Baseball Slips Again; Tuesday Open Thread

We return to the Kiwi softball team. For luck. - Simon Watts

The Longhorns lost two of three at home to Oklahoma State, ceding control of the conference to the Cowboys and placing their own Big 12 finish in doubt.

Jeff wrote an interesting argument last week that Texas may be better off playing a Super Regional on the road, assuming they are able to come out of their sub-regional. By failing to defend their home field for two straight weekends in the two biggest conference series of the year, the Longhorns have all but assured the likelihood of my colleague's theory getting a real-life test.

Coming into last weekend's series against TCU, Texas had the apparent advantage of playing their two biggest challengers for the conference crown in the friendly confines of the Disch. But in the six most important games they've played thus far, Texas went 1-5 at home.

Going back further than last weekend, we all knew back in September that this was the kind of school year that could be the end of an era in all three major men's sports. Mack Brown saw his excellent tenure at Texas end with an injury-riddled season, beginning with a defensive scheme that thought of everything except stopping people from scoring and ending with the opponent having more interception return yards than Texas receivers had receiving yards. Rick Barnes was successful in taking a team no one expected to be any good and saving his job with them.

More and more, the baseball season looks like a mirror of the basketball season. There was a point at which the Longhorn hoop squad appeared headed toward a protected seed in San Antonio. Those heady days probably reached their peak with the thorough beatdown of Kansas administered in the Drum on the first of February. The season progressed from there, and the Longhorns regressed to the mean--still finishing with a very respectable season that gave Horns fans something to like about the future, but decidedly not elite.

Two weeks ago may well end up being this baseball team's KU victory--the peak of the good feelings surrounding the program for this season. Don't get me wrong--barring an epic collapse down the stretch, Augie Garrido has, like Barnes, saved his job (and also like Barnes, thus saved me from being really sad to see another coach gone who made my college years so much fun). But rather than talking about winning the Big 12 and earning a national seed, the next couple of weeks will now be devoted to discussing how Texas can snag a top 3 conference finish and ensure a hosting role in the first round of the Tournament.

It's not a bad position to be in. But there's no denying that TCU and Okie State exposed the facts that: 1) the Texas offense, while clearly improved, still has some glaring weaknesses against good pitching; and 2) while the Longhorn pitching staff is indeed very good, it is not invincible. Their last two conference series are on the road, first against a West Virginia team only one game behind Texas in the standings. Then the conference season ends at Kansas State, which is having a shockingly terrible season after a nice postseason run a year ago. KSU will be trying to avoid Texas' fate from last year as the one team left out of the conference tourney. It's fair to say even this late, that this thing could go either way.

But first, a Tuesday tune-up. The Horns welcome the SWAC's Prairie View Tigers tonight at 6 on LHN. This is your open thread.

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