I mentioned last week that the Horns were in the midst of a critical week due to the quality of the competition at the Houston College Classic and the impending easing of the schedule that follows. Well, Texas played and won four close games and now hopefully will reap the reward of the next 14 games against Valparaiso, Texas State (2), Hawaii (4), Kansas (3), Dallas Baptist and Columbia (3).
The 4-0 week caused Texas to move substantially in the polls. Texas is now #10 in Baseball America, #17 in Collegiate Baseball and #19 in Perfect Game. Boyd's World debuted their rankings as well this week and Texas came in at #2 in Iterative Strength Ratings which strongly factors in strength of schedule. The Horns have played the second toughest schedule according to that ranking and have beaten #2 Cal (who hasn't lost since playing Texas), #7 Sam Houston State, #20 Houston, #37 Rice and #45 Stanford (who is 4-7 but has played Rice, Texas and consensus top 5 opponent Vanderbilt). All four of those teams have played schedules ranked in the top 65 whereas upcoming opponents Kansas, Dallas Baptist and Texas State have all racked up lost of wins (a combined 29-5) against sub par competition (SoS 139, 125 and 143 respectively).
Last week's competition is giving up an average of 2.6 (Rice), 1.1 (Houston) and 2.75 (Sam Houston State) runs per game whereas the next nine games feature teams giving up 7.7 (Valpo), 4.5 (Hawaii), 4.2 (Texas State) and 4 (Kansas) runs per game. Texas has proven it can win close, low scoring games, hopefully now they can start to score some runs again.
Valparaiso is up next tonight at 6 PM at UFCUDFF.
The Crusaders are 4-5 with a series win over Samford and series losses to Jacksonville State and McNeese State. Temperatures rose in Vaplaraiso, Indiana from a high of 16 degrees yesterday to a sultry 27 degrees today, explaining why the Crusaders won't play a home game until March 14th.
Freshman Blake Goins takes the mound for Texas and we'd expect to see any number of Texas freshmen and sophomores who didn't get a chance to go this weekend.
The incredible Texas pitching depth is a good problem to have. Lukas Schiraldi struggled early again on Sunday before getting his act together. Nathan Thornhill has also struggled to adjust to the closer role. Should Augie choose to make a change he could let Thornhill start on Sundays where he has thrived in the past, moving Schiraldi or freshman Morgan Cooper (who dominated Sam Houston State) to closer. John Curtiss could also close or start depending on how his recovery is coming.
First pitch is 6 PM tonight. The game is on LHN but this open thread will be a lot warmer. Hook 'em!