Baseball has higher seeds in its sights after breakthrough weeks
With series wins against Wichita State and Cincinnati, Houston has broken through the middle of the pack and has taken a light grasp of the No. 3 seed in the American Athletic Conference as well as one in NCAA Regional projections.
After a 3-6 start, Houston has risen to 8-7 in the American Athletic Conference and has control of its destiny as it heads to the conference and NCAA tournaments.
The defense and pitching have kept Houston in close games, but now the offense is coming together and pulling its weight.
The Cougars holds the No. 3 seed in the AAC and an NCAA Regional projection but can snag a No. 2 seed if it keeps up its hot streak.
Houston’s recent upswing has come with more offensive production, and the team has outscored opponents 62 to 46 in its last 11 games.
In that time frame, Houston has wins over No. 11 East Carolina and No. 7 Texas A&M.
When the offense has gotten going and scored five or more runs, the Cougars are nearly perfect at 15-2.
“I’ve said all along that we’ve had a really good team that just wasn’t playing well. Now we’re seeing the type of offense I thought we’d have,” said head coach Todd Whitting.
Senior first baseman Joe Davis has been hot all season, and he has hit 16 home runs to increase the school record to 51 career home runs.
“I’m proud of him. He’s not getting good pitches to hit,” Whitting said. “Joe is playing relaxed, loose and confident baseball right now. Joe is a great hitter who happens to be really strong, and his power shows up.”
Oftentimes, Davis has gotten no pitches to hit. The senior has been walked in 11 straight games, and he has 29 walks in 40 matches.
One player that has gotten his shots at bat and made them count is junior third baseman Jared Triolo.
Triolo leads the team with a .325 batting average through the first 40 games with Davis right behind him at .310.
When he is not at bat, Triolo has been one of the best fielders on the team and makes a great defensive play every game.
“Triolo is one of the best defensive basemen in the country. He makes (the tough plays) look really easy,” Whitting said.
While the games are never easy, Houston’s remaining conference games are against some of the bottom teams in the AAC.
No. 3 Houston has No. 2 Tulane, No. 8 UCF and No. 9 USF left to play, and the latter two will be on the road.
Tulane’s No. 2 ranking is a bit deceiving, as the emerald squad has yet to play East Carolina and is three games behind. After that series, the Green Wave could be 8-6, just one game better than the Cougars.
UCF’s rank is also a bit misleading, as the team is ranked No. 75 in RPI and has some big wins against Florida, Auburn, Florida State and Florida Atlantic.
A strong finish in conference would set the Cougars up for the conference tournament but also get it a higher seed in the NCAA Tournament.
D1Baseball‘s recent projections have the Cougars as a No. 3 seed in the Atlanta Regional against Georgia Tech, Virginia Commonwealth and Oregon.
Last season, Houston was a No. 2 seed in the Chapel Hill Regional and made it to the regional finals, where it lost to North Carolina.
Sam Houston is the only team on Houston’s remaining schedule that is also projected to make it to the NCAA Tournament, though Florida Atlantic is No. 57 in RPI and a threat to make it by winning Conference USA.
The Cougars have made it through one of the tougher stretches in the season with a positive record and can take a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament by tearing through the final weeks.
Houston will take to the road against USF and then Rice on Wednesday before coming home for a non-conference series against UNLV.