Cougar Baseball Team Opens 2001 Season at Astros Classic at Enron Field
Houston Baseball This Week: Cougars Open New Season At Enron Field
UH will face No. 17 ranked Baylor at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 2. Houston then meets No. 20 ranked Texas at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday (Feb. 3) and Texas Tech at noon on Sunday.
UH Broadcast Info: Tune Into The World-Wide Web
Quick On Houston: New Look Squad In 2001
Deja V: UH Has Been Here Before
Many of the current Cougars are fresh from the high school ranks, but the last time Houston had this many players it turned into a thrilling four years - to the tune of three NCAA Regionals appearances with one Regional Championship, two Conference USA regular season and two C-USA Tournament Championships. The youthful 1997 team finished with 40 wins, including a conference tournament title and NCAA bid in its first season in C-USA.
Probable Pitchers This Week: Coogs Utilize Experience
UH probables are as follows...
Feb. 3: Harris (So., RHP, Pearland, Texas)
Feb. 4: Flores (Fr., RHP, Corpus Christi, Texas)
Head Coach Rayner Noble: Former All-American Starts 7th Season at UH
Noble (217-147, .596) played for the Cougars from 1980-83 and was named All-America as a pitcher/outfielder his senior year. After playing professionally for five years in the Houston Astros organization, he served as an assistant coach at Rice University from 1991-93 and at UH from 1987-90.
He compiled a 26-29 record in his coaching debut in 1995 and a winning 29-28 record in 1996, marking the Cougars' highest finish in the old Southwest Conference in five years. In 1997 with a team comprised primarily of his own players, Noble's squad earned an automatic NCAA Regional bid by winning the Conference USA Tournament championship in the school's first year in the league. He led a young Cougar squad to a second-place finish in the 1998 C-USA standings. A year later UH won its first conference title in 39 years under his direction. He then won both the C-USA regular season and tournament titles in 2000. His all-time C-USA record is 81-25 (.764).
A Closer Look: Wins Particularly High The Last Four Years
Noble Named Sportsman Of The Year: RBI Foundation Tabs UH Skipper
Noble was selected as one of the Sportsmen of the Year after an exemplary season on and off the field. He led UH to a stunning 2000 season, but his squad also achieved success in the classroom, where a 25-player roster recorded a composite 2.85 grade point average last fall.
Since its founding in 1992, the city of Houston's own Recycled Baseball Items Foundation (R.B.I.) uniquely donates baseball equipment, free of charge, to community organizations that work with inner-city youth. The non-profit organization has presented a positive and constructive alternative for area youth to choose over the problems of crime and drugs. The foundation's previous Sportsmen of the Year honorees include Art Howe, Larry Dierker and Bob Watson as well as former Cougars Mickey Herskowitz and Doug Drabek.
Houston Astros pitcher Scott Elarton, who led the team with 17 major league wins, was also a co-honoree with Noble. There was also special recognition for the Bellaire, Texas, Little League team that won the United States championship and played for the Little League world championship in Williamsport, Pa., last summer. Astros Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton served as the dinner's Master of Ceremony.
As part of the evenings festivities, Noble and Elarton were both roasted before the awards presentation. Sterling Bank Vice President and former major leaguer Norm Miller, who also served as a volunteer staff member for Cougar baseball last season, quipped from the roasting podium that "the first time anyone had mentioned the words Rayner Noble I thought they were talking about the mountain up in the state of Washington."
Upon accepting the award Noble thanked the RBI Foundation and praised the organization for its valuable efforts with the city's young people. He gave special thanks to God, his wife Lisa and their two children, Hannah and Kelsey, his Cougar team and the support staff of the UH Athletics Department.
The Country's Toughest Schedule?: Dare To Compare
Welcome Back Cougar Alumni: Varsity Rallies For 3-3 Draw Over UH Exes
Facing a talented alumni lineup that featured eight former players currently active in professional baseball, the 2001 varsity squad overcame a 3-0 deficit to lodge a 3-3 tie in the seven-inning exhibition.
Trailing 3-0, the Cougar varsity got one run back in the fourth when true freshman Sam Mitchell scored on a double to left by Chris Klosterman. The varsity then tied the game with a pair of runs in the fifth off former all-American and Los Angeles Dodger prospect Shane Nance. Freshman shortstop Hyung Cho led off with a double and then scored on a double by Sean Allen. After a fielder's choice, Allen scored on a ground out by freshman Brad Sullivan.
Cougar head coach Rayner Noble used four pitchers in the game. Senior left-hander Nick Torina looked sharp, holding the alumni to one hit in 2.0 innings of work. Freshmen Gene Flores and Jared Grein combined for 3.0 shutout innings, highlighted by Flores striking out current major leaguer Scott Sheldon (Texas Rangers) looking in the fifth.
Series History: Records vs. Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech
In 113 games since the first meeting between Houston and Texas in 1958, the Longhorns have built a commanding 84-27-2 lead in the all-time series. Texas won three of four from UH last season including the most-recent meeting, an 8-7 decision at Cougar Field (Feb. 29) in the lone game played in Houston. One of the most memorable series for Houston occurred in 1983, when, thanks to the Cougars' 1-2 starting pitching punch of All-American Rayner Noble and future Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek, UH beat Texas twice at Disch-Falk Field.
Houston and the Red Raiders of Texas Tech have met a total of 75 times since the series started in 1973, the year the Cougars joined the Southwest Conference for baseball. The Cougars lead the series 38-37. The teams last met in the first round of the SWC Tournament in 1996, where the Red Raiders claimed an 11-5 win in Lubbock. UH snapped Tech's 28-game home win-streak that same year with a 5-1 regular-season win. In three seasons between 1994 and 1996, Texas Tech won 10 of 12 games in the series. The Cougars went 3-7 vs. the Big 12 a year ago.
Nick After Noon: Torina Works Way Into Starting Assignments
In an elimination game at the tournament Houston jumped out to a big first inning lead and Rayner Noble rationalized that he could save his scheduled starter, Shane Nance, for the next game as UH was clearly in control to play another day. He just needed a last minute replacement pitcher to hold the lead and work as many innings as possible. It wasn't much of a gamble because Noble knew he had Nick Torina.
While the top of the first inning was going still going on, Torina threw warm-up tosses on the side and took the mound right after the top of the first ended. He proceeded to hold South Florida to two runs on six hits while working a career-long 5.1 innings.
Houston won the game and went on to win the C-USA Tournament. In his other start he held NCAA Tournament bound Oklahoma to three hits for 4.0 innings, but two of the hits and one of the runs allowed were after a 45-minute rain delay in cold April temperatures.
In 1999 Torina made his first collegiate start in possibly one of the toughest environments in the nation, Olsen Field in College Station against No. 3 ranked Texas A&M. Like a veteran, Torina struck out the A&M's leadoff hitter then proceeded to hold the Aggies to just two runs on five hits in a season-long 4.0 innings of work.
In addition to a perfect 2-0 career record and 4.50 ERA, Torina has averaged 8.0 strikeouts with 8.6 hits and 4.3 walks per 9.0 innings for his collegiate career.
The Other Half Of The Battery: Chris Snyder Moves To Top Backstop Spot
Sophomore Chris Snyder easily locked up the starting backstop duties after a solid fall as well as a successful debut in Division I baseball last season. As an understudy to Bitter a year ago Snyder made 16 starts, one of which was the championship game of the C-USA Tournament. He hit .347 and was error-free as a starter. Overall the team was 11-4 with Snyder working behind the plate.
In it's annual preview, Baseball America Magazine listed Snyder as the "best catcher in the league" as well as the catcher with the "best defensive skills." He is one of the few sophomores to make the preseason watch list for the prestigious Smith Award, an annual honor recognizing the top college baseball player in the country.
Take It To The "Hoop": Matt Hooper To Lead The Bullpen
On Deck: After Astros Classic The Cougars Head West For The Moores' Cup