CT on the American Digital Network as well as on UHCougars.com/baseradio.
Houston improves to 41-17 on the year after winning its seventh straight game and moves to 2-0 in the league's postseason tournament.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
2 -- Houston has notched back-to-back 40-win seasons, the first time since 1999 and 2000.
4 -- Houston's defense has been steady, committing just three errors in the last 12 games.
9 -- Andrew Lantrip has fanned at least nine hitters in his last six starts.
10+ - Andrew Lantrip has recorded double-digit strikeouts six times this season.
12 -- Ashford Fulmer singled in the seventh to extend on-base streak to 12 straight games.
13 -- Ian Rice walks in the eighth to extend his on-base streak to 13 games.
14 -- Jacob Campbell doubled in the seventh inning to extend his on-base streak to 14 games.
18 -- Houston has won 18 of the last 21 games played this season.
20 -- Kyle Survance singled in the seventh to extend his on-base streak to 20 straight games.
30 -- Kyle Survance upped his stolen base total to 30 on the year.
Lantrip (7.0,5,3,3,3,10) struck out 10 hitters, allowing just three runs on five hits and three walks to improve to 8-3 on the year.
The Livingston, Texas native was able to face the minimum through the first four innings, recording five of his 10 strikeouts during that stretch.
Despite allowing a one-out single and walk in back-to-back plate appearances, Lantrip was able to work out of the fifth-inning jam, by striking out two and relying on catcher Ian Rice to gun down the runner attempting to steal.
It was a scoreless game until the sixth inning when Houston broke open the stalemate with a two-out, two-run double by freshman Corey Julks.
USF responded with a run in the latter half of the inning after two hits and an RBI-fielder's choice, but the Cougars quickly extended their lead to 6-1 on a four-run seventh inning. Houston took advantage of three USF errors and connected on three hits, including an RBI-single by junior Ashford Fulmer and a two-run, two-out double by junior Jacob Campbell. Fulmer went on to score a run on a wild pitch.
The Cougars tacked on another run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Fulmer, scoring freshman Connor Wong -- who opened the frame with a leadoff single.
USF made things interesting in the bottom of the eighth when it loaded the bases with no outs, chasing Lantrip. He handed the ball to freshman Aaron Fletcher (2.0,0,0,0,0,1,3), who was able to retire the three hitters he faced, despite allowing two runs on two sacrifice flies as USF made it a 7-3 game.
Fletcher was able to finish the game, stranding bases loaded to end the game.
Houston tallied seven hits in the game, led by Julks (1x2, 2 BB, 2 RBI, 2B), Campbell (1x5, 2 RBI) and Fulmer (1x2, R, 2 RBI, BB) each with two RBI. Wong paced the team with two hits, while scoring a run and junior Kyle Survance (1x5, R) and junior Chris Iriart (1x3, 2 R) had a hit and combined for three runs scored.
USF starter Ryan Valdes (6.0,3,2,2,4,7) suffered the loss, falling to 5-3 on the year, after allowing two runs on three hits and four walks in 6.0 innings of work.
Head Coach Todd Whitting
On Houston starter Andrew Lantrip's pitching performance
"[Andrew] Lantrip was really good today. He hasn't had his best stuff the last two times out, but he was able to just compete his way through those starts. Today was as good as I have seen him in a long time. I think he just ran out of gas a little at the end with the heat and humidity here. I'm really proud of his effort. He pitched really well."
On the Cougars' balanced offense
"Having a balanced offense is key. They gave us a few there late, but that is what good teams do -- they capitalize on other team's mistakes. We did a few things that allowed them to stay in the game, but the difference was today -- we were able to capitalize and they weren't."
On the pitching staff of late
"I think we have a really good pitching staff, but I don't know if we have a real deep pitching staff. Having another off day to rest our bullpen and give our starter on Saturday one extra day of rest from his last start, I hope, will work to our advantage."
Sophomore Andrew Lantrip
On his outing and ability to pitch deep into games
"I think it comes down to being prepared. `Separations and preparations' is our motto. I prepare every week exactly the same. Today wasn't too bad. I got a little tired at the end, but I felt like it was an overall good day."
On the effort by the offense today
Our offense played well today. Whether it was getting a leadoff hit, moving a guy over on a bunt or stealing a base -- we got it done today. That was overall good baseball."
Houston will await the winner of (4) USF and (5) Memphis, who play on Friday at 10 a.m. CT before returning to the field on Saturday for a 9 a.m. CT matchup between either the Bulls or Tigers.
The game on Saturday at 9 a.m. CT will be available on the American Digital Network.
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