Cougars work out season kinks

Although the Cougars are 3-10, head coach Rayner Noble said he thinks they might have finally figured themselves out.

‘I usually say that, with a new team, it takes about 10 or 11 games to get situated and know what you’ve got to do,’ he said. ‘I’m feeling that right now.’

In that case, the Cougars are well past the learning phase of this season, which continues with a game against Sam Houston State at 6:30 p.m. today at Cougar Field.

The learning phase has been rough. Sunday’s 3-2 win over Cal Poly, which broke an eight-game losing streak, was their first since beating Stephen F. Austin on Feb. 24. With that skid came a laundry list of problems.

The pitching rotation was full of inconsistent performers, with the exception of right-handers Michael Goodnight and Frank Corolla. The offense struggled to produce clutch hits, especially in the late innings. The bullpen had a habit of letting close games get away. The defense has not provided much help to the pitchers, committing 25 errors, seven of those coming in Saturday’s 13-9 loss to Cal Poly.

There have been signs of improvement, particularly in the offensive department. The Cougars hit only .246 entering last weekend’s series against Cal Poly, but they batted .315 (35-of-111) in three games to raise their team average to .263.

‘This whole series, I was pleased with what we did offensively,’ Noble said. ‘I think the offense is starting to shape up a little bit, and we’re starting to figure out who needs to be where in the scheme of things.’

The one thing the Cougars haven’t quite figured out is their midweek rotation. Goodnight and right-hander John Touchton started the first two Tuesday games, but today’s start will go to right-hander Mo Wiley, who previously pitched out of the bullpen. Wiley, a freshman, has a 3.86 ERA in four relief appearances and opponents are batting only .174 off him.

Wiley will need to have his best stuff against a highly potent Sam Houston State lineup. The Bearkats (10-4) are batting .309 as a team, with six players hitting .300 or better.

Sam Houston State swept Texas-Arlington in a three-game series last weekend and has won four of its last five games. One of those wins includes an 8-6 decision over Collegiate Baseball No. 10 Rice on March 3. The Owls thrashed the Cougars, 9-2, in the teams’ first meeting of the season on Feb. 25.

The Cougars don’t expect anything less than a fight from the Bearkats, considering how well they are playing.

‘They’re a good team,’ UH center fielder Zak Presley said. ‘They always play us tough. They can swing the bats well, but we’ve really got to take momentum from what we just did (Sunday) and build a little streak going the other way with some wins. We (need) to get a good job from the pitching staff, and we’ll keep swinging the bats the way we were this weekend. That should set us up for a good win.”

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