By NEAL FARMER
There has been a narrative pro baseball players said about fans in the city of Houston for years.
— The fans sit on their hands.
— The fans arrive late (although not LA late).
— The players joked that there previously were big numbers at Minute Maid Park only because they passed out 100,000 tickets so that 30,000 will show up (see: Astros, 100-loss teams).
But I saw something on Friday night that even the fans of St. Louis — for years the best baseball fans in the world — would have appreciated. Houston fans gave a standing ovation on a play that did not end an inning and was not a home run.
Baltimore’s Hyun Soo Kim hit a double on the first pitch he saw from Houston reliever Chris Devinsky to start the eighth inning. Jonathan Schoop then pounded a ball down the third-base line that Houston’s Alex Bregman was able to knock down and keep to a single and keep Kim at second. Manager A.J. Hinch said after the game that Bregman’s defensive jewel was arguably the play of the game. Houston catcher Even Gattis then misplayed a bunt by J.J. Hardy and the Orioles had the bases loaded with no one out.
Adam Jones then hit a fly ball went to left field, which Astros outfielder Josh Reddick caught the ball and fired it home. Catcher Evan Gattis caught the great throw just in front of the plate. Baltimore did not send Kim from third base. Maybe it was because Kim is slow. Maybe it was because Reddick has a highly rated arm. But because of a defensive play that did not even end an inning, the fans gave Reddick a standing ovation.
I agree with the fans, in that I thought Reddick’s throw was the play of the game. It set tone in a close game and it spoke highly of the Houston defense.
Devinsky struck out Seth Smith on three pitches and then got a long fly out from Manny Machado to end the inning. Houston held on to win 2-0.
Wow. The ovation on Reddick’s throw was a great move by a baseball-savvy crowd that was not in St. Louis. I mean, just wow. Home runs don’t always win games. It’s the little things that allow home runs to make a difference, and it looks like Houston fans are becoming appreciative.
ASTROS NOT ONLY GREAT BASEBALL IN HOUSTON – The college baseball scene in Houston was hot this week. In fact, each Houston-based college team won or almost won their respective tournaments to earn NCAA Tournament appearances.
The University of Houston defeated East Carolina, 6-0, in the championship game of the American Athletic Conference in Clearwater, Fla. UH went undefeated in the tournament, including a 13-0 embarrassment of UConn in the fourth round. This is the Cougars’ second tournament championship in four years, and the third NCAA Regional appearance in the last four years under coach Todd Whitting.
Rice University overcame a poor regular season to win the Conference USA tournament with a 6-5 upset over Southern Mississippi in Biloxi, Miss. Rice was the No. 6 seed in the tourney but did not lose a game there. The Owls have now qualified for their 23rd consecutive NCAA regional berths. All 23 have been under coach Wayne Graham.
Sam Houston State defeated Central Arkansas on Saturday, 9-4, at Constellation Field in Sugar Land for their second-consecutive Southland Conference title. It is the fifth time in six years that SHSU has gone to a regional. Houston Baptist finished third in the same tournament.
And Texas Southern won the SWAC baseball championship 4-2 against Alabama State in 13 innings last week in New Orleans. It was the Tigers’ second conference baseball title in three years.
The NCAA announced late on Sunday that the University of Houston will host a regional this weekend, with the other three participating teams named on Monday. UH previously has hosted regionals in 1999, 2000 and 2015. The other three teams for the Houston Regional will be announced at 11 a.m. today (Monday). I’m guessing it will be UH, Rice, Sam Houston and Texas Southern in the Houston Regional. But I think that is unfair. The NCAA should allow those teams to play against other competition. The NCAA pays for the tournament travel and would save a lot of money by letting teams sleep in their own beds in Houston. But it is possible that more than one of these teams are hot enough to advance past teams in other parts of the country rather than just kill each other off.
The winners of the 16 regional tournaments will pair up the following weekend in eight Super Regional tournaments. The winners of those eight Super Regionals advance to the College World Series later in June.
2017 NCAA Baseball Regional Host Sites
Houston, Texas (Houston)
Baton Rouge, La. (LSU)
Chapel Hill, N.C. (North Carolina)
Clemson, S.C. (Clemson)
Corvallis, Ore. (Oregon State)
Fayetteville, Ark. (Arkansas)
Fort Worth, Texas (TCU)
Gainesville, Fla. (Florida)
Hattiesburg, Miss. (Southern Miss)
Lexington, Ky. (Kentucky)
Long Beach, Calif. (Long Beach State)
Louisville, Ky. (Louisville)
Lubbock, Texas (Texas Tech)
Palo Alto, Calif. (Stanford)
Tallahassee, Fla. (Florida State)
Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wake Forest)
RECORD-SETTING YEAR OVERALL FOR TSU – Texas Southern set a school record with six Southwestern Athletic Conference championships in 2014-15. But when the Tigers baseball team won the SWAC tournament championship and a trip to the NCAA playoffs last week, TSU broke that mark with seven league titles in 2016-2017. Texas Southern won regular season and tournament titles in men’s and women’s basketball, claimed its first ever title in women’s golf, and won championships in softball and baseball.
“Texas Southern Athletics has indeed come a very long way over the course of the past nine years,” said TSU Vice President of Intercollegiate Athletics Dr. Charles McClelland. “My goal upon initially taking over the helm of the program was for TSU to reach a point to where we were competing for championships in all of our sports each and every year. We can honestly say we’ve made those once lofty aspirations a reality with over half of our programs winning titles or finishing as runner-ups this past year. Our athletics staff, coaches and student-athletes have worked tirelessly over the course of this resurgence of TSU Athletics and they truly deserved all the credit for their sacrifices and hard work. ”
Under McClelland’s watch, Texas Southern has claimed 22 championships in nine years. Since the inception of intercollegiate athletics at Texas Southern the institution has won more than 60 titles — with approximately one third coming during McClelland’s tenure.
RUH-ROH — A survey says that some beers can be bad for your health. At least they didn’t include Shiner. I’m calling BS and labeling this as alternate facts. http://www.trueactivist.com/beer-warning-15-beers-to-stop-drinking-immediately/
CAREER MOVES? — And I don’t even know who half of these women are. I guess this is a career move for them in the day of social media. http://gallery.tv.com/galleries/celebrity-cleavage-selfies-you-have-to-see/photo/58f77845a84f395420181d09/
QUOTE OF THE DAY — It’s called a nudist ball — it’s got nothing on it. — former Cleveland Indians pitcher Phil Hennigan
HOTTIE OF THE DAY — Could Beyonce’ be a reason that TSU athletics in the Third Ward are on fire?