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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Baseball

Head coach looks forward


Head coach Todd Whitting will have the majority of this year’s team back for his second season in 2012, minus outfielder Caleb Ramsey who was drafted by the Washington Nationals.  | File Photo/The Daily Cougar

Head coach Todd Whitting will have the majority of this year’s team back for his second season in 2012, minus outfielder Caleb Ramsey who was drafted by the Washington Nationals. | File Photo/The Daily Cougar

One play away, one run away, one win away was the story of the 2011 season.

After beginning the year with four consecutive victories, the Cougars had a rollercoaster season riding through the highs of winning streaks and working their way through the doldrums of losing skids.

Finally, after posting a 27-32 overall record and a 12-12 Conference USA record, the Cougars reached the C-USA tournament as the No. 6 seed.

The Cougars started the tournament with an 8-5 win over East Carolina. The second game was a wild 7-6 win that lasted 14 innings, guaranteeing the Cougars a spot in the championship game.

They would face none other than crosstown rival Rice. An at-large bid to the NCAA tournament was on the line for the Cougars, as the Owls had already automatically qualified.

UH had a three-run lead in the fourth inning, but Rice responded with two runs in the fifth inning and another in the sixth to tie it up. They eventually lost to the Owls 4-3 in extra innings, marking the sixth time they fell to the Owls this season.

“It was a crushing defeat for the ball club,” Head coach Todd Whitting said. “I just feel bad for the kids and the program, because we weren’t able to finish that game off. I thought that we played our best game of the year against Rice on that day.

“What caused us to lose the game were the things that we had been doing to lose games all year, which is not playing good defense. At the end of the day, I can’t fault the team’s effort. I thought that the game was one of the most competitive that we had played all year. The team left everything they had on the field.”

Despite the devastating loss, Whitting said that he thinks the Cougars did a solid job this season, but he would not call it a success.

“It’s not a success because we didn’t reach our goal to make it to the NCAA tournament,” Whitting said. “But all the things that surround the team like fundraising, ticket sales, marketing, academics, recruiting and facility improvements I would give it an A+ at this point.

“I thought the season went OK. We finished fourth for Conference USA, which we were picked seventh in the preseason. We lost eight games in the other team’s last at-bat. So, if a few of those games go in another direction, our RPI would have been good enough to be an at-large team if we would’ve got over .500.”

Seeking consistency

In his first year at the helm, Whitting said the program is heading in the right direction and that this season gives him reason to be optimistic looking toward the future.

“What I am trying to build here is a winning program, not a winning team,” Whitting said. “Winning teams win some years and lose some years. A winning program sustains a high level of winning year in and year out. We are trying to build consistency.”

Attracting top talent essential

If the Cougars are to be successful in the years to come, it hinges on the ability to recruit top talent to the University. Whitting has a reputation of being top-notch recruiter, having helped assemble some of the top signing classes while at Texas Christian. With improving academics, Whitting said UH is beginning to become a destination school for prospective athletes.

“We are generating a great atmosphere at this point,” he said. “All of the external things with the ballclub like recruiting are going amazingly well. There is a lot of great buzz about the program.

“The perception of the program is outstanding. There are a lot of kids that want to come to the University of Houston. You have a Tier-1 education, you play in a warm weather environment and you play in a great league. The administration is great, all the way from Dr. Khator, to the Director of Athletics, Mack Rhodes. They are very committed to winning here. There are not very many negatives when it comes to University of Houston baseball.”


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