On Thursday, March 23, the Houston Cougars begin a three game home series against the George Washington University Colonials at Schroeder Park.
The Cougars are coming off of a disappointing loss to crosstown rivals Rice. The 7-4 defeat dropped them to 13-7 on the season. While the tense evening, which saw head coach Todd Whitting ejected for the remainder of that game and the first game against GWU, resulted in a loss, the Cougars will likely be fired up for this upcoming series, as
they will be playing for their coach, who will be absent for a third of it.
The Cougars still appear to be a strong team, though. Despite a 4-5 start to the season, they have now won nine of their last eleven. And while they are coming off of a loss, it was the kind of loss that could really put them back on the right trajectory going forward. It could a reality check for the player, a realization that there are a lot of good teams out there, and to grind wins out, they must limit mistakes.
If they do limit mistakes, they could win a lot of games. Coach Whitting has assembled a team chalk full of talent, especially his two primary starting pitchers, Andrew Lantrip and Seth Romero, the likely starters for the first two games of this series. The duo is coming off of back-to-back weekly awards.
Lantrip won the Louisville Slugger and the Collegiate Baseball National Player of the Week honor for his impressive outing against Alabama in Tuscaloosa. And Romero was named the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association National Pitcher of the Week for his performance in the second half of Saturday’s doubleheader against Grand Canyon University. Both threw 13 strikeouts and impressed all around.
Having these two pitchers in the first two games of a series usually puts the Cougars in a good place to win both. Lantrip’s 1.53 ERA and Romero’s 0.78, eases pressure from the bullpen, which has struggled at times this season.
Nick Hernandez, who is usually a strong closer, struggled against Rice in the midweek game. In this series, look for him to bounce back and improve upon his 2.40 ERA.
Also look for John King, the Sunday starter (in this case Saturday), to improve upon his 3.86 ERA this weekend. In the sixth innings he pitched against Grand Canyon last Sunday, he allowed only one run and threw five strikeouts. He could potentially succeed similarly against GWU, who is only 8-13 on the year.
Houston’s top of the order batting will likely give GWU problems. Freshmen phenom Joe Davis is leading the team, with a .412 batting average. He has fourteen runs on the season and 26 RBIs. His five home runs are more than the entire GWU team combined. The lead off hitter, Connor Wong, is batting at .346 and second in the rotation, Michael Pyeatt, is at .327.
If the rest of the lineup can hit anywhere near these levels, the Cougars are going to score a lot of runs. This is especially the case for the bottom of the rotation, which, aside from Connor Hollis, is struggling to get on base.
Despite this, Houston looks good going ahead, especially against GWU. The 8-13 squad does have a fairly impressive 19-10 victory over Maryland, but other than this their schedule largely doesn’t impress. They have lost three of their last four. And most of their games have been played on the Eastern seaboard. So, a trip to Houston to play the #16 ranked Cougars will not be insignificant. Rather, it’ll be an undertaking.
Their pitching doesn’t look to impress. Their team ERA is 4.60 and none of their weekend starters have an ERA below 3.50. They have some batting, with five players hitting above .300. They are lead by Mark Osls, with .392. But it is likely that they haven’t yet faced pitchers like Lantrip and Romero.
Houston should look to get a series victory, or perhaps even a sweep. Hopefully the emotionally draining game against Rice on Tuesday with a quick turnaround to a Thursday game won’t affect the Cougars adversely. Nor the Thursday absence of Coach Whitting. Ideally, they will use these circumstances as fuel to get three wins from the series and further turn the season around after some early bumps in the road.