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Thursday, March 23, 2017

Baseball

Cougars prepare for 2017 with alumni game tuneup


After leading the team in runs scored and walks in 2016, junior Connor Wong will be vital if the Cougars hope to return to the playoffs. | File Photo/The Cougar

With the opening series of the season fast approaching, Cougar baseball looks to get into the grove this weekend against former players.

The fan appreciation day and alumni game are scheduled to take place at Darryl & Lori Schroeder Park this Saturday with gates opening at 10 a.m.

The team enters the season ranked No. 20 by Perfect Game after being predicted to finish second in the American Athletic Conference by the coaches.

Featuring a pitching staff that finished second in the nation in ERA, the Cougars look to return to the postseason after missing it in 2016.

Junior lefthander Seth Romero is the ace of the staff, leading the team in ERA in each of his first two seasons. Named by Baseball America as the No. 10 college prospect, Romero will use this season to not only achieve team success but set himself up to be a high draft pick in June.

“Any team that has aspirations of playing in Omaha needs to have an ace in their staff and Seth is definitely capable of being that guy,” head coach Todd Whitting said. “After an average year last year, him recognizing and doing things to get himself better, I’m really proud of him.”

Offensively, the Cougars are led by standout sophomore Joe Davis. After setting numerous freshman records last season, the designated hitter was named the Preseason Player of the Year in the AAC.

Along with Davis, the offense features Baseball America’s No. 88 college prospect in catcher Connor Wong. The Pearland native led the Cougars in 2016 in runs scored and walks, while being second in hits.

After being held out of the playoffs last season, making it in is not only the goal but the expectation for many of the Cougars.

“We were one game away from getting in last year,” Davis said. “With the guys we have this year, hitting-wise and pitching wise, and if we live up to our capabilities, we’ll definitely make it into the postseason.”

Before any of this can start, though, the Cougars have to get through the alumni game and ready for the games that count. Although lots of fun, Saturday’s game represents a chance to get into the grove before the regular season while avoiding injuries will be key.

With an offense that can easily score runs and a pitching staff that doesn’t give many up, the Cougars have all the tools needed to make a deep run to Omaha and the College World Series. Davis agrees that the sky’s the limit for the Cougars in 2017.

“With an offense that can easily score runs and a pitching staff that doesn’t give many up, the Cougars have all the tools needed to make a deep run to Omaha and the College World Series.”

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