For the fourth time in five tries this season, UConn fell to No. 25 Houston. This time, the Cougars’ 13-3 semifinal win knocked the Huskies out of the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
UConn (33-25) needed to beat Houston twice on Saturday for a chance to play in the championship game and defend last year’s AAC Tournament Championship. But the Cougars used five-run innings in the fifth and the ninth to make sure they didn’t have to play game two.
Houston (39-19) starter Trey Cumbie held UConn scoreless in his seven innings of work, allowing just two hits and one walk and striking out seven Huskies. The American Athletic Conference Co-Pitcher of the Year was impressive out of the gate, retiring the first 11 batters he faced until Willy Yahn reached on an error in the fourth inning.
The Huskies managed to score three runs on four hits in the ninth inning to avoid being shutout. UConn had seven hits in the game, coming from seven different players.
UConn went with Mason Feole on the mound and the freshman seemed to be up for the challenge of his first AAC Tournament action being an elimination game. Feole matched Cumbie through three innings, not allowing a hit and performing well in a high-pressure game.
Feole would allow an unearned run in the fourth inning on an error from Aaron Hill, but the freshman would then run into trouble in the fifth. Two singles, a hit batter and a double led to Feole being pulled from the game and what would turn into a five-run inning for the Cougars.
UConn would turn to their bullpen after 4.1 innings from Feole, allowing five runs (four earned) on four hits, two walks and two hit batters. With the Huskies down 6-0 and playing their fourth game in as many days, head coach Jim Penders turned to some inexperienced pitchers in relief and the Cougars put the game away.
With the AAC Tournament Championship and automatic bid no longer in play, the Huskies will now have to be wait and see if they are awarded an at-large bid to get into the NCAA Tournament.
UConn’s résumé is relatively strong, finishing in third place in the fourth-strongest conference in the country, according to RPI. The Huskies entered Saturday’s game ranked No. 37 in RPI, finishing the season with a 33-25 record, including 14-10 in AAC play. Many projections have UConn getting the at-large bid, but conference tournaments are still finishing up and there are many automatic bids to be given.
The Huskies will find out whether they made the field of 64 teams on Monday at noon on ESPN2. The NCAA Selection Show will also reveal where the Huskies will play next weekend, if they were to make the Tournament.
Josh Buser is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.