Saturday, March 3, 2012

Notes, Quotes and Observations from Day One of the Houston College Classic

The great thing about baseball is that, really, you can't predict beforehand how every game is going to go. Take today, for example. I told everyone who asked that the best of the three Friday games would be UT/Rice. Austin Kubitza would be starting for Rice, and he's a fantastic pitcher. Texas has been getting good pitching, but not much offense, so it really should be a good game of fantastic pitching.

Wrong.  UT won an offensive battle of bad pitching by the final score of 11-8.

The best game of the day was actually game one which featured Texas Tech versus Arkansas. Talk about fantastic pitching performances. Arkansas' Ryne Stanek got the win after pitching a dominating seven innings, giving up just six hits and one earned run while walking one and striking out seven on 94 pitches. His counterpart with Texas Tech, Duke von Schamann pitched 7.1 innings, giving up just seven hits while surrendering three earned runs, walking one, and striking out seven. But it didn't matter as the Hogs won 3-1.

And the most dominating pitching performance of the day came in game two which saw the Houston Cougars defeat Tennessee 7-4. Jared Ray started for the Coogs and he excelled once again. And boy did he excel. He pitched seven innings, gave up five hits, one run, walked none, and struck out 10 while throwing 115 pitches. The 10 strikeouts were a career-high for Ray.

In fact, Ray was too good for his own good today, as the strikeouts ran up his pitch count, forcing him to leave early though he was still effective.

Now the observations and quotes:

1. Arkansas scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning when Sam Bates unloaded a monster shot to the MMP right field upper deck. It wasn't just one of those oopsie aluminum bat homers, this was a monster home run.

2. The only other home run of the day came off the bat of Rice's Jeremy Rathjen who drove one into the concourse behind the Crawford Boxes in the ninth inning of Rice's 11-8 loss.

3.  "We just pitched very poorly, there's no question about it," Rice coach Wayne Graham said after the Owls loss. "We had guys who are supposed to be very good pitchers who not only made bad pitches all night, they made bad pitches when they were ahead in the count....You can't pitch that way and expect to win."

4.  As to Kubitza's poor performance tonight -- he lasted just 1.2 innings -- and his poor showing last time out, Graham said: "I think it's a matter -- my guess on it is that -- I told him, you're throwing at the target rather than through the target...He's just trying to place the ball rather than driving the ball through the target. And he didn't have any velocity either. That's proof enough that you're not driving through the target."

5. Rice's Shane Hoelscher was ejected after the loss to the Houston. Hoelscher was called out looking at a third strike to end the game, and he exchanged a few words with the home plate umpire. He then appeared to exchange a few words with UT's catcher, and it looked like it might get nasty. Graham said it appeared that Hoelscher was ejected for arguing with the catcher and not for arguing with the umpire.

"What I couldn't understand is that it seemed he was thrown out because he had words with the Texas catcher," Graham said. "Why are they still there? They won the game, why are they still even there?"

6.  Ford Stainback will play at third base for Rice tomorrow night with Hoelscher missing the game.

7.  "Jared was outstanding," Houston coach Todd Whitting said. "He went out there and set the tone for the whole game for us. That's as good as I've seen Jared Ray."

8. And Ray was outstanding. He struck out the first six batters he faced and had a no-hitter going through the fourth inning. What really makes it enjoyable with Ray is that he's had three shoulder surgeries over the past several years. He's healthy, and in shape.

9. This was the first win for the season for Ray, though he has pitched some outstanding in all three of his starts. But each time, he's left the game down by at least a run. This afternoon he got to pitch with a lead, and he said that was fun.

"That's something that a lot of people don't understand," he said. "When you're a starting pitcher, week to week, it's nice when you can attack the zone and you don't have to worry about giving up one run. It allows you to get early outs in the count, and kind of save yourself for the weeks after. When you have a big lead, you can pitch with the lead, and that's something people don't understand."

10.  And John Cannon is moving into his own as catcher for Houston. He threw out two runners trying to steal, once after he fumbled the ball in the dirt, and still made a perfect throw.

"I don't know if I've ever seen a position player improve as much as John Cannon has, at his position," Whitting said. "He has gone from a guy, who before our staff got here, people used to run all over him...you can't run on John Cannon [now]...That ball in the dirt, when he threw the runner out at second base, that was a big league play."

11. And one final thing, I bitch a lot about how the Astros do things, but if you've never been to the College Classic you're missing some good baseball and a great deal. The Astros do a fantastic job with this event, and strive to get the best college baseball teams in the country for this.

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