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Baseball Big 12 Storylines

Since the Longhorn basketball team ended their season a week and a half ago, there is only baseball until fall practice rescues fans from the abyss of summer. 40AS have the coverage that you need, but there are a few intriguing storylines emerging as the Big 12 season gains momentum:

  • Taylor Jungmann excelling in relief role. As Chance Ruffin, Brandon Workman, and Cole Green established themselves as the weekend starters and Austin Dicharry took over the mid-week role, freshman sensation Taylor Jungmann looked like the odd man out. However, his prodigious pitching ability makes it imperative that he finds his way onto the rubber for Texas. Jungmann has a WHIP of .907 and has held opposing batters to a .163, while allowing only two extra base hits (both doubles) in 86 opposing at-bats. Recent stellar performances have earned him the starting nod tonight against Oral Roberts.
  • Chance Ruffin may actually be human. The results achieved on the mound by the end of his freshman season sent expectations for Chance Ruffin soaring into the stratosphere. Two sub-part starts against Kansas (a loss) and Texas Tech (a win), in which he gave up four earned runs in each, seem to indicate that Ruffin is not unhittable, despite what his prior performances may have led many fans to believe. Though certainly nothing to worry about, the two starts do indicate that Ruffin doesn't have the pure stuff of Brandon Workman or Taylor Jungmann. Instead, Ruffin achieves his success by throwing his off speed pitches for strikes and keeping his fastball down in the zone -- he isn't exactly a sinkerballer, but his fastball does straighten out the higher in the strike zone it gets and sits at 88-91, not the type of pitch that can be blown by opposing hitters like Brandon Workman's 95-mph heat. For Ruffin, the margin for error may be smaller than the end to his freshman season indicated.
  • Kyle Lusson permanently in center? Kyle Lusson has taken over center field duties from Connor Rowe, starting with the Dallas Baptist game last week. During that stretch, Lusson has only gone 2-10 at the plate, but has taken four walks. Rowe has good speed that helps him in the outfield and on the basepaths, but Lusson can steal bases as well (both have two steals), has a slightly higher batting average (.241 to .233), and strikes out less frequently (1 per 4.1 at-bats to 1 per 3.30). Ultimately, it's the final statistic that may continue to keep Rowe out of the lineup, as Augie Garrido always emphasizes productive outs and moving up baserunners -- impossible tasks when you strike out. That being said, Lusson's job is not secure and Rowe could re-enter the lineup if Lusson continues to hit in the .240 range.
  • Michael Torres permanently at third? During the second game of the Kansas series, Torres entered the lineup at third base and hasn't sat since, leaving David Hernandez and his eight errors on the bench in favor of Brandon Loy at shortstop. While Torres has played acceptably at third (one error), his bat has been lacking after a season in which he hit .354 and led the team with 85 base hits. Currently at .267, Torres hasn't hit with the consistency coaches expect, but will likely stay in the lineup, as Brandon Loy is playing the type of shortstop (.986 fielding percentage) that a pitching-heavy team needs. Unless Loy's defense takes a turn for the worse and Torres continues to struggle at the plate, David Hernandez may find himself without a job, even as he continues to lead the team with a .328 batting average.
  • Kevin Keyes shows his power. The ability to drive the ball out of the ball park was the biggest concern offensively for the Longhorns entering the season, borne out by the current team total of seven, three of which have come off the bat of the former Connally star. That number does not include several recent blasts to the deep parts of the field that barely failed to leave the ballpark. For Keyes, the biggest concern coming into the season was his high strikeout rate -- 1 per 2.5 at-bats his freshman year. This year, that number has dropped to 1 per 3.6 at-bats, but Keyes still needs to improve his plate discipline to unlock his prodigious potential. His decreased strikeout rate, along with his 11 walks on the season, indicate clear progress -- Keyes will have a disappointing career if he leaves the 40 Acres without being a bona fide superstar.