The Horns are now 3-2 and coming off a nice win over UTSA that was 3-2 through 6 innings before the Texas offense exploded to make it 14-2. Texas had more runs and hits against the Roadrunners than they did against any opponent for the entire 2014 season. Here we are five games into the 2015 season and it's finally time to make wild assumptions about the rest of the season on the basis of a tiny sample size. There are two trends that could impact the full season have become readily apparent. One trend is decidedly positive and one is decidedly neutral with a fair tinge of negativity.
Trend 1 - The Fight
Texas came back from down 3-0 in the 7th inning on Sunday against Rice and eventually won the game in 10 innings. The Horns were nearly as impressive in the first game of Saturday's doubleheader, twice almost coming back from large deficits. Just for fun, I compiled all the times Texas came back from a three run deficit in 2014 for comparison's sake. Take a look:
That's right. If Texas fell behind in 2014 it stayed there. It's just a few games, but this team clearly has the offense to respond even against quality pitching like the type Rice brought to the table. Texas should have a potent lineup this year and that lineup will keep Texas in games it would have easily lost in previous years. The 14 runs Texas scored against UTSA are the most by a Texas team since a 16-5 win over Nebraska in 2011. The 20 hits Texas pounded out are the most by a Texas team since the Horns beat Boston College in a memorable 25-inning game in 2009.
Small sample size? Of course. Encouraging sign of an improved offense? Definitely.
Trend 2 - The Starters
A quick disclaimer - Texas is clearly feeling its way through its Saturday starters. Kacy Clemens may or may not be a starter long term. Ditto Josh Sawyer although he appears to have the inside track to the job. Chad Hollingsworth is still coming back from a summer injury. It is WAY too early to get worried about the starters. But...
Texas starters in the first weekend of 2014: 27 IP, 1 ER, 10 Ks, 10 BBs. Good for a 0.33 ERA.
Texas starters in the first weekend of 2015: 17 IP, 17 ER, 4 Ks, 5 BBs. Good for a 9.00 ERA.
On the good side, Texas has the pitching depth to figure out its starting pitching. Check out the bullpen's numbers for this past weekend:
18 IP, 2 ER, 21 H, 11 Ks, 3 BBs. Good for a 1.00 ERA.
Also, freshman Jake McKenzie did this:
If I absolutely had to give an uneducated guess at how it all plays out, I'm guessing Sawyer is the presumptive Saturday/Sunday starter unless he either loses the job or somebody like freshman Connor Mayes pitches well enough in midweek games to take it from him. This weekend we'll see French on Friday, Hollingsworth and Sawyer on Saturday and Clemens on Sunday.
All of which takes us to this weekend's Big Ten competition, the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Gophers play their first 21 games away from home due largely to the fact that it's damn cold where they live with some sort of clear, frozen, non-alocholic substance covering everything. Minnesota began their season slate against an excellent Houston squad and were swept relatively handily (although the Gophers made it close in Sunday's 5-4 walk off loss).
Minnesota was fairly mediocre in 2014, going 27-24 with a 13-11 Big Ten record and only playing a depressing 16 home games all year. The Gophers hit .256 as a team which was good for 221st nationally (Texas ranked 181st) and they had a 3.76 team ERA (110th nationally, Texas was 4th).
Minnesota is fortunate to return a ton of experience from the 2014 squad. The weekend starters, senior Ben Meyer (2.39 ERA in 2014), junior Dalton Sawyer (2.62 ERA in 2014) and senior Neal Kunik (2.84 ERA in 2014), were first, third and fourth in innings pitched for the Golden Gophers in 2014. Meanwhile, 2B Connor Schaeflbauer and CF Dan Motl were the only Golden Gophers to hit over .275 in 2014 and they're both back in the lineup in 2015. Don't expect a ton of homers from Minnesota as they only hit 12 as a team in 2015. With that having been said we're probably due for a slug fest at UFCUDFF this weekend.
Texas and Minnesota square off for game one at 6 PM tonight with a doubleheader tomorrow at 3 and 6 PM and the finale at 1 PM on Sunday. All the baseball is on LHN and this'll be your open thread.