Cougar bullpen falls short

At this point, all UH head coach Rayner Noble can do is shake his head and wonder where things went wrong with his veteran-laden pitching staff.

Noble figured it might take some time for his offense and defense to come around, and that prediction has held true. However, he probably never envisioned his pitching staff would need much time to find its form, nor that it would be this terrible.

With Tuesday’s 18-16 loss to Sam Houston State, the Cougars’ overall ERA increased from 6.39 to 7.24. Their bullpen, which surrendered 16 runs to the Bearkats, saw its ERA skyrocket to 7.69, more than two points higher than it was entering last weekend’s three-game series against Cal Poly.

It’s easy to determine which unit deserves the bulk of the blame for the Cougars’ 3-11 start.

‘We got a lot of work to do with our pitching staff, and it’s got to start immediately,’ Noble said. ‘I mean, it’s already started, but we’re not making any progress. That’s my fault. I’ve done a poor job of coaching these pitchers, but we’ve got to get better on the mound.’

Noble’s task is made even more difficult because his most dependable arms have not been able to get it done lately.

Struggling ace left-hander Wes Musick is 0-3 with an 8.16 ERA after three starts. Closer Chase Dempsay is 1-0 with a 9.39 ERA, having given up a combined nine runs (seven earned) in his last two appearances. Three guys who were expected to be big contributors – right-handers John Touchton (0-2, 14.40 ERA), Jared Ray (0-2, 15.58) and Chris Wright (15.19 ERA in six relief outings) – are also among the biggest disappointments.

Noble has had some pleasant surprises with the efficiency of right-handed starters Michael Goodnight (2-0, 3.00) and Frank Corolla (0-1, 4.11) and a few relievers, including Barry Laird and Donnie Joseph, but these are the only consistent performers Noble has at his disposal.

‘We’ve just got to keep putting guys out there. That’s the only way you’re going to get any type of confidence in people,’ Noble said. ‘They’ve got to go out there, and they’ve got to do well. You can’t do that sitting on the bench. You can throw all the bullpens you want, but it’s not until you get out there against the opposition (that) you’ll start building some confidence. That’s where we’ve got to get better.’

Berry still packs punch

Rice right-hander Ryan Berry was far from efficient in his first start, surrendering seven runs (five earned) in the Owls’ 10-7 season-opening win against Cal Poly. Since then, he’s been nothing short of dominant.

Berry tossed his second consecutive two-hit shutout in the Owls 9-0 win over Notre Dame on Saturday, an effort that included eight strikeouts. In his last two starts, which included a win against Texas A&M, Berry has allowed zero walks and struck out 20 batters to improve to 2-0 with a 1.99 ERA.

Against Texas A&M, he faced only two batters more than the minimum of 27. He was even better against Notre Dame, finishing the deal in only 102 pitches, while facing one batter more than the minimum.

Berry is one of the main reasons why the Owls (8-4), ranked No. 10 in Collegiate Baseball, are off to a respectable start.

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