Sept. 10, 2013
HOUSTON — The University of Houston baseball program will officially begin fall practice on Wednesday, Sept. 11 at 2:45 p.m., at Cougar Field announced by head coach Todd Whitting, who begins his fourth year at the helm of the Cougars. All Cougar fall baseball practices and scrimmages are open to the public.
FALL PRACTICE SCHEDULE
Following the first week of practice, Houston will take the field every Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday until Thursday, Oct. 24
- Wednesday’s and Thursday’s will begin at 2:45 p.m.
- Friday practices will begin at 2 p.m.
- Sunday practices will begin at 1:30 p.m.
HEAD COACH Todd Whitting
On what you are looking forward to this fall
“I’m excited about this year’s fall season, because it’s the first fall since our staff has been here that we have a great deal of returning players. We return every position starter from last year’s team that won 36 games. We add back to the mix Casey Grayson and Jacob Lueneburg, who were slated to hit in the middle of our order last year, but were seated due to injuries. We have a great returning nucleus and strong returning class on the mound, who gained considerable experience last year. Having a veteran ball club is comforting for me, and I’m looking forward to returning to the field for fall practice. We have a great class of newcomers and I credit Coach (Trip) Couch and Coach (Frank) Anderson, who did a tremendous job with getting this class here.”
On what to expect out of the first week of practice
On the team’s strength’s heading into fall practice
“We’re going to jump right into it during the first week. We have a scrimmage game set up for day one and day two. So I’m anxious to get these new players out there and see where they’re at, and how they stacked up against returning players. It’s not something we’re going to ease into. Every practice is critical from an experience standpoint, a repetition, standpoint and an evaluation standpoint.
“The strength of this ball club has nothing to do with the physical, but the mental. We tasted success last year being in the Top 25. We went down literally to the last game of the season with a bid to the NCAA postseason tournament on the line, while also having one of the largest turnarounds in the country. It’s more of a mental thing and one advantage we have is these guys are really hungry. There’s a feeling of a lot of unfinished business, which is carried over with the coaches and players as well.”
On the team’s comradery between returners and newcomers
“The returners for the first time outnumber the incoming guys. It’s on them to get the new ones into the mix quick. They’ll learn the Houston Baseball way of doing things - how we practice, how we prepare on the field, and off the field. We have great leadership; I’m really pleased with the older guys and how they’ve brought the new guys into the mix, and made them feel right at home. It’s their responsibility to let the new ones know what the expectation levels are within our program.
A LOOK BACK
In 2013, Houston proved it's on the rise as the Cougars notched its first 30+ win season since '08, finishing with a 36-22 record and tied Rice for the most non-conference wins at 22. The Cougars garnered C-USA Newcomer of the Year (Frankie Ratcliff) and Freshman of the Year (Justin Montemayor) honors, while having four named to C-USA Second Team (Montemayor, Ratcliff, Austin Pruitt, Kyle Survance) and four to the All-Freshman Team (Montemayor, Survance, Josh Vidales, Jake Lemoine). Montemayor and Survance went on to earn Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors and Pruitt was tabbed a ABCA All-Region selection.
The team also notched a program-best 3.17 GPA in the fall, while 25 were named to C-USA Commissioner's Honor Roll. Montemayor and Caleb Barker were tabbed as C-USA Academic Medals and Barker and Daniel Poncedeleon earned Academic All-League honors.
Houston senior ace Austin Pruitt tallied 10 wins for the first time since Brad Lincoln had 12 in 2006, while junior reliever Chase Wellbrock racked up 11 saves for the first time since Donnie Joseph had 11 in 2009. The Cougars jumped into the Top 25 national rankings for five weeks midseason – for the first time since 2006 and produced its best 25-game start since 1989 at 21-4.
A LOOK AHEAD
Houston Baseball returns 19 letterwinners from a year ago, including every position starter in 2013. The Cougars also welcome back Jacob Lueneburg and Casey Grayson, who were slated to hit middle of the order and wrap up their collegiate eligibility until both were out due to season-ending injuries last season. Montemayor returns as the Cougars’ leading hitter with a .329 average, 42 runs scored and 27 RBI as a true freshman. Junior outfielder Michael Pyeatt and senior shortstop Frankie Ratcliff also return after hitting .300 or better a year ago. The pitching staff will be bolstered by returning starters sophomore Jake Lemoine (7-4) and junior Aaron Garza (5-5), who combined for 12 wins in 31 appearances, while senior Chase Wellbrock is back for his final year as the leading finish guy last season, tallying 11 saves in 25 appearances.
The Cougars welcome 17 newcomers to the squad, which includes seven junior college transfers.
RED-WHITE WORLD SERIES
Houston will host its annual Red-White World Series on Oct. 22-24 at Cougar Field. Times are TBD. The Cougars will pair off into two teams and compete for the World Series title, which officially wraps up the fall season.
To speak with players and/or coaches during fall practices, please contact Assistant Director of Athletics Communications Allison McClain at email@example.com. We ask that interviews be held prior to the start of practice.
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 or visiting the Houston Fall Baseball Central page at UHCougars.com.
Stay tuned for weekly updates on the Cougars’ fall progress and behind-the-scenes access with Houston Baseball at UHCougars.com.