The Brown Bears took Game Two of Saturday's doubleheader in Austin for their first victory of the young season. They managed the feat with a pair of three-spots in the third and seventh innings off of Sam Stafford and Keifer Nuncio/Kirby Bellow/Kendal Carrillo respectively. One of Stafford's runs was unearned thanks to an Erich Weiss error at third base, and another due to a Brandon Loy error at short. Those miscues turned what could have been a one-run inning on Ryan Zrenda's bomb into a big frame for the Bears. Texas managed to tie things up with a run in the bottom of the third and another in the fifth, but Brown broke it open thanks a couple of gifts from the battery of Nuncio and catcher Jacob Felts in the seventh. After a leadoff single and a sac bunt, Nuncio issued a free pass and Felts allowed a passed ball to put two men in scoring position. Bellow and Carrillo then each proceeded to give up a big RBI hit each, and Brown had doubled up the Longhorns 6-3, and an insurance run in the eighth sealed the deal.
It's hard to fault Stafford for the third, but the bullpen concerns have to resurface after the seventh. It's always a mistake to read too deeply into one game, let alone one inning; but consistency from the bullpen remains something to keep an eye on as the conference season gets underway next weekend. Another emerging concern, rare on Garrido teams, is defense--the team is now fielding a mediocre .966, with Weiss at an abysmal .896. Anything under .950 is cause for serious concern, and under .900 is almost unheard of. Hopefully as the guys get more reps this issue will disappear, but it has led to an inordinate number of unearned runs for Texas' opponents so far.
In the earlier ballgame, Brown also looked to be in good shape until Texas posted four runs in the bottom of the fifth inning (in a seven-inning affair). Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of that rally was that it was started by our two "hitters to watch for this weekend:" Jordan Etier and Paul Montalbano reached on back-to-back singles to get things going. OK, that's not true--the most encouraging thing was that Erich Weiss stroked a clutch grand slam, taking advantage of a sweet-spot fastball and a friendly wind to get the Longhorns from three runs down to one run up in a single blow. If he keeps that up, we'll advocate for his staying in the lineup regardless of fielding percentage. Congratulations to the freshman on his first UT homerun.
Hoby Milner got the win but struggled a bit, giving up six hits, walking two, and hitting a batter in five innings. Neither he nor Stafford really created any separation in the race for weekend starting slots, which opens the door for Cole Green to restore the preseason status quo by cementing himself as the #2 starter by following up his dominant performance on Tuesday with another great outing. He'll face Brown's ace, "TBA," before the Bears fly back to New England for another month of winter. Video is here, and this is your open thread.