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Archive for February, 2010

ElViento: I remember saying it after the season-opening, 6-0 loss to Texas State last weekend, just before Saturday’s game: “That first run can’t come soon enough.”

A few runs came, but they weren’t followed by any victories. So heading into the weekend series with the Broncos of Santa Clara (1-2), that first win can’t come soon enough.

If the wins are going to start coming for the Cougars, now would be a very good time. Everybody is eager to get UH back to respectability, and put last season’s lousy start in the past. And to be completely honest, it’s not going to get any easier for Houston. Out of the six non-conference weekend series on the schedule, this one will be by far the easiest. Anything less than a series victory will be a disappointment.

Still, that’s not to say there isn’t talent on the Santa Clara roster, because there is. The Broncos managed to bring in a strong recruiting class despite last year’s last-place West Coast Conference finish. And slugger Tommy Medica, a 2008 all-WCC performer, is back after missing ’09 with a shoulder injury. He already has five hits, including a homer, through three games. Sophomore Larry Herbst is off to an 8-for-10 start from the plate.

It will be interesting to see if the Broncos change up the weekend rotation against Houston, after less-than-impressive starts from seniors Nate Garcia and Alex Rivers. The Sunday starter, freshman Jon Hughes, had easily the best start of the weekend (6 IP, 3 ER) in SCU’s sole win.

For the Cougars, the keys are fewer free baserunners given up by the pitching staff, and more extra base hits from the offense. If we can get those two things figured out, everything else should take care of itself.

Hope to see you at Cougar Field this weekend!

Go Coogs!

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ElViento: It was a surprising evening all around for the Cougar faithful.

Things started off on an unexpected note on Wednesday when freshmen A.J. Dugat and Ari Tatum were kicked off the Cougar football team for an unspecified violation of team rules.

It always feels kind of funny to be kicking kids off the team when you’re taking on other kids with troubled pasts (i.e. James Cleveland, Matangi Tonga), but Kevin Sumlin has to be able to exert organizational control, and without knowing specifically what happened, it’s impossible to criticize the move.

While Tatum was expected to help provide newfound depth on the offensive line in 2010, it was Dugat’s dismissal that really raised the eyebrows of the Cougar faithful.

One of the most decorated incoming freshmen in recent memory for the Coogs, Dugat was a Parade All-American, and described by at least one impartial expert as being able to play on either side of the ball for any team in America. Dugat switched his verbal commitment from TCU to UH (which he described as his “dream school” early on in the recruiting process) and withstood a late push from UT-Austin.

The NCAA Clearinghouse delayed the beginning of Dugat’s freshman campaign, but the Dayton grad saw action as a freshman as both a wide receiver and kick returner in ’09.

So the super-deep receiving corps of the Cougars took its second hit of the off-season – the first being L.J. Castile dropping football to focus on academics – in addition to the graduation of Chaz Rodriguez. Still, the top three receivers from a year ago return in Cleveland, Tyron Carrier and Patrick Edwards, as well as a couple of receiving threats out of the backfield in Charles Sims and Bryce Beall. But who will replace the production of Rodriguez and Castile? Even without Dugat, the list of candidates is long:

Kierrie Johnson, Senior…Johnson burst onto the scene in ’08 as a sophomore transfer, racking up 499 receiving yards and 5 TDs. He lost some ground in the playing time department last year, ending up with just 16 catches for 237 yards. He could re-assert himself this season.

Chance Blackmon, sophomore…The Tatum native went off to Colorado for college, didn’t see much playing time, and decided to come back to Texas. Unfortunately, he won’t get to play with his now-graduated brother, former Cougar defensive back Carson Blackmon, but he could see some PT this year.

Tarance Farmer, sophomore…Like Blackmon, Farmer is a Texas native, a graduate of St. Pius here in Houston. He was recruited by Alabama, decided it wasn’t for him, and is back home with the Coogs.

Jordan Jolly, freshman…a three-star recruit by both Scout and Rivals, Jolly is one of the taller players (6’2″) in the Cougar receiving corps. I expect him to see the field this year.

DeAndre Perry, freshman…Possessing an incredible combination of size (6’4″) and speed (4.5 second 40-yard dash), Perry is the incoming WR I’m most excited about seeing.

Other possible contributors include sophomore Isaiah Sweeney, and freshmen Dominique Sanders, Langston Williams and Darian Lazard.
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Perhaps the even more surprising development on Wednesday was the Cougar men’s hoops squad dusting the Memphis Tigers from start to finish at Hofheinz Pavilion, finishing with a 92-75 victory.

Aubrey Coleman led all scorers with 34 (the non-surprise of the night), Kelvin Lewis added 18 and Kendrick Washington was a beast in the post, contributing his best all-around game as a Cougar with a career-high 16 points, as well as 9 rebounds and 3 blocks.

The Cougars held slight overall leads in team assists, turnovers and rebounds, but the game was won in the first half. Houston shot 50% in the first twenty, while Memphis shot just 32%. The Cougars led by 15 by the break, and impressively kept the pedal to the metal in the second half.

I’m not jumping in the “this team has figured it out!!” or the “where has this been all year??” boats. I’m proud of the kids on the team for an impressive win. Let’s just leave it at that.

The lady Cougar hoopsters host UTEP tomorrow. The Cougar baseball team hosts Santa Clara this weekend. Hope to see you there!

Go Coogs!

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ElViento: Sure, being a fan of the University of Houston athletics has its high points. The OSU and Tech wins by the football program this (academic) year come to mind. But sooner or later, you will discover the truth of what I’ve said before, and I will say again – it’s never easy being a Cougar.

If you want easy, go buy a burnt orange T-shirt like everybody else.

It’s not easy being a fan of college sports anywhere in the city of Houston right now, truth be told. The city is 0-11 to start out the baseball season, with Rice (0-3), Texas Southern (0-3) and Houston Baptist (0-2) joining the Cougars in the ranks of the winless.

Let’s run down the bad:

-The Cougar baseball team is 0-3, having been outscored 21-10 by Texas State.

-The softball team just dropped three straight to fall to 4-6 on the year, despite all ten games coming at home.

-Men’s hoops has lost two straight to fall to an even .500 on the year (5-7 in C-USA) and has Memphis coming up tomorrow evening.

-After reaching a tie for first place in conference, the lady hoopsters have lost three of four, losing the last two games by 21 points.

Add in some cold, rainy weather, and we all need our spirits raised a bit.

As far as current teams go, the good news is that the basketball season will be over soon, and the bat-and-ball sports have shown some promise. I feel like at least one of these teams will end up having a respectable season.

For the baseball team, the bats finally started to wake up in terms of extra base hits at the end of Sunday’s game. On Friday and Saturday, no Cougar not named Blake Kelso had better than a single. This team is talented enough to rebound from an 0-3 start, as long as the rebounding starts now, and not after 19 games, like it did last year.

If that doesn’t help, watch these:

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ElViento: The Cougar baseball team put on a clinic on Friday night. Unfortunately, the clinic was titled, “How to Lose by Six Runs Despite Outhitting Your Opponent”.

Those of us hoping to make last year’s cold start by the Cougar baseball team a distant memory were treated to some painful reminders on Friday night at Cougar Field, to the tune of a 6-0 loss to Texas State.

Free baserunners given up, a lack of pop on offense, and questionable decision-making by Rayner Noble left me checking the date on my phone to make sure I hadn’t been transported back to 2009.

Through the first four innings, Cougar starter Michael Goodnight didn’t allow a baserunner. But on the other side, the Cougar hitters failed to take advantage of a lead-off double in the first, and one-out baserunners the next three innings. Baseball is predictable sometimes. And when you keep wasting opportunities early while the other team can’t get anything started at all, you just get that sneaking suspicion that you’re going to end up getting punished for not taking advantage of the chances you had.

Kyle Kubitza led off the top of the fifth with a single for the Bobcats, Goodnight’s first baserunner allowed. He promptly struck the next two batters, leading to…Noble coming out to the mound to talk to his starter?? The inexplicable decision backfired, with Goodnight hitting and walking the next two batters, respectively. Still, he was only at 79 pitches, he’s supposed to be the ace of this team, and it’s only the fifth inning. Much to the surprise of the Cougar faithful (or at least me), Noble lifted Goodnight for William Kankel, who promptly walked the next two batters while throwing just one strike, forcing in two runs.

The Bobcats continued the attack the next inning with a two-run homer off of converted pitcher Codey Morehouse (a reserve infielder a year ago).

Things didn’t improve after that, with walks and errors leading to unearned runs in the 7th and 9th innings.

Meanwhile, the Cougar offense went from unable to cash in on its opportunities to unable to generate any opportunities. When that mess of a game was finally over, Texas State had a comfortable 6-0 win.

So I’m trying not to completely overreact to a loss that felt even worse than the final score indicated. Here are some bright spots:

-Goodnight retired 14 of his first 15 batters faced, with five strikeouts. I truly believe that if Noble just lets him pitch, he gets through the fifth unscathed, and probably could have gone another inning or two.

-Sophomore transfer Austin Gracey picked up hits in his first two at-bats as a Division 1 athlete. Unfortunately, he cancelled that out by picking up two errors.

-Lead-off hitter Blake Kelso reached base on a double and a walk. Unfortunately, the double led off the game and was not followed up by another Cougar extra base hit for the rest of the game, and after the walk, Kelso was thrown out attempting to steal.

-After a forgettable 2008 season, and a missed 2009 season due to injury, Taylor Hammack was impressive in relief on Friday, going two innings and allowing just an unearned run on one hit, with two strikeouts. I wish we had used him back when the outcome of the game was still in doubt. Yes, I realize I’m utilizing 20-20 hindsight.

Here’s the real silver lining to the cloud that was Friday night’s game: things can only get better. And I believe they will. Hope to see you Saturday night, same time, same place.
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Just around the corner, the Cougars were having much better luck on the softball diamond. Houston kicked off its second tournament in as many weekends with a 2-1, extra innings victory over #16 Louisiana-Lafayette. Amanda Crabtree went the distance in the circle for Houston, earning her first victory of the season.

The second win of the day, over Texas-San Antonio, came in decidedly less dramatic fashion. Trailing 3-2 after four innings, Houston used a 7-run fifth to start the rout against the Roadrunners. The final score was 13-3, with freshman phenom Bailey Watts improving to 3-1 on the year. Jennifer Klinkert, Holly Anderson and Brooke Lathan all homered for Houston. Anderson’s shot was of the grand slam variety.

Houston is now 4-3 on the year, and faces Purdue and Iowa State on Saturday, before finishing up with UT-Austin on Sunday.

Anyway, that’s all for me for now.

Go Coogs!

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ElViento: It’s Friday, February 19th, everybody. That means one thing: it’s college baseball season.

At 6:30 this evening, first pitch at Cougar Field will kick off the season for the Houston Cougars and the Texas State Bobcats. It is a matchup of two teams that begin the season out of the public spotlight, but two teams with legitimate NCAA tournament aspirations.

Unlike the Cougars, the Bobcats achieved that goal in 2009, when they rode a 41-15 overall record to a berth in the Austin regional, despite an upset loss suffered in the final game of the Southland Conference tournament. The kids from San Marcos went two-and-‘que in Austin, ending the season on a three-game losing streak.

There’s a lot of returning talent from that team, leading most experts to tab Texas State as heavy SLC favorites once again.

The Bobcats will use a weekend rotation of Michael Russo, a reliever last year, Garret Carruth, a big kid with disappointing numbers a year ago (think Mo Wiley) and Brian Borski, the statistical leader of last year’s Bobcat rotation. As expected, Michael Goodnight will face off against Russo on Friday. The Texas State site lists Ty Stuckey as the Saturday starter for Houston, and nobody seems to know who’s starting on Sunday. The list of candidates is long, and has been rehashed enough already, so I won’t go into it again.

Hitters to watch out for on Texas State include Bret Atwood (.368 avg, 14 SB) and Tyler Sibley (.359, 10 HR).

A lot of the spots in the Cougar lineup seem set. The remaining questions are:

Jake Runte or Austin Gracey at third? My guess: Gracey.

Taylor White or Ryan Still at second? My guess: Still.

-Who out of all the candidates in right field? My guess: White or Eric Brooks.

What questions are you looking forward to seeing answered this weekend, Cougar fans?

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For actual Cougar sports reporting, check out CCD.

ElViento: No, there is no typo of omission in the title of this piece. Allow me to explain.

For those not familiar with the history of this site, it started as the brainchild of founders SarCoog and Bobb-o. They came up with the name “Scott & Holman” from one of the four intersections that surround Robertson Stadium. Why Scott & Holman, and not – say – Cullen & Wheeler? I believed that it was simply a symptom of “Scott & Holman” sounding cooler than any of the other available intersections. However, after doing some research recently, I can only conclude that there is something more sinister at work here. Strap in, we’re about to touch on two of the biggest losses in the history of the University of Houston.

It starts with a man by the name of Randy Scott Holman, a pitcher for the New York Mets in the early 1980s. Apparently not a fan of his first name, he went by Scott Holman. After a couple of promising, although brief appearances for the Mets, Holman finally got an entire season’s worth of work at age 24, putting up respectable numbers. Local writer Vic Ziegel called Holman the “most promising of the new faces and arms” on the Mets. And why not? By season’s end, Holman had just turned 25, and had a career ERA of 3.34. Then something funny happened. The Mets released Holman, eventually re-signing him to a minor-league deal. Holman would never throw a pitch in the major leagues again. I haven’t been able to find a definitive answer on why this happened, but at least one Mets writer described Holman as having “chronic shoulder problems”, which may have contributed. Holman’s final season was 1983, a date which makes the Cougar faithful cringe still 27 years later. Because 1983, of course, was the year that the greatest team in the history of major University of Houston sports, the ultimate Phi Slamma Jamma team, lost as huge favorites in the national championship game to unlikely North Carolina State. It remains one of the great upsets in college basketball history.

Holman’s final season in the minors took place two years later, in 1985. Which you may not know is the last year that the famed Houston Cougar golf program won a national title, the program’s third in four years and 16th overall (still the second-most all-time by any school).

Back to Scott Holman. That particular name also happens to belong to a former NFL wide receiver. Unlike the pitcher, Holman the wideout was actually born with the first name Scott. And frankly, I can understand why he stuck with Scott. His middle name was Huntington. If you take the rejected names of the Scott Holmans, you would end up with “Randy Huntington“. Who, I asked myself, is Randy Huntington?

That question led me to the greatest setback suffered by the greatest Cougar athlete of all-time: Carl Lewis.

Lewis is one of the most dominant athletes to ever set foot on the earth. In total, he won nine Olympic gold medals; three individual running golds, another two relay golds, and four long-jumping golds. The long jump was perhaps Lewis’ most dominant event. At one point, Lewis won 65 consecutive long jump events, over the span of ten years. The one goal that remained elusive to Lewis, however, was the all-time record set by Bob Beamon. Beamon jumped 29 feet, 2.5 inches in the 1968 Olympics at high altitudes, and would never jump even 27 feet again. Lewis consistently jumped 28 feet and beyond, but could never quite reach Beamon’s mark. Then came the 1991 World Championships. Lewis went up against his closest competitor, Mike Powell, the silver medalist in the long jump at the ’88 Olympics. In the fourth round, Lewis leapt 29 feet, 2.75 inches, surpassing Beamon’s record. However, it was ruled a wind-aided jump, so it did not count as a new world record. Insult to injury: on his next jump, Powell promptly jumped 29 feet, 4.5 inches. The wind had died down enough that Powell’s jump counted. Not only did Lewis not have his record, Powell did, and Lewis’ winning streak was gone.

Would you believe that Powell was coached by a man named Randy Huntington? It’s true.

Further food for thought: Holman the pitcher made at least one appearance in every National League stadium (at the time) in his career…except the Astrodome. Pitcher Holman was born in Santa Paula, California, 106 miles from both Scott & Holman writer ElViento‘s hometown (Yorba Linda, CA) and birthplace (Fountain Valley, CA). 106 is the total number of points scored in the 1983 loss of Houston to NC State (54-52). Wide Receiver Holman made his pro debut in 1986, ElViento‘s year of birth.

So what’s one to do? Stop Googling this stuff? Embrace the coincidences and sponsor the baseball-reference page of Scott Holman? Re-name this site? Help me out, folks.

Sources:

Scott Holman baseball-ref

Met Mysteries

New York Magazine

BaseballLibrary

Scott Holman football-ref

Carl Lewis wiki

Huntington Bio

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Weekend recap

ElViento: A trio of Cougar sports competed this weekend. Let’s break it down.

In women’s hoops, the tied-for-first-place Cougars were tripped up by the last-place Tulsa Golden Hurricane on the road on Friday. On Saturday, head coach Joe Curl was hospitalized with chest pains. Curl, you may remember, missed the 2007-08 season with a heart attack, so this is obviously something that has to be taken quite seriously. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Coach Curl and his family.

Playing with Curl on their minds, the ladies rebounded impressively for a 73-67 road victory at SMU on Sunday, after trailing 24-9 early on. Let’s hope at least one gender of Cougar basketball can make a run at the NCAA tournament this year.

The Cougar men’s basketball team overcame its poor shot selection on Saturday to beat SMU, 66-60. Kelvin Lewis got hot from beyond the arc, ending up with a season-high 29 points. Cougars not named Lewis shot just 10-41 from the field, but it was enough to top the Mustangs.

The Cougars are now 13-11 with six games to play. Part of me wants to go off about the lack of restraint Tom Penders exercised in regards to his team’s lousy shot selection, especially that of Aubrey Coleman, but I’m not going to do that. We’re going to make it through the rest of the season together, people. By remaining positive. So, congratulations to the team on the win. Next up is UCF. Go get ’em, boys.

Finally, the softball team opened its season on Friday. The Cougars got off to a 2-3 start, with wins over #14 Ohio State and Sam Houston State. Although they’re under .500, there were some positives. An inexperienced offense managed to get on the board in four out of five games, and freshman pitcher Bailey Watts threw a pair of shutouts. Kyla Holas‘ squad has another five games in another tournament next weekend, including a match-up with UT-Austin at 1:00 on Sunday afternoon.

Don’t forget, the Cougar baseball team opens its season on Friday evening at 6:30 at Cougar Field against Texas State. Hope to see you there.

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