It's up for debate whether Texas baseball's Easter weekend sweep of Nebraska in Lincoln is more a function of the Longhorns playing well or the Cornhuskers' continuing collapse, but either way Texas jumped from fifth place to second in the conference with the three wins. At 9-6, they are only one game behind first-place Oklahoma with the crucial series against the Sooners coming up this weekend at UFCUDFF.
A Thursday rainout forced a double dip on Friday, and to Nebraska's credit they fought hard in both games. Things were dicey down the stretch for the Horns in both the 7-5 opener and the 11-7 nightcap. The doubleheader, combined with a midweek blowout loss to Creighton, seemed to take what wind was left out of Nebraska's sails and Texas cruised 9-2 on Saturday. Some notes after the jump.
- Starting Pitching: After we were murmering about whether Taylor Jungmann or Cole Green ought to be the third starter when the postseason rolls around, Green turned in his finest performance of the season. He was the only Texas starter to get out of the fifth inning on the weekend and enjoyed that so much he just figured he'd stick around through all nine of them. He threw a complete game four-hitter and had by far the best pitching performance of the series. Shows what we know. As for the other two guys, Chance Ruffin actually threw pretty well for 4.2 innings but an error by Brandon Belt in the fourth and another by Travis Tucker in the fifth caused him to give up four runs and come out of the game in the fifth. The only really poor performance on the series was in Game Two by Brandon Workman, who took a 10-0 lead into the bottom of the fourth and allowed the 'Huskers to cut the lead in half before leaving with two out.
- Bullpen: With short outings by both Ruffin and Workman, the bullpen needed exactly what Green gave it on Saturday: a day off. Taylor Jungmann threw long relief in Game One, going 3.1 innings and giving up one run. Austin Wood closed out both game of the doubleheader and allowed no runs. The rest of the bullpen plus a couple of engineering students pitched the fourth through seventh innings on Friday night before Wood cleaned up the eighth and ninth. This team's least-heralded strength has to be the relief pitching. Everyone has settled into an important role and has performed it beautifully. Jungmann and Wood make an excellent middle relief-closer combo. Keith Shinaberry has been dynamite in special situations, particularly against lefties (one-batter, one-hit outing on Friday notwithstanding). And perhaps most importantly going forward, Austin Dicharry appears to be ready and able to step into the middle relief role once Jungmann presumably joins the four-man postseason starting rotation.
- Offense: The 27 total runs on the weekend are certainly encouraging. However, Nebraska's pitching staff has become quite the punching bag of late. Most of the lineup had at least one great day at the plate in Lincoln. They say that baseball is a game of inches, and the six most important inches are the ones between your ears. Sometimes teeing off on bad pitching can be the confidence boost a hitter (or a whole team) needs. We'll find out if Texas manages to carry the momentum forward when the much-better-than-Nebraska pitching staff of Oklahoma comes calling this weekend.