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Texas Begins Big 12 Play Against Texas Tech

Texas gave up a two run lead against Oral Roberts but managed to squeeze out a 4-3 win on Tuesday night. At 11-5 the Horns will begin conference play this weekend against Texas Tech. Friday's game starts at 6:30 at UFCUDFF.

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Texas baseball blew a 3-1 lead in the 8th inning on Tuesday but responded with the winning run in the bottom of the 8th to beat a struggling Oral Roberts 4-3. The win concludes Texas' preconference slate at a respectable 11-5, way ahead of last year's 6-8 preconference performance.

The Horns are pitching well, ranking in the top 30 nationally in ERA. They also aren't hitting too atrociously, pulling in a .265 team batting average (good for around 150th nationally) after Tuesday's win. It may be selective, but take away the offensive disaster in Palo Alto (13 hits in 3 games) and the Horns are hitting .290 as a team. Those hitting numbers aren't great, but compare them to last year's .212 team batting average (277th nationally) before conference play began and you'll feel better.

Texas has three good hitters in Mark Payton, Erich Weiss and CJ Hinojosa and they've got a lot of possible solid contributors throughout the lineup. Texas also has two very good starting pitchers (Parker French and Dillon Peters), a third veteran starter capable of greatness (Nathan Thornhill) and a future weekend starter making midweek starts (Chad Hollingsworth). Texas also has a young but quite capable bullpen and a typically stellar closer. In fact, we'd argue that the talent is there for a postseason run so long as the offensive and defensive execution improves. If not then the Horns can compete for a Big 12 title but won't make much noise in June.

Regardless, if you haven't been watching this team you probably should. It's full of mostly young players who like each other and are capable of great things.

This weekend the Horns will begin Big 12 play against Texas Tech in Austin and there may not be a weirder team in American than the Red Raiders.

Tech is 12-7 but it has been all feast or famine this year.

On the one hand, they've been atrocious for a third of the young season. In 6 games (almost a third of their total) they've given up 51 total runs to the murderer's row of LaSalle, Arizona, Florida International, Troy, Central Florida and UT Arlington with the last three scoring 10, 13 and 13 respectively. They are a predictable 0-6 when giving up more than 5 runs.

On the other hand, they've given up 2 runs or fewer in 9 of their 17 games and are a similarly predictable 8-1 in those contests.

The Red Raiders are mediocre at the plate, with a number of .300+ hitters but nobody stands out has produced exceptionally like a Mark Payton. Junior catcher Mason Randolph has been their best hitter (.333 batting average, .945 OPS, 8 RBI and 13 walks). Texas may have an advantage in testing his arm, however, as Randolph has only thrown out 1 of 12 attempted basestealers.

On the mound is where Tech's feast or famine season has been most pronounced. It is not hyperbole to call junior Trey Masek the best pitcher in America statistically through four starts. Masek has made 4 starts is 3-0 having pitched 32 innings, giving up 15 hits, 6 walks while striking out 34. Oh, and he hasn't given up an earned run. It's a small sample size, but Masek has been incredible in 2013.

Despite putting up Friday starter numbers we don't really know where he'll start this weekend as of Thursday night (when this post is being written). Masek started the first two Sundays of the season before throwing each of the last two Saturdays.

Friday starter Dominic Moreno is a very mediocre 1-1 with a 4.79 ERA as the Red Raiders have gone 2-2 in series openers. Corey Taylor was Tech's third starter for the first two weekends of the year and is a very forgettable 6.64 ERA on the year. He has since been replaced at the tail of the rotation by Matt Winthrow (2-1, 5.40 ERA).

As a team the Red Raiders have a very respectable 3.45 team ERA though that number jumps to 4.25 outside of Masek's ridiculousness.

The Horns will play tonight at 6:30, tomorrow at 2 PM and Sunday at 1 PM. All three games will be on LHN and you can join us here for an open thread.

UPDATE From --
Probable Starting Pitchers
Friday - RHP Dominic Moreno (1-1, 4.79) vs. RHP Parker French (3-1, 1.59)
Saturday - RHP Trey Masek (3-0, 0.00) vs. LHP Dillon Peters (1-1, 2.28)
Sunday - RHP Matt Withrow (2-1, 5.40) vs. RHP Nathan Thornhill (1-1, 2.61)