SEASON RECAP: 2014 Houston Baseball

July 1, 2014

Led by a dominating pitching staff, senior veterans and an experienced group of core returners, Houston Baseball made 2014 a banner season and one of the best in program history as it produced 48 wins and concluded the year ranked No. 11 in the nation.

In just his fourth season at the helm of the Cougars, head coach Todd Whitting saw his rebuilding efforts show through when Houston, not only advanced to the NCAA tournament and field of 64 for the first time since 2008, but saw his team capture an Regional Championship title and an American Baseball Championship tournament title all in one year.

#48 WINS
Houston's 48 wins (48-18 record) tied the program win record with the 2002 and 2000 squads, while also notching just the 12th 40-win season in program history. The 48 wins to just 18 losses made for a .727 winning percentage, which was good enough to rank eighth in the nation to conclude the year. Houston was also just one of nine programs in the nation to total at least 48 wins and one of just two in the American Athletic Conference.

Houston wrapped up the 2014 season ranked No. 11 in the nation in four national college baseball polls. At No. 11, the Cougars tied for the second-highest final ranking in program history with the 2000 team, while the 2002 squad wrapped up its season ranked a program-best No. 9 to conclude a season.

2014 marked the first season Houston was ranked among the nation's Top 25 at the conclusion of a season with the last year coming in 2003 when the Cougars polled in at No. 16. The Cougars polled in at No. 11 in four of the five national polls (Baseball America, NCBWA, Collegiate Baseball, USA Today/ESPN), while ranked No. 12 in Perfect Game's Top 25. Houston wrapped up 2014 ranked among the nation's Top 15 in the final 12 weeks of the season, including polling in at No. 5 (the season's highest ranking) in the NCBWA poll prior to playing Texas in the Austin Super Regional. During regular-season play, the Cougars ranked as high as No. 7 by Perfect Game in week 9. Houston cracked the nation's Top 30 in week 5 and never looked back as they never slid out of the nation's Top 25 when it broke through in week 6 at No. 21 by Perfect Game. The Cougars cracked the nation's Top 10 in all five major college baseball polls, ranking as high as No. 7 by Perfect Game, No. 8 by Baseball America, No. 10 by USA Today/ESPN, No. 5 by NCBWA and No. 7 by Collegiate Baseball.

The Cougars won their first conference tournament title since 2008 and fifth in program history (2014, 2008, 2000, 1997, 1951) when it defeated then-No. 5 and College World Series participant Louisville in a 10-4 triumph at Bright House Field in Clearwater, Fla. The championship win gave way to the NCAA Regional automatic berth issued by the American Athletic Conference as the Cougars advanced to the Field of 64 for the first time six years.

It has only happened three previous times in program history and no team has ever come-from-behind a 2-0 deficit to beat LSU at Alex Box Stadium to capture a Regional Championship title. Houston became that first team when it rallied back to earn a 5-4 win in 11 innings to force a deciding Game 3 where it went on to win 12-2 over the Tigers to advance to the Austin Super Regional and final 16 in the nation. The Regional title was the first since 2003 and the Cougars made their 19th NCAA Regional appearance this season.

The Cougars put together a 25-8 record at Cougar Field this season and the 25 wins were the most in program history on Cougar Field, which was established and rebuilt in 1995. The home record included an 11-0 start in front of Cougar faithful, while Houston strung together four straight weekend sweeps to open the season - a feat that hasn't ever been done.

Houston ranked No. 1 in the nation in non-conference RPI after it produced a 27-5 record. The 27 non-conference, regular-season wins were the most by the Cougars since 27 in 2002. Of the 27 non-conference games, Houston swept NCAA participants Rice and College of Charleston in three, earned road wins over defending national champion UCLA, USC, Sam Houston State, while shutting out College World Series participant Texas Tech to name a few.

To accompany the hot start at home, the Cougars opened the year 9-0 before dropping its first game on March 1 to College World Series participant Texas, 3-2. The 9-0 start by Houston was the best start by any Cougar team since the 1993 team accomplished a 10-0 start to their season. Those nine straight wins were led by two sweeps of Nicholls State and Michigan, while taking a single game from Rice, McNeese State and Texas Tech. In those nine games, the Cougar pitching staff allowed just eight runs, while Houston tallied 34.

#40 AFTER 8
Teams are usually only as deep as their pitching staff and Houston proved to have a distinct advantage late in games when it came to closing out wins. The Cougars racked up an impressive 40-0 record when leading after the eighth inning. That feat fell into the hands of several key relievers on the pitching staff, led by seniors Tyler Ford and Chase Wellbrock, who combined for a 14-0 record and 16 saves in their final season as Cougars.

Houston swept Rice in three games for the first time since 1991. The Cougars took all three from Rice in three different locations, at Rice (3-0), at Houston (6-2) and at Constellation Field (7-3). Playing for the Silver Glove trophy, the Cougars were able to reclaim the trophy for the first time since 2000 - snapping a 14-year skid, which saw the Owls earn the claim. Senior Tyler Ford earned two of the three wins in relief in that series to be named Most Outstanding Player. With his two wins, he became the first Cougar since Shane Buteaux in 1994 to earn two wins in a single-season series vs. the Owls.

Houston pitching produced nine shutouts this season, the most since tallying 12 back in 1991. Of the nine shutouts in 2014, seven came in the first 21 games, including back-to-back to open the season against Nicholls State (3-0, 4-0). The Cougars went on to shutout Rice (3-0), Michigan (1-0), Texas Tech (9-0), Texas A&M-CC (10-0), Texas Southern (1-0), Prairie View A&M (6-0) and Temple (3-0). Offensively, Houston was shutout just three times all season.

Houston ranked in the Top 10 in six NCAA team categories following the end of the 2014 season. The Cougars ranked second in the nation in walks allowed per nine innings (1.82), third in strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.58), fourth in WHIP (1.06), sixth in walks (292), eighth in ERA (2.35) and eighth in winning percentage (.727).

Senior Casey Grayson became just the 11th player in program history to earn the Hitting Triple Crown honor after leading Houston with a .321 average, six homeruns and 48 RBI. He was the first since Hyung Cho in 2003 to accomplish this feat.

Senior Chase Wellbrock became Houston's all-time saves leader in 2014, surpassing Ryan Wagner's 16 career saves set back in 2002-03. Wellbrock totaled 24 career saves, 12 coming in 2014 - a single-season high for the Brenham, Texas native. The righty also became the first Cougar in program history to record back-to-back seasons of 10+ saves as he notched 11 in 2013 and 12 in 2014.

When you look at the success of the Houston bullpen in 2014, you can't help but think of the effort Tyler Ford put forth for the Cougars. The senior notched a 9-0 record with four saves in a team-leading 27 appearances to accompany his miniscule 1.17 ERA - topping the American Athletic Conference. The southpaw became the first Cougar in program history to reach a 9-0 record without recording a start and he now tops the program records book with a 1.000 winning percentage this past season. Ford finished the year ranked second in the nation in walks allowed per nine innings (0.65), WHIP (0.75), fourth in strikeout-to-walk ratio (9.80) and fifth in ERA (1.17). With that, he led the league in all four of those categories.

Junior Jared Robinson made a postseason statement when he tossed 13.0 innings, allowed just one run and six hits with three walks to accompany 12 strikeouts during the Baton Rouge Regional. He was the highlight of the Regional Championship game vs. LSU when he tossed 6.1 shutout innings with a Houston career-best eight strikeouts and one walk, while allowing just four hits. With that effort, he was named to the Baton Rouge All-Regional team and improved to 5-1 on the season in his first year as a Cougar. In his final 25.1 innings through 11 appearances, Robinson finished the year allowing just one earned run with 21 strikeouts. 

Sophomore Kyle Survance ranked second in the conference and eighth in the nation with his 31 stolen bases. The 31 swiped bags ranks sixth-most all-time in program history with 36 by Trey Williams in 1969 leading the way. Survance became the first Cougar to notch at least 30 in a single season since Michael Bourn tallied 32 in 2002. The speedster was 31-for-38 in 2014, notching a career-high four stolen bases in a win over Memphis on March 30, 2014. During the stretch of the season, Survance notched 16 consecutive stolen bases from March 15 - April 12 to rank fifth all-time since 1987.

Junior Aaron Garza stepped in and was Houston's ace from the start of 2014. The right-hander opened the season 6-0 and became the first Cougar since Keith Whately in 2002 to win his first six starts. The right-hander was one of just eight pitchers in the nation that opened the year with a quality start in their first seven starts. Garza's best performance came in an 8.2 inning-shutout gem vs. College World Series opponent Texas Tech at the Houston College Classic. That effort, which featured seven strikeouts garnered his Most Outstanding Player honors in a tournament that was showcased by six NCAA teams and three College World Series participants.

The Cougars finished 2014 leading the American Athletic Conference in fielding percentage with a .972 clip. Houston wrapped up the year, committing just two errors in the final nine postseason games. Houston played 27 games this year without committing a miscue, while forcing its opponents into 96 for a .963 fielding percentage.

Homeruns highlighted several key comebacks over the course of the 2014 season, led by several memorable long balls. Sophomore Ashford Fulmer belted a two-strike, two-out solo homerun in the bottom of the ninth as a pinch hitter vs. then-conference leader UCF to help the Cougars notch a 4-3 walk-off win to even the series and eventually win on Sunday. Junior Michael Pyeatt added to the hype when he belted his first career homerun, a grandslam vs. Towson to help Houston erase a 6-1 deficit to sweep the weekend series. Other notable homeruns came off the bat of sophomore Justin Montemayor, who belted a game-tying homerun vs. McNeese State in the eighth inning to help the Cougars eventually win in nine, while senior Casey Grayson belted a homerun on his first at-bat of the year back from missing 2013 due to an injury. Tied 7-7 in the top of the sixth, senior Frankie Ratcliff put Houston back ahead with a solo shot to left field to open the frame, proving to be the game-winner for the Cougars on the road.

Houston bid farewell to its nine seniors: Landon Appling, Caleb Barker, Tyler Ford, Casey Grayson, Frankie Ratcliff, Jacob Lueneburg, Daniel Smith, Aaron Stewart, and Chase Wellbrock. All nine made significant contributions to the turnaround of the Houston Baseball program as Appling and Wellbrock finished as the only two four-year letterwinners with the other seven transferring into the program during their junior seasons.

Nine Cougars were honored on the American Athletic Conference postseason honor list, led by freshman Andrew Lantrip - who was tabbed the league's Rookie of the Year. He was joined by First Team All-Conference honorees in senior catcher Caleb Barker and sophomore designated hitter Justin Montemayor. Senior first baseman Casey Grayson, senior pitcher Chase Wellbrock, junior pitcher Aaron Garza, sophomore pitcher Jake Lemoine and sophomore outfielder Kyle Survance were named to the Second Team, while freshman third baseman Connor Hollis was a Third Team selection. 2014 marked the most Cougars honored on an All-Conference list since eight were recognized back in 2000. Lantrip became just the third Cougar all-time to be honored as the league's top freshman.

Freshman Andrew Lantrip earned Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball All-America honors and was named the American Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year after a stellar debut campaign. The right-hander finished the year 6-0 with 33 strikeouts in 43.1 innings in 14 appearances and six starts. Lantrip tallied a 1.87 ERA and helped combine for three shutouts.

Houston Baseball garnered many tournament and weekly accolades over the course of 2014, led by four Most Outstanding Player accolades as sophomore Josh Vidales (American Baseball Championship) hit over .700 and totaled a 5-for-5 career effort in the Championship game vs. Louisville to earn the postseason honor, while teammate Kyle Survance (Baton Rouge Regional) garnered MOP honors in NCAA regional play for his seven hits and three RBI as the Cougar leadoff hitter. Junior Aaron Garza tallied MOP honors from the Houston College Classic, while senior Tyler Ford was tabbed the Silver Glove Series Most Outstanding Player after recording two of the three wins over Rice.

As a team, the Cougars tallied three conference Player of the Week honors and three Pitcher of the Week honors, including the first three to open the season. Earning the recognition this season was senior Frankie Ratcliff, sophomore Kyle Survance, senior Casey Grayson as hitters and sophomore Jared West, senior Tyler Ford and junior Aaron Garza as pitchers.

The Cougars also had several tabbed on All-Tournament Teams: Houston College Classic (Casey Grayson, Jacob Lueneburg, Kyle Survance, Aaron Garza); Silver Glove Series (Casey Grayson, Connor Hollis, Kyle Survance, Frankie Ratcliff, Jacob Lueneburg, Tyler Ford, and Jared Robinson); American Baseball Championship (Kyle Survance, Casey Grayson, Andrew Lantrip, Josh Vidales); Baton Rouge All-Regional (Caleb Barker, Jared Robinson, Kyle Survance).

Sophomore First Team All-Conference designated hitter Justin Montemayor was named to the First Team CoSIDA Academic All-District Team and was just one of 11 honored and the only DH on the District 7 team. Montemayor's efforts in the classroom landed him a spot on the Academic All-District Team as he owns a 3.30 grade point average (GPA), while pursuing a degree in business at the University of Houston. Montemayor becomes the sixth Cougar in program history to be named to an Academic All-District Team and first since Jonathan Davis was honored back in 2012. Under head coach Todd Whitting, Montemayor is the second in just four seasons.

Sophomore Jake Lemoine will make his Team USA debut this summer, competing for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team. The Bridge City, Texas native became the first Cougar since Michael Bourn in 2006 to compete for USA Baseball, while becoming just the fifth Cougar to represent the Collegiate National Team. Lemoine became the first Houston pitcher selected since Brad Sullivan in 2002. Lemoine finished 2014 as one of the best arms in the American Athletic Conference, tallying 87 strikeouts in 106.2 innings. He finished with a 2.87 ERA in 17 starts with one complete game and two combined shutouts for a 6-8 record. Follow Jake's summer success by clicking here.

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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