The twilight closers: UH baseball launches into postseason play
They are 13 altogether, combing for 41 wins, 15 saves, 366 strikeouts and an a combined earned run average of 2.04. If sports writing is given to applying metaphor-based nicknames to groups of players that overachieve, the elite prowess of the UH pitching staff seems too overly impressive to be burdened by clumsy wordplay.
For their accomplishments, the most amusing stemmed from the preseason usage of the term ‘question mark’ given to describe the fact that several of the new additions had negligible or no Division 1 experience.
“Coming into it, not a whole lot of people had faith in us,” said junior reliever Jared Robinson. “But we came on strong and just played our game and it all worked out.”
Robinson, a transfer from Midland Junior College unique for his best pitch, a “knuckle-split finger-changeup thing,” and for being voted Most Likely to Become a Millionaire by his high school classmates, put together a 4-1 record and a 1.74 ERA out of the bullpen.
Robinson’s teammates in the bullpen, a small legion of men who sit patiently until needed, have put together 15 wins, a testament to their timing, effective pitching and the UH offense’s propensity to score in the twilight of games.
“We like to make it close. Reason we’re called the ‘Cardiac Coogs’. It makes it interesting, that’s for sure. It’s a little nerve-racking at times, but whether you’re up by 80 runs or one run, you try and make your pitch every time,” Robinson said.
In a tournament that tends to favor a select number of teams, outsider teams can balance the game with elements like, in UH’s case, a dominant bullpen.
“I think our pitching staff is as good as any in the country,” said UH head coach Todd Whitting. “When we go out and perform and do what we do, I think we would stack up well against anyone.”
This endorsement, from a baseball lifer like Whitting, has proven to be, from a psychological perspective, something the pitching staff has relied on.
“It definitely shows that coach Whitting has extreme confidence in us and that we have confidence in ourselves,” said senior right-handed closer Chase Wellbrock.
“I think we’re probably one of the best, if not the best, pitching staffs. Not just on paper or in stats, but in how we perform. We feel that confident that we can perform at that level.”
Wellbrock, who holds the UH record for lifetime saves, has made a quality habit of preserving leads for the UH starters like junior Aaron Garza and sophomore Jake Lemoine, who are 7-4 and 6-5 respectively. Freshman Andrew Lantrip and sophomore Jared West, two relative unknowns before the season started, have combined for seven wins against only two losses, with Lantrip being undefeated.
The 13 mounds men, for the lifespan of UH’s continuing crusade for playing time in Omaha, Nebraska, will be the ones who go out and, by their right and left arms, try and advance their team through the collegiate landscape, with the campaign starting in the Sunshine State.