A Tale of Two Seasons

One of the real downfalls to the college baseball season if you are a fan is that it is incredibly short. The regular season only runs about three months. If you blink, you'll likely miss it.

This season is certainly no exception in that regard. I don't know about you, but it seems like just yesterday that the Cougars were starting their season at home against Northeastern.

But at the same time, I can't help but feel like they played two completely different seasons this year.

The first was the entire first half of the season. The young Cougars were flying high and could do no wrong. They were all brimming with confidence and the success individual players were having became contagious throughout the entire team.

They won a series at Texas State, won two out of three games at the Houston College Classic, beat Baylor twice more after the tournament at Minute Maid, beat UT in the midweek and swept their C-USA-opening series against East Carolina.

The pitching, led by staff ace Austin Pruitt and newcomer Daniel Poncedeleon, was lights out. The offense, led a whole group of newcomers, went from being a question mark in the offseason to a strength.

At their peak, the team was 21-4 and was just rolling. It looked like the NCAA regional drought was going to be over and if I'm being completely honest, I have to admit that a fleeting thought of this team hosting a regional crossed my mind at one point.

The second season, though, was what happened after that point. After reaching 21-4, the Cougars finished 15-18.

Suddenly, the bats went quiet and a starting rotation and bullpen that had been so good early on started to really struggle.

The team fought through it to a certain extent. They still managed a series win at Memphis and they fought back late in the season to win their last three conference series, but the losses really piled up and before you knew it, the Cougars had tumbled down the C-USA standings and out of the NCAA tournament field altogether.

Needless to say, this second season was not nearly as much fun as the first.

Because of the way the season ended up playing out, it's tough to reconcile the two very different takeaways I have from this season.

It's obviously very disappointing that the Cougars weren't able to parlay their hot start into a regional berth.

It gets even tougher to stomach when you realize that just a handful more wins likely would have done the trick and then you look back through the schedule and easily find several games that could have gone their way.

There was the Friday game at Marshall that UH dropped after taking a 13-4 lead in the fourth inning. There was the Saturday game at UCF where they had a 4-1 lead at one point. For that matter, winning any of the three pretty close games in Orlando would have been a big help.

More recently, the Friday game at home against UAB sticks out. That game was lost when the usually steady Justin Montemayor made an error on what should have been the last out of the inning and allowed the go-ahead run to score.

This team had the ultimate goal of making the postseason in their sights and they couldn't come through. You can't call that anything but a disappointment.

At the same time, you can't help but take away a lot of positives from the 2013 season.

At the most basic level, the team won twice as many games as they did last season. They eclipsed last season's win total five weeks into the season. At one point, they rattled off ten wins in a row.

Just using the old eye test, you can also see that the talent level on this team is way up from where it has been. This UH team was easily the best team since 2008 and in terms of young talent that is going to return and become building blocks of the program moving forward, this team blows that '08 team out of the water.

Barring anything unforeseen, or Frankie Ratcliff getting drafted high enough to get him to sign, the entire offense is going to remain intact. With Jacob Lueneberg and Casey Grayson returning from injury to join everyone that played this season, the depth is going to be incredible.

Pitching-wise, you lose Austin Pruitt and Matt Hernandez and Poncedeleon is a draft risk, but even with those three gone, a nucleus of Aaron Garza, Jake Lemoine and Chase Wellbrock is a really good start for next season.

The future is bright Cougar fans. I know that's tough to focus on right this minute given how close the 2013 team was to being truly special, but it's true. I have a feeling that if you enjoyed watching this team in the first half of this season, you are really going to love what they have in store for an encore next season.


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