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Sunday, May 28, 2023


Commentary: Cougars victim of ‘a cruel game’ at the NCAA Regional

Junior first baseman Chris Iriart keeps the runner close at first base as he receives the attempted pick-off throw. | Kennia Martinez/The Cougar

The Cougars season ended prematurely with a loss in the regional to Rice, but the future looks bright with a bevy of young talent set to return next season. | Kennia Martinez/The Cougar

Baseball is an unpredictable sport where anything can and will happen when you least expect it.

For the Cougars at the NCAA Regional, the sport was “a cruel game,” according to head coach Todd Whitting.

The Cougars tried to recreate the magic it had the previous season by making a run deep into the postseason. However, the journey came to an abrupt end after being eliminated by their crosstown rival Rice Owls on a do-or-die game last Sunday.

The team is done for the year and now the coaching staff is able see what improvements are needed during the offseason.

The question still remains: Did the Cougars meet the expectations that were placed upon them?

Looking back, Houston managed to make it to the final of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, but failed to capture the championship like it did the previous year.

There were some games that Houston shouldn’t have lost, but did due to errors being made where it mattered the most – like in the ninth inning against UL-Lafayette at the regional.

Other times, Houston was overwhelmed by facing other power hitting teams, as it was proven when Houston faced LSU and Texas A&M at the Houston College Classic.

Even so, there are some positive signs to come from this season as well.

After 13 years, Houston captured their first regular-season conference title since 2002, with a 16-8 record, an improvement from last year’s 14-9.

Despite having a 42-18 before the postseason, UH had the privilege of hosting the NCAA Regionals, their first since 2000.

Another factor to take in is that the majority of their roster is quite different from the last season, with the Cougars featured 14 freshmen, in comparison to just seven last year.

A pair of freshmen made the most of their debut season – starting pitcher Seth Romero and shortstop Connor Wong – and excelled throughout the season under the guidance of Coach Whitting.

The coaching staff has a challenge whenever new players enter the roster to make sure the dynamics of the team aren’t disturbed, and for Houston to go 43-20 overall is a small difference from last year’s 48-18.

In the end, despite being eliminated early from the regionals, the Cougars not only rank #15 in the nation but showed the tenacity to play well together, as well as having the players to get them to the same spot next season.

That is if the baseball gods favor the Houston Cougars because, after all, baseball is a cruel game.

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