While we're all still recovering from the deep injustice that befell the Texas basketball team over the weekend, we'd like to invite you--when you're ready--to turn your attentions to a happier subject with a potentially bright future. The Longhorns were also on the diamond this past weekend and opened conference play in style, sweeping the Kansas State Wildcats. Sunday's victory came in dramatic fashion: Texas recovered from a 5-1 deficit with a four-spot in the seventh to tie it up, and luckily K-State's flight plans were late enough to allow the entire four and a half hour affair to take place.
We've wrapped up the first two games, so we'll briefly recap the series finale and give some overall thoughts on the series. This will also serve as your open thread for tonight's Houston Baptist game (6 pm CDT, video here.)
The big inning in Green's start was the fourth, wherein K-State got three runs. While the 'Cats were helped along by a throwing error from center field by Cohl Walla which allowed an unearned run, the rest of the damage was largely on Green. The inning included a walk and a run-scoring wild pitch, which (along with Walla's error) allowed KSU to get its three runs on only two hits, both singles. A hit batsman in the fifth confirmed the major issue for Green Sunday: he ust didn't have his best command. Pitchers have days like that, and hopefully Stafford nipping at his heels will drive Cole to solve these issues.
The key to Sunday, though, was that the offense showed it has the ability to climb out of a hole. Trailing 5-1 heading into the seventh, Longhorn fans could be forgiven for shutting the ol' laptop and being satisfied with a 2-1 series victory. To their credit, the players themselves had other ideas. Tant Shepherd started the inning off with a triple.
(Time for a tangent: this team has ELEVEN TRIPLES on the season so far. They have played 20 games. Texas hits a triple more than once every two games. This is an unheard-of number of triples. Then we looked up the national stats, and this only has Texas tied for seventh in triples, and tied for 16th in triples per game. That's amazing. This is a really big year for triples, apparently. /tangent)
Etier then drove him in with a single, and the Longhorns had a run home, a man on first, and no out. An attempt at Augieball failed as Montalbano popped up a bunt, but Brandon Loy picked him up with a single that moved Etier to third. K-State's Shawn Lewick then did his part, walking the next two batters to score a run without Texas having to put the ball in play. Still down 5-3, Kephart struck out looking on a full count--hard to blame him considering he'd just seen two free passes, but that left the bases juiced with two out for Walla. Captain Koala made up for his earlier error (and then some), coming up with a super-clutch single to score a pair and tie the thing up. All four runs in the frame were earned and it was vintage Texas: one triple, three singles, and a pair of walks. Good, patient, hit-'em-where-they-ain't baseball.
After failing to capitalize on a bases-loaded opportunity to win it in the bottom of the ninth, Texas found itself in extra innings. Corey Knebel was brilliant, coming on in the ninth and taking it 3.2 scoreless innings before being replaced by Kendal Carrillo to start the 13th. Carrillo ended up getting the win, holding down the fort for two more frames before the heroics in the bottom of the 14th. Tim Maitland started some two-out trouble with a single, and Brandon Loy followed that by lifting a blooping double down the right field line. Because there were already two outs, Maitland took off on contact and scored all the way from first for the 6-5 victory.
Perhaps the biggest story of the weekend as a whole is that Saturday and Sunday, both extra-inning wins, showed a level of "clutch offense" that we had not seen much of previously this year. We say "clutch offense" rather than "clutch hitting" because Saturday's game was won on the strength of patience at the plate and taking walks rather than actually delivering RBI hits, but the runs count just the same. Sunday's win in particular resulted from a pair of hitters coming through, with Koala in the seventh and Loy in the 14th. The Longhorns have done a nice job of getting men on base all year; the new-found ability to bring them around to score will make this a very dangerous team if it continues.
Tonight, Stafford gets the start against the HBU Huskies' righty Dalton Schafer, who enters with an ERA around 6 and an 0-5 record. Houston Baptist comes to Austin with an atrocious 1-17 record after falling to Sam Houston on a walkoff homerun last night. The Huskies have been playing well above their level in competition all year, though, and their one win came at TCU's expense in Fort Worth on March 12. First pitch, once again, is at 6 PM CDT.