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Tuesday,  February 15, 2000
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 95

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Healthy Nance taking no prisoners

By Josh Gajewski
Daily Cougar Staff

UH left-hander Shane Nance faced quite a predicament in the dog days of summer this past year.

He was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 24th round of the Major League Draft and received an offer to play pro baseball as the new school year approached.


Barry Watson/The Daily Cougar


UH's Shane Nance was named Conference USA Pitcher of the Week on Monday. In addition to his work on the mound, he's compiled a .273 average at the plate. 

This was his dream -- as it is for any player who enters the world of college baseball. And yet, Nance couldn't do it. His previous season with the Cougars was average at best, from his perspective, and the thought of leaving on that note was a taste a little too sour for Nance's liking. He chose to return to the UH squad for his senior season, with one goal in mind -- Omaha, site of the College World Series.

"I didn't want to leave on that foot," Nance said of his 7-6 performance in 1999. "The hardest thing for me was leaving the guys behind knowing we were going to have a great team this year. I just couldn't do it."

Nance's UH career began with a flourish. Fresh out of Dobie High School, he was tabbed Conference USA's Freshman of the Year after compiling 106 strikeouts en route to a 7-6 campaign.

He continued to prosper his sophomore season, going 9-4 and earning the designation of staff-ace in a talented Cougar rotation. This after a sluggish start (0-3, to be exact), which resulted from offseason elbow surgery.

Nance was forced into the operating room once more after the season, and this time it was going to leave a mark. Torn cartilage in his left knee -- the push-off knee for a lefty-thrower -- was the diagnosis. Arthroscopic surgery left Nance back on the hill for the season opener, but things weren't quite the same.

"Some days I'd have to get off of the mound to field a bunt or cover first, and then I'd get back on the mound and it would really hurt," Nance said. "I thought I was ready to come back but looking back, I really wasn't -- mentally or physically."

An ERA of 5.00 and a still-respectable 7-6 record would follow, but those were surely not Nance-like numbers.

"His control was awful," UH head coach Rayner Noble said. "He was trying to overthrow to compensate for not being able to push off really well, and just didn't have any command of the strike zone."

In the meantime, junior righty Kyle Crowell emerged as the dominant ace UH sorely needed, while Nance continued to flutter along.

No longer is Nance the No. 1 option for Noble. Saturday (usually the second game of a weekend series) is now the time to shine for Nance, which is just fine by him.

"I love throwing Saturdays because I get to see what (Crowell) does and if they do something to him, I know I'm not going to make the same mistakes," Nance said. "It really gives me an advantage."

It certainly did in UH's recent series versus Southwest Texas State. Nance saw the Bobcats hammer away at every offering Crowell provided on the inner-half of the plate Friday afternoon.

So Saturday, Nance decided to throw in a little wrinkle. He wanted to see if SWT could hit anything away and kept the ball on the outer portion of the plate for most of the game.

It worked.

Nance threw seven-and-a-third innings of solid work and picked up his second win of the early season. He tied a career-high 12 strikeouts and improved his team-leading ERA to a mere 1.26.

Maybe it's the health factor, maybe it's the absence of the pressure that comes with a No. 1 role or maybe it's just senior-season karma. Whatever the case may be, Nance's groove is finally back.
 

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