Houston's Lael Lockhart (Kendall Rogers)

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Houston’s Lockhart Silences Potent ECU, Triolo Steps Up

At The Ballpark

HOUSTON — Houston head coach Todd Whitting knew he needed to make some changes if he wants the Cougars to make a strong second half run toward the NCAA postseason.

First, he needed to figure out junior lefthander Lael Lockhart. The talented veteran has had good moments so far this season, but Whitting noticed something strange last weekend against Memphis. In addition to struggling immensely against the Tigers, allowing seven runs in 4.1 innings of work, his velocity was down. So, Whitting tweaked his schedule.

Before this week, when Lockhart wasn’t pitching, he was playing right field. So, earlier this week, Whitting moved Lockhart off the field and put him in pinch hit and designated hitter roles, respectively, in a pair of midweek games.

That move seemed to make a difference, as Lockhart put together a career performance in a 2-0 win over East Carolina, which possesses one of the nation’s premier lineups.

“The one thing you know about Lockhart is that he’s always going to compete. We changed his routine this week to get him a little bit more rest,” Whitting said. “His velocity was down a little bit last week, and it’s been hard for him — being a two-way player. Not only does he bat righthanded, he also hits lefthanded.

“He puts in a lot of work in different areas,” Whitting continued. “We just need to take care of him and make sure he’s ready to roll on Friday nights. He’s ultra-competitive and went right at a very good offensive club.”

East Carolina entered the night red-hot from an offensive standpoint. The Pirates have found their expected groove as of late, so it was somewhat surprising that Lockhart shut them down.

Houston began the game with an error, but after a sacrifice bunt, Lockhart avoided damage in the frame with a pair of groundouts. He proceeded to retire eight straight Pirates hitters before hitting Bryant Packard with two outs in the third inning.

Lockhart worked around another error in the fourth, while the Pirates didn’t record their first hit until there were two outs in the fifth inning. He finished the game with a career high 7 2/3 innings pitched, along with two strikeouts, one walk and four hits allowed.

“The thing about him is that he’s effectively wild in the zone. He never throws the same pitch in the same spot,” Whitting said about Lockhart. “It’s hard to get too grounded on him and get good swings off. They had a lot of unbalanced swings tonight because he was going in and out, up and down with a bunch of different pitches.”

 

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