Season of ups and downs for UHV baseball
May 3, 2012 at 12:03 a.m.
Updated May 4, 2012 at 12:04 a.m.
2011 31-25 AII Tournament
2010 33-22 AII Tournament
2009 34-17 AII Tournament champion, NAIA regional berth
*No tournament for independents
The University of Houston-Victoria's John Longoria came into the 2012 baseball season as a NAIA preseason All-American.
Longoria earned the honor by hitting a team-leading .374 with six home runs, a school-record tying 23 doubles and a team-leading 50 RBIs as a junior.
But Longoria's senior season did not go as he had hoped. Longoria hit .246 with two home runs, six doubles and 16 RBIs.
"That's just the way the game goes," Longoria said. "Sometimes you can have those down seasons. I just really couldn't find my swing. It was just really uncomfortable in the box. I started to feel it there the last couple of weeks and started hitting the ball well. But it was just an off year and it happens."
Longoria was not alone in his struggles, as the Jaguars experienced their first losing season in the five-year history of the program.
Even with a three-game season-ending sweep over LSU Alexandria, UHV finished with a 20-29 record and didn't receive a bid to the Association of Independent Institutions tournament for the first time since the tournament began in the 2009 season.
"We were kind of spotty in all aspects of the game," said UHV head coach Terry Puhl. "Sometimes we had great pitching, sometimes we had great hitting, sometimes we had great fielding. It wasn't as consistent as we needed. We have to play better in order to get there."
The Jaguars played a competitive schedule that included NCAA opponents Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas A&M-Kingsville, St. Mary's University, Incarnate Word, and St. Edward's.
UHV went 4-10 against those teams and lost all five games against LSU Shreveport, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA coaches' poll.
"This has been the most difficult schedule we've had," Puhl said. "That's how you get better and I thought our season got struck with that."
The Jaguars were also a young team. Longoria, Tyler Steiner and Creighton Hoke were the only seniors on the squad and a number of starters were freshmen and sophomores.
Freshmen Andrew Thibodeaux, a Cuero graduate, showed the potential of the young players by hitting four home runs and driving in 20 runs.
But he also struck out 51 times in 107 at-bats.
"It's a matter of getting more at-bats and finally seeing this is the approach I need to take on game day," Thibodeaux said. "It started helping me a lot more and it makes things a little bit easier."
Pitching was an issue the entire season. Nathan Falkenstine (5-4) was the only starter with a winning record and the team finished with a collective ERA of 5.69
Injuries played a role in the UHV's pitching woes, but Puhl acknowledged a lack of depth was a problem.
"I was trying to get more arms in here and that's what I'm going to do," he said. "I've already got three or four freshmen. I've got to go out and sign some juco guys too. I've got to get some better arms. We need to overload on arms because of our 55-game schedule."
The Jaguars will begin preparing for the 2013 season in the fall and they should expect some changes.
"Our pitchers will be doing something different from the standpoint of getting their arms and their control," Puhl said. "We have a pitchers' pocket and our pitchers will be throwing to that. They will be throwing more for control in a particular area. They'll be graded on the number of pitches they can throw in a particular quadrant.
"Hitting wise, I'd still like to get back to getting more power here," he added. "We did not have the power numbers that we've had in the past. We need a little more home run production."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.