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Posts Tagged ‘Matt Creel’

ElViento: Although the Cougar baseball team’s record still stands below .500 on the season (4-5), you can pretty safely say that the season-opening sweep at the hands of Texas State, and the team’s pitching woes are distant memories.

All year, the Houston staff has shown the ability to miss bats. Through nine games, the Cougars have been outhit just once. But until the first two games of the Houston College Classic, we didn’t know just how good this staff could be if it finally started attacking the strike zone, and stopped giving up so damn many free baserunners.

Now we know.

On Friday, the Cougars brought Chase Dempsay out of the bullpen for a start, and he responded with a strong outing. Dempsay, William Kankel and Matt Creel combined on a shutout, as the Cougars scored a 3-0 victory over a Missouri Tiger team that was 4-2 heading into the contest.

On Saturday, Houston got a rare chance to face UT-Austin in any sport, and the team was up to the challenge. Before the game, I remarked that starter Michael Goodnight‘s 6.85 ERA was too high for his relatively impressive peripheral numbers (9 hits in 9.2 innings, 11-4 K-BB ratio). His ERA will come down eventually, I reasoned. Even optimistically, I didn’t expect it to come down this quick.

Goodnight was flat-out dominant. He didn’t let a couple of mystery balk calls get to him, and threw the game of his career thus far: 7 scoreless IP, 2 H, 9 K. Even if one were so inclined as to nitpick and point to his four walks, I would counter that at least three of them came on extremely questionable calls. That ERA? All the way down to 3.78.

Goodnight left after the seventh with a 1-0 lead, which came two pitches into the bottom of the first for the Coogs. Blake Kelso (who notoriously rarely swings at first pitches) cranked the first pitch of the game for a triple to center. The next pitch from Brandon Workman (brother of Cougar women’s hoopster Megan Workman) went to the backstop, and Kelso scampered home. That would be all the offense Houston would need.

The bullpen picked up right where Goodnight left off.  Ty Stuckey came in for the eighth, and struck out the first two Longhorns he faced. A two-out walk was nullified when Stuckey picked the runner off. Matt Creel came on, looking for his second save in as many games. After giving up a single and a walk to his first two hitters, Creel struck out the next two, and with two outs, pinch hitter Paul Montalbano lined out to Kelso, who made a nice, leaping grab at shortstop. And the celebration was on:

Next up for the Cougars is Texas Tech on Sunday at 2:30. The Cougars have already earned their first winning record at the Houston College Classic since 2002, and have a chance for their first ever weekend sweep of the annual showcase, which is in its tenth season.

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Both Houston Cougar basketball teams are preparing for the Conference USA tournament, and they could not possibly be headed in more opposite directions.

The Lady Coogs have won their last three games by a combined 65 points, including a 12-point victory over first-place Tulane. Houston has the #2 seed in the women’s bracket, and will play at 8:30 PM on Tuesday against the winner of Monday night’s contest between Rice and UTEP.

The men’s team had a chance to build some momentum after a dominating win over Memphis, and fell flat on its face instead, losing to SMU, barely edging last-place Rice, and losing to second-to-last place Tulane. The Coogs are the 7-seed, and face 10-seed ECU on Tuesday at noon. Should they win, they would get another shot at Memphis, on Wednesday at noon.

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The Cougar softball team’s three-run seventh inning rally wasn’t enough on Wednesday, as they lost 6-4 to #19 Texas A&M. The ladies have a home double-header against the Southern Jaguars this Wednesday, starting at 5:00. It’s the team’s annual Striking Out Breast Cancer game(s), so come support the team, and breast cancer research.

Plus, the shirts they’re giving out are going to be hilarious. Trust me.

That’s all for me for now. Hope to see you at Minute Maid tomorrow! Go Coogs!

(Video courtesy of Scott & Holman‘s own jtdees.)

(Just for fun, if you’re looking for your favorite S&H personality, ElViento is in the first row, with the red shirt and blue/white hat. Bobb-o is in the jeans and red jacket, no hat, and comes over and leads the “Whose house?” at the end. jtdees, is, quite obviously, behind the camera.)

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ElViento: Every time I look at wordpress’ site statistics, I am amazed anybody reads this site. Turns out, on Saturday, this site had it’s 100,000th visitor since its first post last May. (And WordPress swears that number doesn’t count our own visits, which would probably put us up at 150K by now.) So thanks to everybody who has dropped by, thanks to the 400-some odd of you who have left a comment, and thanks to every site for an opposing team which has ripped us, because that is always entertaining. Hell, while we’re here, thanks to all the people who have posted spam that I have deleted. Even that can be funny.

Anyway, enough gratuitous back-patting. On to the Coogs…

The Cougar baseball team came dangerously close to a series sweep against Santa Clara this weekend that would have brought their season record right back to .500, but ended up having to settle for a series victory.

On Friday, the Cougar bats woke up in a big way, putting up four straight innings of 3+ runs and turning a 3-0 deficit into a 17-9 victory. Sophomore transfer Matt Creel had a monster game, with 4 hits, 4 runs scored and 7 RBI. Junior Caleb Ramsey contributed 4 hits of his own, scoring three times.

Saturday’s game looked like it might be more of the same, with the home team scoring in each of the first two innings to take a 2-1 lead. But the bats went cold, the Broncos eventually tied up the game, and the Coogs would have to scratch out a victory by showing a flair for the dramatic. (With some help from the Bronco defense.)

With Creel in to pitch for the bottom of the ninth, Santa Clara put runners on first and third with just one out. But Creel induced the fifth double play of the game for the Coogs to end the threat.

In the bottom half of the inning, SC pitcher J.R. Graham looked like he would send the game to extra innings, retiring the first two hitters he faced. But lead-off hitter Joel Ansley hit an infield single, aided by Graham stumbling off the mound attempting to play the ball. With Blake Kelso batting, Ansley took off for second. He had the throw beaten for a stolen base, and when the throw to second found its way into center field, Ansley took off for third. Bronco CF Lucas Herbst tried to scoop the ball up and throw Ansley out at third in one motion, but ended up overrunning the ball. On the misplay, Ansley came all the way around to score, ending the game.

In the Sunday finale, the Cougars came up just short of a sweep, dropping an 8-7 decision after rallying from a 5-0 deficit after two innings. Kelso rapped out four hits, driving in three runs and scoring twice, but the Cougars failed to pick up an extra base hit, and left 11 runners on base, and the comeback bid fell just short.

While the series victory was certainly heartening (the team didn’t win two games between Friday and Sunday until the fifth weekend of the year last year), there are still reasons for concern:

-The Cougars have been a fantastic example so far of why batting average is an overrated statistic. Houston has outhit its opponents .303 to .269, and has been outhit in just one game out of six. But the UH pitching staff has surrendered a staggering 50 free baserunners (BB + HBP) in 54 innings pitched, while the Houston hitters have been given just 28 free trips to first. This tips the on-base percentage in favor of the opposition, and is the main reason Houston is out to just a 2-4 record.

-In six games, just one Cougar starter has lasted five innings, Michael Goodnight in Friday’s win. (In that outing, he went five and gave up five runs.) On Sunday, starter Eric Brooks didn’t make it out of the first. With the meat of the schedule coming up, and a number of mid-week games in store, this trend will eventually wear out the Cougar bullpen. Rayner Noble has been pretty quick with the hook so far, so maybe we’ll see him give his pitchers a longer leash in coming weeks.

Speaking of the upcoming schedule, we are about to find out what these Cougars are made of. On Tuesday, the Coogs head across town to take on Rice at Reckling Park. After getting out to a shocking 0-4 start, the Owls have won three straight. Next weekend, Houston will take on a trio of Big XII opponents at the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park, in Texas Tech, UT-Austin and Missouri.

After that, it’s out west for the Cougars’ annual, brutal California trip. This year, Houston starts with a weekend series at Cal Poly. The team will have revenge on its minds, after losing two of three to the Mustangs at Cougar Field last year.

Then it’s up to the Bay Area, for mid-weekers against solid clubs in San Francisco and Cal. But the biggest test will be the trip-ending series at Arizona State. The Sun Devils are in the top 10 in every poll, and as high as #2 in some. They are off to a 7-0 start (albeit against weak competition).

If Houston can go 6-6 in its next 12 games, it’ll be a victory for the team, and will do wonders for the RPI.
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I tried to warn some of you against using the four-letter H-word in regards to this Cougar men’s basketball team, and Saturday’s 94-83 loss to the SMU Mustangs proved me right. This team cannot consistently defend. Even in a game when the 3-pointers were falling for the Cougars, the defense was non-existent. The host Mustangs shot 52% from the floor, 59% from beyond the arc and attempted 29 free throws. At some point, when every team has a “hot-shooting night” against you, it’s not just hot-shooting. It’s bad defense.

The Coogs end the regular season with a home game against Rice on Wednesday and a roadie at Tulane on Saturday. The Rice game is Senior Night, so come support your Cougar athletes, and thank them for all of the effort they have put in.
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The Lady Cougar hoopsters had better luck, battering the conference-leading Green Wave from start to finish on Saturday, in a 74-62 victory that was less close than the final score would indicate. This makes two straight dominating victories for the women, who host Rice on Thursday for the season-finale. The Coogs are tied for third-place in C-USA with a 9-6 mark, with the conference tournament starting a week from today (Monday).
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After ten straight home games to start the season, the Cougar softball team finally hit the road this weekend for the LSU Tiger Invitational. Houston earned three victories by a combined score of 29-9, but fell just short in a pair of upset bids against their ranked hosts. The Coogs dropped a 2-0 decision to LSU on Saturday, beforing losing 5-4 in 10 innings on Sunday.

Houston now sports a 7-8 record on the year, and continues their challenging schedule with a contest against Texas A&M in College Station on Wednesday.

That’s all for me for now. Hope to see you at Reckling Park, Hofheinz Pavilion and/or Minute Maid Park this week!

Go Coogs!

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ElViento: With all of the excitement around the Cougar football team, it may be hard to think about the upcoming seasons of other Cougar sports, but let’s take a minute to do just that. The Cougar baseball and women’s basketball teams recently released their full schedules, so let’s take a look.

The Cougar lady hoopsters return their top four scorers of a year ago, and 87% of the team’s total scoring is back. Newcomers include Ohio State transfer Lesslee Mason (the #4 power forward in the country coming out of high school), and a trio of freshman in guard Macy Morton (sister of Cougar junior guard Megan Morton), center Zalika Dyson, and guard Megan Workman. For all of their experience, the Cougar roster still features just two seniors, and the top six returning scorers are non-seniors.

Houston opens with a scrimmage against the Houston Jaguars on November 9th, and begins the season with six of its first seven games on the road. Still, the non-conference slate features home matchups again Oregon State, North Texas, Princeton, Kansas and TCU. Top non-conference road opponents include LSU and Miami. Conference-USA play begins on January 8th at Tulane, and concludes with three straight home games to end the regular season, culminating with a game against Rice at Hofheinz Pavilion on March 4th.

Despite a disappointing 27-31 campaign in 2009, the Houston Cougar baseball team did not shy away from a tough schedule for the upcoming season. In fact, the non-conference slate looks noticeably more difficult than last year’s.

UH will open the season inside the Houston city limits for the seventh consecutive year with a weekend series against Texas State, starting off a streak of ten straight games in Houston to open the season. That run of games includes a weekend series against Santa Clara, a Tuesday game at Rice, and games against Missouri, UT-Austin and Texas Tech at the Houston College Classic, in Minute Maid Park. After that, however, the Cougars hit the West Coast for a brutal eight-game stretch. It starts in San Luis Obispo, California against a Cal Poly team that won 37 games a year ago, posted a 24-7 mark at home, and beat Houston two of three at Cougar Field. The Cougars have back-to-back midweek games against San Francisco and California, before a three-game tilt in Tempe, Arizona against Arizona State. The Sun Devils have been a top-8 seed in the NCAA baseball tournament each of the last three years, making it to Omaha twice in that span.

Other highlights of the schedule include a weekend home series against TCU, and an 8-game home stretch from May 7th to May 18th that includes two C-USA weekend series (Tulane and Marshall) and Tuesday games against Texas A&M and Rice.

Houston ends the regular season at East Carolina. Having met some ECU baseball fans last year, I say thank God we don’t have to host the Pirates this year. The Cougars do host the C-USA tournament, from May 26th to May 30th.

Cougar Fans won’t have to travel far for the Conference tournament

With a daunting schedule ahead of them, the good news is that the Cougars have a lot of talent returning from last year’s squad. Houston returns 98.9% of its hits from a team that batted .282 as a squad. Where the Cougars need to show improvement is earning the extra-base hits. UH slugged just .388 as a team last year, earning 18 fewer XBH than their opponents. Cougar baserunning decisions need to improve as well, because while small ball can work, it doesn’t work when the other team steals 18 more bases than you in just 12 more tries. In addition to all the returning talent (and hopefully increased health for guys like Matt Murphy and David Murphy), there are a plethora of newcomers on the offensive side. San Jacinto JC transfer Ryan Still should contribute on the infield, and freshmen M.P. Cokinos and Alex Anastas have the talent to see the field right away. LSU-Eunice transfer Matt Creel could also see some action.

The Cougars need to see the most improvement out of their pitching staff. Houston got off to a very slow start in that department last year, but the arms slowly improved, and as they did, so did Houston’s record – the Cougars started the season 3-14, but finished 24-17, including a 13-11 mark in C-USA play. The pitching staff will be without Donnie Joseph and Wes Musick, both of whom were drafted and signed after their junior seasons in 2009. Joseph was utterly dominant out of the bullpen last year, ending the season with a 2.16 ERA, a 3-1 record, and 75 K in 50 IP. Joseph – one of the classiest athletes ever to pass through UH – was drafted in the third round by the Cincinnati Reds. Musick struggled again in 2009, and never seemed to have “it” back after a stellar freshman campaign in 2007. Best of luck to both Cougar pitchers in the pros.

The Cougar pitchers who will be back include sophomore Michael Goodnight (4.43, 5-5), junior Jared Ray (5.34, 4-4), sophomore Mo Wiley (6.55, 2-4) and junior Chase Dempsay (5.00, 4-0; also a .275 hitter). For all four, the talent is unquestioned. All have shown flashes – Dempsay was a freshman all-American relief pitcher in 2008 – but need to prove that they can put everything together for an entire season in 2010. If Goodnight, Ray, Wiley and Dempsay can pitch to their potential, and Noble & co. can find some serviceable newcomers to use around them, 2010 could be a very successful year for the Cougars.

Looking around the college football world on Houston’s off-week…

The big news of the weekend is Washington upsetting #3 USC. But is Southern Cal’s annual choke job against a weak Pac-10 opponent really still news? I mean, I guess so. But barely.

UT-Austin got by Texas Tech, 34-24. What we learned about Tech, in a nutshell: their defense is pretty good, their passing game is very good, their running game stinks. So, everything we already suspected was just kind of proven.

Looking around C-USA, it wasn’t a real successful weekend. It took a late rally for Southern Miss to scrape by hapless Virginia. ECU showed that last year’s world-beating tendencies haven’t returned, as they looked overmatched against North Carolina. Tulsa got slaughtered by Oklahoma, to the tune of 45-0. UAB fell to previously winless Troy. SMU choked away the game against the country’s worst BCS-conference team, Washington State.

Doing an adequate job were Rice (lost by “just” 17 to Oklahoma State) and Memphis (took care of business against Tennessee-Martin).

Outperforming expectations were Marshall, who defeated Bowling Green for its second win of the season; Central Florida, who earned C-USA revenge against Buffalo; and UTEP, who thoroughly dominated New Mexico State, for the first win of the season for the Miners.

Aside from the UH-Texas Tech game this coming weekend, I’ll be keeping an eye on the following games:

  • Southern Miss @ Kansas…The Golden Eagles, the trendy pre-season pick out of the east, have looked uninspiring in getting off to a 3-0 start. Playing at a ranked Kansas team will be their first true test of the season.
  • UCF @ East Carolina…This one looked like a laugher before the season started, but it suddenly looks like it’ll be competitive. And every game matters in a lousy C-USA East division.
  • UTEP @ Texas…Can the Miners make this one respectable?
  • UAB @ Texas A&M…A battle of two freakishly athletic QBs (Joe Webb and Jerrod Johnson) on otherwise sorry teams. The Ags are 2-0, but 8-point victories over the Utah States of the world don’t make it look like aTm is a whole lot better than last year’s 4-8 squad.
  • Vanderbilt @ Rice…The Owls haven’t really been in a game yet, but they can take some moral victories away from this weekend. They actually outgained Oklahoma State, for example. Expect a low-scoring affair against Vandy. Rice might have a chance in this one if they can keep it close and make some big plays late.

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