Cougar baseball seeks first tournament in five years


The lineup remains largely intact from 2022

The 2023 baseball season begins Friday when the Houston Cougars host Cal for three games. The Cougars had a solid season last year (37-24, 13-11 AAC), and head coach Todd Whitting is excited to keep that momentum moving.

There will be plenty of familiar faces in the lineup, with eight of the top nine in plate appearances returning, but with an almost entirely new pitching staff. GoCoogs had a chance to chat with Coach Whitting about the upcoming season, his reflections on the American Athletic Conference, and what to look forward to in the Big 12 next season.

The Coogs are coming off something of a turnaround from last season. In 2021, UH finished 19-34 overall, with one of the worst conference records in school history (7-21). But last year, the Cougars finished 37-24, coming up a game short of an NCAA Tournament berth, having lost in the conference championship game.

Houston finished 2022 as the #2 team nationally in fielding percentage at .984.

“Last year, I just think we had a lot of experience,” Coach Whitting said. “The new coaching staff had done a tremendous job of changing a few things within their position-specific areas. But the culture has remained the same, the work ethic has remained the same, and the expectation level hasn’t changed at all.”

The Cougar lineup will have few changes this season, with seven out of the nine starters returning. The team hit .285 last season, but the eight starters combined to hit .295. A few familiar faces coming back include Ian McMillan, who hit .302 with ten home runs last season, and star catcher Anthony Tulimero coming off a .326 season. In addition, outfielder Brandon Uhse had nine homers last season and hit a grand slam and a three-run bomb in this year’s annual Fan Appreciation scrimmage.

Whitting isn’t holding back on his expectations of this offense, either. “On paper, it looks to be a pretty potent offense, possibly one of the better ones in the country. Definitely one of the better ones we’ve had, going off what they did last season.”

Cougar baseball gear // Photo by Mario Puente

Whitting called this one of the deepest pitching groups that he’s ever had at UH, but only one returner started more than four games last year (Kyle Lacalameto). A few of the names that Whitting highlighted include sophomore Graysen Drezek, junior Owen Woodward, and freshman Ryan Dollar, who he expects to be a midweek or even weekend starter.

Houston has a more challenging schedule in 2023. After the opening weekend with the Cal Bears, they travel to Corpus Christi for the Kleberg Bank College Classic at Whataburger Field. The Coogs will play Utah, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, and Incarnate Word. The highlight of the schedule will be in week four when national runner-up Oklahoma comes to town, followed by a Tuesday home game against Texas A&M.

The Coogs will play eight games against Houston-area teams: the annual Silver Glove with Rice (3 games), the Sanders Cup against Sam Houston State (3 games), and home games vs. TSU and Lance Berkman’s Houston Christian squad. The final game against Rice will again be at Constellation Field in Sugarland.

As Houston gears up to leave the AAC, Whitting has fond memories of the league. “To play in a league that’s as competitive as the American Athletic Conference and win five trophies while we were in there was a tremendous accomplishment of the program.”

Other cherished memories during his tenure include hosting the 2015 and 2017 regionals and beating future Astros star Alex Bregman and the 2015 LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge to advance to the Super Regionals. Whitting says he is looking forward to renewing old rivalries in the Big 12 with teams like Baylor, TCU, and Texas Tech.

First pitch on Friday, February 17th, against Cal is at 6:30 at Darryl and Lori Schroeder Park.


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