Offense, pitching powering early season rally for baseball
The 16th ranked Cougar baseball team is firing on all cylinders, dominating games on offense and defense.
Struggling out of the gate, the team started just 4-5 in their first nine games. After their early season struggles, the Cougars won 12 of their next 14 games, bringing their record to an impressive 16-7.
“The first four games were good, and then we hit a rough patch where we dropped five games in a row,” junior pitcher Andrew Lantrip said. “We’ve finally hit our stride and are starting to get key hits. I feel like we’re getting more comfortable and not trying to press too much.”
Lantrip has led the charge for the pitching staff and accumulated a 4-2 record with a 1.69 ERA that is being recognized all across the country. His strikeout to walk ratio, 44 to 1, leads the nation and is on pace to shatter previous records in the category.
An important part of the Cougars’ recent success has been the return of center fielder Corey Julks. The sophomore dealt with back spasms at the beginning of the year just as he was settling into his role. Julks is now hitting .318 with 21 hits and six doubles.
“It’s good now. It’s been a long process of getting back, but it feels good now,” Julks said. “I’m glad to be back now.”
Redshirt senior Michael Pyeatt began the year as the team’s primary pinch hitter but has quickly transitioned into a valuable piece of the Cougars’ every day lineup. Before Tuesday’s game against Texas A&M, Pyeatt was riding a team season high 15-game hitting streak. Pyeatt is patient in the batter’s box and is hitting the ball to all parts of the field.
Freshman Joe Davis is having continued success and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. Davis leads the team in multi-hit games, batting average, home runs and RBI. Opposing pitchers take notice any time Davis is up to bat and do their best to work around the power hitter.
Cougar pitchers have also been dominant in addition to their hitters.
Sophomore Seth Romero sports a perfect 4-0 record with a team leading 0.58 ERA. In his last two starts alone, Romero has pitched 17 innings in which he surrendered just two hits and struck out 16 batters.
Pitching coach Frank Anderson attributes Romero’s recent success to his ability to develop new pitches in the offseason.
“He’s become a much better pitcher who really competes with his stuff,” Anderson said. “He’s a national-type player and an elite guy. Just hit presence on the field helps us tremendously because he knows how to compete, and he’s not afraid.”
Romero’s fearlessness will be crucial to once again earning a conference championship.
The team opens conference play this weekend on the road against the East Carolina Pirates, and the games become vastly more important. Their success in the nonconference portion of the season will bolster their postseason resume come May. In order to defend their title as American Athletic Conference champions, winning pivotal conference matchups will be of utmost importance.