For the second consecutive day Texas saw an early lead disappear due in part to poor defense, only to respond emphatically and with finality. On Tuesday, Texas gave up 3 runs in the top of the 4th but came back with a four-spot in the bottom half of the inning and a total of 12 runs over the next 3 innings. Yesterday the Horns went down 3-1 after 2 ½ innings only to put up 8 runs on 6 hits in the bottom. Texas finished the mid-week series scoring a remarkable 38 runs in the two games against Texas A&M Corpus Christi, winning 16-7 on Tuesday and 22-3 on Wednesday.
For the most part TAMUCC did the hard work for Texas, giving up 6 unearned runs while the word "competitive" still applied. Brandon Workman of Texas was solid for the most part in the second victory, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) over 3.2 innings. The most encouraging aspect of this victory was the work of Kyle Walker, pitching 2 innings with only one hit. Six other Longhorn pitchers combined to give up no earned runs.
On offense the Horns were paced by Brandon Belt, who went 4-6 and drove in 8 runs. Aside from that it was a relatively ho-hum day at the plate for the Horns, whose overmatched opponent walked 17 (!) batters while striking out only 6.
Considering the competition, there is not a ton that can be learned from this individual series. It will be interesting, as the season goes on, to see how Texas responds to the new compressed schedule. Taking this game in context with the early part of the season, we do see some patterns/issues developing that we will be interested to follow for the rest of the season:
The Depth – Last season, Texas ran into severe difficulty when Preston Clark went down. This season, we don’t think we’ll have the same problems. Freshman Kawika Emsley-Pai has shown ability...as the third string catcher. Other freshman Cameron Rupp makes us feel okay if Preston Clark can’t go for whatever reason. Texas has an embarrassment of riches battling for the left field spot with Connor Rowe, Kevin Keyes, Russell Moldenhauer, and Kyle Lusson. And on the mound, Texas has had 11 pitchers throw 5 or more innings through 10 games. Augie knows better than anyone that fresh arms at the end of the season can be the difference between a contender and a champion.
The Fielding - If this team has an Achilles heel right now, this has to be it. Twenty-one errors through 10 games is very troubling. It’s even more troubling when your second baseman and right fielder have made almost half of your total errors. You expect your shortstop and third baseman to have miscues--especially early--but if those two don’t clean up then the Horns may be in trouble. Texas had 5 errors against TAMUCC in 2 days. The defense clearly didn’t hurt the Horns this series, but it is worth keeping an eye on for the future. As in, the immediate future: always-strong Stanford will not be so forgiving this weekend.
The Names – We don’t know if this team has what it takes to be a champion, but we do know for sure that it has the names. It has the alliteration of manchildren Kenn Kasparek and Kevin Keyes. It has last names Wood, Belt, Emsley-Pai, Shinaberry, Danks, and Workman, and first names Tant and Juston, plus all-American names like Kyle and Michael. The only downside is a closer with the last name of Walker. Regardless, it is a team of strong names, probably among the best collection of names that we as a nation can produce.
The New Guys – While discussing this team it’s hard not to notice how many new ballplayers have critical roles. The exciting thing about the youth is that they may not jell until the latter half of the season. Through ten games Texas has no set rotation, no set bullpen roles, no determined batting order, and a ton of potential go-to guys. This might not be one of Augie’s best teams, but it may be amongst his most exciting to watch.
The Unknowns - Somewhat surprisingly the pitching and offense are pretty unknown right now (we realize that's two thirds of the game, and we already said that the defense was questionable. Deal with it). Austin Wood, Cole Green, and Kenn Kasparek appear to have the starting rotation down, but we’ll see whether things stay that way. The rest of the staff is up for grabs, with none of the established pitchers cementing a role yet. The offense is equally uncertain, with several newbies putting up strong performances and veterans Kyle Russell and Jordan Danks struggling early. The potential for great things is certainly there, but whether the leadership and will to win appear is yet to be seen.
Next Up: - In an attempt to forget a disappointing weekend in Houston, Texas (now 8-2 overall) returns to action with an important weekend series against Stanford (7-3). A series win would get Texas into a rhythm and be an important confidence-builder ahead of conference play--which, amazingly, begins in less than ten days.