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Texas Baseball Rides Dominant Pitching To Overcome Struggles At The Plate

After watching Texas storm back to win the Regional round with abundant timely hitting, the Super Regional made for a frustrating weekend for fans at the Disch, as the Longhorns consistently struggled to plate runners in scoring position. Before diving into the details of those struggles, let me reiterate what I said in tonight's post-game thread: This was a supremely satisfying series win that was won thanks to brilliant performances from our pitching staff. The Sun Devils had a potent line up and beat Jungmann to open the series, but Green, Stafford, and the bullpen combined to shut them out the rest of the way. Again: if the Milner we saw this weekend is the Milner we get in Omaha, I love our chances for this stretch of dominant pitching to continue.

This was a gutty team win that is all the more impressive given the way we struggled to turn opportunities into runs. Texas came up with just enough hitting and overwhelming pitching to overcome an almost-as-impressive performance by ASU's staff.

Although it all feels amazingly great right now, it made for three gut-wrenching nights at the Disch as Texas' inability to plate runners in scoring position made the pitching staff's margin for error practically zero. Especially after the Longhorns dropped game one, it constantly felt like we were one three-run inning by the Sun Devils from elimination. Instead our staff held them to just three runs total, and Texas is headed to Omaha for the 34th time.

Although you have to give Texas a chance just on the basis of the pitching staff, it's hard to see how they'll win it if they struggle as much with runners in scoring position as they did this weekend. Just how bad was it? Well, when I got home tonight the first thing I wanted to do (after joining the celebration thread, of course) was to chart it all out, to see if it was as frustrating in fact as it seemed at the stadium.

Charts galore after the jump...

The chart below contains each UT at-bat with one or more runner in scoring position.

Inning Situation Outs Batter Result
2 Runners on 1B and 2B 2 Etier Strikeout (K)
3 Runner on 2B 1 Loy 1B, RBI
3 Runners on 1B and 3B 1 Montalbano 3-6-1 DP
4 Runner on 2B 2 Etier K
7 Runners on 1B and 3B 1 Shepherd FC, 5-2
7 Runners on 1B and 2B 2 Payton F4
Game 1 Totals 1-6 RBI, 5 LOB
Inning Situation Outs Batter Result
3 Runner on 2B 1 Etier E6
3 Runners on 1B and 2B 1 Shepherd BB
3 Bases Loaded 1 Payton SF-7, RBI
3 Runners on 2B and 3B 2 Loy K
4 Runners on 1B and 2B 0 Lusson F5
4 Runners on 1B and 2B 1 Montalbano 3-6-1 DP
6 Runner on 2B 1 Weiss 2B, RBI
6 Runner on 2B 1 Walsh K
6 Runner on 2B 2 Lusson BB
6 Runners on 1B and 2B 2 Montalbano 3-UA
7 Runners on 1B and 2B 1 Payton F8, DP 8-5
9 Runner on 3B 1 Felts BB
9 Runners on 1B and 3B 1 Etier HR, 3 RBI
9 Runner on 3B 1 Payton BB
9 Runners on 1B and 3B 1 Loy F9, DP 9-2
Game 2 Totals 2-11 5 RBI, 6 LOB
1 Runners on 2B and 3B 1 Weiss 6-3 RBI
1 Runner on 3B 2 Walsh K
3 Runner on 2B 0 Payton SAC
3 Runner on 3B 1 Loy 5-3
3 Runner on 3B 2 Weiss BB
3 Runners on 1B and 3B 2 Walsh K
4 Runners on 1B and 2B 0 Felts HBP
4 Bases Loaded 0 Etier K
4 Bases Loaded 1 Shepherd K
4 Bases Loaded 2 Payton 3-1
5 Runners on 1B and 2B 0 Walsh SAC
5 Runners on 2B and 3B 1 Walla K
5 Runners on 2B and 3B 2 Lusson K
6 Runner on 2B 2 Payton 1B, RBI
6 Runner on 3B 2 Loy 2B, RBI
6 Runner on 2B 2 Weiss 4-3
Game 3 Totals 2-11, 3 RBI, 10 LOB
Series Totals 5-28, 8 RBI, 21 LOB


Yup, it was pretty much as frustrating as it seemed. Texas struck out in 10 of its 37 opportunities with runners in scoring position, and needless to say, it's difficult to plate guys when you're not even putting the ball in play. If the worst offender wasn't Montalbano -- who came up to bat three times with a pair of runners on and grounded out three times, including a pair of double plays -- it was Walsh, who struck out in three straight at-bats with runners in scoring position. Etier was sharp in game two, obviously, but he was dreadful in the other two games, going 0-4 with RISP and leaving 6 runners on base.

Of course, none of this constitutes a ground-breaking insight. Yes, the new bats have depressed offensive output, but ASU featured a half-dozen players batting over .300, while the Longhorns had Shepherd, Loy, and Weiss, and a whole lot of players hitting around .230. So first and foremost -- again, this team is going as far as the pitching staff takes it.

Second, though, I have to give a lot of credit to ASU's pitchers, who for the most part refused to walk Texas and just came up with one great pitch after another when they were behind in the count or had runners in scoring position. As frustrating as it was to watch, you really have to tip your cap to Brady Rodgers and Michael Lambson. Rodgers was just nails every time he had to be in Game 1, and although Texas got to Lambson just enough, part of the reason we stranded so many runners in scoring position is because that kid was throwing one hell of a change up. It seemed to crawl in slow motion to the plate, and we whiffed on it over and over and over again. Texas' two big hits in the 6th from Shepherd and Loy were both on fastballs, and frankly, I was surprised Lambson didn't just throw straight changes; even when we knew it was coming, we couldn't touch it.

Third and finally, let's close on a positive by noting that Texas created plenty of opportunities to score. Huge credit to those ASU pitchers for keeping us from turning those into many runs, but we out-hit the Sun Devils 25-19 and even a modestly improved performance with runners in scoring position would mean a respectable offensive output. This team isn't going to bludgeon any opponents to death, but if it can win games in which the pitching staff allows 3 or 4 runs... well, we might just see dogpile number seven.

Hook 'em. On to Omaha!