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Fall Report: Houston

Fall Report

Houston is accustomed to reloading these days.

The Cougars have evolved into a postseason mainstay under the direction of head coach Todd Whitting, and that’s unlikely to change anytime soon.

Houston has made the NCAA postseason four of the last five seasons, and also has hosted regionals multiple times. Last season, the Cougars trekked to Chapel Hill and reached the regional title game against host North Carolina before finally succumbing to the Tar Heels, who ended up in the College World Series.

Whitting and UH want to take things a step further in 2019.

Though the Cougars have some critical holes to fill, they have promising options to consider. On the mound, Houston must replace the outstanding one-two punch of Trey Cumbie and Aaron Fletcher. Cumbie had been a consistent force as a starter for the Cougars the past few seasons, while Fletcher rose to the occasion in his final season with the program.

Who could be the next Fletcher? Junior righthander Freddy Villareal and others seem to fit that mold.

Offensively, the Cougars return several key cogs from last year’s club. Hard-Hitting Joe Davis put on a show in a recent scrimmage agains San Jacinto (Texas) CC, while Jared Triolo looks to build off a promising showing at the Cape Cod League this past summer. UH has other key pieces who aren’t playing this fall because of injuries, but who will be ready to roll in a few months.

“I think we’ve answered some questions this fall, particularly in regards to depth of our pitching staff,” Houston coach Todd Whitting said. “Losing Fletcher, Cumbie and others was a big hit, and I think a lot of those questions have been answered so far this fall.

“When it comes to the pitching staff, I’m not sure we’ll have as many front-line guys as we had last year just yet, but we’ll certainly have as much quality depth as we’ve ever had here,” he continued. “I also think we’ll have one of our better offensive units in recent years, but we’ll see how things shake out.”

Without further ado, let’s get to inside scoop on Houston’s fall workouts:

PITCHING STAFF

• Houston has been waiting for righthander Freddy Villareal to bust out and show what he’s made of. Villareal showed off a promising arm last season, but was inconsistent at times. He’s been much better so far this fall, according to Whitting. In a recent scrimmage, Villareal was 88-91 and up to 92 mph in a short stint, while also showing off his typical low-80s slider. The slider has improved since last season with more breaking action, while there’s even more velocity potential with his fastball. Villareal has been up to 93-94 in the past. Can he become a front-line starter for the Cougars? If he can — watch out.

 


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