Texas went into Stillwater and got the W on Thursday night, setting up a great opportunity to get a road Big 12 series win and even their conference record before hosting Oklahoma this weekend. After a Friday rainout forced a quasi-doubleheader on Saturday (the Friday game was halted and restarted on Saturday), the Longhorns learned that an opportunity is only as good as you make it: instead of taking the series, they dropped a pair to Oklahoma State and now face what could be considered an early-season must-win this weekend against the Sooners.
Texas' pitching and defense, surprisingly, was a big part of the problem--although timely hitting was another. In the Friday/Saturday game, the Longhorns actually out-hit the Pokes to the tune of 12-7 but stranded 13 men on the basepaths. Meanwhile, three (!) Texas errors resulted in three unearned runs for the Cowboys. So what should have been a competitive game, and arguably even a Texas victory, turned into an 8-3 defeat. If you're looking for a baby-steps, optimistic approach, it was great that this so-far offensively challenged squad picked up 12 hits; we much prefer a situation in which we whine about failing to get runners home than one in which we whine about failing to get them on base in the first place.
The third game, played entirely on Saturday, was worse. Nathan Thornhill had a wonderful outing--7.1 innings, 7 hits, 6 strikeouts, 1 earned run--yet was saddled with a 5-4 loss. That's because the key word in those stats is "earned;" Thornhill got himself into a jam in the first inning, facing a bases-loaded situation with two men out. But he earned his way out of the inning by inducing a grounder to third. Unfortunately, Erich Weiss failed to make the play; it was the only Texas error of the ballgame, but it was extremely costly as it led to four unearned runs scoring (two on that play, two on an ensuing double; in an inning with an error that should have resulted in an out, any run scored after two outs are recorded is considered unearned) in the inning.
Texas battled back one run at a time, again out-hitting Oklahoma State (this time by the slimmer margin of 9-7), but fell by a single run. To be fair, two of Texas' four runs were also unearned thanks to four Cowboy errors. Still, it was a game Texas could/should have won. So instead of sitting at 3-3 or even 4-2, they are two games under .500 in conference play with 18 games to go. If they don't want to be sitting home and watching when Tournament time rolls around, it's time to cut out the silly mistakes. The hitting seems to be picking up to a nearly-acceptable level, but the pitching and defense can't now fall back. It takes a complete team effort, and Augie's boys have not yet figured out how to put those together consistently.
They try to get on track tonight at 7:00 against Texas A&M Corpus Christi on the LHN. This is your open thread. Hook 'em!