Wednesday May 29, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 142


Cougars looking to crush competition in regionals

By Stuart H. Clements
The Daily Cougar

After sweeping its final series against Texas Christian, the Houston baseball team captured No. 1 in the Conference USA regular season for the third time in four years.

Brian Viney/The Daily Cougar

Junior infielder Jesse Crain is greeted by the Cougars after smashing a home run against Texas Christian May 10. Houston finished in second place in the Conference USA tournament.

But the Cougars still potentially have a long way to go before their season is over. Houston was defeated by East Carolina in the championship
game of the C-USA tournament, but despite the loss, the Cougars managed to score the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Regional in Mesa, Ariz. at
Hohokam Park. The Cougars and South Alabama are the only two No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Regionals that are not hosting a tournament.

Houston's first challenge at the Regional tournament will be the New Mexico State Aggies from Las Cruces, N.M.

The Cougars enter the tournament with a 44-15 record and are currently ranked No. 7 in the Baseball America poll.

The Aggies are seeded No. 4 in the tournament and come into the contest with a 37-23 record.

NMSU advanced to the NCAA Regionals on an automatic bid after winning the Sun Belt Conference tournament.

The Aggies defeated South Alabama 20-9 to capture the title even after finishing the regular season with a 10-14 conference record.

Gabe Veloz leads the Aggie offense with a .412 batting average. Veloz smashed 15 dingers and tied Ryan Kenning to lead the team in
extra-base hits.

Kenning pulled off 24 home runs to lead the team in that category as well as in RBIs with 96. NMSU's Corey Harrington led the Aggies in stolen
bases. Harrington stole 42 bases in 47 attempts.

Jason Williams is the Aggies' star pitcher. Williams holds a 4.16 ERA and has the best record of 8-1. Williams tallied 73 strikeouts and only 20
walks in 88 and two-third innings.

The first game of the Regional will commence Friday at 12 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.

The second game of the first round is between the host Arizona State (35-19) and San Diego (38-21), which will begin the same day at 6 p.m.

NMSU's head coach Gary Ward returned to his alma mater just last season to coach, and has led the team to its first ever NCAA tournament

This will be Ward's 18th trip to the NCAA's.

Ward led the Oklahoma State Cowboys to 17 NCAA appearances, including 10 appearances in the College World Series.

The Cougars have the benefit of facing the No. 4 seed team in their first round, but the Aggies are no longer the pushovers they once were.
Houston will have to rely on its offense more than ever to be victorious.

Juniors Chris Snyder, Jesse Crain and Brett Cooley continue as the Cougars hitting triumvirate. Snyder led the Cougars in the regular season
with a .350 batting average and tallied 63 RBIs.

Cooley followed close behind Snyder with a .342 batting average and also hit 15 over the fence to lead the Cougars in home runs. Cooley had
48 RBIs.

Crain managed to pull through in the clutch time after time. In the first game of Houston's series against the Horned Frogs, Crain led off
Cougar scoring with a home run over left field.

Crain was also an exceptional closing pitcher with a 4-0 record and a 0.00 ERA.

Sophomore Michael Bourn joined Snyder and Crain when all three were named to the 2002 C-USA All-Tournament Team.

Sophomore right-hander Brad Sullivan continues to lead the Cougar pitching staff. Sullivan holds a 2.08 ERA and in the C-USA tournament,
improved his record to 11-1.

Sullivan has also tallied the third highest number of strikeouts in the nation with 142 in 112 and one-third innings of work, and is one of 12
semifinalists for the 15th Rotary Smith Award, which goes to the best player in the nation.

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