Sophmore recovers post in starting rotation
When UH right-hander Jared Ray takes the mound against Memphis on Friday, it will be his first start since March 4.
His quest to regain a spot in the starting rotation was far from easy.
Ray, one of the heroes from last year’s squad that won the Conference USA Tournament, began the season as the Cougars’ Saturday starter, but flamed out early and was demoted to the bullpen, where he struggled from the outset. After giving up four runs on four hits without recording an out in an 18-16 loss to Sam Houston State on March 10, Ray was 0-2 with an 15.00 ERA in five appearances (two starts).
Some time after that brutal outing, the hard-tossing sophomore regained his confidence and became one of the most dominant arms in the Cougars’ bullpen.
In seven appearances since the Sam Houston State game, Ray is 1-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 18 1/3 innings. He issued only three walks during that stretch. Most notably, he hasn’t surrendered a run in his last 13 2/3 innings, striking out 15 batters during that period.
‘It was all about the mental approach out there,’ Ray said. ‘I feel as if I’d had it physically since I’ve been here, (but not) mentally. I’ve been working with some people to help me out with that.’
Overall, Ray is 1-2 with a 6.33 ERA, but his ERA looks better when calculated using the Fielding Independent Pitching statistic, which uses the only three factors that the defense can’t affect (home runs, walks and strikeouts). Ray’s FIP ERA is 4.90, and his FIP ERA for the last seven appearances is 2.33.
The Cougars’ bullpen benefitted heavily from Ray’s resurgence. His ability to pitch multiple innings took pressure off closer Chase Dempsay and left-hander Donnie Joseph, who carried most of the load.’
Ray’s longest relief outing came during a 4-3 win against Tulane on March 29, when he allowed only one hit during 5 2/3 shutout innings while striking out seven batters to earn his first win.
‘It’s one of those things where I’ve been taking it one batter at a time,’ he said. ‘I can’t pitch five or six innings if I don’t get the first batter out. It’s just one out at a time – I get one out, get the next guy out, and then get the next guy out. That’s the approach I’ve been taking out there.’
Head coach Rayner Noble had been trying to find a slot in the rotation for Ray after he came around, but right-handers Frank Corolla, Michael Goodnight and Mo Wiley and lefty Wes Musick pitched effectively enough to retain their spots.
This all changed when Corolla, who had pitched decently for much of the season, was roughed up for seven runs in 1 1/3 innings in a 13-8 loss to Southern Miss on Friday. Ray followed Corolla’s disappointing start by tossing four shutout innings of relief in Saturday’s 3-1 loss to Southern Miss, prompting Noble to make the switch.
With the Cougars (15-20, 5-4 C-USA) scuffling along and needing more consistency from their weekend rotation, Ray’s teammates hope that he can continue to provide a much-needed boost.
‘It’s great (to see him back in the rotation),’ catcher Chris Wallace said. ‘I think he’s going to give us a great performance on Friday night and give us a chance to win.’