Texas Takes On Columbia

Awesome photo courtesy of Schoolly_D

The Horns took care of a solid Dallas Baptist team on Tuesday behind 8 dominant innings from Lukas Schiraldi and some good offensive output. This weekend it's Columbia in town for a three game set.

Texas got offensive production up and down the lineup in Tuesday's 5-0 victory, beginning with Brooks Marlow and Mark Payton (a combined 3-5 with five walks) and continuing through freshmen Tres Barrera and Zane Gurwitz (a combined 4-7 with an RBI).

Gurwitz and Barrera have both come on in the past few games, and Texas can now feature a lineup with all nine players above the Mendoza Line. CHAMPIONSHIP.

The Horns need to win this series and it would be nice if they swept a relatively weak opponent before hosting Texas State and traveling to Lubbock where weird things always happen next weekend (not this weekend as I inadvertently wrote on Tuesday).

Taken in the vacuum of UT Big 12 opening series, last weekend's flop against Kansas shouldn't be cause for concern. The Horns were swept in the opening weekend by Baylor (who was very good) in 2005 before winning the national title. Texas split a pair of games (third game cancelled) in Lubbock the next year before putting together a strong season that ended with Texas hosting in the tournament. The 2009 squad was swept by Kansas on the road before nearly winning another title. And the 2012 squad was dominant in its first two Big 12 series before falling apart at the end of the year.

Taken on its own, last weekend's series loss is no reason to panic. Of course there's no way we as fans can independently separate the results of last weekend from the results the previous11 times Texas has faced conference foes. It's disheartening and a sign that the coaching these players have been receiving is insufficient. It's not just the losing that hurts, but losing in almost the exact same manner on Sunday as Texas lost to close out series six times last year.

Maybe they just had a bad weekend. The Longhorns now boast a 3-1-1 series record on this young season. That's a better mark, against much stiffer competition, than the team achieved through five series in 2013 (3-2) and 2012 (2-2-1).

It's a long season and we all know what happens if Texas doesn't win some conference games soon. Hopefully that'll happen, but we have four games until then to get ready for a huge trip to Lubbock.

The Columbia Lions are 5-9 on the year and ranked #164 in ISR. The Lions will be (by far) the lowest ranked opponent the Horns will face in a weekend series this year unless a Big 12 team takes a nose dive. Columbia split a four game series with South Florida to open the year, split another four gamer with Kennesaw State and have lost five of their last six to UT San Antonio, UT Arlington and Texas A&M.

The Lions haven't hit particularly well this year with a team batting average of .247 (still ahead of Texas but against far weaker competition) and their pitching after Friday starter David Speer has been less than ideal (team ERA 5.29). Of course Kansas didn't have great pitching numbers before shutting down Texas hitters for three games, so take everything I say about opponents entering Austin with bad pitching with a giant grain of salt from now on.

If the Horns can win this series they'll finish their non-conference schedule with a record of either 17-5 or 18-4 featuring a 5-1 record against top 30 teams in ISR and a 9-3 record against top 75 teams in ISR. A year ago the Horns were 13-7 in non-conference play against the likes of Stanford (29th in ISR in 2013), Nebraska (69th), Sacramento State (101st), UC Santa Barbara (31st) and Minnesota (102nd). A year before that the Horns were 10-10 against some stiff and some easy competition.

In other words, it's been a great start but it won't mean much if the Kansas series wasn't an aberration. We won't find out about that until after the Tech series or beyond. After Columbia the Horns will play Texas State at home, travel to Lubbock, go to Rice, come home for Baylor then play Rice again at home before going to Norman.

First pitch tonight is at 6 PM.

The Horns will go with Parker French, Dillon Peters and Nathan Thornhill this weekend. This'll be your Friday open thread. Hook 'em!

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