Cougars Improve to 4-0 to Start 2021

Cameron Prayer throws the first pitch Tuesday afternoon

The Houston Cougars scored double-digit runs for the third consecutive game on Tuesday while downing the Texas A&M Corpus Christi Islanders 12-8 at Schroeder Park.

Cameron Prayer took the mound for his first start as a Cougar . . . Prayer’s teammates got him some early offense, plating five runs in the bottom of the second inning.

The scoring in the second began when third baseman Adam Becker hit a ball off the wall in left-center and two runs crossed the plate to tie the game . . . After an RBI single by Brad Burckel, Steven Rivas hit is third home run of the young season . . . Before the inning was over, the Cougars had re-taken the lead 5-2.

Steven Rivas was not done . . . After a home run by Brandon Uhse to lead off the fourth, Rivas hit another home run, a towering shot to center that cleared the fence to the left of the black screen in center . . . For Rivas it was part of a 3-for-5, 3 RBI afternoon, he has 8 RBI in the first four games.

Tyler Bielamowicz would hit a home run in the seventh that allowed the Cougars to re-take a five run lead 10-5. For Tyler it was his first of the season and part of a 2-for-3 afternoon . . . Ian McMillan continued to swing a hot bat going 3-for-5.

Brad Burckel homered in the seventh as well to extend the lead to 12-5. Burckel went the opposite way for his first home run of the year in a 2-for-4 effort.

A bevy of other Cougars pitchers saw some innings in Tuesday’s game, including Sean Bretz, Carter Henry, Ryne Huggins, and Dravin Barber . . . The Cougars offense scored a run in five of eight innings and pounded out sixteen hits.

Maddux Miller went 1 2/3 innings, struck out three batters, and earned the win for his work to go 1-0 on the year . . . Derrick Cherry closed the door in the ninth, after inheriting a bases-loaded and no outs situation, Derrick recorded three outs, striking out two batters, to lock down the 12-8 victory for the Cougars.

The Cougars hit the road now for their first road trip of the season, heading southwest to take on these same Islanders in a three-game series at Whataburger Field in Corpus Christi over the weekend, first pitch Friday night is at 6pm.

Cougars Open 2021 with Series Sweep

Blake Schultz opens Sunday’s game against TSU

The Houston Cougars continued their perfection against the Texas Southern Tigers Sunday at Schroeder Park with a 14-4 win, increasing the series record to 32-0 . . . The two teams began playing each other in 1987.

Blake Schultz took the hill for the Cougars in his first outing since coming to Houston . . . Schultz looked strong with good command as he struck out three and did not allow any walks over 4 1/3 innings in which he allowed a single earned run . . . Blake picked up the win (1-0).

In the third inning, Steven Rivas hit a two-run home run to right that traveled 460 feet to extend the Cougars lead to 4-0 . . . Four batters later Ian McMillan hit a grand slam to left to put the Cougars well in front . . . In addition to five RBI, McMillan also dazzled in the field with some incredible defensive plays, many at times when the team really needed them . . . In a post game interview, McMillan noted that he found the partially missing tooth of Luke Almendarez before the game today . . . Almendarez lost part of his tooth in a collision at home plate on Saturday . . . For McMillan, the partial tooth might be a good luck, it might be worth carrying around again to see if it delivers another five RBI.

Sean Bretz made his return to the Cougars after missing all of 2020 after Tommy John Surgery . . . Sean inherited a batter with two strikes already, and he dispatched the batter with a 93mph fastball for a one-pitch strike out . . . Bretz would strike out the next batter to end the Tigers fifth . . . Sean exited after another full inning of work.

Steven Rivas was not done as he doubled to the right field wall in the eighth, part of a 3-for-4 afternoon . . . Rivas is obviously happy to be playing again after having been unable to compete for 347 days prior to this weekend, “you feel like a little kid again,” Rivas said after Sunday’s game.

Tyler Bielamowicz came off the bench for the second day in a row to deliver for the team . . . Tyler hit a bases loaded double to left-center to score two runs, the final runs Houston would score on Sunday.

Derrick Cherry pitched the final two innings to close out the 14-4 victory for the Cougars . . . Derrick struck out one and allowed one hit as he threw twenty-six pitches in his two innings, he was also steadily hitting 93mph and topped out at 95mph.

The 32-0 series record against Texas Southern holds until the two teams meet again, 34 years of dominance by the Cougars will set a standard for all future teams, as will the combined runs in this weekend series win of 30-9 over the three games.

“I have the hammer right now,” Ian McMillan pointed out after the Sunday win, and referring to teammates Ryan Hernandez and Steven Rivas, the only other Cougars to lift the hammer so far this season he said, “they gotta get it back from me.”

The Cougars return to the field on Tuesday at 3pm against Texas A&M Corpus Christi at Schroeder Park as Cameron Prayer will get the start in making his Cougars debut, and other Cougars hitters will try to wrestle the hammer from Ian McMillan, and maybe a partial tooth.

Houston Cougars Sweep Opening Day Doubleheader

The Houston Cougars pre-game fielding drills Saturday at Schroeder Park.

Based on the weather in Houston just a handful of days ago, it is somewhat difficult to believe that actual college baseball took place at Schroeder Park on Saturday . . . But baseball did happen and the Houston Cougars took both games of a doubleheader with their neighbor across Scott Street, the Texas Southern Tigers by scores of 6-1 and 10-4.

Pitching dominated game one as left-hander Robert Gasser threw five innings and did not allow an earned run while limiting the Tigers to a single hit and striking out seven . . . Gasser got the win for his effort.

Steven Rivas and Ryan Hernandez did their part to support the pitching performances . . . The duo hit back-to-back home runs in the fifth to cushion the Cougar lead at 4-1 . . . Rivas went 2-for-3 in the game. . . Designated hitter Andrew Papantonis went 3-for-4 with two singles and a double, along with a stolen base.

Newcomer Junior College transfer Jaycob Deese was lights out over four scoreless innings to earn the save . . . Deese was throwing his fastball consistently over 90mph in all four innings he worked, and he was hitting 94mph on consecutive pitches at one point, topping-out at 95mph . . . Deese also dropped a pitch to 80mph to end an inning with a strikeout.

With the game one win, Houston improved to 30-0 all-time against Texas Southern, with one more game to play on the day.

Ben Sears took the hill for game two and though he got off to a rocky start, led by a defensive miscue behind him, he kept the Cougars in the game and ended up tossing five strong innings . . . Sears was consistently hitting 85-87mph, and hit 91mph at least once.

The Cougars offense really started to claw back in the fifth when they scored two to trim the deficit to 4-3 . . . With the game tied at four in the bottom of the sixth, Ryan Hernandez hit his second home run of the day to put the Cougars in front 6-4, it was his seventh home run in his first seventeen games as a Cougar . . . Hernandez was 4-for-4 in the second game with an intentional walk . . . In the seventh, Steven Rivas hit his second double of the game in going 2-for-3 . . . Tyler Bielamowicz contributed three RBI and continues to get on base dating back to his 2020 campaign.

Dylan Post got the start at catcher from game two on Saturday and went 3-for-4 with a walk, including a single in three consecutive innings.

Matt Lazzaro also saw his first action of the season, and he was relieved by Andrew Belcik who would pick up the win, neither allowed a run . . . Layne Looney pitched the final three innings for the Cougars to earn the save . . . Six of Looney’s outs were strikeouts . . . Lazzaro, Belcik, and Looney were all making their debut with the Cougars.

The Cougars upped the record to 31-0 all-time versus Texas Southern . . . The two teams play one more game in this opening weekend series, Sunday at 2pm at Schroeder Park.

Takeaways from 2020 Red vs. White Series

The Cougars concluded their fall exhibition schedule on Sunday evening with a decisive game three in the Red vs. White World Series . . . Team Red walked it off in the final frame to take the game 5-4 and the series.

Having seen the primary starting pitchers from this past springs roster depart, it is a fair question to wonder who was going to fill those voids going into 2021 . . . If this weekend was any indicator, there are, at least for now, several directions the coaching staff could choose to go with so many new arms in the mix, and some returning pitchers.

Returners include Robert Gasser, Derrick Cherry, Isaiah Blaylock, Tanner Green, and Cole Ferguson, all of whom saw action on the mound this weekend . . . With the exception of Gasser, who started Friday’s game, the other pitchers all worked in relief efforts, most of which with pre-determined by either innings or pitch counts.

Junior college and other transfers include Jaycob Deese, Ben Sears, Blake Schultz, Maddux Miller, Cameron Prayer, Andrew Belcik, and Matt Lazzaro . . . Freshman newcomers include Patrick Dunn, John Alvey, Colby Casey, and Dravin Barber . . . The arms offered a variety of techniques and even physical abilities, with Dunn standing at 6-6 and Sears and Blaylock both at 6-5 for instance . . . These tall throwers offer the Cougars the ability to change the eye level of hitters expecting pitchers closer to the 6-foot frame . . . The pitchers also combine to offer a diverse mix of styles, some guys are raw power, while others are finesse guys able to hit spots and keep their pitch counts low by keeping the ball in the yard.

And those are just the pitchers that saw action this weekend.

The offense for the Cougars had the misfortune of having to face the Cougars pitching depth, but some hitters did have notable performances . . . Steven Rivas hit two homeruns in the weekend series, one on Friday night and one on Sunday night . . . Neither Rivas homerun was in doubt, with the second homerun traveling 416 feet just over the right-field foul pole . . . Freshman Samuel Tormos hit the only other homerun of the weekend, a three-run line-drive over the left-field fence on Friday night.

Brad Burckel had himself a Sunday evening . . . He tripled once to right-center to set up his scoring on a passed ball to give Red a 3-2 lead . . . An inning later Burckel sent his Red teammates home a winner with a fly ball single to the right-field wall that plated the winning run.

The Cougars defense was solid throughout the weekend . . . Freshman Will Pendergrass made some amazing off-balance field-and-throws from third . . . Luke Almendarez made some wide-ranging plays, a couple of them in key situations . . . Skyler Trevino also made some tremendous defensive plays at second on Friday night.

All told Team Red scored nine runs on the weekend to the Team White’s six runs in taking this 2020 Red vs. White Series . . . The team breaks for the winter in the coming days and then returns in January to get ready for whatever 2021 season takes shape. –

National Signing Day 2020

Cougars Beat National Signing Day

Wednesday was National Signing Day across our great land, and the University of Houston baseball team inked numerous high school seniors to letters of intent. The names include: Brennan Frickel, Cody Morse, Malachi Lott, Luke Robertson, Tab Tracy, Brandon Burckel, Jason Burger, Josh Alexander, Cameron Nickens, Josh Coleman, Nick Solis, and Jake Miller. The Cougars also added three junior college transfers: Logan Clayton, Kyle Lacalameto, and Nathan Medrano.

Future Cougar: Jaycob Deese

Houston Cougars commit Jaycob Deese with the Brazos Valley Bombers
Jaycob Deese on the mound for the Brazos Valley Bombers

Jaycob Deese just picked up a league championship win, and his next stop is the University of Houston campus as he prepares for his first year with the Houston Cougars.

The Cougars baseball commit is an incoming transfer from Galveston College. That is not far from where baseball first began for Jaycob. He started playing organized baseball at the age of four, like most others in the college game now, he started with t-ball. For Deese, his game took shape on the little league fields of Channelview, as he worked his way from t-ball to pitching-machine to coach-pitch and eventually to the live-arm leagues.

As a youngster, Deese was always a pitcher, he also played shortstop often, but as he describes it, “I was a guy who could come in and just throw strikes, not very hard, but I could get outs.” And he likes to remind you, “I was always a hitter when I was younger.”

Deese attended North Shore High School in the Galena Park school district. As a member of the Mustangs, he was part of a trio of arms that led his squad deep into the 6-A playoffs in 2017.

Two weeks after the 6-A playoffs ended for North Shore his senior season, Lee Martinez, Deese’s head coach at North Shore, arranged for a tryout at Galveston College to let Jaycob show the staff what he could do. “I went out there and I threw a bullpen, I got up to 88-89 and they offered me a scholarship,” Deese said. So, off he went to Galveston College.

In Deese’s first season with the Galveston College Whitecaps he appeared in twenty-one games, starting four of those. He recorded a 3.17 ERA with 67 strikeouts in 59 2/3 innings pitched. Jaycob looked ready to improve on those numbers as the 2020 season loomed.

Prior to his sophomore year at Galveston College, he had heard from his “dream school,” the University of Houston. His older sister had gone there and he recalls his parents taking him to games on campus. Deese says, “I really didn’t want to go anywhere else.” So Deese took his Houston visit and reviewed his offer and as he tells it, “I committed that day.” Deese then signed his national letter of intent in November 2019.

2020 got underway and Deese looked strong right away. He picked up wins in his first two starts, going 10 2/3 innings combined, striking out eleven, allowing four hits and only one earned run. Deese got a no-decision in his third start, a game his team won. Before the Covid-19 interruption, Deese had a record of 3-1 and a 2.09 ERA with 46 strikeouts in 43 innings pitched.

The season ended almost immediately after Deese’s final start of 2020. Before that March 12 start against the San Jacinto Gators, Deese was warming up in the bullpen before the game. A coach approached him and said, “Hey, enjoy your last start as a Whitecap.” Slightly confused, and focused on the game ahead, Deese asked for clarification. The coach replied, “This is going to be your last start, this is the last game of the season.”

Deese went out and faced San Jac and pitched what he called, “probably the best game of my life.” Jaycob held San Jac hitless through seven and eventually went 8 2/3 allowing only one run on two hits and striking out eleven. A nice way to go out. As we know, not every kid was so lucky as to know that their last at-bat or their last pitch, was indeed their last one of the season.

“I have enjoyed having him at the top of my rotation, and look forward to watching him perform next year,” said Galveston College head coach Kevin Lallmann. He says Deese is, “a three-pitch pitcher with tremendous command, he showcases a fastball that has touched 98 mph..” And Lallmann says Deese, “is able to locate a high spin rate curveball that gives him the ability to go through the lineup multiple times. In addition to the skill set Jaycob brings to the mound, he is a tremendous student, quality athlete, and a high-character guy.”

Deese stuck to his throwing and workout schedule after the season ended and as he prepared for whatever might come next. “I have a buddy down here who also plays D1 baseball, so we just kept throwing,” says Deese. “I would stay on my starting tasks, so the days I would start, I would throw a bullpen. I really never stopped throwing. I just kept doing the same workout, the same throwing, the same running, everything.”

Jaycob took part in the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational (CSBI) in early June. The CSBI is a three-day tournament featuring players from over seventy Division I schools. Playing in the league is by invitation only.

While throwing a bullpen during the CSBI, he was hitting 96mph and that caught the eye of a coach from the Brazos Valley Bombers of the Texas Collegiate League (TCL), the team which plays its home games in that same ballpark, Travis Field, in Bryan. After a conversation and an invitation, Deese agreed to play for the Bombers in the 2020 TCL season which got underway on June 30.

Houston Cougars commit Jaycob Deese with the Brazos Valley Bombers
Jaycob Deese (center) with Bombers teammates

Deese’s Brazos Valley Bombers won the TCL championship on Saturday, August 8th, in a 13-2 victory over the Tulsa Drillers in Bryan. Deese had made four starts on the team loaded with pitching talent. In those starts Jaycob compiled a 3.86 ERA with nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings pitched.

Reflecting on his time in the TCL, Deese noted, “It was a great experience. I had never played in front of that many fans. Galveston College was a really small school and playing in front of that many fans was cool.” Speaking specifically about pitching, and pitching hard, in a wood bat league as the TCL was, Deese observed, “You can miss a spot and still miss a barrel and they can break a bat. Going inside is better too with the velo I had, it was easier.”

Deese is not afforded much time from the end of the TCL season until the time fall workouts begin. He is adhering to the workout program that the Cougars are using this year, and he is ready to begin his throwing regimen in the next few weeks. The hard-throwing right-hander talked openly about how excited he is for what happens next. After a wild and weird last several months across all of college baseball, Deese could see very soon what happens next for he and his Houston Cougars teammates.

Coach Lallmann stated, “Jaycob has a chance to be an impact guy for Houston, and is on the right path to becoming a professional soon.” –

Houston Cougars Recap the 2020 TCL

Texas Collegeiate League TCL logo - Cougars Beat

The Texas Collegiate League (TCL) season came to an end on Saturday night in Bryan. The one-game championship proved to be an anti-climactic 13-2 affair, and was not typical of most of the month-long season which saw plenty of low scoring and quality baseball.

The Houston Cougars were represented on two of the ten TCL teams throughout the season. And one of them was on the winning side of that championship win.

The TCL is a wooden bat league, common for college play during the summer in the various leagues across the country that offer athletes the opportunity to play baseball when school is not in session. Five active Cougars and one incoming junior college transfer made up part of the roster for the Round Rock Hairy Men, which played their home games at Dell Diamond, the home of the AAA Round Rock Express. One other incoming junior college transfer found a spot of the Brazos Valley Bombers which played their home games at Travis Park in Bryan, just north of College Station.

Round Rock saw their season come to end with two regular season games remaining, and with a playoff spot almost certainly assured. Their final weekend series was a three game set with San Antonio, two of the games were to be played in Round Rock, with the middle game to be played in San Antonio. Rain forced the cancellation of Friday night’s game.

Then on Saturday came the announcement out of Round Rock that the Hairy Men would not be traveling to San Antonio and that in fact, the season was being put on ice amid Covid-19 concerns in the organization. In a statement released just six hours before the scheduled first pitch in San Antonio, Round Rock General Manager, Tim Jackson stated, “With just two games remaining in the season, out of an abundance of caution, we felt it was in the best interest of our players and staff to end the season now.”

Teams across the TCL had taken numerous player, personnel, and facility precautions in this shortened 2020 season, but the Round Rock team found itself erring on the side of caution and deciding to end the season with a couple of games left to go. As a result, the Hairy Men forfeited their final two games and declared they would not be taking part in a playoff series set to begin the following Tuesday, should their team have made it.

For the Houston Cougars on the Round Rock team, the cancellation of the season came at a time when they were playing some of their best baseball, including having just completed a three-game sweep of the eventual TCL champions, the Brazos Valley Bombers, at Dell Diamond.

From day one of the formation of the team, the Round Rock players and organization talked about the importance of baseball during the summer after the abrupt end of the college baseball season back in March.

The day before the season opened, the Cougars players voiced their thoughts about playing again, and to a man, they talked about improving their individual games and how much they really wanted to play again. They also noted the importance of having so many teammates with them in Round Rock.

Ryan Hernandez had one of the great seasons in the entire league. Just prior to the season, Ryan appeared dialed-in as he spoke about working each day with purpose and vision. He only lost the batting title on the last day of the season when the eventual leader went 4-for-4 lifting his average to .367 over Ryan’s .364. Hernandez also had multiple-hits in ten of his twenty-three games played, along with six home runs.

Reflecting on the season upon its conclusion, Hernandez echoed those pre-season sentiments again, “I saw this summer as an opportunity to work on stuff that I felt needed some fixing. My approach was the most important part of my game this summer and it’s going to continue to be that way. After refining my approach and honestly hunting pitches that I like, it got much easier to hit.”

Cougars freshmen Rey Mendoza and Luke Almendarez each found full-time roles with the Hairy Men, Mendoza in the outfield and Almendarez at second and shortstop.

On the challenge that the league presented to him, Mendoza offered this, “What surprised me about the TCL season is the amount of talent and competitiveness there was throughout the league. The pitching was definitely challenging in this league, and it was fun being able to face some great arms this summer.” 

Rey was no newcomer to the use of a wooden bat, but he explained that it had been a few years since the last time he played with one, “I hadn’t really used a wooden bat in a game since my junior year summer with my travel ball team. I tried to just stick with the same approach I have with a metal bat which is to hit a fastball up the middle or opposite field.” Rey hit in sixteen of his twenty-seven games played, a stat that is slightly misleading in that Rey had four games where he only had one at-bat as a late-inning defensive replacement or as a pinch hitter. Rey also was a perfect 7-for-7 in stolen base attempts.

Almendarez also took positives from the TCL experience, “I loved hitting with the wood bat this summer. Finding that one perfect wood bat is a great feeling. I learned a lot about my approach that will definitely transition to college.” Luke raised his batting average by forty-one points in his last nine games played. Luke’s summer play has him ready to return to campus to get back to the grind, “What I’m focused on most is staying healthy and working on my game as much as I can. I’m excited to get back to Houston and to get to work. I’m pumped to see all the guys again, hopefully very soon.“

Kyle Lovelace was a late season addition to the Round Rock team, and then platooned with the other catchers, including Cougars teammate Dylan Post. Kyle joined the team after the season got underway as the Round Rock organization went in search of a catcher after an injury sidelined their game one catcher in his first at-bat of the season.

Kyle enjoyed his time in the league and offered his thoughts as a catcher, “The quality of pitching this summer was phenomenal. The diversity of arms we had was incredible. Guys were able to command the zone well and throw multiple pitches for strikes. We had guys that were power arms and guys that could come in and mix-and-match. I really enjoyed being able to get back there and catch these guys.”

Kyle Lovelace takes the game seriously when he is behind the plate, whether in a college season or as a part-time player in a college summer league. Kyle’s defensive style only shocks those who have never seen him play. Opposing radio announcers seemed shocked at the number of times Kyle went hunting for base runners, with throws behind them or throws when the runners looked disinterested. Anyone who has watched Houston Cougars baseball in recent years is not surprised to see Kyle constantly checking on runners, and often clearing them off the base paths.

Most, if not all, catchers in the TCL called their own pitches, rather than looking to the dugout for each pitch. Asked how a veteran catcher prepares for calling a game in a wood bat league, Lovelace says, “The only thing that changed really was that we were a little more aggressive in because guys are holding sticks in their hands, maybe more aggressive with the fastball.“

“I know all of these guys well and have phenomenal relationships with them already,” Lovelace said of teaming-up with so many of his Cougars teammates this summer. As a team leader, Kyle is setting the standard, “All of the Coogs had a great summer, but it’s expected.”

Freshman Dylan Post was one of several platoon catchers for the Hairy Men and he had a great all-around season, both defensively and offensively. Runners attempting to steal did not find much success against Dylan. With the wooden bat, he hit .306 and hit two home runs in nineteen games.  In those nineteen games, Dylan had base hits in thirteen of them.

Incoming transfer Cole Turney, who last played college baseball this year at San Jacinto College, hit six doubles and three home runs in twenty-two games played while playing the outfield. Cole had at least one RBI in eight different games for Round Rock.

Jaycob Deese is another junior college transfer like Turney, though Deese is coming from Galveston College. Deese managed a 3.86 ERA with nine strikeouts in 9 1/3 innings pitched over four starts. Jaycob’s final outing was abbreviated after just one inning pitched by the right-hander.

Deese had a different journey into the TCL than the other Cougars. Jaycob was pitching in Bryan, at Travis Park, while playing in the Collegiate Summer Baseball Invitational (CSBI) in June. He was hitting 96mph during a bullpen session when a Brazos Valley coach approached him about playing for the Bombers in the TCL. Deese was on the team Saturday night when they picked up the championship over the Tulsa Drillers.

Once there, Deese enjoyed his time in the TCL, “It was a great experience. I had never played in front of that many fans. Galveston College was a really small school and playing in front of that many fans was cool,” he explained. Talking specifically about pitching, and pitching hard, in a wood bat league, Deese noted, “You can miss a spot and still miss a barrel and they can break a bat. Going inside is better too with the velo I had, it was easier.”

Ryan Hernandez was proud of his Cougars teammates when the season concluded, “It almost seems like everyday another Cougar was highlighted for their good work. I am really looking forward to this upcoming season since the Coogs are hot.”

Having so many Cougars on one summer league team was beneficial beyond measure in at least one respect. As Luke Almendarez put it, “Having Ryan Hernandez and Kyle Lovelace there was awesome. Those guys are leaders for us younger guys. You watch them play and they play the game the right way and they play hard.”

Talking with Ryan Hernandez, it is easy to see that he liked the discipline of the league, and perhaps that mentality paid dividends for the other Cougars, “We had some practices before every game to work on different skills everyday. I found it to be super beneficial to me and my teammates that we weren’t only just playing for fun but also still having some order and skill development too.” That is the type of “summer camp” that Almendarez and the “younger guys” got to be a part of this year.

As for the immediate future, these players have seen two baseball seasons ended early in the last five months because of Covid-19 concerns. There are no guarantees about the next season, or even the next academic year, but these ball players are hungry and they are ready to get back to work just over a week after their last season ended.

“I’m just eager to get back on campus and work out with my teammates,” said Rey Mendoza. Kyle Lovelace voiced similar sentiments about his fellow Cougars, “I’m really proud of them and looking forward to rolling that into a great season this spring.”

And Ryan Hernandez, ever the focused worker, is ready for what is next, “Now that the season is over I am going to start working on getting stronger and getting as fit as possible. Since we do have strength and conditioning workouts I look forward to getting my body right for the upcoming season. I am also planning on consistently talking with the other Coogs about approach and finding their moneymaker pitch so that we can be ready to roll once again.”

When it was over, the player excitement and optimism expressed prior to the season was still there. Rather than being disappointed the season ended earlier than planned and a playoff spot was forfeited, the Cougars looked back on the games they did get to play; at how they grew, not only as players, but as teammates.

The fall of 2020 awaits with no answers and no guarantees, and hope springs eternal that these young men take the field as a team in scarlet and white in February 2021. –

Houston Cougars Halfway Through the 2020 TCL Season

Texas Collegeiate League TCL logo - Cougars Beat

ROUND ROCK – Thursday night marked the halfway point in the Texas Collegiate League (TCL) season, which lasts for thirty games and a playoff. The Houston Cougars are well represented in this summers TCL, with a total of seven players now filling roster spots on two different teams.

The TCL is a wooden bat league, giving spectators a chance to view hitters without the added pop of the aluminum bats, and giving pitchers a chance to experiment and challenge hitters without worrying that each and every mistake is going to leave the ballpark. Several host teams play their home games in minor league ballparks, including Tulsa, Round Rock, San Antonio, Frisco, and Amarillo.

Ryan Hernandez is leaving his mark on the TCL this summer. Just a few days ago Hernandez was named TCL Player of the Week for the week of July 7-13. Ryan hit .474 on the week three doubles, three home runs, seven RBI and six runs scored. At the halfway point, he is batting .365 overall with five home runs and twelve RBI. Ryan has played in thirteen of the teams fifteen games so far, and he has only been held hitless in two of those games.

Ryan had been at home in Boston since the Cougars season ended and arrived back in Texas just a few days before the TCL season got underway. Asked at Hairy Men media day about being in Round Rock for real baseball now, Ryan replied quickly, “This is amazing.” Hernandez was also hoping to “get some reps at third base” to keep his versatility, but so far his time has been spent playing first base. “Whatever they want me to do, they can count on me.”

One of the Hernandez home runs occurred at Dell Diamond in Round Rock on July 8. The blast was so pure it cleared the Home Run Porch, well beyond the left-field wall. Andrew Felts, the director of PR and Communications for the Round Rock Express and the Hairy Men said after the blast, “In my four years with the Round Rock Express, I’ve seen four players send a ball over the Home Run Porch at Dell Diamond: Jorge Bonifacio, Joey Gallo, Yordan Alvarez…and Ryan Hernandez.”

Besides clearing the Home Run Porch, another thing those home runs all had in common: All were done with wooden bats.

Cole Turney has two home runs for Round Rock while playing the outfield. The incoming SanJac transfer has twelve hits overall, including hits in nine of his fourteen games played, and a 3-for-4 game. Turney bats left and has spent a sizable portion of his time batting in the third spot, just in front of Ryan Hernandez. When asked the day before the season started about being in the TCL this summer, he said he was excited for the season, “being out here feels like being back at home.” And asked about his expected playing time in a possibly crowded outfield, Turney said, “just as long as I’m out here and I get my work in every day, I’m not worried about that.”

Rey Mendoza is hitting .279 this summer having collected twelve base hits over eight games. Rey has four multi-hit games to his credit. The left-handed-hitting Mendoza was having a nice freshman season for the Cougars before the season ended and there may have been no one more anxious than he was to get on the field and play again. At media day for the Hairy Men, Mendoza commented, “Just to be in this atmosphere of baseball again is amazing.”

Dylan Post has been platooning at catcher with two other catchers, he does have a home run in his limited time behind the plate. As the season was about to get underway, Post said, “I just want to get back to actually playing.” Not knowing a season-ending injury was about to sideline one of the other catchers on the team the next day, Dylan has caught the most innings of the group to this point, and defensively Post has played well. Dylan is batting .364 to this point and has had a base hit in six of his eight games played (Worth noting, in one of those eight games played, Post was only a pinch-hitter with one at-bat).

Luke Almendarez is playing some tremendous defense at both shortstop and second base. His batting average has inched up in recent games, along with key RBI production. Luke has two multi-hit games and has a base bit in seven of his games played and three stolen bases. For Luke, the opportunity to play in Round Rock is a return home for the first-year Cougar.

Veteran Cougars catcher Kyle Lovelace joined the Round Rock team late. A season-ending injury to the opening day catcher in the team’s first game of the season created a very quick opening on the roster for a backstop. Kyle has only played in four games at the halfway point. He caught all of Round Rock’s combined no-hitter on Thursday night, when three pitchers closed out the first half of their season by no-hitting the Acadiana Cane Cutters.

The only player in the Texas Collegiate League not playing for the Round Rock Hairy Men is right-hander Jaycob Deese who pitches for the Brazos Valley Bombers. The incoming transfer from Galveston College has made three starts at the halfway point of the season. In his most recent start, Deese tossed three scoreless innings, striking out four. It was his second consecutive three-inning start after having gone 2 1/3 innings in his first start. So far Deese has allowed three earned runs for a 3.24 ERA combined with eight strikeouts.

With half of the season left to play, there is a lot to look forward to. The Cougars players are getting valuable playing time in the TCL facing good opposition in one form or another on every team they play. For fans wanting to catch games, opportunities are few in number, but every ballpark is reachable the rest of the way, tickets are affordable, and all ballparks are taking plenty of precautions with regard to spectator safety.

The Hairy Men begin the second half of their season Friday night when they host the Amarillo Sod Dogs for a three-game weekend series. –