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Commentary: Youth a bright spot for Cougars amid inconsistent play

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Junior pitcher Andrew Lantrip, above, has set a good example for the younger pitchers on the staff. Lantrip and freshman Mitch Ullom are tied for the best record on the team, both sporting five wins this season. | Matthew Barrett/The Cougar

Despite its recent mediocre play, the baseball team has been fueled all season by freshmen having breakout seasons.

After a tough week for the baseball team, the Cougars returned to Houston for a series against the University of Central Florida Knights. The Cougars dropped the first of a three-game weekend series on Friday, but, showing resilience, they salvaged the series by taking the final two games, bringing their conference record to an even 3-3.

Inconsistent play has plagued the baseball team all season, and the trend continued last week, where it went just 2-2 in its four matchups, including a disappointing mid-week loss to the McNeese State University Cowboys in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

“The game has been really hard on us lately,” head coach Todd Whitting said in a new release. “My guys have played absolutely as hard as they can play the entire season. It has just been tough, but the will to win can overcome a lot of that stuff. We have to keep scratching and clawing.”

Freshman starting pitcher Mitch Ullom is gaining national attention as he continues to post great outings.

Ullom earned his fifth win of the season in the series-clinching rubber game against the Knights on Sunday. In his first career complete game shutout, Ullom dazzled as he gave up just seven hits and did not walk a batter in nine innings of work.

The victory earned on Sunday makes Ullom the team leader in wins, now 5-1, and is second on the staff in ERA at 1.77.

“That was another clutch performance by Mitch Ullom,” Whitting said. “That’s back-to-back Sundays now where he has been absolutely lights out, and for a freshman to be able to do something like that is special. He has great days ahead of him.”

Ullom is not the only freshman on the team making noise. First baseman Joe Davis has been sensational all season and is a staple in the Cougar lineup.

In Sunday’s 1-0 shutout of the Knights, Davis scored the lone run when he belted a home run to left field in the sixth inning.

The blast was Davis’ team-leading seventh of the year and showed why he is among the top freshmen in the nation.

In addition to his seven home runs, Davis leads the team with a .371 batting average, 37 RBI, 10 doubles and 46 hits.

“He has a difference-making bat,” Whitting said. “Joe has been great all year. He’s been consistent, and now he has to keep it going.”

The way Ullom and Davis have performed all season ensures a bright future for Cougar baseball. Having a young team now paves the way for continued success down the road.

Now 19-12 on the year, UH needs to have a strong second half of the season to stay in contention for the postseason.

With the most difficult portion of the schedule behind them, the Cougars will have a great opportunity to shake things in up in the conference standings.

The Cougars next head north to Storrs, Connecticut to open up a three-game series against the University of Connecticut Huskies. First pitch is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Friday.

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