There's only one word that can sum up this weekend in baseball: elephantologica
Texas A&M came into this series with everything on its side. The Ags had 19 conference wins, needing just one more to take the regular season conference crown and likely sow up a national seed. After dropping two hard-fought games against Nebraska and a midweek game to UT-Arlington, Texas A&M really needed a series win to gain their confidence back after starting Big XII play 19-3. Throw in the Lonestar Showdown implications and this was a downright huge series for the Aggies. It turned out to be very good series for the Horns.
We may not all love college baseball on this site, but if there's one thing we all can enjoy, it's Aggy misery. Drink it up, Longhorn fans, because this is as good as it gets.
Instead of trying to tell recap all the games, we'd like to harp on a few of the things that stood out this weekend.
Chance Ruffin -- Among starting pitchers for Texas over the last six seasons, Chance has the lowest or second lowest ERA, opponent batting average, hits per nine, and walks per nine. He also has the highest strikeouts per nine. Given that Ruffin is a freshman, and the idea that we get two more years with him on the mound, it's time to start drooling over his future in Burnt Orange.
Clark to Third -- Let the record show that on April 4th we said: "One crazy idea that's been rolling through our minds is the thought of moving Preston Clark to 3B." We were right about everything except the "crazy" part. Clark has been fantastic shoring up the hot corner, filling a gigantic need for the 'Horns defense and maintaining his place as a leader of this team.
Kyle Russell -- Two homers in the series, 15 on the year, 53 for his career (two away from the all-time UT record). But perhaps his biggest at-bat of the series came in the top of the fourth on Sunday with runners at second and third down 2-0. It was a well-hit ball that might have cleared the fence without the wind blowing in, but the sac fly plus heads-up base running from Jordan Danks enabled Texas to answer 2 runs by the Aggies.
Austin Wood -- Lost amidst Chance Ruffin's amazing run and the resurrection of Kenn Kasparek is the rebirth of Austin Wood. After a fall from grace as the Friday starter early in the year, Austin Wood has returned to form and was just fantastic on Saturday. We would be talking more about how amazing his last three starts have been if it weren't for Ruffin and Kasparek stealing his thunder, which brings us to...
Kenn Kasparek -- Big Bird didn't get a decision on Sunday but pitched a beautiful 6.1 innings. In his last four starts KK has pitched 28.1 innings, giving up 10 hits and four runs while striking out 31. His scoreless streak ended at 24 innings, but today was another fine performance which showed the streak was no fluke.
Cole Green and Brandon Belt -- Green and Belt were all the relief pitching the Horns needed this weekend, combining to go 5.2 innings with five hits, one run and five strikeouts. A deep postseason run will require guys like Pat McCrory and Stayton Thomas to step up for big innings when things don't go right, but these two relievers have been lights out of late.
The Defense -- We're thrilled that the Horns have now gone five (5!) conference games without an error, but that's not the whole story. Now we're spoiled because the defense is actually making great plays. Jordan Danks is patrolling the outfield like a man possessed, Travis Tucker made a huge play to end the 8th on Sunday, and Preston Clark had a huge over-the-shoulder grab in the 9th. All we really wanted was an acceptable level of defense, but this team has actually been good of late.
The Whole Team -- Hats off to Augie Garrido and the Longhorn baseball team. They could easily have folded after giving up 1,000 runs to Mizzou and suffering a tough sweep at the hands of Oklahoma State. But they've responded and are 10-3 in the last 13 games. We don't know if this team will make a run at Omaha, but we've said all along that there's no reason they can't. After this weekend we feel much better about the postseason possibilities.
On to the awards...
Pitcher of the Series: Austin Wood hasn't gotten recognition because of the way Chance Ruffin has pitched of late, but Wood was the best pitcher for the 'Horns this weekend. His complete game gem clinched a big series win.
Hitter of the Series: Jorusylle Moldenhussanks (a combination of Kyle Russell, Jordan Danks and Russell Moldenhauer) carried the series for Texas at the plate. Moldenhauer didn't play Friday but hit his first dinger as a 'Horn for two huge insurance runs in the 9th on Sunday. Danks hit two big triples on Friday (as if there's any other kind of triple), and Russell had a pair of homers that were really pretty to watch.
Kiddie Corpsman of the Series: Chance Ruffin wasn't bad again. What else can be said about this fantastic frosh? We can't wait to see him on the big stage of the postseason.
Next Up: Seeding-wise this sweep means nothing to the Longhorns. Texas will be the #5 seed in the Big XII Tournament starting next week in Oklahoma City and take on a hot Mizzou club in the first game. We'll provide more details when we get them, but a good showing in the tourney could be very important. Texas is likely to be a 2-seed in its sub-regional regardless, but looking good next week could be the difference between a good draw--possibly even hosting a 1-seed with low home attendance--and travelling to a scary place like Baton Rouge.