On Friday night at Schroeder Park, the Houston Cougars clinched a series victory over George Washington with a 5-2 win, led by staff ace Andrew Lantrip and an offense that put a couple of runs up on the board early and played add-on late.
Here are a few scattered notes from Friday night’s game in Houston:
- Lantrip wasn’t quite at his best on Friday night and he admitted as much after the game, saying that he left the ball up too often early in the game, particularly in the fourth inning, when the Colonials plated their two runs. It speaks to his bulldog mentality, though, that he limited the damage to those two runs and fought his way to a final line of 7.2 IP, 8 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 5 K.
- With his five-strikeout, no-walk performance, Lantrip’s season K/BB ratio is now at 44/1. Those are nearly Thomas Eshelman-type numbers when it comes to pounding the strike zone. After the game, he made a point to mention that his primary goal is to make every batter earn his way on base, and clearly he’s doing that.
- Even though George Washington starter Shane Sweeney’s final line (5.1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K) isn’t going to blow your socks off, he really pitched pretty well. He gave up two quick runs to the Cougars in the first inning, but mostly settled in after that. He doesn’t feature premium stuff, but he moved the ball around effectively. In particular, he did a good job of getting into the kitchens of right-handed hitters, leading to a lot of weak contact off the handle for Houston.
- Josh Vidales has returned to the Houston lineup over the last two days, and that has the potential to be a huge boon to a UH offense that has, at times, struggled to score runs this season. Vidales, who owned a career .396 on-base percentage coming into this season, has always been a real catalyst for the Cougars’ offensive attack. His presence might be even more important defensively, however. He played a quality second base on Friday, including turning a big double play in the ninth inning when he ranged up the middle, touched the bag, and then threw on to first on the run to complete the play.
- It’s easy to come away impressed with the job that GW head coach Gregg Ritchie is doing in building his program. As recently as 2012, this was a program that went 6-18 in Atlantic 10 play. Last year, they went 13-10 in league play and 32-22 overall. Based on the way they’ve handled themselves against a relatively difficult schedule to start this season, including this series against Houston, they could be even better this time around. This is a veteran group that has played together a long time. Much of their roster is made up of second and third-year players who have seen significant playing time since the minute they stepped on the field as freshmen. Jacob Williams, Bobby LeWarne, and Sweeney have all been solid in the rotation and their lineup, led by Mark Osis, Andrew Selby, Joey Bartosic, Robbie Metz, and Kevin Mahala, brings a quality approach to the plate every time up. Both Frank Anderson and Lantrip commented positively on the mature at-bats taken by the GW hitters.
- Even though he got himself into a little trouble in the ninth by allowing the first two hitters of the inning to reach, Nick Hernandez seems to be settling into the closer’s role well. After Friday’s win, he is sporting a 2.16 ERA, five saves, and a 20/2 K/BB ratio in 16.2 innings. Along with Trey Cumbie, who has been a revelation for the Cougars, and veteran Bubba Maxwell, Hernandez is a big part of a bullpen that is taking shape.
Houston pitching coach Frank Anderson
On Andrew Lantrip’s career from a big-picture perspective:
“He’s come a long way. When he got here as a freshman, he didn’t pitch for the first 17 games, kind of pouted a little bit because he did want to pitch. At that point he wasn’t quite ready to go. By the end of the year, he was a huge mainstay on our staff, and last year he was obviously our Friday night guy, and he has really worked hard to come back and done a really good job.”
On George Washington’s approach at the plate and how Lantrip battled:
“He’s highly competitive and that group over there, the head guy (Gregg Ritchie) was a hitting coach in the big leagues for years and you can tell. They have a great approach. They don’t strike out very much. They battle tooth and nail. When you don’t give any free passes, and then you got Vidales making plays out there like he did, you’ve got a chance to get through that thing.”
On how many other pitchers he’s had in his career that pound the strike zone as well as Lantrip:
“I’ve had a few. I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve had just a handful that put up those type of numbers, and so he’s in kind of a select few guys that have the ability to do that.”
Houston starting pitcher Andrew Lantrip
On his performance Friday night:
“I didn’t have the best stuff tonight, it was mainly just going out there and competing. They were really aggressive at the plate. I left the ball up a little bit early on. I think it was the fourth inning where they got those two runs. Leadoff triple (in that inning), I mean, stats say about 90% of the time that run is going to score. Unfortunately, it did, but luckily I was able to limit the damage to two runs.”
On his approach to throwing strikes:
“My goal is to make them earn their way on base. If they get to an eight or nine-pitch three-ball count and unfortunately I walk somebody, I’m not okay with that, but they put up a good fight and I didn’t let them get on base. I want to make them earn their way on base.”
On Seth Romero being back in the rotation:
“It’s a big key, him being back. He was a preseason All-American, he obviously has the stuff. He’s a cornerstone to the pitching staff. We’re a good one-two punch, righty-lefty, and he’s going to come out tomorrow and throw a lot of strikes and keep us in the ballgame.”
On the team hitting their stride:
“The first four games were good, then we hit a rough patch where we dropped five in a row, but now we’ve finally hit our stride. We’re starting to get key hits, make key plays in the field, and make better quality pitches in big situations. We’re getting a little more comfortable and not trying to press too much.”
On getting Josh Vidales back into the lineup:
“He’s a senior, he’s been through it all, the ups and downs and in betweens. He definitely knows what we expect here at the University of Houston with how we play and the type of play that we expect. He shows it on the field and off the field. He’s a great leader and it’s nice to have him back.”