Texas baseball's offense is struggling if you haven't heard, though the Horns have run off double digit hits in three straight games. They haven't put it together yet, but Texas has had moments of solid offense from many of the positions. Could Texas put together a full lineup of capable hitters? Probably. Are we deluding ourselves to think they will? No doubt.
So what would a Texas lineup with an acceptable offense look like? Note that we say "acceptable". Not dominant. Not great. Not even good. Texas just needs to find acceptable. If we had our say, the full time Texas lineup might look a little something like this:
C - Jeremy Montalbano - Jacob Felts is struggling at the plate (.164 BA, .436 OPS) and in the field (5 passed balls). Montalbano hasn't been fantastic behind the plate but he's starting to find his offense going 5-14 at the plate since starting the season 1-12. It may be time to turn the freshman on full time to see just what we have here.
1B - Alex Silver - Silver was stuck behind a bevy of players but may be proving for the second straight season that he is Texas' best option at first. Codey McElroy has the prototypical size and may be a good first baseman eventually with an offseason of work, but his offense fell off a cliff and his defense was never good to begin with. Silver meanwhile brings a trusty glove and is hitting the ball well his last three starts (5-10, 3 walks, 5 RBI).
2B - Brooks Marlow - Texas can probably afford to sacrifice offense for a sure thing on defense in two of the nine spots. Here's one.
SS - CJ Hinojosa - Hinojosa has hit a bit of a freshman wall but the defense is much improved. Once the offense returns, look out.
3B - Erich Weiss - Mr. Consistent is consistent again this year.
LF - Taylor Stell - Stell found the doghouse with his offense but the kid has potential. Nobody else sticks out here otherwise they'd be here.
CF - Weston Hall - The speedy transfer is becoming one of Texas' best hitters (.296 BA) though his 17 strikeouts lead the team. More walks and less strikeouts would be great.
RF - Mark Payton - Can he become only the eighth player in UT history to hit .400 in a season? He's at .430 right now.
DH - Ben Johnson - Probably the best surprise of the young season has been Johnson's emergence as an offensive force. His defense needs work, as does his baserunning, but the kid can flat out hit. On Tuesday, Johnson singled, doubled, walked, hit a sinking liner that was barely caught and struck out looking on a ball three feet outside. The freshman is hitting .353 with 7 of his 13 hits going for extra bases. We're slowly transitioning from "small sample size" caution to "this guy can really hit" excitement.
So there's nine guys that aren't lost at the plate. Well, seven guys who aren't lost at the plate all the time. The Horns are 15-9 but with OSU and OU coming up over the next two series they'll need two series victories to keep the momentum riding.
On to Okie State. The Cowboys are 19-5 but have done so against the weakest schedule in the conference (272 of 296 SoS on Boyd's World). Their opponents are 77-123 on the year good for a 37% winning percentage. Their crowning achievement is a 5-4 extra innings midweek victory over Missouri State who, at 14-6, is the only team they have played with a winning record.
It may be schedule-assisted, but the Cowboys have put up some impressive stats. They enter the weekend 25th in team batting average, 41st in runs and 20th in home runs. Their team ERA ranks 18th (Texas is 19th) nationally. Sophomore Jason Hursh has been the ace on Fridays (3-0, 1.23 ERA, .181 batting average against, 2 complete games) just a year removed from Tommy John surgery. If Texas does have an advantage it's evident in Okie State's lack of consistently dominant starting pitching behind Hursh.
Probable pitching matchups:
Thursday - RHP Parker French (3-1, 1.31) vs. RHP Jason Hursh (3-0, 1.23)
Friday - LHP Dillon Peters (1-1, 2.45) vs. RHP Mark Robinette (1-0, 3.38)
Saturday - RHP Nathan Thornhill (2-2, 3.31) vs. TBA
First pitch is 6:30 tonight because of the Easter holiday on Sunday. Parker French returns to the mound! This will be your open thread when all the Texas-less basketball gets you down.