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Thursday, September 28, 2023


Baseball Update: Despite season delays, Noble excited by healthy pitching staff

A quick glance at this season’s schedule is sure to bring a grumble from UH baseball head coach Rayner Noble.

Because of changes made by the NCAA to important baseball dates, the Cougars and other Division I teams can’t practice until Feb. 1. The NCAA also pushed the start of the season back to Feb. 22, which should help make things easier on teams from cold-weather climates.

The downside is that teams now have less time to squeeze in 56 regular-season games. As a result, teams will have to adjust to the changes by playing as many as two midweek games in addition to three games on the weekend.

The NCAA’s ruling won’t get any support from Noble, who prefers that the College World Series had been moved back to loosen up the schedules.

"I don’t like (the change)," said Noble, who enters his 14th season as Cougars’ head coach. "It’s really pressing on the kids. You’re taxing the pitching staff."

These changes would have been devastating for the Cougars last season, whom struggled with a young and inexperienced pitching staff en route to a 28-28 finish. Last season’s starting rotation was three-fourths freshmen, including one redshirt freshman.

However, starting pitching could be a Cougar strong point this season with those young arms having some experience under their belts and a few others returning from injuries.

The returning ringleader is redshirt sophomore left-hander Wes Musick. He was the Cougars’ top pitcher last season, leading the team in ERA (3.00), strikeouts (73) and innings pitched (93) and tying for the lead in wins (six).

Sophomores Donnie Joseph and John Touchton were thrown into the fire last season and struggled. They each appeared in 18 games and logged 50-plus innings, but posted ERAs over 6.00.

Noble thinks last season’s experience will pay dividends for all three.

"They’re much further down the road because of what they did last year and the innings they logged," he said.

The team also expects to have the services of junior right-handers Ricky Hargrove and Dereck Cloeren, who were mostly inactive last season with shoulder injuries and had to undergo surgery.

Noble anticipates that Hargrove and Cloeren will need an extra month to six weeks before they’ll be ready to pitch, but he thinks the staff will be fine despite their absences.

"We have some healthy arms on the pitching staff," Noble said. "There are probably six or seven guys, discounting Cloeren and Hargrove, who can do things for us."

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