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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Commentary

Cougars exceed early expectations


The questions surrounding the UH baseball program heading into this season were warranted.

Fans were justifiably wondering how much change could be expected from virtually a new team looking to right a program that hasn’t sniffed post-season play in half a decade.

Through 13 match ups — including statement wins against Texas A&M at Baylor during the Astros Foundation College Classic — the team gives fans a reason to believe the turning point is finally upon us.

Head coach Todd Whitting said the young team is adjusting to the season.

“These guys have played a lot of baseball in the past, but they haven’t played a baseball schedule where every game matters,” Whitting said. “That’s the difference between playing at the Division I level compared to junior college or high school level is there are no games you can take off. This is an expensive lesson we learned today, but I hope it will help us moving forward.”

It has not been pretty at times. In the field, we’ve seen these Cougars show their youth by squandering a  routine play or making a blemish on the base path. What they do from there, though, is uncharacteristic of inexperienced players: They respond with shades of brilliance. From a first inning grand slam into the Crawford Boxes against Baylor to speedy outfield catches reminiscent of Michael Bourn’s days in a Cougar uniform, these guys are good.

Through roughly one-fourth of the season, the baseball team has passed its first round of tests and is drawing the attention of those around the state and country. For three straight weeks, a UH player has been named Conference USA Hitter of the Week, and recently, freshman infielder Josh Vidales was named a College Baseball 360 Primetime player following the squad’s impressive weekend at Minute Maid Park.

Awaiting the Cougars this weekend is another match-up in the friendly confines of the Houston, this time against Texas A&M Corpus Christi. In fact, 11 of the squads next 12 games take place at Cougar Field — including a lucrative test against the University of Texas.

Many questions and concerns loom as to what this team does from here. Critics believe the squad is still at least one to two years from post-season play, but if one thing is for certain, it is that pessimists only fuel this team’s drive. Whatever transpires, it is just exciting to see some excitement around UH baseball.

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