On Tuesday night, Schroeder Park was brimming with fans of two Texas baseball programs, both of which were hoping to see a top 15 matchup of heavyweights. Red and maroon filled the stands, and two schools that are only 100 miles apart battled it out, with the away team, the Texas A & M Aggies, coming away with the victory in front of a near sold out crowd, dropping the Cougars to 16-8 and improving themselves to 22-3.
The Houston Cougars struggled against the #1 ranked team in the nation, who looked the part. The struggles stared early. John King got the start on the mound for Houston. He is usually the Sunday starter, but due to the strange Thursday start to the preceding series against George Washington, he didn’t make an appearance then, and instead pitched in this midweek matchup.
But he quickly allowed four runs in the top of the first inning. Granted, two errors were committed, but he also allowed three hits and a two run home run from Nick Banks.
While this four run lead wasn’t exactly insurmountable, the bottom of the first, and the top of the order, didn’t instill a sense of confidence. A & M pitcher, Corbin Martin, threw a 1-2-3 inning against Houston’s best hitters.
A sense of hope did return in the bottom of the second, when the Cougars cut their opponents lead in half. Justin Montemayer and Corey Julks both singled to get on base. A wild pitch scored Montemayer. Julks scored on a Connor Hollis bunt that led to a fielding error on the pitcher.
John King also began to appear more comfortable. After his rough start, he threw three scoreless innings. After four it was a relatively close game, at 4-2.
But King couldn’t sustain this momentum. He allowed a run in the top of the fifth and was replaced by Bubba Maxwell in the following inning. Maxwell, however, allowed a run in the top of the seventh and was replaced by Trey Cumbie after only two innings. Cumbie similarly struggled. But the run he eventually allowed was on a Wong throwing error.
Nathan Jackson then took over on mound in the ninth. He, however, walked two straight batters, and usually high achieving relief pitcher Nick Hernandez came in to minimize the damage, which he did successfully. He got out of the inning without allowing the Aggies to inflict any more damage. But they led 7-2 by this point.
The Cougars had one more chance in the bottom of the ninth. And they made it interesting, loading the bases with Michael Pyeatt at the plate. But he grounded out to end the game.
Houston left nine players on base and committed three errors. There is a very slim margin of error when playing against teams of A & M’s caliber, and the Cougars didn’t do enough to stay out of trouble. They went through five pitchers and most of them struggled to at least some degree. The A & M pitching, on the other hand, did what it had to do to win the game. While they put out six pitchers on the mound throughout the game, they combined for only two walks, and after the second inning, allowed no runs.
While the Cougars did get on base, they left nine stranded. This wasn’t enough, especially considering they trailed the entire game. Leading hitter, Joe Davis had only one hit. No other Cougar had more than one hit, either.
While the 7-2 final score appears disconcerting, one must remember that A& M is the top ranked team in the nation. Also, this midweek matchup features neither Houston ace, Andrew Lantrip or Seth Romero, who start on Friday and Saturday, respectively. While this may speak to a lack of bullpen depth, it could also just be indicative a team that is still growing. Remember, they started the season 4-5, and despite this loss, have won 12 of their last 15. And they will likely win many more down the line, especially in weekend series when they have Lantip and Romero pitching.
It would have been nice to beat a top ranked Aggie team, but the sky is not yet falling, and the Cougars are still a good team going forward.