Musick hopes to improve

Drafted or not, Wes Musick had long decided he was going to return to UH for his junior season.

Last year’s Major League Baseball Draft had fans wondering if he would really return. Musick had just finished the best season of his collegiate career, and it was a foregone conclusion that a team would select him.

The San Francisco Giants picked the southpaw in the 24th round, but the Aug. 15 signing deadline passed without Musick inking a professional contract, ending all speculation that he might bolt early.

Musick maintains he had no intention of leaving.

‘It wasn’t a hard decision,’ Musick said. ‘Once the draft was going on, I knew that no matter where I was drafted, I was going to come back to school. It was a win-win situation for me.’

After going 8-4 with a 4.35 ERA and team-high 87 strikeouts last season, Musick returns as Friday’s starter when the Cougars open their season against Kansas State. He was also named to the All-Conference USA second team in 2008.

Musick said he returned primarily because he needed to improve on his skills. Considering his disappointing performance in the second half of 2008, this motive is understandable.

Collapse leaves sour taste

Last season, Musick was 7-1 with a 2.85 ERA after nine appearances (eight starts), but over his final nine appearances (seven starts), including the postseason, he was only 1-3 with a 6.26 ERA.

Fortunately for the Cougars, Musick’s slide did not prevent the Cougars from reaching an NCAA regional, but the pressure of having to win big games down the stretch might have played a role in his second-half struggles.

‘I think sometimes I tried to do a little too much more than I was capable of doing,’ Musick said.

Head coach Rayner Noble offered a different perspective.

‘He just kind of lost his confidence about two-thirds of the way through the season last year,’ he said. ‘You show me a guy with a lack of confidence, and I’ll show you a guy who is probably going to be very inconsistent and not pitching very well.’

Whatever the case, Musick hopes to put those struggles behind him and again be the proverbial rock for a staff that has relied mostly on his contributions for the past two seasons.

Money-making skills’

Musick is undersized at 6-0, 190 pounds, but makes up for his lack of size with a quality fastball, curveball and changeup. He relies mostly on control to keep batters off balance.

During fall camp, Musick added a slider/cut fastball to his pitching arsenal. He hopes to use this pitch in the spring, but Noble doesn’t seem too optimistic about this.

‘He hasn’t really thrown that (pitch) all that much,’ Noble said. ‘I think he’s just kind of staying with the same stuff that has really gotten him here.’

The last two seasons have been less stressful for Musick, who missed the entire 2006 campaign with a medical redshirt after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his left elbow and right-knee surgery. He went 6-5 with a 3.00 ERA in 2007 and improved slightly in 2008.

The Cougars hope Musick’s struggles from last year won’t carry over into this season.

‘He’s a new guy, it’s a new season, and we all know what he’s capable of doing,’ Noble said. ‘Hopefully, he can be the guy who starts the weekend off on a good note for us.’

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