Saturday, March 3, 2012

Notes, Quotes and Observations from Day One of the Houston College Classic

The great thing about baseball is that, really, you can't predict beforehand how every game is going to go. Take today, for example. I told everyone who asked that the best of the three Friday games would be UT/Rice. Austin Kubitza would be starting for Rice, and he's a fantastic pitcher. Texas has been getting good pitching, but not much offense, so it really should be a good game of fantastic pitching.

Wrong.  UT won an offensive battle of bad pitching by the final score of 11-8.

The best game of the day was actually game one which featured Texas Tech versus Arkansas. Talk about fantastic pitching performances. Arkansas' Ryne Stanek got the win after pitching a dominating seven innings, giving up just six hits and one earned run while walking one and striking out seven on 94 pitches. His counterpart with Texas Tech, Duke von Schamann pitched 7.1 innings, giving up just seven hits while surrendering three earned runs, walking one, and striking out seven. But it didn't matter as the Hogs won 3-1.

And the most dominating pitching performance of the day came in game two which saw the Houston Cougars defeat Tennessee 7-4. Jared Ray started for the Coogs and he excelled once again. And boy did he excel. He pitched seven innings, gave up five hits, one run, walked none, and struck out 10 while throwing 115 pitches. The 10 strikeouts were a career-high for Ray.

In fact, Ray was too good for his own good today, as the strikeouts ran up his pitch count, forcing him to leave early though he was still effective.

Now the observations and quotes:

1. Arkansas scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning when Sam Bates unloaded a monster shot to the MMP right field upper deck. It wasn't just one of those oopsie aluminum bat homers, this was a monster home run.

2. The only other home run of the day came off the bat of Rice's Jeremy Rathjen who drove one into the concourse behind the Crawford Boxes in the ninth inning of Rice's 11-8 loss.

3.  "We just pitched very poorly, there's no question about it," Rice coach Wayne Graham said after the Owls loss. "We had guys who are supposed to be very good pitchers who not only made bad pitches all night, they made bad pitches when they were ahead in the count....You can't pitch that way and expect to win."

4.  As to Kubitza's poor performance tonight -- he lasted just 1.2 innings -- and his poor showing last time out, Graham said: "I think it's a matter -- my guess on it is that -- I told him, you're throwing at the target rather than through the target...He's just trying to place the ball rather than driving the ball through the target. And he didn't have any velocity either. That's proof enough that you're not driving through the target."

5. Rice's Shane Hoelscher was ejected after the loss to the Houston. Hoelscher was called out looking at a third strike to end the game, and he exchanged a few words with the home plate umpire. He then appeared to exchange a few words with UT's catcher, and it looked like it might get nasty. Graham said it appeared that Hoelscher was ejected for arguing with the catcher and not for arguing with the umpire.

"What I couldn't understand is that it seemed he was thrown out because he had words with the Texas catcher," Graham said. "Why are they still there? They won the game, why are they still even there?"

6.  Ford Stainback will play at third base for Rice tomorrow night with Hoelscher missing the game.

7.  "Jared was outstanding," Houston coach Todd Whitting said. "He went out there and set the tone for the whole game for us. That's as good as I've seen Jared Ray."

8. And Ray was outstanding. He struck out the first six batters he faced and had a no-hitter going through the fourth inning. What really makes it enjoyable with Ray is that he's had three shoulder surgeries over the past several years. He's healthy, and in shape.

9. This was the first win for the season for Ray, though he has pitched some outstanding in all three of his starts. But each time, he's left the game down by at least a run. This afternoon he got to pitch with a lead, and he said that was fun.

"That's something that a lot of people don't understand," he said. "When you're a starting pitcher, week to week, it's nice when you can attack the zone and you don't have to worry about giving up one run. It allows you to get early outs in the count, and kind of save yourself for the weeks after. When you have a big lead, you can pitch with the lead, and that's something people don't understand."

10.  And John Cannon is moving into his own as catcher for Houston. He threw out two runners trying to steal, once after he fumbled the ball in the dirt, and still made a perfect throw.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a position player improve as much as John Cannon has, at his position," Whitting said. "He has gone from a guy, who before our staff got here, people used to run all over him...you can't run on John Cannon [now]...That ball in the dirt, when he threw the runner out at second base, that was a big league play."

11. And one final thing, I bitch a lot about how the Astros do things, but if you've never been to the College Classic you're missing some good baseball and a great deal. The Astros do a fantastic job with this event, and strive to get the best college baseball teams in the country for this.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Some Thoughts on Houston's 62-59 Win Over SMU

Just a few quick thoughts on last nights's UH/SMU basketball game from Hofheinz Pavilion...

Good for the Cougars in pulling out the 62-59 win. The game wasn't pretty, and at times SMU didn't look like it could hit the side of the barn if they were literally standing at the side of the barn. Cougars did a decent job of shooting the ball, but they had turnover problems, and the UH defense looked downright awful at times....

Fantastic game from red shirt freshman Joseph Young who finished with a career-high 27 points (making 8 of 13 shots -- 4-7 from three point range), two assists, and four rebounds. He seemed to suffer from confidence issues earlier in the season, especially when trying to play point guard, but since he's been away from point guard, his game has lit up. He can hit the long-range jumper with ease, and has this fantastic ability to penetrate the paint where he can finish with the lay-up, or as several times last night, find a big man to dump the ball off to....

TaShawn Thomas had another impressive game, and is playing a good inside game. Nothing seems to faze him during a game, and he's gaining an ability to make a big play when needed, whether it be rebound, drawing a foul, blocking a shot, or making a bucket.

And Jimmie Jones once again came off the bench to run the offense and provide some spark. And he's a real pest on the defensive end of the ball....

On the down side, Darian Thibodeuax continues to be marred in a huge shooting slump, and Alandise Harris seemed to be missing last night, even when he was supposedly on the floor.  And the point guard play is still a big issue....

The Coogs are only 13-14 (5-9) this season, but there are some actual signs for hope emerging, and if the recruiting class for next season is as good as it's supposed to be, then the Cougars might end up becoming a force in their last season in C-USA.

P.S.: And one final note, the officiating in C-USA is beyond horrendous.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Coogs Sleepwalk Through 6-1 Loss to Bobcats

It was a chilly, dreary day at Cougar Field. One of those days you just want to stay in bed and sleep. And it's obvious, now that this afternoon's baseball game is over, that the Houston Cougars stayed in bed and slept throughout this day instead of showing up at the ballpark.

The Cougars (4-2) faced off against Texas State (3-3) in the second game of a three game series today. And the Bobcats showed up while the Cougars stayed away. The final score of 6-1 doesn't look as bad as the game was because the Bobcats were in control the entire game.

Surprisingly, the Cougars got 10 hits for the game. But they stranded nine runners, had one runner get thrown out at second when a batter failed to get a sacrifice down, and lost three other base runners to stupid mistakes -- mistakes that grew out of the Cougars trying to be aggressive on the bases and force some action, but instead resulted in runners getting thrown out at various bases.

"We're trying to do things to be aggressive," head coach Todd Whitting said, "but we're not executing.  Therefore it looks like we're making dumb mistakes when we're just not executing. We get base runners on. Our game is about applying pressure to the other team. But you have to execute. When you call a hit-and-run, it doesn't work if you hit a foul. When you call a bunt it doesn't work if you don't bunt it fair, or don't get it down."

And that was the day for the Cougars. They couldn't execute. And when the Cougars don't execute on offense, they're not going to win, no matter how good the pitching.

Jordan Lewis didn't have the best of days on the mound for the Cougars, lasting just four innings and giving up three runs in his final inning. That fourth inning started with Texas State's Casey Kalenkosky homering -- his second homer in two days, both coming in the fourth inning. And that was all Texas State needed.

The final game of the series is tomorrow, with the first pitch scheduled for 1:00.

P.S.: And wouldn't you know it, now that the game's over, the sun is actually beginning to peek through the clouds.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Coogs Declaw Bobcats, Win Thriller 2-1

The Houston Cougars faced off against the Texas State Bobcats at Cougar Field tonight. It was a beautiful night for baseball, and the fans in attendance were treated to a thriller as the Cougars won 2-1, scoring in the seventh and nine innings.

Jared Ray got the start for the Cougars, and he pitched a beauty of a game, going seven innings and giving up just two hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. One of the hits was a huge mistake though as a bad pitch from Ray ended up flying over the right field fence off of the bat of Casey Kalenkosky in the fourth inning.  But Ray (0-0, 1.50) and Jordan Mannisto, who got the win while pitching the final two innings, shut down the Bobcats the rest of the way.

"It's not my job to score runs," Ray said.  My job is to keep them from scoring runs....I gave up that cheap bomb, it was a bad pitch really. He took advantage of it. I just tried to focus on what my job was, and that was to keep them from scoring runs and keep us in the game."

And keep them in the game he did because Texas State's Colton Turner was dealing just as much from the mound as Ray. Turner pitched six innings of shutout ball while giving up just four hits, walking three, and striking out 12 batters on 118 pitches.

Cougars coach Todd Whitting initially didn't think his team was doing much against Turner, but then he took a look at the pitch count and discovered just how much his batters were making Turner work, especially the lead-off batter Landon Appling and the two hitter Jake Runte. Appling was 2-for-3, walked twice, and scored both runs, the winning run coming when clean-up hitter Jacob Lueneberg was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth with Appling standing on third. He scored the first run in the seventh inning when Runte, who was 3-for-4 -- including two singles, two walks, and a fielders choice -- doubled in Appling in the seventh.

"We actually ran his pitch count up to a 100 pitches in five innings [actually 106]," Whitting said. "I didn't think we were doign that well. But we were actually making him throw pitches, even though he was throwing strike one. So the result wasn't very good, but the process was pretty good because we were able to get him out of the game in time to get to their relievers in there."

The primary problem for the Cougars, as it has been the past several seasons, was hitting with runners on base and hitting with two outs. The Cougars stranded nine batters, and had multiple runners in scoring position with two outs, but had trouble getting the key hit. But when it mattered, in the seventh and ninth innings, the Cougars were able to get that key out two out hit -- Runte's RBI double was with two outs and there were two outs when Lueneberg was hit by the pitch.

With the win, the Cougars move to 4-1 on the season, and they face Texas State (2-3) again tomorrow afternoon at 2:00 and Sunday afternoon at 1:00.

MISCELLANEOUS NOTES:

Todd Whitting has moved Chase Jensen to second base and moved Jake Runte from second to shortstop. This was done because Jensen had surgery on his throwing arm in the off-season and Whitting doesn't want him stressing the arm with the longer throw from short. He also wants to keep Jensen's bat in the lineup, and since Runte can play short, and can play a good shortstop, this seemed like the best solution.

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The Cougar win tonight was the first time they've defeated Texas State since April 9, 2008, when the Cougars won 15-9. Texas State had won the last six games.

Thoughts on Guy V. Lewis

The Basketball Hall of Fame finalists were announced today. And once again, former UH head coach and basketball innovator Guy V. Lewis didn't make the cut. It was announced that Phil Knight of Nike had purchased himself an induction -- sarcasm font -- and that among the finalists are Reggie Miller (not near as good as his sister was at the game), Rick Pitino who flopped in the pros, Don Nelson, Maurice Cheeks, Ralph Sampson, and Dick Motta, among others.

But no Guy V. Lewis.

Guy V. Lewis was the first coach in the South to integrate a major university. The guy who had the idea of playing a basketball game in a domed stadium on national television. The coach of five Final Four teams. The coach of some of the greatest players to ever play in the NBA.

I don't get it. I really don't. If anybody deserves this honor, deserves to be enshrined in the Basketball of Hall of Fame, it's Guy V. Lewis. Without him, the modern game of college of basketball doesn't exist.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Coogs Stun Blue Hens, Win On Opening Day


A dense mist settled over Cougar Field during the last half of this afternoon's game between the Houston Cougars and the Delaware Blue Hens. It was a mist that perfectly exemplified the Coogs game up until that moment, and by the middle of the eighth inning, the Cougars were trailing 5-0 in a game they looked destined to lose.

Then Taylor White led off with a double.  Landon Appling thought he got hit by a pitch, but didn't.  And thought he struck out, it appeared to light a fire under the Coogs.  Before the inning was over the Cougars were leading 7-5 and had scored a run in about every manner possible but for the home run.  The seventh run crossed the base from second base on a suicide squeeze -- yes, that's right, a suicide squeeze.

"It was really frustrating the first part of the game," close Mo Wiley said of the first two-thirds of the game.  "Things just weren’t going our way."

But when things did start going the UH way, they went the UH way.

"We were sleep walking through the first seven innings," head coach Todd Whitting said.  "We weren’t making any adjustments at the plate.  We had hit two balls on the ground, on a wet day on a wet field in seven innings.  I think [Appling getting hit and the ump not giving us the base] got us jump started a little bit.  It kind of woke up our dugout."

It's only one game.  One game where the Coogs came back to score seven runs in the bottom of the eighth to get the 7-5 win.  But it was Opening Day.  And a win on Opening Day is always a beautiful thing, even on a miserable rainy day like today.

The Cougars still have one more game to play tonight, and wow, does it look a whole lot nicer outside.

Rainy Days and Baseball

The Cougars opened up the baseball season today with a 2:00 game against the Delaware Blue Hens. This was the first game of a doubleheader, with the second game set for a 6:15 start.  This game would have been played last night, expect that it was rained out.

As for today, well the field was wet, there were lots of puddles everywhere, and a nice misty fog/drizzle settled over the field for the last half of the game.  The story will come later, but here are some photos of what it looked like today.






Friday, February 17, 2012

Positive Notes Re The Astros

Here's my post for the Houston Press today, in which I list 25 positive things about the Astros for this season.

Hissy Fits Over A Jersey

The Astros are going to be wearing Colt 45s jerseys on Friday nights this upcoming season, but fans are throwing a hissy fit because the jersey's not going to incorporate the Colt 45 pistol of the original jersey.  And I ask, seriously?  People are throwing a hissy fit over a jersey?  Really?

Where were the hissy fits when Drayton McLane signed Carlos Lee?  Or Woody Williams?  Or traded for Jason Jennings?  Or signed Kaz Matsui?

Seriously, people, the Astros are one of the worst team in the majors.  Instead of throwing hissy fits about there not being a gun on the jersey, how about being pissed off at the poor state of the farm system left the new management team by Tim Purpura, Tal Smith, Ed Wade, and Drayton McLane.

Then again, Astros fans aren't exactly known for being the brightest of bulbs because most of them still think McLane was a better owner than John McMullen.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Positive Astros Note of the Day (Thursday)

I've been accused in the past of being kind of negative when it comes to the Astros. So to make up for it, I've decided to toss out a few positive notes for the next several days as the team heads into spring training.


So...

They don't have to worry about pitching to Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder this season.