The 2014 Texas baseball season and fate of head coach Augie Garrido is inexorably linked to the football and basketball seasons that preceded it. In football, you may recall, Texas underperformed and parted ways with its legendary coach after the season (it was in all the papers). The basketball team, by contrast, started slowly with close victories over several solid but unheralded teams before silencing all calls for its long-tenured coach to depart with spectacular play over the last few months.
Which will Augie be? After one weekend it's still very unclear. The football team trailed New Mexico State with two minutes to play in the first half. The basketball team beat Mercer, South Alabama and Stephen F. Austin by a combined 18 points to start the year. Baseball split with Cal.
Texas had to withstand a disastrous start to the year to even get that. The Horns committed five errors on Friday and scored zero runs in a 7-0 loss which was promptly followed by a 2-1 loss that featured another unearned run.
Texas actually swung the bats alright (16 hits total) in both games but couldn't get anything across. That changed Saturday evening when Texas scored six runs in a 6-2 win and the Horns continued its strong play in Sunday's 5-0 victory.
It wasn't the prettiest of performances, but a road split for a young team to start the year is fine by us. Just as the first two games showed the potential frustration of this team, the strong victories in the last two games flashed their potential goodness.
Rather than review the games individually let's go through the individual performances Horns Up/Horns Not Up style.
- Mark Payton. 9-17 with a homer, triple and double, 4 RBI and just one strikeout. Those are really good numbers if you're new to baseball.
- The starting pitching was just plain filthy. Parker French struggled some and his poor defense contributed mightily to the Friday loss, but Dillon Peters, Lukas Schiraldi and Nathan Thornhill were nails all weekend. The four starters put up a combined line of 27 IP, 18 H, 10 K, 1 ER. I'm not sure how Augie decides which of these guys should come out of the bullpen, but it's probably important to use midweek starts to get other arms in action.
- Morgan Cooper pitched the 9th in both Texas wins and was nails both times. It was an encouraging debut if he's going to be the closer.
- Kacy Clemens was a revelation at first base. The Son of Rocket went 4-14 on the weekend and drew three walks for a .412 OBP. Here's hoping he can keep up the solid play.
- Zane Gurwitz wasn't dynamite at the plate (2-10) but he smashed a home run to left field in his ninth collegiate at bat for his first hit as a Longhorn. Congrats to him!
Horns Not Up:
- Last week I called Tres Barrera and Andy McGuire my two "as they go, so go the Longhorns" hitters. Well, the two most heralded freshmen on the team spent their first weekend in Burnt Orange going a combined 4-29. Barrera struggled more than McGuire with four strikeouts and hitting into a pair of double plays. Barrera did play solid catcher and McGuire drew two walks and had the weekend's biggest base hit when he drove in a pair of insurance runs with the Horns leading 2-1 on Saturday night.
- Poor Jacob Felts. Texas trailed 2-1 with runners at the corners and one out in the top of the ninth on Saturday afternoon. Augie pinch hit Felts for a hitless Gurwitz, a seemingly smart managerial move that looks bad in hindsight. Felts hit a double play ball on the first pitch he saw and Texas fell to 0-2 on the year. Jeremy Montalbano appears to have surpassed Felts on the catcher/DH depth chart and if Clemens can play a solid first base then Felts may be relegated to first bat off the bench.
- I mentioned Friday's defense once but it deserves two mentions. McGuire, Gurwitz and Clemens all had fielding errors and Peters had a pair of throwing errors. Maybe it was nerves from the season's first game, but Cal's first six runs were all scored on plays where Texas made an error. Hard to win when you play like that and fortunately the Horns only committed one more error the rest of the weekend. It's even harder to win when you get shut out, but that's another story.
Texas returns to action Tuesday night against Texas A&M Corpus Christi at 6 PM at UFCUDFF before getting Stanford next weekend.