Houston Baseball Begins Spring Practice

    Assistant Coach Ryan Shotzberger with Houston catchers
    Assistant Coach Ryan Shotzberger with Houston catchers
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    Jan. 25, 2013

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    HOUSTON -- Houston Baseball began its 2013 spring practice schedule Friday afternoon at Cougar Field. The Cougars will prepare for one week before hosting Fan Appreciation Day and the Alumni Game next Saturday, Feb. 2 at 1 pm.  

    Houston is led by third-year head coach and Cougar alum, Todd Whitting ('95) and is assisted by Trip Couch, Frank Anderson and Ryan Shotzberger.

    Gathering for the first time as a full team in 2013, the Cougars set their Friday focus on live at-bats and taking the field together as a team.

    "It was great to get the whole team back on the field together with the season just right around the corner," junior Landon Appling said. "The main focus today was to get everyone out on the boneyard and see a lot of live at-bats vs. our pitching staff and vice versa. Having a chance to face live hitters also prepped our defense. All in all, it was a great first day back."

    The team returns 16 players from a year ago and welcomes 19 new faces to the Houston program. Making up the 19 are 10 freshmen and nine JUCO players.

    ABOUT THE RETURNERS
    Solidifying his role as a leader and as the team veteran is junior outfielder and C-USA All-Freshman Team member in 2011 Landon Appling. In 2012, Appling hit .324 with a team-best 32 runs scored and 61 hits to accompany his 26 RBI.

    Also returning is sophomore and All-Freshman team honoree in 2012 Michael Pyeatt. The left-handed hitting left fielder secured his starting role mid-season a year ago and finished with a team-best .326 average and 31 hits.

    Houston will welcome back one infield position player in senior Casey Grayson. After missing half of last season due to injury, the first baseman is back and looks to be Houston's top power threat and run producer.

    Junior designated hitter Jonathan Davis returns for his third season and finished among Houston's top hitters last season, hitting .306 with 38 hits and 16 RBI.

    Returning on the pitching staff will be senior right-hander and a projected weekend rotation starter Austin Pruitt, who finished last season with a team-low 4.25 ERA, a 3-4 record in 91.0 innings pitched with 57 strikeouts, all team-highs.

    Seeing action out of the pen and as a starter in 2012, Houston also welcomes back senior lefty Matt Hernandez, who captured a win in the final game of the C-USA Championship last May.

    Junior Chase Wellbrock, sophomores Aaron Garza and Ryan Vruggink, who saw significant bullpen action in 2012, will also provided needed depth to this young squad.

    Redshirting in 2012 due to an early season injury and looking to play his first collegiate season in the Houston outfield will be Ashford Fulmer.

    LOOKING AT THE NEWCOMERS
    Houston welcomes 19 newcomers to the squad, led by a veteran left side of the infield in junior shortstop Frankie Ratcliff and redshirt sophomore Chris Waylock. The duo joins freshmen infielders Kyle Kirk and Josh Vidales, who could see significant playing time in their first collegiate season. The Cougars do not return a catcher from 2012 as junior transfer Caleb Barker, from Grayson CC, will be looked upon immediately heading into Opening Day.

    Adding depth to the pitching staff was key for the coaching staff this off-season as junior right-hander Daniel Poncedeleon, out of Cypress JC and a 38th round draft selection in 2012, will quickly become a part of the weekend rotation. Joining Poncedeleon as highly regarded newcomers are freshmen Jake Lemoine (Bridge City HS/TX - 21st round draft selection in 2012), Grant Slaughter (Cy-Ranch HS/TX - Houston's 5A MVP) and Jared West (North DeSoto HS/LA - 39th round draft selection in 2012).

    UP NEXT
    Houston Baseball will host `Fan Appreciation Day' and its Alumni Game at 1 p.m. Saturday, February 2 at Cougar Field. Admission is free.

    The Cougars will then open their 2013 season officially at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 15 by hosting Northeastern University in a three-game series (Feb. 15-17) at Cougar Field. For more of the latest news and highlights, visit www.UHCougars.com.

    STAY CONNECTED
    Stay up to date with all Houston Baseball news and highlights by following us on Twitter @UHCougarBB or on Facebook at /HoustonCougarBaseball. Fans can also follow head coach Todd Whitting @toddwhitting on Twitter.

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