In the Fighting Baseball Longhorns' firt major road trip of the year, they took two of three from perennial power Stanford and moved into the top spot in the Baseball America poll thanks to Illinois shocking LSU by taking two of three in Baton Rouge. Going into the first weekend of conference play, when Texas will host Mizzou, let's take a look at the impressive early-season state of college baseball in the state of Texas and in the Big XII:
- The conference (and state) provide three of the top five teams in this week's B.A. poll, with the Longhorns at No. 1, A&M at No. 3, and Baylor at No. 5.
- The state of Texas has two more teams in the top 15, with Rice coming in at No. 9 and TCU at No. 12.
- Oklahoma and Okie State, at 15 and 19 respectively, give the Big XII five teams in the poll altogether--half the total number of schools that compete in Big XII baseball.
It's going to be a fun year in Big XII baseball, and when you throw in Rice and TCU it gets even better around the Longhorns' neighborhood. Remember to follow the season at Big 12 Hardball!
Specifics on the big series win in California after the jump.
Game 1, Friday: Texas 6, Stanford 2. Chance Ruffin delivered a lovely start, going the distance and allowing only four hits. The offensive star was easily leadoff man Travis Tucker, who went deep in the first at-bat of the ballgame and ended the day 3-for-3 before being replaced by Jordan Etier in the fifth. Brandon Belt was also his typical, talented self with a 3-for-4 performance and a walk--although despite reaching base four times didn't get to opportunity to either score or drive in any runs. The real story in this game, though was less about Texas than about Stanford. In moving to a surprising 2-7 on the season, the Cardinal's total number of errors (four) matched their total number of hits. Meanwhile, five Stanford pitchers combined to gie up 13 Longhorn base hits in a game that could have been even more lopsided than it was. It was another in a series of disappointing performances for a proud program this season.
Game 2, Saturday: Stanford 7, Texas 1. Stanford badly needed to right its ship at some point over the weekend, and Texas was certainly due to be outplayed. Both happened on Saturday. Jordan Pries tossed a gem for the Cardinal, allowing only one run and three hits to the potent Texas lineup over 7.1 innings of work. Brandon Workman followed up his no-hitter last week with a decent but not great performance in this one as he allowed four runs while working into the sixth inning. Tim Maitland picked up a pinch-hit RBI single in the eighth for Texas' only run, which actually cut Stanford's lead to 4-1 and had the Longhorns thinking comeback. But Michael Torres undid his pinch-hit single from the top of the frame by committing a 2-out throwing error which was shortly followed by the second homerun allowed in the inning by Texas reliever Keith Shinaberry. Apparently the smart kids at Stanford were not fooled by Shinaberry's wacky delivery. That three-spot put the game out of reach and provided the final score.
Game 3, Sunday: Texas 5, Stanford 1. The Longhorns got a big crooked number in the fourth inning and that was all they needed, scoring all five of their runs in the frame. Texas used four singles (Tant Shepherd, Cameron Rupp, Etier, and Brandon Loy), two walks (David Hernandez and Kevin Keyes), and a Stanford throwing error to do the damage. Texas managed only two more hits the rest of the game, making for a very efficient five runs on six hits in the ballgame. On the mound, Cole Green continued to impress and expanded upon the Texas starting picthing staff's growing reputation as a fearsome band of marauders. He threw seven innings and allowed only three hits and one run on a solo homer in the fifth. Austin Wood got the final six outs for Texas. Wood has clearly solidified himself as the colser and the anchor of Texas' bullpen.
All in all, it was another great weekend for the Texas baseball team. They earned the title of Number One in all the land and took two of three on the road in a series where we would have been happy with one. The developing story about this team, and the one that has us so excited about its prospects, is the variety of ways in which they can win. The pitching has been consistently good, and that's the first and most important key to success. On offense, they can win with gappers, bunts, singles, the occasional homerun and taking advantage of errors. This is the most fun team for Texas fans to follow in at least three years; even if you haven't been a big college baseball fan in the past, there is plenty of room on the bandwagon for you.
Next up, the Longhorns welcome conference rival Baylor to Austin on Wednesday for a mid-week, non-conference game.