(Photo credit to the University of Houston Twitter account, @UHCougarBB)
The Cougars are coming off of a very successful 2017 season where they finished 42-21, winning the American Athletic Conference Tournament. Not only were the Cougars conference champs, they also hosted a regional in the NCAA tournament.
While the Cougars lost some key players to the MLB Draft, they also have a solid core returning for the 2018 season. One includes the American Athletic Conference Pitcher of the Year, Trey Cumbie. Cumbie finished his 2017 with a 2.04 ERA while leading the team in wins (10), innings pitched (101 1/3), and complete games (4). Cumbie is a 6-foot-2 lefty looking to continue his success as he enters 2018 trying to put up another impressive performance going into his draft-eligible season.
Another returning starter who figures to be in the weekend rotation along with Cumbie, is the junior righty, Mitch Ullom. Ullom posted a respectable 3.57 ERA in his 2017 campaign while leading the team in games started (16). Barring any unsuspected events, these two seem to be locks for the weekend rotation.
A player to keep an eye on for the third-weekend starter is Sophomore, Carter Henry. Henry was given six starts in 2017 where he had a little bit of a down year. Henry has the stuff to be a weekend starter with his mid-90s fastball if he can work out a few control issues that most young pitchers have.
Redshirt Junior, Aaron Fletcher, looks to be a shutdown lefty anchoring the Cougar bullpen this year. In 2017, Fletcher posted a 2.40 ERA in 41 1/3 innings. Fletcher along with other returning guys Brayson Hurdsman, Nolan Bond, Joey Pulido and others look to claim that final starting spot. Though those who lose out in the starting role will solidify the bullpen.
The Cougars lost some offensive depth by losing Jake Scheiner, Connor Wong, and Corey Julks to the MLB Draft. Nonetheless, the Cougars still have Joe Davis who plans to provide a lot of thump to the middle of the order. Davis had a monster freshman year in 2016 batting .331 and leading the team in home runs. He took a step back in 2017 but looks to have a strong 2018 with it being his first draft-eligible season. Though some depth has been lost, there is not too much drama in who is going to be in the starting lineup. Barring injuries, and in no particular order, the lineup will most likely consist of the following: Connor Hollis, Cooper Coldiron, Jared Triolo, Joe Davis, Nick Slaughter, Lael Lockhart, and Grayson Padgett.
The main position battle for the Cougar’s this fall will be for the job behind the plate. Last season Connor Wong took over the catching position batting .287 with 12 home runs. With some big shoes to fill, the favorite to win the catching job is sophomore Nick Slaughter. In only 39 at-bats in 2017, Slaughter batted .282 and totaled up 12 RBIs in a short span. While Slaughter may be the favorite, do not count out the others because if there’s one thing to learn about baseball, it’s that you never know what is going to happen on any given day.