Yoakum, Cuero freshmen thankful for opportunity at UHV
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UHV Baseball Season Opener
Feb. 3 at UT-Brownsville
Doubleheader at 4 p.m.
Justin Boening and Andrew Thibodeaux didn't take long to make a good impression on their new teammates.
Boening hit a solo home run and Thibodeaux had an opposite-field double in their first at-bats for the University of Houston-Victoria in a scrimmage against Alvin Community College on Tuesday at Riverside Stadium.
"It was a fast ball and I was looking for it," said Boening a Yoakum graduate who drove the ball over the left-field fence. "It was right there. It was a good day. I got to see a different pitcher every time and I had to make adjustments."
"It's good getting to see different pitchers," added Thibodeaux, a Cuero graduate. "It helps me see the ball a lot better. I'm trying to get my swing down."
Boening and Thibodeaux are part of UHV's second freshman class and coach Terry Puhl wasted no time getting them on the field.
Boening started at first base for the Jaguars and Thibodeux started at third base in the first seven-inning scrimmage and shortstop in the second.
Thibodeaux and Boening took different routes to UHV, but both came primarily for the opportunity to play for Puhl.
"Coach Puhl is a great coach," said Thibodeaux, who was recruited by UHV after hitting .453 with 10 doubles, two home runs and 27 RBIs, while stealing 36 bases and having an on-base percentage of .737 during his senior season at Cuero. "He has a good head on his shoulder about batting and being a team player. He likes to work hard everyday, just like we did in high school."
"The first week has been pretty good," said Boening, who had 10 home runs and 38 RBIs as a senior at Yoakum and tried out at UHV at the suggestion of Victoria Generals coach Ryan Wagner, who coached him during the summer. "I can just imagine what it's going to be like in the March and how much better I'm going to get in the spring."
Puhl spends a lot of time with the freshmen on their approach at the plate.
"The first six weeks is to solidify their mechanics so when they show up in the spring they've got a chance to compete," Puhl said. "Now, they're competing as an 18 year old against 21, 22 year olds. That's a big space and a big advantage for the older players. This is more important for the freshman than the spring because they would have no chance."
Puhl didn't have to tinker much with Thibodeaux's swing after watching him in the summer.
"He told me some things I should work on before the season even started so I could be more ready," Thibodeaux said. "He liked my swing and he hasn't tweaked it too, too much since I've been here. It's just keep my eye on the ball and see the rotation and everything."
Puhl did a little more work with Boening, who will be the designated hitter when he isn't playing first base.
"He changed my hands," Boening said. "I had an open stance and he closed me up a little bit. He's got my timing a little better like what to look for and with my arms, wrist and stuff."
Boening and Thibodeaux know they will have to make adjustments to play on a daily basis.
"They throw a little harder," Boening said. "Everything is a little faster. Runners are faster and they hit a little harder so you've got to get ready a lot faster and get your footwork a lot better."
But they believe playing in front of friends and family will help.
"It's always nice being close and I know a bunch of people here already," Thibodeaux said. "It makes it easier for me to to fit in with everybody."
NOTES: Alvin outscored UHV 14-1 and 8-0, but Puhl was not unhappy with his team, which is missing some starters and has been practicing for only a week. Alvin has been playing since August.
"I'm looking to get familiar with some guys playing abilities," Puhl said. "What they can or what they can't do and what they need to work on - I saw a lot of what we need to work on."
Puhl was closely watching the freshmen to see where they might fit in with this season's team.
"They've got to learn how to compete," he said. "There is a shakeout process that happens and it happens very quickly. It's going to happen real quickly here because I will find guys who can play."