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Doug Rush has Tomball baseball firing on all cylinders

March 29, 2019

Tomball head coach Douglas Rush has been pleased with every one of his baseball teams since arriving eight years ago.

Last season ended with an exit in the regional quarterfinals after taking rival Tomball Memorial to game three of a three-game series.

Nevertheless, after falling short to the Wildcats, the 2019 squad is loaded again with solid bats and a talented pitching staff.

“This team can be pretty special if they do everything right,” Rush said.

Tomball (15-1-2, 6-0) is currently one of the top teams in a tough District 20-5A that includes Porter, Willis, Lake Creek, Montgomery, Kingwood Park, Caney Creek, New Caney and Huntsville.

“These guys just really pull together and play well together,” Rush said.

The Cougars ended up losing 11-9 in extra innings in the win-or-go-home game vs. Tomball Memorial, after rallying to tie the game in the ninth.

“We were angry,” Rush said. “We’re not used to being beaten by Tomball Memorial. We had a lot of things didn’t go our way that weekend. We weren’t happy about it.”

Every year since Rush has been head coach, the Cougars seem to be deep in the playoffs and making a run to either the state tournament, regional finals, semifinals or quarterfinals.

Rush took over in 2011 and has a 193-66 record in seven seasons with a playoff record of 48-20. Tomball won the 4A state championship in 2013.

Talent across the board

Before the current season started, Rush and the program talked about resetting the culture.

“This team’s got one of the best chemistry I’ve ever been around,” Rush said.

Right now, the Cougars are really being carried by the pitching staff, the strong point. The starting pitching allowed its first earned run in district in the sixth game and have allowed five runs total.

“Only one earned run and we’ve only walked five guys in six games, but we got to pick it up offensively a little bit,” Rush said.

The pitching staff is led by the main four guys in senior Eric Oakes, Texas State commit, sophomore Mason Marriott, Baylor commit, senior Cody Ryan and junior Mitchell Aitken, along with some others as well.

“Oakes is a really good player; he was the MVP of the district two years ago as a sophomore (first-team All-District pitcher as a junior),” Rush said. “He’s a special two-way guy, he can really pitch, hit and can play second base, just a good player.”

The senior leadership comes from senior shortstop Kasen Handel, senior catcher/pitcher Eli Kerim (Texas Tech signee), who just got back from an injury, and third baseman Ryan.

Then Rush has had a couple of sophomores who’ve really stepped up big in No. 2 pitcher Marriott and big hitting first baseman Casen Neumann.

The program has several underclassmen who will be around for a while like Marriott and Aitken on the mound and then Neumann back hitting.

“We’ve got some other guys that are splitting time and buying their time,” Rush said. “We’ve got some good junior players coming up, so we’re excited about next year too.”

Gaining momentum

The Cougars started off the district season by having Oakes throw a no hitter vs. Huntsville in a 10-0 win in five innings, March 5.

Tomball then earned a 5-0 win over Montgomery, March 12, with Oakes pitching a shutout along with 13 strikeouts.

Two days later, Marriott earned the win on the mound against Caney Creek 9-2, while Christian Marshall, Ryan and Tyler Lund had multiple hits and Darrion Eddie had a home run with 3 RBI.

In the 5-0 win vs. Lake Creek on March 19, it was Ryan who took over as he threw a complete game shutout and had a pair of hits to go with two RBI.

Against Kingwood Park, March 22, Tomball won 2-0 with a seven-strikeout shutout performance by Oakes (his third shutout, one no hitter). Marshall had a couple of hits and Aitken had an RBI sacrifice fly and stole home to score the second run.

Marriott notched another win vs. New Caney 11-1, March 26. He struck out eight batters while Oakes had two RBI at the plate.

The baseball program at Tomball is kind of build upon itself, according to Rush. He’s only the program’s sixth head coach since 1975.

“They’re just used to winning and they don’t want to be the team that lets the community and school down,” Rush said. “They really focus on learning how to play as a team and win every season, and it seems to work so far.”

Rush’s current run at Tomball includes a 208-68 record, along with several impressive playoff runs, a state championship and a trip to the state tournament.

“We’re real proud of what we’ve accomplished here,” Rush said. “Obviously we’re proud of it, but it also adds more of an element of pressure on us, because now the expectations aren’t just to get to playoffs, or this and that, it’s to go deep and get to the state tournament just about every year.”

alvaro.montano@chron.com