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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Baseball

Cougars receive passing midterm grades


UH shortstop Blake Kelso has been one of the key contributors to the Cougars recent success, leading the team in several offensive catagories while playing excellent defense. | Justin Flores/The Daily Cougar

Baseball is difficult game to win. A team can do everything right in a game and still lose. It usually takes all nine players on the field to win, and that’s been the case for the up-and-down 10-9 Cougars.

Although the Cougars’ inconsistency can be disconcerting, they’ve still had some players perform well throughout the year.

One of those players is pitcher Chase Dempsay. Whether he’s making a spot start, or coming out of the bullpen, Dempsay has been UH’s most reliable pitcher.

In five games, including one start, Dempsay has posted a 1.12 ERA while allowing opponents to hit .250 against him. He’s allowed only 14 hits in 16 innings.

But Dempsay may have made the most important start of the season against Missouri in the Houston College Classic on March 5. He allowed four hits and walked four in five gritty innings, but didn’t allow a run.

UH went on to win the game 3-0. The Cougars then hit their finest stretch of the season so far, winning six games in a row and seven of eight overall.

Lefty Taylor Hammack has been another key reliever this season. On a team that relies on its bullpen as much as its starters, Hammack has made eight appearances — third most on the team — and thrown 22 innings to rank second. In all but one game, Hammack has pitched multiple innings.

Hammack has been invaluable in wins and losses, but more instrumental in losses. During an 8-2 loss to Rice, Hammack allowed two earned runs went three innings. He made his only start of the season against San Francisco, tossing five innings and allowing three earned runs in a 3-2 loss. In a 6-0 loss to Arizona State, Hammack gave up only two earned runs in five innings.

Hammack has been able to eat up innings and remain effective, especially in games that have been decided in the early innings. His numbers won’t turn any heads, but they were enough to keep head coach Rayner Noble from wearing out other arms before conference play begins.

However, the most indispensable player of all has been shortstop Blake Kelso. Kelso, who has played all 19 games, is putting together a complete season.

At the plate, Kelso has been the catalyst, hitting leadoff for the Cougars. He is tied for first on the club with 28 hits (.354 batting average) and 17 runs.

Despite hitting only one home run so far, Kelso is slugging at a .506 clip thanks to three triples and three doubles. He’s showed a keen eye at the plate with nine walks and only eight strikeouts for a .422 on-base percentage.

As far as run-production, Kelso has driven in 10 in the leadoff spot. His speed also presents problems for opposing pitchers, as he has stolen seven bases in nine attempts.

Perhaps the most invaluable aspect has been Kelso’s play at shortstop, where he’s committed a meager six errors for an incredible .939 fielding percentage.

If the Cougars continue to receive reliable performances from this core of players while a few others pick up their end of the bargain, UH should be in great shape entering the Conference USA Championships in May.

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