The still-top-ranked Longhorns went to Houston for a midweek clash with No. 7 Rice and allowed a four-spot to the Owls in the fifth inning en route to a three run loss. TexasSports has your recap. A few thoughts:
- Playing Rice on a Tuesday is a weird thing, because it's a relatively meaningful game in a slot usually reserved for tune-ups. It happens at least twice a year (Rice comes to Austin on April 21 this year) and it's one of the two or three best non-conference rivalries in baseball. We are big believers that mid-week losses shouldn't get anyone too riled up, as the other team normally wants the win much more than Texas--and that difference is reflected in the picthing matchup. Against Rice, though, you have two of the nation's elite teams battling for bragging rights, so in a very strange way losing to a great team stings worse than losing to a UT-Arlington.
- The major cause for concern at this point in the season seems to clearly be the ebb of offensive pop. Texas managed only four base hits on Tuesday night after a decent-not-great weekend at the plate against Mizzou. Longhorn fans don't need to be too worried at this point--Rice can always be counted on for solid pitching and no team can knock the cover off the ball every night. Still, it's something to keep an eye on.
- It is nice to see the freshman pitchers getting some innings. Taylor Jungmann has appeared out of the bullpen in both the last two games, throwing four innings of no-hit ball on Sunday to keep the 'Horns hanging around long enough to make the exciting three-run ninth decisive. He started out very shaky last night in the fifth (see next bullet point), but settled down and threw well for the rest of his brief outing. Austin Dicharry, the other big-time freshman arm, got the start in Houston and was solid through four frames before the rough fifth inning.
- And speaking of that fifth inning...wow. It's a part of the game in college baseball much more than it is at the major league level, but it is still a bit disconcerting when pitchers give runs away. The first pair of runs came innocently enough, with Dicharry giving up a single and a two-run homer. That wasn't the issue. Andrew McKirahan relieved Dicharry but provided very little relief, facing three batters, getting nobody out, and allowing three base hits. Next came Jungmann, who got the last two hitters via strikeout--but in the process allowed the fourth run to score courtesy of two wild pitches. It was a tough inning, but every staff is entitled to one of those every now and then.
Texas continues navigating a nasty Big XII with a trip to Lawrence this weekend to face the Jayhawks.