Texas Wins Stanford Series, Hosts UTPA Today

Photo courtesy of Schoolly_D

Texas baseball took two of three from Stanford over the weekend, & begins a critical stretch today with a midweek tilt against UT Pan American.

Texas welcomed perennial non-conference opponent Stanford to the Disch this past weekend, and the results were encouraging on the whole. Coming into the series, the following thoughts were swimming around in no particular order:

  • Stanford was young, particularly the pitching staff
  • Stanford had some pop in their bats and could score runs in bunches
  • The past two years, Texas' lackluster performances against the Cardinal have set the stage for lackluster seasons
  • The Longhorns appeared in the previous three games to be hitting the ball much better than they have the last couple of seasons
  • Texas really needed to win at least two games for the weekend to be at all successful.
Those thoughts and expectations ended up roughly guiding the actual course of the weekend, with one additional theme in Game Two. In 2013, Texas lost games every way one can imagine. If a contest was close late, a sense of dread couldn't help but take hold; anyone paying attention knew the likelihood was that the Longhorns would find a way to hand over the ballgame. On Saturday, in a game I described as weird, Texas found a way to win. After a full season of all "weird" games turning into losses, it's refreshing to have pulled one out of the fire for once.

All in all, the weekend had a certain symmetry to it. Texas dominated the Cardinal on Friday night, won a squeaker on Saturday, and was dominated on Sunday. The first two games of the series capped a five-game winning streak in which the Horns outscored opponents 34-8--certainly not a sentence I had the pleasure of typing last season.

The story of the weekend was the continued hot bat of Mark Payton, who went an amazing 8-for-10 in the three games. In my view, the most impressive number for Payton was three: as in the three walks he drew in yesterday's 11-5 defeat. He came into the game at 7-for-8 in the first two games, and a less mature player would be jumping out of his spikes to try and make contact on every at-bat. Payton's patience and willingness to accept walks when pitchers decide to pitch around him speaks well of his mindset as a ballplayer and may hopefully be an indicator of consistency in 2014.

A 3-1 week and the series win over Stanford was enough to propel Texas to #15 in Baseball America's ranking.

Huzzah!

Today at 4:30, Texas takes on UT Pan American at UFCUDFF on Longhorn Network. Texas then travels to Houston this weekend for the Houston College Classic. While there they'll take on #12 Rice, an undefeated Houston squad and Sam Houston State.

All told this week's opponents carry a 25-6 record. If Texas can go 3-1 this week, they'll be in great position going forward. Texas plays 13 of its next 14 games at home, all of which will be eminently winnable giving the Horns a chance to really build some momentum before hitting the meat of conference play.

But first, UTPA. The Broncs are 5-3 with a series split with Texas A&M Corpus Christi and having taken three of four from a split series with Northwestern State and Prairie View A&M. Senior right fielder Alex Howe hasn't been quite as good as Payton has been for Texas, but his .519 average, seven RBI and four stolen bases are all impressive nonetheless. Transfer Alex Henson will make his first start for UTPA.

Texas has three goals today:

1) Win

2) Get freshmen Tres Barrera and Andy McGuire hitting.

3) See what John Curtiss can do.

Curtiss sat out all of 2013 after having elbow surgery. Curtiss was very good as a freshman and midweek games should be a good place for him to get back in the saddle.

First pitch is at 4:30 and this is your open thread. Hook 'em!

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