Round table: Are the Cougars contenders in conference?
While this season might not have started as well as the baseball team would have hoped, can the Cougars build momentum in the conference season and vie for an AAC title? The Cougar sports staff talks about its chances in this week’s round table.
With the Cougars currently holding a 19-12 record, are they doing as well as you expected, better or worse?
Staff writer Jonathan Valadez: I would say that they are mostly on par with my expectations. The Cougars have posted similar results this year compared to last season. At this point last year, UH was 22-12, and this year they are 19-12. They have played much worse against ranked teams this year though. They are 3-7 versus top-25 teams as opposed to 4-5 at this point last year.
Creative director Sean Alder: I think the Cougars are falling a bit short of expectations this season. They had a fantastic start that fell right in line with the skill of the returning talent, incoming freshman and transfers, but the back-and-forth play of the team is inconsistent with the performances head coach Todd Whitting may have anticipated. They are playing some tougher teams in non-conference this year, however, so they do deserve some recognition there.
What has been the strongest part of their game this season?
JV: It’s been the Cougars’ pitching. With the exception of junior John King, the other three starters have an earned run average under 1.85. It has been the reason that they have kept most of the games close this year.
Sports editor Bryce Dodds: The freshman talent has really impressed me through their fast start. They’ve had big contributors on all sides from freshmen, including the power-hitting first baseman Joe Davis and pitcher Mitch Ullom, who’s been dealing from the mound.
Who has been the team’s MVP?
SA: As the team’s leader in batting average, hits, doubles, homers and RBI, freshman Joe Davis has been the catalyst that the Cougars’ offense has needed this season. While the pitching staff remains the rock of the team, Davis has come in this season and stepped up to leading a nationally-ranked team with important offensive contributions in nearly every game.
BD: I’d say sophomore starting pitcher Seth Romero. Despite being absent from the team to begin the season, he’s returned in the same good form he ended last year with, helping to anchor a strong Cougar rotation. He’s 4-1 on the season with a team-leading 1.65 ERA and 54 strikeouts in 43.2 innings pitched.
With the time left in the conference season, how do you think the Cougars will fare in the American Athletic Conference?
JV: With 18 conference games left, I can see them going 11-7, which would put them at 14-10 in the AAC. They would finish with two losses more than they did last season, but I can see them making some noise in the AAC Tournament as a four seed.
SA: The Cougars are sitting at 3-3 in conference play right now and have some of their tougher challenges on the horizon. The only AAC team remaining in the Baseball America Top 25 is the Tulane Green Wave, and I believe that the Cougars won’t be swept by any opponent this season, especially a team the Cougars won four of six games against last season. So if the Cougars become more consistent on both sides of the ball and get into a rhythm soon, they can easily finish at the top of the conference.