Texas used timely hitting, overpowering pitching and excellent defense to beat #20 Texas State 6-1 in front of the largest midweek crowd in Texas baseball history. The six runs were the second most the Horns have scored on this young season and only the second time Texas has eclipsed five runs. Three weeks ago we discussed the relative meaningless of wins and losses of midweek games, but that no longer holds true for a Texas team that needs to take two of three from Oklahoma this weekend in order to reach .500 on the year.
Tonight the Horns managed to beat a Bobcats squad that had won its last two midweek games over Rice and TCU and has a road series victory over Houston. In other words, this was a pretty good squad that came into Austin with an ERA of 1.05 (best in the country). Aside from the offense waking up (every Horn but Etier got a hit), what was most encouraging about the Horns tonight was the pitching of Parker French and the defense of Alex Silver at first base. French got the win in an announced start by giving Texas 4 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 0 BB and working his way out of a leadoff triple to start the game. Throw in Ricky Jacquez' work on Sunday and Texas has gotten 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB and 7 Ks from freshmen the last two starts.
Then there's Silver. Kevin Lusson and Kirby Bellow may have more prototypical bodies for a first baseman, but neither has shown any defensive acumen, destroying the Texas defense along the way. Silver on the other hand may be 6'1" 195 lbs but he shows natural defensive instincts that can't be taught. The defensive highlight of the night was Silver diving to his right to snare a grounder that saved an extra-base hit, but just as important was his play after the leadoff triple in the first. Silver cleanly fielded a grounder in front of the bag and calmly looked the runner back to third before quickly turning and making a perfect flip to first for the out. A less perfectly executed play would have made a 1-0 Texas State lead.
So the night ends with Texas entering conference play next weekend against Oklahoma. If Texas turns things around this season, we may be able to point to tonight as one of the season's biggest, although the Horns could just as easily slide back into bad habits that will derail the season. It wasn't a perfect night by any means, evidenced by seven runners left on base in just the first three innings. But Texas couldn't have asked for a better momentum builder as they go to Norman.
Six of the next seven are on the road, so we'll know soon enough whether this team can turn things around.