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Previewing The 2018 Cougar Baseball Team

Connor Hollis

By most accounts, including the conference’s official projection, the 2018 Cougar baseball team is projected to win the American once again. To do so, the program must navigate a solid schedule and find 2-3 dependable arms behind All-American Trey Cumbie.

There are 6 returning starters from the 2017 season. But for much of the year, UH had too many dead outs in the lineup in 2017 We need veterans to step up to build a consistent lineup. I expect centerfielder Grayson Padgett to be the leader on the field and at the plate.

Junior Joe Davis is just 9 home runs shy of the all-time UH record (31, Pat Hewes). And Connor Hollis returns for his 17th season (ok, fine. 5th season) and has been solid at second base for years and years and years.

Junior Joe Davis is just 9 home runs shy of the all-time UH record.

JUCO catcher Tucker Redden, Jr. (Angelina) takes over for Connor Wong behind the plate. Redden is a pretty good hitter and should be ready to go at this level. Two freshmen (LF Drew Minter – Clear Springs, DH Ron Brown – Bellaire) will probably start on opening day, too. Brown is a 6’3″, 258-pound giant that I can’t wait to see.

Pitching Staff

On the mound, Houston will give the ball to Cumbie on Friday nights. Trey is fresh off of AAC Pitcher of the Year honors (10-2, 2.04 ERA) and his career 1.77 ERA is the lowest in UH history. Cumbie is a different sort of ace than those we’ve had in the past but he is quite effective. Look for him to out-think opponents and not overpower them.

Trey Cumbie
Trey Cumbie

New pitching coach Terry Rooney is going with two lefty starters then a righty to begin the season. LHP Aaron Fletcher will make his first career start on Saturday while JUCO RHP Ryan Randel (Orange Coast College) will start Sunday. Fletcher has battled injuries and has shed some weight for 2018. He was named to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers “Stopper of the Year Preseason Watch List” but a day later, was named a starter. Oops.

Brayson Hurdsman
Brayson Hurdsman

Perhaps as important as front-line starters, a rotation needs depth. Injuries and important mid-week games make the 4th guy on a staff one of the most important. I believe Carter Henry will get the start on Tuesday at SHSU but others will get their shot as the year goes on. Look for Brayson Hurdsman, Joey Pulido, and Fred Villarreal to potentially make starts.

I’m anxious to see how the team stacks up on the mound compared to the very good staffs Frank Anderson put together the last few years.

This season’s Cougar baseball team has talent, probably the most in a pretty good league. But talent isn’t enough in a 60+ game season.

Here are 5 things I’m looking for this season:

  1. Joe Davis returns to his freshman form. His slugging dropped 126 points last year. This is his draft-eligible year and I expect big things.
  2. Aaron Fletcher eats up innings. Having a second starter that can go 7+ gives the coaching staff plenty of options.
  3. Lael Lockhart starts to hit for a little power and becomes a consistent threat at the plate.
  4. Starters get us 25 innings a week (in a four-game week). If they can average 26-27, we could be very dangerous.
  5. A player comes out of nowhere to help lead the Coogs to a regional. Three years ago, it was Chris Iriart. Last year, it was All-American Jake Scheiner. This year, I’m looking to Tucker Redden to be that guy.

We won’t know til April 1st or so what kind of team we have. Unlike most years, the most interesting part of the schedule might be mid-week. 10 weekday games against top-50 teams plus an odd two-game stop at Southeastern Louisiana before the conference tournament. Those 12 games can go a long way to putting this team in position to host again.

GoCoogs.com Baseball Preview:

Monday: Baseball Sees Big Changes Ahead of 2018 Season
Tuesday: A Look Back At The 2017 Baseball Season
Wednesday: Analyzing The 2018 Baseball Schedule
Thursday: Previewing The 2018 Cougar Baseball Team
Friday: It’s Opening Day! Houston vs. Holy Cross

 
 

GoCoogs.com Baseball Preview:

Monday: Baseball Sees Big Changes Ahead of 2018 Season
Tuesday: A Look Back At The 2017 Baseball Season
Wednesday: Analyzing The 2018 Baseball Schedule
Thursday: Previewing The 2018 Cougar Baseball Team
Friday: It’s Opening Day! Houston vs. Holy Cross

I’m a dashing real estate agent and entrepreneur. I’m also one of the most disliked UH fans on the Internet but I’m quite lovable. My professional website: SMHRyan.com

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