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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Baseball

Coach Whitting speaks about fall camp, pitching battle


Of the remaining pitchers on the UH roster, senior Ryan Randel threw the most innings last season and is competing for a spot on the starting rotation this season. | Thomas Dwyer/The Cougar

Fall camp is in full swing for Houston as it prepares for spring ball. The team is looking to improve on its 2018 campaign when it won the American Athletic Conference regular season title but fell short at the conference tournament.

With some big losses in the pitching staff, like Trey Cumbie, Aaron Fletcher and Joey Pulido, filling those positions is one of the many goals of the fall.

“We have a lot of holes to fill in the pitching staff. Right now, every role is open,” said head coach Todd Whitting. “A good group of talented players are fighting for those positions.”

The team has wrapped up its fall schedule, featuring exhibition matches against San Jacinto College and Blinn College, which showcased new talents on the team and gave insight on what fans might see in the spring.

The Cougars added 18 new players for this upcoming season, which Whitting said has been an advantage. The freshmen bring a new ball game to fall camp, but there can be challenges in helping them transition to college.

“We have a really good group of young freshmen here,” Whitting said. “It’s a big learning experience as far as becoming a college student, but not only that, becoming a college baseball player. We work hard to get them adjusted so they’re ready come spring.”

Whitting and staff are trying to find what combination of players works best. Whitting said the new additions have increased the competition for the starting lineup positions.

“Out of those 18 guys, there’s a lot of great competition for a lot of the jobs within the pitching staff and in the lineup as well,” Whitting said. “I couldn’t tell you who will go Friday, Saturday, Sunday which is really good because it shows how competitive it is.”

The overall health of the Cougars is great this fall, Whitting said. A few players are recovering, but they should be ready to play in the spring.

“We have a few tired arms. Grayson Padgett and Lael Lockhart had offseason surgery — just some modern knick knacks. There’s no sense of urgency right now to get them healthy for immediate purposes,” Whitting said.

Whitting hopes the fall workouts prepare the Cougars as much as possible for the competition in the spring. With many returning players stepping up in leadership roles, preparation gets a little easier.

“We have tremendous leadership on our team. This helps a lot with the younger players who don’t know what to expect in the spring but also the coaching staff,” Whitting said. “The veterans are helping the new players start to transition into a spring ball state of mind.”

The Cougars will get another chance to compete against each other in the Red-White game Oct. 26, but the team still has a long way to go before the season starts in February.

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