Terrible form on the part of the league to promote that the No. 1 seed would play the night games at the C-USA Baseball Championship only to reverse course and reveal after the field was set that the host institution, in this case UH, has the option of selecting its game times. It would have taken little more than an asterisk to inform potential ticket buyers of this hidden league clause/agreement, and that would have sufficiently alerted all that the possibility of schedule shenanigans existed. But even beyond that fact, this situation is all sorts of wrong.
Why should UH be rewarded with playing night games at Cougar Field simply because it is the host institution? UH is not hosting on merit, but rather because the league attempts to rotate the event between suitable facilities (with the tournament in Pearl, Miss., next season, will Southern Miss have the same option as UH?). Now, if the tournament were hosted by the No. 1 seed then fine, let that team dictate what time it elects to play. But as the No. 5 seed, the Coogs should have zero sway over when it takes the field. If this were an indoor sport (volleyball, basketball, etc.) then it wouldn't matter, but in the blistering late-May Houston heat, the regular-season champion should gain some advantage from having proven itself the superior team over a 24-game league schedule. That benefit should not automatically fall in the lap of the host institution, particularly one that needed two wins over the last weekend of the season just to qualify for the event and to avoid having the event pulled from its facility.
If the Owls are Lucy, does that make the rest of us Charlie Brown? Jared Rogers, Mike Ojala and Boogie Anagnostou pitch their backsides off, we settle down and bask in the warmth of those stellar performances, and then the bullpen rolls in, surrenders three home runs in three innings and leaves us feeling hoodwinked. The offense pounds Southern Miss' pitching staff into submission, but in strolls UAB and suddenly the Owls' lineup is flawed. This consistent inconsistency is maddening, and worst yet it cost the Owls a legit shot at hosting a regional. It doesn't take long to count the games the Owls gave away with porous defense or abysmal relief, a handful of contests that led to the Owls recording their first 20-loss season since '01.
If you are pulling your hair out trying to decipher this club, just imagine what The OG is feeling right about now. Just when it appears that Jr. LHP Abel Gonzales is back in form, he wobbles through a pair of outings against the Blazers. Just as The OG attempts to ease So. LHP Taylor Wall back into the mix, his defense fails him and UAB Sr. 1B Luke Stewart burns him. Hitting comes and goes, but it feels almost eerie to watch So. 3B Anthony Rendon have such a quiet weekend, or to witness Jr. RF Chad Mozingo scuffle atop the order. You see the talent and want so desperately to feel safe imagining Zestos in your hands, but the Owls continue to pull that ball away at precisely the right - or wrong - moment. The fall kinda hurts.
"Rendon said it earlier - it's been a roller-coaster ride," Owls Sr. C Diego Seastrunk said of this bizarre 2010 campaign. "I have a lot of confidence in this team because the ability is all over the place. We've got to play each game trying to win each inning. We need to truncate it and make it one inning pitch by pitch. I know it sounds cliché but we have to start winning each inning, or we're not going to be doing anything later on in the postseason."
With Rice playing No. 6 seed East Carolina, a team from the opposite pool, on Wednesday, The OG acknowledged that he might flip his weekend rotation. The Owls need only to win their two games against Houston on Thursday and Marshall on Friday to guarantee a spot in the tournament final, so chances are slim that The OG will use a frontline starter against the Pirates. Of course, the events of the past few weeks begs the following question: Who outside of Ojala is a frontline starter? And, if your least-reliable starter is the safest option against East Carolina, who fits that bill? Wall, the staff ace for the bulk of this season? Rogers, who has struggled in two appearances against East Carolina? Or Anagnostou, who has pitched exceptionally in his last two outings? Please, share your answers with the class.
Since they started making appearances at the College World Series in '97, the Owls have won at least 43 games every season. With the turbulence of this season, these Owls (35-20) will be hard-pressed to win eight more games. Of course, they could catch fire offensively and roll all the way to Rosenblatt Stadium. The thing is that after 55 games, we have no idea which team will show up. What we do know is that the Owls won't return to The Reck anytime soon, so if they plan on making a trip to Omaha, they'd better get those Willie Nelson t-shirts.
"We've played so much on the road it shouldn't be too big a problem," The OG said with a laugh. "More so this year than any year I've seen it's a matter of if you don't trust yourself totally ... then you deserve to fail. You've programmed failure. You may fail occasionally anyway, but your percentage of failures are going to go off the scale if you don't trust yourself."