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Wednesday, October 4, 2023


Cougars look to squeeze Minute Maid for wins

Sophomore righthander Michael Goodnight will take the mound for UH against Texas at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. After two starts, Goodnight is 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA and a team-leading 13 strikeouts. Justin Flores/The Daily Cougar

The Cougars have gotten off to a disconcerting 2-5 start, with their only two wins coming against a 2-4 Santa Clara team.

The team will have the chance to put its early-season woes behind itself when it participates in the 10th annual Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park.

UH will compete in a round-robin style atmosphere when it goes toe to toe with Missouri, Texas and Texas Tech. Other teams competing in the classic are Rice and TCU.

UH head coach Rayner Noble said it’s a great opportunity to put the program on a different stage in a tough atmosphere.

“It’s a great event. It helps with our recruiting,” Noble said. “It’s just a quality event. Anytime you can play in a big-league venue against quality teams, you can’t ask for more.”

While the Houston College Classic is a great opportunity for the program, one thing the Cougars can’t ignore is their struggles on the mound.

UH has done an adequate job on offense, hitting .305 as a team, but its team ERA is 5.81. The Cougars’ entire pitching staff gives up too many runs, and one reason for that is a lack of durability, along with ineffectiveness among the starters.

Michael Goodnight has been UH’s best starter so far, but he’s only gone 4 2/3 and five innings in his two starts with an ERA of 6.52. Despite a 3.38 ERA, lefty Ty Stuckey has gone only 5 1/3 innings in two starts. Eric Brooks has gone only 4 2/3 innings in two starts and has an ERA of 17.36. Of the Cougars’ 10 pitchers who have gone at least three innings with two appearances, four have ERAs below 4.00. The other six don’t have an ERA below 6.00.

“The starting pitching is going to change a tremendous amount,” Noble said. “(The) guys have been given their opportunities to be starting pitchers, and they’ve been poor, so we’re just going to start making some adjustments.

“I’m going to try and probably see if (Chase) Dempsay can be ready for Missouri (today), and I’ll probably put Goodnight against Texas (on Saturday), and then I might have a revelation about who’s pitching on Sunday. Our starting pitching has been brutal.”

The other problem for the Cougars has been wildness, particularly walks and hit batsmen.

The Cougars have walked 44 batters compared to 24 drawn. Add that to 64 hits allowed in 62 innings pitched, and that’s a WHIP of 1.74, well below average. The Cougars have also hit 14 batters, producing an on-base-against of .419.

“We’ve got to get a ton better on the mound if we’re going to have a chance, and right now we’re not very good on the mound,” Noble said.

The Cougars’ first game in the Houston College Classic will be at 3:30 p.m. today against Missouri. This is the first appearance in the Classic for the Tigers (4-2).

The Cougars face No. 2 Texas at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. Texas is 7-8 in the Classic in five appearances.

The Longhorns (6-2) lost two out of three at home against New Mexico and swept Stanford, while beating Dallas Baptist and Texas-Pan American.

The Cougars’ finale will be against Texas Tech at 2:30 p.m. Sunday. This is Texas Tech’s fifth appearance in the Classic, where it is 5-10 all time.The Red Raiders (7-2) lost to Washington State twice and defeated Jacksonville State, Michigan and Bethune-Cookman twice and Dallas Baptist once.

Rice has the best record of the bunch with a 20-7 mark in all nine appearances, and TCU is 5-4 in five appearances. UH has competed each year and has a 10-17 record.

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