The day may have been different but the game played out the exact same on Sunday as Texas (10-8, 3-0 Big 12) used overpowering hitting and resilient pitching for a 9-4 victory and sweep of Oklahoma. The Horns again took advantage of terrible defense from OU with three more errors on Sunday giving the Sooners 10 for the weekend. The sweep marked the sixth time the Horns have swept their alleged rivals to the north since 1999, and Texas beat the Sooners by a combined 25-11 after Friday's first inning.
The big story on Sunday was continued strong hitting throughout the Texas lineup and a mostly dominant start by freshman Parker French. Five Longhorns had two hits on Sunday and Mark Payton will likely become the first Texan to think twice about leaving the state of Oklahoma after finishing the series 9-17 with five runs, three RBI and a pair of walks along with his first career homer.
Meanwhile, French made just his second collegiate start and had a no-hitter through five innings on Sunday with only one ball leaving the infield. The freshman tired a bit at the end and finished his day in the 7th with his final line (6.2 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) belying just how magnificent the start truly was. Fellow freshmen Dillon Peters ended Oklahoma's threat in the 7th and John Curtiss gave up just a bloop single in two innings of relief work.
The sweep was nice and it's even more exciting to sweep the Sooners. Texas now has four straight wins over ranked teams that will almost certainly be playing in the postseason. But the wins over Oklahoma and Texas State are meaningless if the Texas offense and defense regress to what we saw through the season's first three weekends. We've now seen what the Texas offense is capable of, and it's worth mentioning that Oklahoma's pitching may not be elite but the Horns have been badly stymied the season by far inferior pitching than OU's. The Horns aren't ready for a rematch with Stanford, but they're improving week to week.
More thoughts on the weekend and where Texas baseball stands after the jump.
Score by Innings R H E
Texas Longhorns..... 210 101 202 - 9 13 0
Oklahoma Sooners.... 000 002 200 - 4 6 3
On to the bullets:
- The 13 hits on Sunday raised Texas' team batting average to an almost respectable .250. If we saw the floor for this Texas team three weeks ago in Palo Alto, we saw the ceiling this weekend. Smart hitters who work pitch counts, can run the bases and hit a lot of singles paired with a deep pitching staff filled with efficient albeit non-dominant pitchers. While the rest of the Texas lineup will have its ups and downs, there's no reason to not expect Payton, Jonathan Walsh and Erich Weiss to hit .300 this season and constantly keep the pressure on opposing pitchers.
- The Sooners aren't in the same hemisphere as Rice, Arkansas or Stanford, but, as we noted earlier, the Horns won't face anyone nearly that good the rest of the season. There's no reason Texas can't get hot, and this Texas team can compete to win the Big 12. Hosting a regional is still a possibility if the Horns will play at anywhere near this level the rest of the year.
- Not to get too far ahead of ourselves, but just take a look at the 2012 Texas roster. It's led by sophomores Alex Silver, Erich Weiss, Mark Payton, Jacob Felts, Nathan Thornhill and Corey Knebel with freshmen French, Peters, Curtiss, Ricky Jacquez and Brooks Marlow playing increasingly important roles. In addition, Sam Stafford, Cohl Walla and Jonathan Walsh are all good candidates to return for their senior seasons. Not to dwell on it, but with CJ Hinojosa at SS, Josh Bell DHing and Blake Swihart catching, this would have been one of the best teams in the country. 2012 may still be a struggle, but only a blind fan could ignore how bright the future is for Texas baseball.
- Speaking of Silver, he's our MVP through the season's first 18 games. His .246 batting average isn't world-beating, but the Texas defense has gone from a glaring weakness to a near strength thanks to his presence at first base. The Horns were devastated by unearned runs early in the year, giving up 15 unearned runs in the first 12 games. In the six games since Silver took over, however, Texas hasn't given up a single unearned run. Silver's work has had a palpable effect on the entire infield's defense. They still make mistakes, but the defense hasn't been costing Texas games as it was in the first part of the year.
- We're starting to see the roles of the Texas pitching staff. In contrast to OU, Texas has three quality starters and a very deep bullpen that can survive all three days of a series even if the starters don't go deep into ballgames. Thornhill is most likely the Friday starter the rest of the season. Jacquez and Peters will likely stay as the Saturday and Sunday starters in some order unless it's clear one of them is incapable of doing the job. Milner is the first arm out of the bullpen for long relief followed by Curtiss. Austin Dicharry and Peters will probably be short term relievers or stoppers, and Knebel is the closer whose arm is relatively fresh for this part of the season. There's no Jungmann, but this is an incredibly young and deep pitching staff filled with freshmen and sophomores that will only get better with experience.
- Weiss and Walsh had terrific weeks as well. Weiss went 9-21 on the week with six runs, four RBIs and a home run. Walsh was 7-19 with four runs and five RBI for the week. Weiss is now hitting .297 and Walsh is hitting .317, a far cry from their time earlier in the season where both were below the Mendoza line.
Texas has Stephen F. Austin on Tuesday before going to play Kansas State next weekend. The Wildcats lost two of three to Texas A&M, and a series win there would set Texas up very nicely in the conference standings. The Horns are only scheduled to leave the state of Texas once more after Kansas State, so getting a series win next weekend could be big.