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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Baseball

Cougars show improvement in limited action


Freshman first baseman Justin Montemayor leads the team in runs.   | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Freshman first baseman Justin Montemayor leads the team in runs. | Justin Tijerina/The Daily Cougar

Through what has been a small sampling of their 52-game schedule, the new-look Cougars – 19 new members to be exact – showed glimpses of brilliance at the plate, signs of slight improvement on the mound and the ability to win on the road.

UH has tallied three victories in four matchups against Colonial Athletic Association (Northeastern Huskies) and Southland Conference (Sam Houston State Bearkats), but wins are wins and head coach Todd Whitting is keeping things in perspective.

“We learned an extremely valuable lesson for a young ball club,” Whitting said. “You have to come out and play every day. I sensed after the first two games that we were patting ourselves on the back a little bit.”

The Cougars will look to continue road momentum Friday in San Marcos against a Texas State ballclub that recently scored nine runs in a 10-9 loss to Sam Houston State, a team the Cougars defeated 6-3.

“I’m really proud of the guys tonight. This was a big win for us as it was the first time to be on the road for a lot of these players,” Whitting said. “We competed from the time the game started to the last pitch was thrown. There were plenty of times to shut down, but they kept grinding, and that is championship baseball.”

With pitching being a major question coming into the season, Whitting and company spoke confidently in the hitters’ abilities to relieve some pressure from the pitcher’s grind.

In response, freshman infielder Justin Montemayor’s .417 average (5-for-12) and four runs leads all hitters while freshman infielder Josh Vidales and freshman outfielder Kyle Survance each have compiled .400 averages and a trio of runs.

“He’s making me look like a genius putting a freshman in the one hole,” Whitting said of Vidales. “He’s a gritty player, and he’s done exactly what we’ve asked him to do.”

On the mound, the Cougars have managed to escape jams, and the starters have managed a combined 2.39 ERA including senior pitcher Austin Pruitt’s six-inning shutout against Northeastern on Saturday.

After returning from San Marcos, UH will take on Houston Baptist on Tuesday before facing Texas A&M, Baylor and California in the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park.

“There were plenty of times to shut down, but they kept grinding, and that is championship baseball,” Whitting said.

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