Today at 1:00, Texas will have the opportunity to do something my almost two-year-old son has never experienced in his young life: win a conference baseball series. The Kansas Jayhawks, despite having a better record than might have been expected at this point in the year, are a squad Texas absolutely has to beat at home if they are to contend for the Big 12 title. A final non-conference series with Columbia next week leads into a huge weekend at Texas Tech in Lubbock, and heading into the showdown with the ranked Red Raiders with a 1-2 conference record would not bode well.
KU came into Austin and took the first game Friday night, leaving Texas needing two in a row to win the series. They got the first half of that yesterday with a 2-1 win that lasted only two hours and 15 minutes--short even for a Texas team that gets its opponents out quickly and then speeds up the game further by not hitting for all that long themselves.
What counts is that Texas won the game, but the contest did nothing to answer the many questions remaining about whether this team has the ability to take the necessary step forward on offense. To the extent it offered any answers, I'm afraid they were in the negative. Only one earned run was scored on the day, and it was the Jayhawks' lone score in the third. Texas got its only two in the bottom of the first: with two on and two out, Tres Barrera grounded to the shortstop, who threw it away and allowed Ben Johnson to score on a play that should have ended the inning. To his credit, Collin Shaw then took advantage of the extra out KU had granted with an RBI single.
In the pitcher's duel, then, KU's Robert Kahana actually slightly outpitched Peters. Kahana's line was 8 innings pitched, five hits, four strikeouts, zero walks, zero earned runs. Peters was also excellent, with 7.1 innings, five hits, three strikeouts, one walk, and one earned run. John Curtiss came on for the 1.2-inning save, his fourth in as many tries; Nathan Thornhill's return to the weekend rotation presented an opportunity for Curtiss, and so far he has delivered.
First pitch today is at 1:00 PM on LHN. KU will throw senior Frank Duncan, who actually has the best ERA of the weekend starters by more than two and a half runs. Obviously that's a bit worrisome, considering Texas has a total of two earned runs against the guys whose combined ERA was over 9 coming into the weekend. Luckily, Texas will counter with Thornhill, who has been spectacular lately and brings a stellar 1.21 ERA. This game may well be pivotal for the season, as it has the potential to set the tone for the Longhorns' Big 12 campaign.
This is your open thread. Hook 'em!