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. –

Future Cougar: Adam Becker

Houston Cougars signee Adam Becker bats for Grayson Junior College in 2020.
Adam Becker at-bat for Grayson Junior College

Adam Becker recalls his favorite baseball memory. It was when his parents made sure the Yankees were going to be in Arlington to face the Rangers, young Adam got a chance to go see his favorite player at the time: Derek Jeter. Adam does point out that he was not a Yankees fan, just a Jeter fan.

Houston Cougars signee Adam Becker was born in Odessa. Adam started playing the game at four years of age, as he pointed out, “that’s pretty much the earliest you can play.”

Adam and his family moved to Midland when he was in the second grade. Becker would eventually attend Midland Lee High School. As a sophomore in 2016, Becker played for a great Lee team, which had seven guys go to “upper level” D1 baseball programs, and that team was also one win away from a chance to play for a state championship in Round Rock.

“That was the best team I’ve ever played on,” Adam says. “We were an old team, a lot of older guys who all led.” People in the Midland area still talk about that team, that was the only baseball team from the area to ever make it that far.

“Adam was gangly pup that resembled more of a baby giraffe than a baseball player when he was a freshman in high school,” says Adam’s head coach at Lee, Brian Roper. “It was in the summer of 2015 when I noticed that he was the one that spent the most time in the cage up at our facility. The kid had great work habits! He made himself into a better defensive player as well. Those work habits payed off as Adam was a huge part of leading our school to the regional finals as a sophomore 3rd basemen. In the playoffs…he arrived!”

In subsequent seasons at Lee, Becker hit .429 and .394 and the college offers began appearing. Adam chose Oklahoma State and in his freshman year he was on a team that was stacked and he saw action in only a few games. That Cowboys team made it to a Super Regional against Texas Tech in Lubbock, and they pushed the Red Raiders to a deciding third game before their season ended a win away from going to Omaha. Becker then decided to attend a junior college (Juco) and he began looking for the right fit.

Adam sought help and advice from a friend and former Odessa College baseball coach. His friend advised him to consider Grayson Junior College in Denison. Becker says of the advice, “When I made it public I wanted to go to a Juco, he said that (Grayson) would be the best opportunity for me, the best place for me.”

Becker did choose Grayson Junior College. He got playing time immediately and in nineteen games he saw seventy at-bats and collected twenty base hits. Adam admits that the first couple of weeks of the season were somewhat about knocking the rust off after having not seen too much playing time for Oklahoma State. But he compares baseball to learning to ride a bike, the more you practice the more comfortable you get. “The more I played, the more I left like I got back into it,” Becker said. “I did feel like it hurt me not having a ton of playing time my freshman year. But, the more playing time I had against college players this past year the more I fell back into it, into the swing of things.”

Becker recalls mid-March this season when baseball got put on hold across the country. On the Friday of that final week, “we had team lift in the morning and at that point the domino effect kind of already started, there were D1s shutting down. So we had an idea of what might happen.” But Adam and his Vikings teammates continued to put in work until their coach brought them together for a team meeting where he said, “there’s no word yet, but we won’t practice this weekend, we can’t, so if you want to go home, go ahead.” Becker says, “I decided I was going to come home for the weekend so I packed up some stuff and came home.”

A week passed.

“On that Saturday night he (his head coach) texted us again and said, ‘stay home another week because we can’t practice for a week’ and the timeline just kept getting longer and longer and eventually we got a text that the season was going to be over.”

Houston Cougars signee Adam Becker takes batting practice for the Oklahoma State Cowboys.
Adam Becker takes BP at Oklahoma State

So, already at home, Adam continued to lift weights at home with the local gyms closed, and working out with his younger brother who will be a senior in high school next year, “so it’s been good, I’ve been using him as a workout partner,” Becker said.

Now, Adam Becker, a 6-5 infielder, will be headed to Houston next month to continue his baseball and academic journey. Brian Roper, head coach at Midland Lee, believes in big things for Adam, “Today Adam is so projectable for pro ball. Great size and great power.”

On what to expect when he arrives in Houston, Becker says, “I know this is a big class.” But, he is ready to work, and ready to compete.

“I know what I have to do and I know that regardless of what I’ve been told I have to come in and compete and actually fight for that spot that I want and that’s the beauty of it all is that competition makes the best out of people. So I’m looking forward to the competition.” –

Future Cougar: Dalton Roblin

Houston Cougars signee Dalton Roblin pitching for the Angelina College Roadrunners.
Lefty Dalton Roblin pitched for Angelina College

For many of the incoming baseball players to the University of Houston this fall, the path has deviated very little. All have been playing baseball for a very long time now. Some had their baseball season start later than normal because they had to fulfill their obligations to other teams at the school, the basketball team for instance. Some played football in the fall of their senior year, for some of those athletes it was the continuation of playing football every year in high school, for another though, playing football in the fall was something “fun” he decided to do for the season.

Then there is Dalton Roblin, the junior college transfer from Angelina College who will be stepping on to the University campus next month as a member of the Houston Cougars baseball team. Dalton took a different route on his way to this point in his life: He quit the game.

“After my senior year I quit baseball, because I didn’t think I wanted to play it anymore,” says Roblin. Later in the summer though, thanks to boredom and baseball highlights on YouTube, he started seeking out opportunities to catch-on at various junior colleges. Angelina College offered him a timetable and an opportunity, both of which worked for him.

Fast forward to today and the left-hander has two years of junior college baseball behind him, though the second year was limited due to circumstances surrounding the pandemic, and he is currently a Cougars signee and in a little over a month he will be in Houston getting down to business.

Dalton Roblin was born and raised in Beaumont. When he started playing t-ball at five or six, he was, like many others that age, playing with both boys and girls and those were kids he would end up being around the rest of his days until he went away to Angelina. During that time he also made his first all-star game at age eight, the first of five straight all-star years. The last all-star season landed him and his team in the state final. Dalton then moved on to junior league and high school baseball at West Brook High School in Beaumont.

After being told he could try out for Angelina, he started losing some weight as he was getting back into some sort of game shape. He says he initially “lost four or five pounds” but once he actually started playing and practicing, he lost over sixty pounds. That matters, Roblin says because it “helped me get noticed, and it made me throw harder.”

In a small sample size, for someone who is not primarily an infielder or batter, Roblin improved his batting average from his freshman to sophomore season by nearly one-hundred points. He gives some credit to maturity, and some credit to a new hitting coach, Michael Barash, who Dalton says, “tweaked some things. He helped me see the ball better and I could find more barrel, more often.”

Coach Barash says, “Dalton is a strong, physical kid who can really drive the baseball. He has a pure left-handed swing with some serious leverage. When I first got to Angelina College, his raw power and strength really stood out. He really bought into our approach as hitters and the results speak for itself.”

On the pitching front, Roblin had a nice freshman year by most any standard. Working predominantly out of the bullpen in relief, Dalton notched a 3.55 ERA and in 33 innings pitched he struck out 48 batters, for a 13.09 strikeout per nine innings average. After the season, Dalton went to work and interestingly, he focused on the head game as much as on the physical game, “The main thing I worked on in the offseason was coming into the game with the mentality that I don’t care what the score is, what the situation is, but I have to get every batter out; nobody gets on, nobody scores.” His coaches wanted him to “have the mentality to come in and shut the door.”

Roblin got noticed by the University of Houston coaching staff at a junior league all-star game in Abilene, where Dalton says he pitched well in limited action. In October of 2019, Roblin committed to the Houston Cougars.

Before the Roadrunners 2020 season was ended prematurely, Dalton had a 3.38 ERA in 5 ⅓ innings pitched, and he had struck out nine. The strikeout per nine innings average increased to 15.19. Dalton and his teammates were hearing about closing and cancellations as the world adapted to what was happening. They were all together when their coaches told them they were finished, at least for the moment. “Everybody’s head just dropped when they told us,” Roblin says. “Our team, we struggled at first, but we had finally put all the pieces together and we were starting to pick up momentum, and then that happened.”

Cougars signee Dalton Roblin pitching for the Angelina College Roadrunners.
Cougars signee Dalton Roblin

After the season concluded and everyone was back home, Roblin kept working. He would hit a local gym late at night when he had the place to himself. He has an old friend who is a catcher at an NAIA school, and Dalton would throw a bullpen with him to keep the arm active. “I was still doing pretty much everything that I usually do.”

“He grew very quickly within our program and it’s because of his internal drive for greatness that propelled him to the University of Houston,” says Coach Barash. “He will bring energy to the ballpark daily that his teammates will feed off of and it’s a relentless energy people enjoy being around. Take his energy and combine it with his talent and the Cougars got a really good one coming to them.”

Dalton Roblin’s next stop is the University of Houston next month, assuming everything goes according to the plan of the moment. 2020 offers a mixed bag right now when pondering young men like Roblin and their shortened pitching season. They could have benefited from the entire season, gained some strength, maybe even developed new or better pitches. On the other hand, they are reporting to campus fresh and ready to get to work in this, their next chapter. –