It's the biggest week of basketball season, and we're all still stewing over the NCAA Selection Committee's continued incompetence. But the baseball team did what it needed to do this weekend in its final pre-conference weekend tilt against the Brown Bears, taking three of the four contests and showing versatility in the process. We've already hit the big points from the first three games in the individual wraps, so we'll briefly take a look at Game Four and some big themes after the jump.
As the Texas Sports recap notes, 10 was the magic number for the Longhorns on Sunday: Cole Green struck out 10, Texas batters picked up 10 hits, and Brown pitchers issued 10 walks. Green was very good for a second start in a row, which should be an indicator that he's back on track and will indeed be one of the weekend starters as conference play gets underway--most likely the Saturday starter as expected before the season. He allowed seven hits in a seven inning complete game, and all seven Brown hits were singles. Also encouraging, Green pitched out of trouble in the fourth: Brown had the bases juiced and one out, and Green allowed only one run on an RBI groundout before striking out the next man to end he inning. The ability to pitch yourself out of scoring threats is absolutely huge, as conventional baseball wisdom says a pitcher should expect about two jams per outing. Get out of those without big innings and you put your team in position to win.
Green's complete game meant we didn't see anything from the hot-and-cold bullpen yesterday. The offense, which was another concern heading in, was much better for most of the weekend. It's hard to really put much stock in a Sunday performance against a three-man committee of Brown pitchers--that's just not a team that has the pitching depth to put a quality arm out there in the fourth game in three days. Still, hitting is largely about confidence and there's something to be said about this weekend's potential impact on the space between the Longhorn hitters' ears. Not to sound like a broken record, but Jordan Etier and Paul Montalbano really stepped up this weekend and deserve a ton of credit: Etier nailed a triple yesterday (one of two for the team), and that was his only official at-bat as he was hit by pitches twice and hit a sac fly in his other appearances. Montalbano didn't produce a hit yesterday, but he drew two walks and a HBP to reach base three times. That's a good day in the leadoff spot no matter how you get there.
Elsewhere on the offense, Erich Weiss and Tant Shepherd stayed hot--Weiss had the team's other triple and Shepherd hit his second dinger of the year. We weren't sure this team would even have a multiple homerun hitter with the new bats (only half kidding), so color us pleasantly surprised by that development.
Perhaps the most encouraging thing from Sunday's game was that Texas only had one error, and that was a catcher interference call on freshman Jacob Felts. Of course, one good game in the field doesn't eliminate the concern going forward, but hopefully it's the start of some consistency with the leather. In the college game, and excellent fielding team can expect about one error per game--the standard for fielding success is not the same as at the Major League level. If Texas can get to one per game as their average, they'll be in great shape. The main place to keep an eye on is the toughest position in the infield: whether it's Kevin Lusson or Erich Weiss playing third base, the hot corner has been an adventure for Texas this year. Locking that down is key.
The Longhorns have one final tuneup before welcoming K-State next weekend, as Texas State comes up for a midweek game tomorrow night.