Who Needs the Astros When You Have the Cougars and Owls?
Houston Astros owner Jim Crane is tired of fan complaints about the crappiness of the Houston Astros. Give him $10 million and he'll gladly listen, but otherwise, just pay the team's highly inflated prices for Opening Day and shut up. It's not a very fan-friendly approach to take, especially when he's fielding what many consider to be a minor-league product.
Who needs Jim Crane when you can watch some quality baseball?
But baseball fans living in the Houston area don't have to continue dealing with the Astros. Not for the next several months, at least. Especially those discerning fans who want to see some good baseball at fan-friendly prices in very fan-friendly environments.
The Houston Cougars and Rice Owls are entering conference play this weekend, and for the first time in several years, both baseball teams are ranked. The Cougars (18-4) climbed into the rankings this week for the first time this season, and are ranked number 28 in the National College Baseball Writers Association poll. The Owls (16-7) are ranked number 24 in this poll and are ranked number 18 in the more prestigious Baseball America poll.
Both teams have gotten to where they are this season by playing sound, fundamental defense, excellent pitching and outstanding base running. Both teams are relatively young, especially the Cougars, who have, at times, started seven freshmen. Neither team is perfect -- the Cougars are young and have some issues with the starting rotation. The Owls are dealing with the same issue they've been dealing with several years, an inability to get a hit with runners on base.
The Cougars will be hosting East Carolina this weekend at Cougar Field to open conference play (one of our top things to do this weekend). It's been quite the week for the Cougars. They swept New Orleans last weekend, defeated Texas in a thriller on Tuesday and tore apart Harvard on Wednesday afternoon.
They're an exciting squad to watch. They have some power, but most of their runs result from doubles and triples to the gap and speed on the bases -- the Cougars stole eight bases on Harvard. The team's paced by shortstop Josh Vidales and first baseman Justin Montemayor. Both have been named Conference USA Hitters of the Week at various times this season, and Vidales, the team's leadoff batter, is currently working on a streak of 16 straight games of having reached base safely.
The ace of the staff is Austin Pruitt (4-1), who has completed two of his five starts and goes out with no-hit stuff every night. The rest of the rotation is still kind of unsettled, however, and head coach Todd Whitting is still experimenting with his other weekend starters. But when the other starters have faltered, the bullpen has come in and shut down the opposition.
"The thing I'm really impressed about with this team is they play hard," Whitting says. "If you play hard -- it's just not the fact that they play hard when they show up at the ballpark on game day -- they practice extremely hard as well, and they've been doing that since we started. Right now, if you deserve to have success, you're going to have it. And I really believe if you work hard, good things are going to happen, and that's what happening for this team right now."