Houston Baseball This Week: "Moores Cup" On The Line This Weekend
The University of Houston baseball team (2-1 overall) will head west for a three-game weekend series at San Diego State, Friday through Sunday, Feb. 9-11. The winner of the series will earn possession of the Moores Cup, a trophy commissioned in 1998 by UH graduate and owner of the San Diego Padres, John Moores. First pitch Friday from Tony Gwynn Stadium in San Diego will be at 5:00 p.m. (Pacific Time).
The Moores Cup wins are tied at 1-1. San Diego State claimed the inaugural Cup in 1998 with a 10-3 victory at home, but Houston won the Cup the following year with a 15-5 decision over the Aztecs at Cougar Field. Houston leads the all-time baseball series 2-1 dating back to 1982.
Two Trophies For UH: Cougars Play For "The Silver Glove" Next Week
There are only a few baseball programs across the country that, like the big rivalries in college football, play for an annual trophy. Houston plays for not just one trophy but two of them. After the Moores Cup this week the Cougars begin the first of five games played against crosstown rival Rice. Since 1998 the winner of the annual series for the city championship of Houston has been awarded the Sterling Bank Sliver Glove. Game one of the Silver Glove series is Tuesday, February 13, at Cougar Field. UH won The Glove for the first time last season.
Houston Baseball Last Week: Two Wins At Enron Field
Houston opened its 2001 season last week as a participant in the inaugural Astros College Classic Tournament held downtown at Enron Field, the fabulous home of Major League Baseball's Houston Astros. The Cougars went 2-1 at Enron as part of a six-team, college tournament that featured former members of the old Southwest Conference including Baylor, Rice, Texas, TCU and Texas Tech.
UH dropped its opener to No. 17 ranked Baylor, 16-7 on Friday (Feb. 2), but bounced back to defeat No. 20 ranked Texas 3-2 on Saturday (Feb. 3). The Cougars then thumped Texas Tech 11-5 on Sunday to complete a 2-1 start against some of the elite teams of the Big 12 conference.
In The Beginning: UH Off To Best Start Since 1997
Don't look now but the Cougars are off to their best start since 1997. Not even Houston teams from 1999 or 2000, a pair of squads that both went on to win conference championships and play in NCAA Regionals, began their respective seasons at 2-1. The current ledger is Houston's best start since 1997 when UH went on to win 40 games and earn a regional bid as the C-USA Tournament Champion.
Quick On Houston: New Look Squad In 2001
Houston welcomes back nine returning lettermen from last season's team that won a school-record 48 games and came within one run of reaching the College World Series. A total of 18 newcomers, including 13 true freshmen, make up Houston's 28-man roster in 2001. The youthful, new-look Cougars have two seniors and one starting position player returning from 2000.
Head Coach Rayner Noble: Former All-American Now In 7th Season at UH
It didn't take long for Houston head baseball coach Rayner Noble to turn his alma mater into one of the nation's premiere programs. Now in his seventh season at the Houston helm, Noble has already won two C-USA regular season championships and a pair of conference tournament titles. His teams have earned three NCAA regional bids and finally, national respect as an NCAA regional host in back-to-back years. After winning the C-USA regular season championship for a second-straight year in 2000, the league's head coaches and media members selected him as the Conference USA Coach of the Year for a second consecutive season.
Noble (219-148, .597) 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
Rayner Noble reached the 200-win plateau on April 28 last season with a 4-0 shutout at Saint Louis. Now with 219 wins, he ranks as the fourth-winningest coach in school history. He owns a .597 career win percentage but a more accurate gauge for Noble might be how the Cougars have played in more recent years. Since 1997 when his UH teams were finally comprised of mostly the players that he recruited, Noble's overall record has been 164-91. That win percentage of .643 would rate as the best in school history. Another way to think the .643 win percentage is that it is the equivalent of a major league team winning 104 games in one season.
Noble Named Sportsman Of The Year: RBI Foundation Tabs UH Skipper
Rayner Noble and Houston Astros pitcher Scott Elarton were named the 2001 Sportsmen of the Year by the R.B.I. Foundation of Houston at the organization's annual awards dinner on Friday, January 27, in Houston.
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.
Probable Pitchers This Week: Coogs Utilize Youthful Arms
The trio of sophomore right-hander Bryan Harris and true freshmen Gene Flores and Brad Sullivan will comprise the rotation for the three games at San Diego State this week.
It will be the first career start for Sullivan, a true freshman from Nederland, Texas. In his NCAA debut last Saturday Sullivan earned his first career save by working the final inning of a one-run game against No. 20 ranked Texas. Harris was the starter in that game and looked solid in holding the Longhorns to two hits and no earned runs in 5.0 innings of work. He picked up the win in what was only his fourth-career start. Flores also made his NCAA debut last week at Enron Field. The freshman from Corpus Christi, Texas, allowed just two earned runs and struck out five in 5.0 innings of work against a Texas Tech team that advanced to a regional a year ago.
UH probables are as follows...
Feb. 2: Sullivan (Fr., RHP, Nederland, Texas) 0-0, 0.00, 1.0 IP, 1 K
Feb. 3: Harris (So., RHP, Pearland, Texas) 1-0, 0.00, 5.0 IP, 1 K
Feb. 4: Flores (Fr., RHP, Corpus Christi, Texas) 1-0, 3.60, 5.0 IP, 6 K
The Country's Toughest Schedule?: Dare To Compare
In what has become a regular practice under Rayner Noble, Houston will again play one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Cougars are lined up to play 24 games against eight teams that are ranked among the preseason Top 25. Three other 2001 opponents (Arizona, Texas A&M and Texas Tech) are receiving votes for the Top 25. Other quality programs like San Diego State and Southwest Texas State are the defending champions of their respective conferences. A list of tough games and opponents appears at the right, but what's not on the list is that Houston also plays 12 conference road games this year.
Final Note On Houston-SDSU Series: That First Meeting Was Also Pretty Big
Houston and San Diego State now play for the Moores Cup but the first meeting of the series in 1982 also carried some weight. The Cougars and Aztecs first met in an elimination game at the NCAA West II Regional in Tempe, Arizona. It was Houston's first NCAA appearance in baseball since playing in the College World Series in 1967. UH won the contest 13-3 .
Cali Connection: California Duo Sparks Cougar Offense
The Cougars have two players who will be returning to their home state of California this week and the duo also happen to have paced the UH offense through the first three games. Juniors Chris Klosterman and Josh Snook, a pair of transfers from Cypress Community College, were 1-2 on the team in both hitting and on-base percentage last week at the Astros Classic. Klosterman, a 6-foot-4 third baseman from Long Beach, was named to the inaugural All-Tournament team for the Classic after batting .583 (7-for-12) with a double and three runs scored. Snook batted .455 (5-for-11) with a pair of walks, two runs, 2 RBI a sacrifice and a stolen base. At Cypress C.C. Klosterman and Snook led the Chargers to a pair of regional appearances, including the state championship game in 1999.
On Deck: It's Glove Time After Playing For The Cup
Houston will finally play its home opener at Cougar Field on Tuesday, February 13, in game one of the annual Sterling Bank Silver Glove Series to determine the city's collegiate baseball champion. The meeting is the first of five between the rivals this season. First pitch is slated for 2:00 p.m.