I hopped on the Texas Baseball bandwagon at the tail-end of last season. Since then I've witnessed some of the best performances I've ever witnessed in sports. If your a fan of great pitching you can't ask for anything more than a seven-hour, 25-inning pitching duel. I can't urge you enough to start following Longhorn baseball if you have not already. To be honest, a Sunday afternoon game doesn't have the same zeal of football or basketball, but it has it's unique merits. With spring break starting Friday morning, I avoided the migrations to South Padre and Panama City and headed to the ridiculously named UFCU Disch-Falk Field. I was lucky enough to catch two games in person, follow one through BON updates, and watch the fourth online.
Pitching has been the least of concerns in the past month. Jungman proved he's the best pitcher in college baseball by striking out 17 of 29 batters, giving up a single walk, and allowing one run. I'm really speculating that he's the best pitcher but I don't know what more you could ask from your Friday pitcher than striking out 40% of batters faced and not allowing a home run all season. Green followed Saturday morning with a full game, (he gets the benefit of the doubt for a seven inning game,) with no earned runs, seven K's, and even hit a single. Workman struggled at times but earned his win. Lefthander Hoby Milner started the shutout on Sunday and got his second win in as many starts. Finally, Chance Ruffin successfully closing a game is as guaranteed as someone wearing an A&M hat to a game in Austin completely unrelated to the Aggies.
Cohl Walla, a 6'3'', 165 lbs freshman who should spend quality time with Mad Dog and a local buffet, had a phenomenal weekend. He replaced a slumping outfield to earn nothing less than a spot in the starting nine. He's got the speed to cover his third of the outfield and be a threat on the bases. He was the catalyst to fire up a skidding batting order: single to take the lead on Saturday morning, sacrifice fly on Saturday night to tie the game, and to silence all doubts added five RBI's on Sunday. Juries out on whether he's earned the right to wear number one as a freshman.
I didn't realize Cameron Rupp's significance with his bat, arm, and intangibles until Saturday. Rupp's hitting limited the lead in the second game of the double header. His knees got a break early on Saturday morning; a weakness Iowa's runners quickly took advantage of. More importantly, I increasingly believe Rupp is a leader on this team. He's always standing closest to the plate in the dugout or next to Augie. Rupp has intangible veteran presence behind the plate that this young team needs.
If there's any negatives from this weekend it's that the devil is in the details. Garrido's offense relies heavily on bunting, a skill that not all players have fully developed. It's frustrating to see a batter foul two balls off attempting to bunt and then start swinging with a unfavorable 0-2 count. Base-running is still a work in progress. Great example: Etier hits a deep shot that almost clears the center-field wall with Lusson already on second. Lusson doesn't even make an effort to tag up and make it to third. I'm not sure if the problem lies with runners or base coaches but there is room for improvement.
On the basketball seed, Texas received one of the worst seeds possible but I can't say I'm all that disappointed. You can't prove your worth in December and January. When your season lasts five months, consistency has to be part of your resume. The upside is that the Bradley/Wall exchange will be interesting to watch and basketball was made for upsets. I may be stubborn but I haven't given up on this team just yet. After a season marked by injuries, questionable gameplans, and an epic fall from ranking grace, my requirement for a successful tournament campaign is to see passion and effort from those players not named Damion James.