It’s just one weekend.
It’s hard not to jump to conclusions after the first weekend of the baseball season. But it’s too early – we really don’t know anything yet. And I’d say the same thing if we were 3-0 and scored 30 runs.
There are still 53 regular season games left on this schedule. If the first weekend is enough to pass judgement on a team, then #12 Mississippi State (0-3 this weekend), last year’s #2 LSU (1-2 at home), and next week’s opponent Fullerton (0-3) should all pack it in. But. It’s. Just. One. Weekend.
Struggles At The Plate
Still, there are some concerns about the offense. One of the biggest is the 31 total bases and a .320 slugging percentage. Both are well-off last year’s averages (15.1 total bases & .448 slugging). And the 30 strikeouts … eek. That’s not what you want to see.
Overall, we had too many poor at-bats. Besides Lockhart and Triolo, everyone with 5 ABs or more hit .250 or less this weekend. Some of that is on the hitter. Some of it has to do with the pitching we faced.
UH hitters saw some of the slowest pitched balls we will see all season. I’ve never seen a team with so many guys that fail to break 70 MPH so often. Our players are used to facing 90+ MPH fastballs – they haven’t seen such consistently slow stuff since middle school. I’m not excusing the performance at the plate, though. But the pitching we face the rest of the way will be better – much better – but will also be easier for the guys to hit.
Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself for now.
I really liked Kyle Lovelace behind the plate in game 3. Speaking of 3: we left the bases loaded 3 times on Sunday – all 3 with inning-ending strikeouts. That’s a lot of pressing – and a Holy Cross staff using their off-speed pitches situationally. Coogs ended 6 innings with strikeouts on Sunday.
The two teams combined for just 39 hits – a .199 batting average overall.
The Sunny Side Of Life
There were several bright spots: Lael Lockhart got on base 8 times this weekend – 4 hits and 4 walks. Despite his BA, I like what I see out of Tucker Redden. He’s going to hit the ball well this year.
I was pretty happy for Cooper Coldiron. After starting 3-for-9 in his first 2 games last May, he struggled at the plate the rest of the season. And Friday and Saturday was much of the same. But something clicked Sunday – he was patient, worked some counts, and made good swings.
My 9-year-old godson Jaxon came to the game with me on Sunday. It was his (and his sister’s) first Cougar baseball game. He was a little restless towards the end of a slow, low-scoring game. But when Coldiron hit the homer in the 8th, he got excited. After Cooper walked it off in the 10th, he was ecstatic. And when Cooper signed the foul ball he rushed to get, Jax declared the Cougar shortstop his favorite player ever. Sometimes, late-inning heroics make a lasting impression.
Cougar Pitching Shines
There were 76 total strikeouts this weekend – including 46 by the Cougar pitching staff. 76 of 196 at-bats: 39% of ABs ended in strikeout. There were also 26 walks (but only 4 by Cougar pitching) meaning, a lot of pitches were thrown. Which somewhat explains the 10 hours, 25 minutes of game time.
The 46 strikeouts by the Coogs are a ton but, surprisingly, not a UH record. At least one other time the Cougar pitching staff has thrown even more. In 2002, UH struck out 47 Memphis batters in 27 innings in a weekend. 19 both Friday and Saturday and 9 on Sunday. Records of series strikeouts aren’t kept by most schools so it’s hard to tell if the Memphis weekend is the record for most in a series.
The 6 hits for Holy Cross on Friday was their weekend high. They had 5 each on Saturday and Sunday and the Crusaders only scored 6 runs all weekend. A great first impression by pitching coach Terry Rooney.
The best news of the weekend was the work of the bullpen. 12 innings pitched, 20 strikeouts, and just 1 earned run given up (the result of a mental lapse behind Pulido on Friday). After the earned run scored, the bullpen went 9 innings, giving up 4 hits, one unearned run while striking out 16. Carter Henry made 2 appearances and finished with 3 perfect innings. I’m encouraged about our potential pitching depth.
Overall, 2 wins beats having 2 losses. But there are more questions than answers and will be for several more weeks. This week’s 4 away games will show us a lot about the make-up of this squad. But for now, it’s too early to jump to conclusions.