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January 2, 2007
Houston lost several key players from last season's 39-22 Conference USA runner-up squad. Don't feel bad for Rayner Noble as the Cougars should be one of the top teams in C-USA thanks to some impact newcomers and productive returnees.
Outfielders Brian Tully (.322/6/28) and Jake Stewart (.321/7/33/13 sbs), first baseman Josh Stirneman (.315/7/25), third baseman Dustin Kingsbury (.290/5/31/14 sbs), catcher Luis Flores (.288/8/30), and shortstop Travis Cougut (.283/2/16) all return. Newcomers to watch include infielder Jimmy Cesario, infielder Ryan Lormand, outfielder Zak Presley, and first baseman/DH Chris Wallace. The Cougars have to replace leading hitter Isa Garcia (.357/4/30), outfielder Matt Weston (.314/16/51), and all-American DH Brad Lincoln (.295/14/53).
Lincoln's (12-2/1.69) loss on the mound is an even bigger blow. Ricky Hargrave (8-6/3.31) moves into the ace role while the two-way player Flores (6-3/3.00) is a solid second starter. Aaron Brown (1-3/6.07), Northwestern State transfer Dereck Cloeren, and freshman Wes Musick are all third starter candidates. Barry Laird (1-0/6.32) and Chris Wright are top bullpen options.
The Cougars' non-conference schedule is highlighted by the Astros College Classic where they face Baylor, Texas A&M, and Arizona State. They host UC-Irvine, Northwestern State, and Princeton for weekend series. They visit San Diego. Other non-conference games include games against Baylor, McNeese State, Lamar, Louisiana-Lafayette, and Texas A&M. Inside CUSA, UH hosts UAB, Rice, East Carolina, and Southern Miss. Houston visits UCF, Tulane, Marshall, and Memphis.
Houston needs some new players to step forward and some returning players to move towards stardom.
Strengths: Productive lineup options and strong 1-2 starters
Weaknesses: Pitching depth and new middle infield
The Southeastern 64 is made up of teams from the following conferences: ACC, SEC, Conference USA, Sun Belt, Atlantic Sun, Colonial, Big South, Southern, Southland, Ohio Valley, MEAC, and SWAC. The following schools were also included due to their geographic location: South Florida, Louisville, Louisiana Tech, and Charlotte.