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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Baseball

‘He’s going to be a baller’: rising star Ryan Hernandez already making impact for UH


Ryan Hernandez's UH debut during Houston's opening weekend against Youngstown State saw the junior first baseman earn five hits, including two home runs. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

Ryan Hernandez’s UH debut during Houston’s opening weekend against Youngstown State saw the junior first baseman earn five hits, including two home runs. | Jhair Romero/The Cougar

As proven by his No. 3 spot in the batting lineup, Houston first baseman Ryan Hernandez, straight out of JUCO, was expected to be a big contributor to a Cougars team that lost much of its production from 2019.

But the 6-foot-4, 233-pound junior surprised many with immediate impact for the Cougars, batting .385 and launching two homers in Houston’s opening weekend series against Youngstown State.

His teammates, some amused by Hernandez’s big UH debut weekend, have already taken notice.

“He’s going to be a baller,” said sophomore Brad Burckel, one of Hernandez’s infield teammates at second base. “He’s going to be a guy that we look to get jobs done and do his thing.”

Hernandez, albeit not alone, must fill the gaps left by two of the best hitters the Cougars have had in recent memory — Joe Davis and Jared Triolo, who combined for 25 home runs in 2019 before departing for the MLB Draft.

Much like Davis and Triolo, both now making their way through MLB farm systems in the New York-Penn League, Hernandez delivered when it mattered most against Youngstown State.

In the Cougars’ first game against the Penguins, he went a perfect 3-for-3, scoring a run each time in Houston’s 7-3 season-opening win. 

“At the end of the day, leaders produce in big moments,” he said, “and I hope to produce in big moments from here on out.”

The Cougars couldn’t always capitalize on Hernandez’s highlights, namely his home run in the Cougars’ second game against the Penguins that put UH within striking distance, but his presence at the plate has been appreciated.

“It was good to have that in the lineup,” Burckel said, “We needed that all weekend, and he was Mr. Clutch.”

He has also been handy on defense, where Hernandez’s bulky frame, shortstop Kobe Hyland said, has given him confidence when making throws to his fellow infielder.

“I feel very comfortable with him over at first base,” the junior said. “You know, big body, big target. You don’t have to worry about throwing away any balls.”

Hernandez’s offense, Hyland added, hasn’t been too bad either.

“His bat in the lineup,” he said, “it’s comforting knowing a guy like that can step up at any moment and contribute to the game.”

Although Hernandez recently arrived at UH, spending 2019 at San Jacinto College where he slashed .295/.390/.409 with 36 RBIs, he already sees himself as a leader on the team.

Much of the mentality he brings with him to UH, Hyland said, will trickle down and find its way to the rest of the Cougars. 

“That just goes to show that his confidence is there,” Hyland said. “It’s going to spread throughout the team.”

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