May 30, 2012
HOUSTON— It was a year that saw a young team face a highly competitive schedule, a year that notched records in academics and a year that ended on a high note under second-year head coach Todd Whitting. For the University of Houston baseball team, 2012 was a way to gauge the future of the program and identify what it truly means to play apart in the success of Cougar Baseball.
It began with the players and schedule. And ended with a win and optimism for 2013. Let's take a look back.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
The Cougars had a regular season schedule set at 55 games. Playing 52 with three rainouts, Houston tallied a total of 27 regular season games against teams that were ranked among the nation’s Top 30 in at least one poll during the 2012 season. It was by no surprise that with the schedule Whitting and his staff created that Cougar Baseball would be ranked near the top in Strength of Schedule. During the course of the season, College Baseball Lineup ranked Houston No. 1 in Strength of Schedule. The Cougars wrapped up the season ranked 31st, having defeated two-Top 10 teams in then-No. 4 Arkansas and then-No. 6 Rice. Houston also earned wins over Southern Miss, Sam Houston State, and Texas State, while tying East Carolina.
THE YEAR OF THE YOUNG
Houston opened the season with 14 true freshmen and six junior college transfers, making up 20 of the 34 rostered players. The Cougars also saw four sophomores and four juniors accompany six seniors. Whitting depended highly on his newcomers to help shape the foundation for the program, as eight freshmen earned at least one start this season. Solidifying a starting role at the beginning of the season was freshman Price Jacobs out of Baytown, Texas. The outfielder started 47 games for the Cougars and tallied 158 at-bats and led the team with 11 doubles. Classmate Michael Pyeatt secured a starting role midway through the season as he opened fire in conference play, leading Houston with a .362 clip in league games. The Cougars were also led by newcomers Jacob Lueneburg (.309 avg) and Austin Pruitt (4.25, 3-4, 91.0 IP), while sophomore returners Landon Appling (.324, 32 R, 3 HR) and Jonathan Davis (.306, 7 2B) produced solid second seasons for the Cougars.
SAYING FAREWALL TO THE SENIORS
Houston saw six seniors wrap up their collegiate careers in a Cougar uniform. Represening the senior class were pitchers Jared Ray, Mo Wiley and Jordan Lewis, catcher John Cannon, infielder Jake Runte and utility/pitcher Codey Morehouse. Cannon (.302) tallied career-highs in hits (4 vs. Texas Tech) and RBI (4 vs. UAB), while Morehouse (.327), along with Cannon produced their best offensive year to date. Wiley, despite suffering a broken jaw in early May, finished the year leading Houston with four saves and was third-best in strikeouts with 39 in just 34.2 innings pitched. Jared Ray was named to the C-USA All-Academic Team and notched a career-high 10 strikeouts in a win over Tennessee this season, being named Houston’s only C-USA Pitcher of the Week honoree. Jake Runte (.231) played an instrumental role in the defensive alignment for the Cougars, seeing action at second, third and shortstop this season, while Jordan Lewis (5.27, 3-7) earned an impressive win over then-No. 4 Arkansas, while going at least 5.0 innings in his last five starts.
COLLEGE CLASSIC SUCCESS
Playing in one of the nation’s best tournaments, Houston faced Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas Tech at the Houston College Classic at Minute Maid Park for the 12th straight year. The Cougars showed well, posting a 2-1 record in the three games played with wins over SEC then-No. 4 Arkansas and Tennessee before falling in the final game of the tournament to then-No. 24 Texas Tech. Also participating in the event was Texas and Rice. Houston surprised a lot of fans early with two back-to-back wins over SEC opponents, including impressive pitching efforts by seniors Jared Ray and Jordan Lewis. Ray and freshman Cory Kay, who belted his first homerun to lead the offensive effort vs. Arkansas, were honored on the Houston College Classic All-Tournament Team for their play.
SILVER GLOVE SKID SNAPPED
Houston and Rice continued the rich history of the Silver Glove Series in 2012 as the Owls earned a 4-1 record over the Cougars this season. Entering the year having lost 15 straight games to Rice dating back to May 1, 2009, Houston snapped the streak after 16-straight with an impressive 11-6 win at Reckling Park on May 4 in the conference series opener. The two teams met five times in 2012. Named to the All-Silver Glove Series Team for their play during the series were John Cannon, Michael Pyeatt, Landon Appling, Austin Pruitt and Jordan Lewis.
Whitting on beating Rice: "I'm extremely proud of the way our guys played against Rice. Looking back and finally snapping the skid is great for our program as we move forward. What I don't think people really understand about the 16-game skid we had with Rice is that they are a phenomenal ball club. No. 6 in the nation speaks for itself.”
PYEATT NAMED TO ALL-FRESHMAN TEAM
For his stellar play in his debut season, University of Houston freshman outfielder Michael Pyeatt was named to the Conference USA Baseball All-Freshman Team, announced by the league's office. Pyeatt, a native of Lake Jackson, Texas, led Houston during the regular season with a .337 average and a .362 clip in conference play. The left fielder appeared in 26 games with 24 starts and has started the last 15 conference contests. He notched a career-best four hits and two runs scored in a win over Tulane on May 11, while also producing a career-high four RBI on three hits against Memphis in the final weekend. Pyeatt is the second straight All-Freshman Team honoree under Whitting as sophomore Landon Appling was honored for his play in 2011.
Whitting on freshman Michael Pyeatt: "I am extremely proud of Michael and he is well deserving of this award. He has fought his way into the starting lineup and maintained a level of excellence during the conference schedule.”
Sophomore Landon Appling capped a strong sophomore season being named to the C-USA Championship All-Tournament Team following the Cougars’ 1-2 run in the final games of 2012. Appling led the Cougars with an impressive .615 average at the 2012 C-USA Championship to earn a spot on the All-Tournament Team for Houston. Appling, an El Campo, Texas native, finished second-best in the tournament with a .615 clip, with eight hits and five runs scored in three games played. His eight hits tied for first among all players in the tournament, while his on-base percentage of .667 led the league. He also drove in two RBI, walked twice and stole a base. The centerfielder tied a C-USA Tournament record with his five hits against Southern Miss in Game 2 of the Championship. Appling finished the day 5-for-6 with three runs scored and an RBI. Appling has now been named to the C-USA Championship All-Tournament Team two years in a row.
Whitting on the effort of Landon Appling: “I’m really proud of Landon. He’s progressed as much as anybody has since he stepped into the program. Especially the last half of the season, he’s played really well. He’s gone through some position changes playing second base some. I think he is the best center ﬁelder in our conference, maybe one of the best in the country. There’s a lot to look forward to with him coming back at the top of our order next year.”
NOTABLE WEEKLY HONORS
- Jared Ray – C-USA Pitcher of the Week (March 7); 10 K and win over Tennessee
- Jared Ray – College Baseball 360 Primetime Performer (March 8)
ACHIEVING IN THE CLASSROOM
The University of Houston baseball team once again showed the ability to produce exceptional numbers as a team in the classroom, posting a team cumulative GPA of 3.15 for the Spring 2012 semester. 27 baseball student-athletes posted a GPA of 3.00 or better during their busy travel semester. The 3.15 cumulative GPA was the highest Spring GPA accumulated by Houston baseball in the history of the program. The 2012 squad also posted a 3.07 team overall GPA for the academic year, another record high for the program.
The Cougars have now posted a 3.00 GPA or better in all four semesters under second year head coach Todd Whitting, with the 2012 Spring semester surpassing all previous highs.
Six players notched a 3.50 GPA or better during this semester as seniors Jared Ray and John Cannon led the way with a 4.00, while seniors Mo Wiley and Jake Runte as well as sophomore Dustin Fuerst and freshman Harrison Ayala were also named to the Dean’s List.
Ray Vruggink Wellbrock Davis
- Senior Jared Ray earned Conference USA All-Academic Team honors. Ray, a native of Waco,Texas, was one of 11 baseball players from across the league selected to this team. Earning a degree in Psychologythis May, Ray earned a cumulative GPA of 3.44.
- Freshman Ryan Vruggink represented the Cougars and was one of 15 Houston student-athletes who earned a Conference USA Academic Medal, achieving a GPA of 3.75 or higher.
- Sophomore Chase Wellbrock was named the Houston Baseball Team Academic MVP and was recognized at the Cougar Choice Awards in early May.
- Sophomore Jonathan Davis was named a Capital One Academic All-District First Team selection by CoSIDA and is up for All-America status for his efforts on the field and in the classroom as the Cougars’ designated hitter.
- 25 players were named to the Commissioner’s Honor Roll this year—the most by any team at Houston.
- Six Cougars received diplomas during the May 2012 Commencement ceremonies: Jared Ray, Mo Wiley, John Cannon, Jake Runte, Jordan Mannisto, and Travis Jenkins.
Whitting on the team’s academic success: “I am extremely proud of the effort put forth by our student-athletes in the classroom. It is a tremendous accomplishment by them to once again raise the bar and expectation level for our program.”
.300 AND BETTER
Despite hitting an offensive lull midway through the season, the Cougars earned respect as they finished 2012 with consistency at the plate, as six starters wrapped up the year with a .300 batting average or better. As every year has its ups and downs offensively, the Cougars showed well late in the year, hitting .271 as a team. Leading the way offensively was senior Codey Morehouse (.327), freshman Michael Pyeatt (.326), sophomore Landon Appling (.324), junior Jacob Lueneburg (.309), sophomore Jonathan Davis (.306) and senior John Cannon (.302) – all with .300 averages or better. The team notched 500 total hits, led by Appling’s 61 and tallied 212 RBI, led by junior Chase Jensen’s 33. Houston racked up 24 games with at least 10 hits as a team, including a season-high 17 hits in a win at Southern Miss. Lueneburg led Houston with 20 multi-hit games, while Appling followed with 19.
Sophomore Landon Appling finished the year having reached base safely in 21 consecutive games and will open the 2013 season with that streak still alive. The leadoff hitter began the streak on April 14 at Texas Tech. During the month and half-long streak, Appling notched a hit in every game, but two, where he drew a walk. His 11-game hit streak was an individual career-high and a team-high during this season.
FAN APPRECIATION DAY A HIT
Baseball Fan Appreciation Day at Cougar Field was full of excitement as 54 former Cougar standouts graced Cougar Field on Saturday, February 11 and took part in the Alumni Game against the 2012 Houston Cougars under the direction of second-year head coach Todd Whitting. Interaction among the former and current players and coaches began about three hours prior to the 2 p.m. start and concluded with an autograph session highlighting this year's ball club. The Cougars walked away with a 4-0 win over the Alumni, which featured greats like Doug Drabek, Brad Lincoln, Scott Sheldon, Caleb Ramsey, Chris Wallace and many more.
Whitting on success of Fan Appreciation Day: "To have the caliber of the former players we have at the University of Houston, it was very special to see all of these guys back.”
CAP THE YEAR WITH A WIN
Despite falling in two games at the C-USA Championship and not advancing to the Championship game on the final day, the Cougars showed well at the tournament—arguably one of the best efforts by any team there. Houston capped the season with a final 7-3 win over Memphis, who later advanced to the Championship game. The Cougars dropped a 7-5 contest to No. 4 and top-seeded Rice and 8-7 to Southern Miss in extra innings. Houston’s run differential was +1 to end 2012, which is quite impressive following a tough stretch near the end. The last time the program earned a win in the final game of the year was back in 1992 in a 6-1 victory over Texas Tech at home.
Whitting on ending season on a high note: "I'm really proud for our guys. We had a really tough tournament and I thought we played well for three games. I'm really happy that our senior class got to go out with a win. I never worried about us coming out flat today because every time you put a uniform on there's something to play for. You look back at the last three days and we're just a couple of situations away from being in the championship game on Sunday. This is a team that had a lot of tough breaks all year, but I'm really proud of the way we finished. Hopefully this will propel us going forward."
A NEW LOOK TO COUGAR FIELD
Continuing to make Cougar Field, home of Houston Baseball, one of the nation’s top facilities, the staff has worked diligently all season long on several major upgrades, including a newly designed outfield wall featuring Houston Baseball’s top supporters. The improvements go beyond the playing surface and into the dugout with new bat racks and a railing as well as a new windscreen to the Houston bullpen. Houston also continued its upgrades inside the clubhouse, improving the overall look and atmosphere for players and coaches to call home.
Houston head coach Todd Whitting wrapped up his second full season at the helm of the Cougars’ program. Along with big wins over No. 4 Arkansas, No. 6 Rice, Tennessee and Memphis in the final game of the season, Whitting’s program continued to earn respect for its efforts in the classroom and the ability to continue building Houston Baseball back into the national spotlight.
Whitting on the future of Cougar Baseball: "Well I'm really excited about it. Going forward next season, this will be my staff's first year of a full recruiting class and the future looks really bright. We're going to have to dodge a few bullets with the draft, but that's a good thing. When you're signing good recruiting classes, you're going to have four, five or six guys like we do this year going forward that you're going to sweat out in the draft a little bit. It is high risk, high reward and hopefully it will pay off for us."