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Longhorns Host Tigers in Weekend Conference Series

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After losing two of three to Oklahoma State last weekend, Augie Garrido and the Longhorns will look to return to their winning ways this weekend as the MIssouri Tigers come to UFCUDFF. The Tigers come in only 1-1 in conference play; because the Big XII has only 10 baseball schools, each team has a weekend after the start of conference play wherein they have a non-conference opponent. For MIzzou that was the first weekend, and they were rained out in one of their games against OU last weekend. In hosting the highly-ranked Sooners, Missouri looked very solid on the defensive side--they lost 3-1 and won 2-1 in 11 innings.

Aside from the Oklahoma series, Missouri has racked up a mediocre 12-11 record against a less-than-stellar pre-conference schedule. We know we said essentially the same thing before the Okie State series (and the 2 losses in said series), but this time we really mean it, guys. For realsies. Before OU, Missouri had played exactly one game against a school from a BCS conference--a 9-3 loss to Southern Cal in their second game of the season. They have lost two of three to Illinois-Chicago and three of four to Charlotte, and split two-game sets with Gonzaga and Central Arkansas.

So: what does that say about the team? Nothing inherent. One could argue that their cupcake scheduling gamble paid off with a good performance against Oklahoma, showing they're ready for conference play. Or one could argue that they've played no one and the Texas pitching staff is going to eat them alive. There's probably some truth in both positions, and certainly Texas will have a lot to do with the way Mizzou looks in Austin.

 

The Mizzou pitchers have been coming on strong as of late, which could spell trouble for the Longhorns. Look for a low-scoring series, as both teams' strengths--pitching and defense--will be facing the opponent's weakness--offense. The Tigers have only three hitters over .300, and their averages are just .326, .311, and .301.Of course, on the Texas side only one man is hitting above .300: Erich Weiss at .375. The Texas offense at this point has to be described as Erich Weiss and the Crickets; Okie State showed how much trouble this Longhorn team can have scoring runs, though we hold out hope that the weather in Stillwater was the real culprit.

Mizzou Friday starter Rob Zastryny has some very impressive numbers, especially the 2.65 ERA in 37.1 innings. He'll need to be damn near perfect to get the win, as he is facing the virtuosic Taylor Jungmann tonight. Still, Missouri's best pitcher may well have enough juice to keep the game within striking distance. Saturday may counter-intuitively be an even better pitching matchup for Texas, as Matt Stiles of the Tigers sports an ERA north of four--meaning Texas hitters may have an easier time getting to him, while Hoby Milner is plenty strong enough to hold down the weak Missouri hitters. Finally, Cole Green remains the Sunday starter even as his ERA continues to climb and Sam Stafford continues to dominate mid-week opponents. Green has certainly earned the chance to right the ship--but it's unclear exactly how far that chance extends.

Tonight's game is at 6 PM CDT, and video is available here.

PROBABLE PITCHING MATCHUPS
Friday, April 1, 2011 - 6 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP Taylor Jungmann (5-0, 0.52 ERA)
Missouri: LHP Rob Zastryzny (2-2, 2.65 ERA)

Saturday, April 2, 2011 - 2 p.m. Central
Texas: LHP Hoby Milner (2-1, 2.30 ERA)
Missouri: RHP Matt Stiles (1-1, 4.08 ERA)

Sunday, April 3, 2011 - 12 p.m. Central
Texas: RHP Cole Green (1-2, 4.05 ERA)
Missouri: LHP Zack Hardoin (2-3, 3.86 ERA)