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Monday, April 24, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 139

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Cougars getting defensive in the field

By Keenan Singleton
Daily Cougar Staff

It's no secret. Collegiate baseball is a game slanted toward the hitter. With aluminum bats and inexperienced pitchers, a 15-12 box score isn't the exception, its the norm.

But its not that way for the UH baseball team. In fact, the "pride" in Cougar pride is the defense.


Kevin Harwerth/The Daily Cougar


First baseman J.P. Woodward was taken out of Saturday's game against Memphis for defensive purposes, but came back strong with some nice glovework Sunday.

UH's .977 fielding percentage places them at No. 1 in the nation and has given them the best mark in school history this late in the season.

The Cougars leap-frogged over ex-No. 1 Pepperdine after being tied with California for second heading into the weekend.

The Cougars have allowed 38 errors in 43 games, which translates to about .88 errors per game. 

"I'm very proud of the job our defense has done," head coach Rayner Noble said. "We've only had a few ballgames where we have kicked the ball around. When you can pitch well and play good defense, that's the backbone of championship play."

After being yanked from last night's game because of his defense, UH first baseman J.P. Woodward redeemed himself in today's game where he saved a probable double down the right field line in the seventh inning.

"Defense is what I take pride in," Woodward said. "I try to at least. But that's happened to me lately: being taken out of last night's game because my defense was poor."

Sunday's game featured two spectacular plays in the sixth inning. The first was an off-balanced bare-handed strike to first base to gun out Memphis second-baseman Stephen Frix. The next and maybe more spectacular of the two plays came from the glove of second baseman Sean Allen.

"It was a hard hit ground ball," Allen said. "I have trouble going to my right, more so than my left. I shaded him some to that side because that guy usually pulls the ball, so I tried to cover the hole a little bit."

This was the second play in as many days that he pulled off a gold-glove worthy play. Saturday, Allen made a play even Omar Visquel would have been proud of.

"It was a short chopper up the middle," he said. "I just got a glove on it. They let us work on those plays in practice, so we can practice the great plays. (Assistant coach Todd) Whitting allows us to do that during practice. I think it really helps when it comes down to game-time situations."

Whitting has been the fielding and defensive coach the past five season. His influence on the defense is apparent.

Last season, the Cougars finished seventh in the nation (.969) and set a school record for double plays with 77 in 62 games. This year's squad has 47 in 43 games.

The infielders aren't the only guys making plays; the 7-8-9 guys are making the great plays seem effortless.

Left fielder Tyson Schweitzer has turned a usually weak defensive position into an area of strength.

He's gone perfect for the season, converting on all 25 of his putout opportunities.

Known for his 40-game hitting streak, outfielder/second baseman Brandon Caraway hasn't let his changing of gloves effect his D.'

In 42 games this season, he's committed only two errors for a .983 percentage.

Eric Lee leads the team in put outs (91) and outfield assists (3).

Behind the backstop, the catchers have allowed a grand total of one error on the season.

But the Cougars have had a couple of blemishes. Two four-error games, both on the road (February 26 against Louisiana State, and April 4 against Texas A&M) have left permanent marks.

But they found a way to Oxycute them. A week has gone by and the Cougars have yet to commit another error.
 

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