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Texas Hosts Hawaii For Four Games

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Texas used some early offense and a bevy of young pitchers to beat Valpo 7-1 on Tuesday night. Now the Horns will play a four game series against Hawaii at UFCUDFF.

Photo courtesy of Schoolly_D

Texas scored three runs in the top of the 1st against Valporaiso and cruised to a 7-1 victory which saw seven Texas pitchers get work.

Texas has now won 10 of 11 games after dropping their first two. The last time Texas accomplished this feat was 2012 when the Horns got hot against Oklahoma and Kansas State before collapsing at the end of the conference schedule.

Of course the lessons of 2012-2013 should make all fans wary, but the preseason hope has given way to cautious optimism. The Texas offense is being held down by Andy McGuire and Tres Barrera's struggles at the plate (both are 6-42), but the signs of a better offense than 2012 and 2013 are there if you look closely. Texas has faced tough pitching in 2014 but has a higher walk rate (11% of plate appearances) than they did in 2013 or 2012 (9.1% each year). Texas hitters are also striking out less (12% of plate appearances) than 2013 (18%) or 2012 (16.5%).

That seven of the 2014 squad's wins have come against teams in Boyd's World's top 20 and eight against top 100 teams should give fans some optimism considering the rest of the conference has two wins over top 30 teams combined (and only nine wins over top 100 teams...c'mon Big 12 teams, schedule some serious non-conference foes!).

Hawaii, however, is not one of those top 30 teams. The Rainbow Warriors are 6-6 having won six of their last eight ballgames. Hawaii lost its opening series against Oregon, dropping a pair of hotly contested games and getting blown out twice. Hawaii committed 13 errors in its first four games but has only committed 11 errors since.

The Rainbow Warriors followed their Oregon series by sweeping a middling Albany team before splitting a series with a pretty good Pepperdine team last weekend. This weekend's trip to Austin will mark Hawaii's first trip to the "Lower 48" as a short internet search suggests the locals call it.

Friday starter Matt Cooper has been incredible through his first three starts of 2014. The senior righty is 2-0 on the year with a 0.00 ERA and is coming off a complete game shutout of Pepperdine last Friday night. Cooper has pitched deep into ballgames (averaging 7 innings a start), walked very few hitters (3 BB), struck out a bunch (18 Ks) and has been very tough to hit (.153 opposing batting average).

Junior Jarrett Arakawa has started twice for Hawaii with good results independent of some terrible defense. Arakawa is a top pitching prospect who sat out the 2013 season as a result of shoulder surgery. Junior Scott Squirer has been excellent in his three starts, going 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 19:8 strikeout to walk ratio and .200 opponent batting average.

Texas should have the decided advantage in at least one of the games, however, as the Rainbow Warriors have struggled to find a reliable fourth starter. Both Scott Kuzminsky and Eric Gleese have started games though both have struggled with a combined 29 hits and 18 earned runs in only 28 innings pitched.

The Longhorns haven't run a ton yet this season though that may change this weekend. Teams have had great success stealing bases on Hawaii in going 16-21 in stolen base attempts (compared to opponents stealing just 4 of 6 bases on Texas catchers).

Texas has an opportunity between now and its trip to Lubbock on March 28th to show that the disasters of the past two years are behind them. If the pitching stays solid and the hitting warms up even just a little then the Horns could position themselves as presumptive conference favorites.

First pitch of the series is 6 PM. Parker French, Dillon Peters, Nathan Thornhill and Lukas Schiraldi will be this weekend's starters with Thornhill and Peters going on Saturday. Look for Morgan Cooper or John Curtiss to close if needed.

Games are on LHN and this'll be your open thread.