Baseball team looks to build on success
The UH baseball team worked together in practice last week, battling a harsh environment, and emerged on to Cougar Field’s diamond despite the slow, drizzling rain that pervaded the city.
“It’s a pretty confident bunch. I’m really excited about the way our practices have gone so far,”said head coach Todd Whitting. “We’ve returned every position player, plus (senior first baseman) Casey Grayson and (senior infielder) Jacob Lueneberg are now back in the mix. It’s great. They’re two left-handed guys in the middle of the lineup who can bang the ball.”
For his part, Grayson is eager to get back out between the lines of the baseball field after an injury sidelined him last season.
“I just want to do what I can do to help the team win,” Grayson said. “I’d love to just come out here, have a great season and do what it takes to help the team succeed.”
The additions of Grayson and Lueneberg are part of the team’s changes from the previous season. Pitchers Austin Pruitt and Matt Hernandez have moved on, opening up spots in the pitching rotation that Whitting said are up for grabs.
“(Sophomore pitcher) Jake Lemoine is a year older; he’ll step into that role. Matt Garza is a year older, and he’s going to be a great pitcher for us. Chace Wellbrock is back,” Whitting said. “The entire rotation is up for grabs. There’s a lot of new guys who are definitely in the mix for that.”
Beyond the lithe, young arms of the pitching staff, the team returns sophomore infielder Justin Montemayor and sophomore outfielder Kyle Survance, who both earned honors as Freshman All-Americans last season. Montemayor, who has been shifted back to third, his natural position, is upbeat about the change and the team.
“I played third before I came here, so I moved to first last year,” he said, also adding that the team’s hitting philosophy would be largely unchanged with the two returning lefty bats.
Whitting is fresh off a season that included one of the bigger turnarounds in college baseball — from 18-36 to 36-22.
“We flipped it, but the ultimate goal remains to make the NCAA tournament,” Whitting said. “It’s a very business-like attitude. We’ve got unfinished business.”