Round Table: Will baseball swing for the fences or strike out?
With spring sports getting into full swing, the Cougar baseball team is gearing up for their first series of the season against the Villanova University Wildcats. Can the Cougars build off the success of hosting an NCAA Regional, or will the team take a step back this year?
Do you think the baseball team will be better or worse this season?
Staff writer J.D. Smith: While improving on a conference championship, regional hosting season is going to be difficult. I predict they will move past the Regional stage this season and outperform their No. 22 ranking. The offense looks to be a little improved and LHP Seth Romero will lead a pitching staff that is expected to win the American Athletic Conference.
Staff writer Jonathan Valadez: Overall, I think the team will finish slightly worse than it did last season. It has some big games against the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Arkansas. However, I think UH will finish with a better conference record.
Creative Director Sean Alder: After losing a strong group of players the past two seasons, but also pulling in a solid recruiting class, the Cougars will have to spend some time establishing a new dynamic and figuring out what type of baseball they’ll be playing.
Who do you think will be the team’s MVP?
JS: Coming off a stellar freshman campaign that featured a sub 2.00 ERA, look for Romero to build on that and have his way with opposing lineups, leading the team in every pitching category.
SA: The team’s MVP this season is going to be Andrew Lantrip. The Cougars have always been able to make things happen at the plate so the team’s ace just needs to hold things down on the mound and teach a promising group of newcomers in the rotation. Lantrip and the pitching staff will be the key to the Cougars’ success.
What do you think the Cougars’ chances are at an AAC title?
JV: The Cougars enter the season as the only team ranked in the American Conference. That does not guarantee them anything, but they have a lot of talent coming back this season, and I believe they will excel in conference play.
SA: The Cougars still deserve the high preseason ranking they received. The No. 18 spot in the USA Today Sports Top 25 Preseason Coaches Poll depends on whether the new recruits pay off and if the returners are able to lead them in all aspects of the game. If the Cougars get on a roll early in the season with the new team, they can easily take the AAC title this year.
Do you think the Cougars can make the NCAA post-season?
JDS: At a minimum, it would not be shocking to see the Cougars host another regional and move on, with an appearance in Omaha at the College World Series not out of the question.
JV: They have a very strong chance at a postseason berth. The American Conference is not as strong as years past — it’s the Cougars title to lose at this point.
SA: The Cougars definitely have a chance at the postseason, but they have to remain consistent. They have had battles with errors, hitting slumps and rotation problems in the past seasons, but if they can fight through them and just focus on going out to perform every game, they should be able to surpass their preseason ranking of 18.