Recaps of the Texas Agriculture and Mechanical University at Corpus Christi series, building off the Oral Roberts loss, the battle between building consistency and experience, and a look at possible infield alternatives after the jump...
Not So Comprehensive Game Recaps:
Longhorn bats weren’t sparked on Tuesday night; they exploded enroute a 16-3 blowout over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. A thoughtless Kevin Lusson error resulted in an early 1-0 Islander lead but a weak TAMCC pitching staff would go on to give up 17 hits, a Texas season high. Cameron Rupp led the onslaught with a homer and a pair of doubles for four RBI’s.
The Longhorns were on cruise control Wednesday to earn their fifth consecutive win. Austin Dicharry showed more consistency than he has all season before Milner, Carrillo, and Thomas all took their turns atop the mound. They successfully protected a lead provided by Walla, Loy, Lusson, and Etier who contributed two hits each. The Horns coasted to a 6-2 victory.
Moving Past Oral (Roberts)
Augie and the rest of the team are still talking about the embarrassing home loss to Oral Roberts a week later. It looks like the loss was a wakeup call that tickets to Omaha are not renewable annually, they have to be earned. Augie, always a man of few words, sent the team a message: "I think the mid-week game last week, we all kinda stood around and went, ‘Who was that in the Longhorn uniform?’ The poor showing on Tuesday really has helped bring the team together." Their response: 38 runs scored versus 8 given up in five straight wins.
The Balance Between Consistency and Experience
After a sweep of Oklahoma and the thorough domination of a midweek opponent in the wake of Oral Roberts, it’s clear this team is picking up momentum. Augie now has the responsibility of managing a challenging balancing act between creating consistency and spreading experience. Consistency has already developed in the pitching staff: Jungman, Workman, Green and Stafford have earned their starts, Milner and Thomas will see time in later innings, and Ruffin is simply Ruffin. Augie is doing a great job of getting the entire pitching staff involved on a weekly basis. Hitting is another story entirely. Experience is being passed around but consistency isn’t coming around as fast Augie hopes in my opinion. Montalbano, Walsh, and Rowe have all shown they can contribute but their roles have yet to be clearly defined. Going into the summer having the right balance between an experienced bench and eleven consistent hitters will be essential to a deep run.
Infield Depth (or Lack There Of)
Kevin Lusson has worked his way into a deep slump. How deep? Mariana trench deep. Out of the recent starters, he has the lowest batting average and the fewest hits. His strength is his fielding, which has generally been stellar, with the obvious exception of two early errors on Tuesday. Lusson does compensate for his low batting average by leading the team in walks and having a surprisingly high on-base percentage, .393. Because of this, Augie reports having full faith in him: "The one thing was we made a couple of errors on third base and gave away a run but what I liked about the way Kevin Lusson handled that is that he came back and had one of his most aggressive and best offensive nights." If Lusson's bat doesn't come alive soon, Augie might be forced to reevaluate. Jordan Etier hasn’t had much more success at the plate recently. The second baseman leads the team with six home runs but is still batting a measly .235.
Neither player has a clear replacement, which isn’t an absolute necessity at this point but could be important for a number of reasons. In my limited memory, even in weekday games with a comfortable ten run lead, the infield has consistently always been Tant, Etier, Loy, and Lusson. Having two players batting in the bottom two-hundred’s isn’t a major problem now, but it will be a liability against tougher future opponents. This is especially apparent after a glance at 40AS’s national rankings, which is a reminder dominating the Big-12 doesn't equate to being the best team in the country. An injury would leave the team with a big hole to fill at the plate and in the field. This has been a year marked by injuries in multiple sport, our best strategy would be to not take chances and ensure we have a deep roster. Finally, getting some fresh faces field time in preparation for next year couldn’t hurt either.
Walsh, who was recruited to be Cameron Rupp’s replacement, is a logical first choice as a infield substitute. If he has the arm to throw from home to second you would assume his arm works equally well from third to first. Walsh, in his eleven starts, proved he would be a substantial improvement at the plate. He could contribute at either position if his competitions slumping continues. On a cool side note, Walsh hit a homerun in his first district at-bat as a freshman in high school. Pressure? What pressure?
The only backup infielder listed on the roster is freshman Jordan Weymouth, who should be remembered for his heroic efforts in that ninth inning against Nebraska. In four at-bats, Weymouth has a double, two walks, and a run. Not too shabby even considering the small sample size. Personally, I’d love to see Augie take the reins off and let us see what he can do.
Other alternatives are slim. Walla has the athleticism to make the move but has proven to be too much of an asset in the outfield to move around. As 40AS pointed out in the latest thread, Kyle Lusson wouldn’t be an offensive upgrade even if he has the defense skills. I’m not a big fan of moving ex-third-baseman Tant Shepherd back across the mound because of how reliable he is at first. If there has been one thing that hasn’t been a concern all season it’s been Tant letting wild throws get passed him. I'm going to rely on the assumption that Augie has a plan to create motivation through competition.
The Horns stay at home to welcome Kansas on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.