Commentary Sports

Commentary: Cougars victim of ‘a cruel game’ at the NCAA Regional

Junior first baseman Chris Iriart keeps the runner close at first base as he receives the attempted pick-off throw. | Kennia Martinez/The Cougar

The Cougars season ended prematurely with a loss in the regional to Rice, but the future looks bright with a bevy of young talent set to return next season. | Kennia Martinez/The Cougar

Baseball is an unpredictable sport where anything can and will happen when you least expect it.

For the Cougars at the NCAA Regional, the sport was “a cruel game,” according to head coach Todd Whitting.

The Cougars tried to recreate the magic it had the previous season by making a run deep into the postseason. However, the journey came to an abrupt end after being eliminated by their crosstown rival Rice Owls on a do-or-die game last Sunday.

The team is done for the year and now the coaching staff is able see what improvements are needed during the offseason.

The question still remains: Did the Cougars meet the expectations that were placed upon them?

Looking back, Houston managed to make it to the final of the American Athletic Conference Tournament, but failed to capture the championship like it did the previous year.

There were some games that Houston shouldn’t have lost, but did due to errors being made where it mattered the most – like in the ninth inning against UL-Lafayette at the regional.

Other times, Houston was overwhelmed by facing other power hitting teams, as it was proven when Houston faced LSU and Texas A&M at the Houston College Classic.

Even so, there are some positive signs to come from this season as well.

After 13 years, Houston captured their first regular-season conference title since 2002, with a 16-8 record, an improvement from last year’s 14-9.

Despite having a 42-18 before the postseason, UH had the privilege of hosting the NCAA Regionals, their first since 2000.

Another factor to take in is that the majority of their roster is quite different from the last season, with the Cougars featured 14 freshmen, in comparison to just seven last year.

A pair of freshmen made the most of their debut season – starting pitcher Seth Romero and shortstop Connor Wong – and excelled throughout the season under the guidance of Coach Whitting.

The coaching staff has a challenge whenever new players enter the roster to make sure the dynamics of the team aren’t disturbed, and for Houston to go 43-20 overall is a small difference from last year’s 48-18.

In the end, despite being eliminated early from the regionals, the Cougars not only rank #15 in the nation but showed the tenacity to play well together, as well as having the players to get them to the same spot next season.

That is if the baseball gods favor the Houston Cougars because, after all, baseball is a cruel game.

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  • Agree, baseball can be a very cruel game and it rewards a few teams. Did UH come up short of its goal this year? Yes, short of going to Omaha BUT the UH program has gained national respect and is competing at a very high level now. UH won the regular season AAC title, top 20 RPI and HOSTED a regional at our upgraded baseball complex. How good does that get, Awesome!!!!!

    Being a UHEX and baseball aficionado, I cant tell you how proud I am of this baseball program and really enjoy this coaching staff and the players who are representing our University. Take a look at our 2016 recruiting class and look at the incoming talent to replace our departing seniors and some of the juniors who opt for the MLB draft, June 8th, hope not. The baseball fan base is growing with many fans/alumni donating $$ to our program!! It hurts to lose but UH is in the hunt to get to Omaha someday but more than anything our program is well respected. Keep up the good work and greater things will happen.

    Heres hoping that UH baseball program can head out west to play non conference ASU and/or UofA on a yearly basis.

    P.S. Also women’s softball program inked a star pitcher from Castle Rock, Colorado, who is the Colorado Gatorade player of the year and will be on campus this spring…Great talent!!…

  • UH attendance averaged 1,977 so there is room for improvement…

    UH baseball is competitive but there is so much parity now in college baseball, so difficult to win a national championship or even get to the CWS!!!!

    This article talks about how cruel the game is, well last year UH had a great year just two games from reaching Omaha.That hurts, thats cruel but when the dust settled last year and the regular season and regionals were over we had to look at the cws and see Texas Tech, Tcu and Texas in the cws…thats cruel!!!!!!!!!!!! Then to lose two one run games this year at home in the Houston regional, thats really cruel…….

    Baseball is a great game and the more success you have the greater the joy but when you fall just short of your goals thats really cruel….not just UH but for all teams….. ask UCLA. or all the top teams not going to Omaha!

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