First thing's first: we owe an apology for not getting an open thread up for yesterday's game. Second thing's second: we hope none of you took the time to suffer through yet another anemic offensive performance by the Longhorns, as they managed just three hits and a single run. The 5-1 loss in their first conference game against TCU was bad; the fact that Texas Tech was busy destroying Baylor in Lubbock was the icing on the cake. After last night's events, the Red Raiders sit at 8-14 in the Big 12 while Texas is 6-16. Even if Texas should manage to win the next two games (thereby winning their first and only conference series of the season) and Tech were to lose the next two, the teams would be tied at 8-16. Based on Tech's head-to-head victory over UT in Austin, Tech would receive the eighth and final spot in the conference tournament. That means the season is over for Augie Garrido and the Longhorns on Saturday, no matter what happens.
We feel like a pair of broken records for writing this repeatedly, but it really can't be said enough: there are nine teams in the Big 12 baseball conference. Eight of them make the conference tournament. Doing some high-level math, that means only one team fails to make the tournament--the very worst team in the conference. By far the most successful program in the Big 12, with the most storied history, is Texas. And yet, the one team that will not be playing in Oklahoma City next week is Texas.
In the long, college-sports-less summer months, we will write a post in which we attempt to sort through exactly how we got here. How, like the football team, Texas baseball could have been so agonizingly close to winning the national championship in 2009 and then fall so unbelievably far since then. The difference is, there seem to be a few reasons for cautious optimism in the football program. And when football hit rock bottom, it was never as bad as the 2013 baseball season that, for all intents and purposes, is now over. Literally the only thing this team has left to play for tonight and tomorrow is to avoid the embarrassment of losing every single conference series this season. But when you've finished ninth out of nine teams in a mediocre conference, what's one more little embarrassment?
So this is Texas baseball today. We said some time ago that Augie Garrido has earned enough goodwill and had enough success that we'd back his return in 2014 essentially no matter what--"as long as they don't get so bad that it really embarrasses the program, like by missing the conference tournament or something." Well. Here we are. And we're not sure how we feel about Augie's future at Texas; the two of us may ultimately disagree with each other. (Hey! There's an idea for another postseason post!)
The good news:
The Texas softball team has earned the number 4 national seed, and begins play in the Austin regional tonight at 6:00. The first game, against fourth-seeded Army, will be televised on the Longhorn Network. If they win that one, they'll take on the winner of this afternoon's matchup between Houston and South Carolina in the double-elimination format.
The winner of the Austin regional will play the winner of a regional including South Alabama, Mississippi Valley State University, Mississippi State, and Florida State, in a super regional for a berth in the Women's College World Series. The overall bracket is available on the Texas Sports website.
The Longhorns will rely on superb balance to try and play their way to OKC: the pitching staff sports a team ERA of 1.61, while the hitters have a team slugging percentage of .474. Blair Luna is the staff ace, with a 1.19 ERA in 200.2 innings pitched; she has held opposing hitters to a .126 average. Kim Bruins is no slouch either; it's a luxury for a softball team to have two pitchers who can eat up innings instead of relying on one woman's arm exclusively, and Bruins provides that depth. She has pitched 72 innings with a 1.65 ERA and an opponent's batting average of .199, still below the Mendoza line. Meanwhile, the lineup includes a pair of very balanced Taylors: senior Taylor Hoagland is hitting an incredible .442, slugging .868 (not a typo) and has mashed 13 homeruns, while junior Taylor Thom hits .383 with 12 dingers. That combination of average and power make both very dangerous hitters; add in the fact that Hoagland is exceedingly disciplined at the plate (64 walks on the season, the most on the team by almost 40) and you see why these two anchor the Texas offense.
We're the baseball writers, so we're not going to actively tell you to watch the softball game tonight instead of the baseball game. But this will be your open thread for both. And we'll be paying a lot more attention to softball, since the games will actually count.