Following the opening weekend split at Rice, the Horns shook off a pesky UT-San Antonio squad by pulling away late in 14-2 rout on 20 hits. Could Texas keep that momentum through the weekend?
On the mound Friday, senior Parker French picked up his first win of the season on 6 innings of controlled work, allowing an unearned run and going 3 H - 2 BB - 2 Ks. Sophomore John Malmin gave up an unearned run in 3 innings of relief. But the offense stole the show in the 13-2 win, with Collin Shaw, Bret Boswell, and Michael Cantu leading the way. Shaw went 3 for 6 with two doubles and a triple and 2 RBIs, Cantu 3 for 3 and 2 walks , 2 doubles, 5 RBIs, and 2 runs, and Boswell was 3 for 5 with 2 RBIs.
The double header Saturday started with a 5-0 win on the arm of Josh Sawyer, who recovered from his rough weekend in Houston to go 5 scoreless on 3 H - 1 BB - 4 Ks. Collin Shaw kept pace with his Friday performance, going 2 for 4 and 3 RBIs, and Zane Gurwitz overcame his slow start to 2015 to go 2 for 3.
Chad Hollingsworth kept the momentum with the win in the second half of the double header, picking up his first win in 6 1/3 innings of scoreless work on 2 H - 2 BB - 5 Ks, and only needing 70 pitches to pick up his 19 outs. Tres Barrera pushed the offense on 3 for 4 hitting and 2 runs, Ben Johnson was 2 for 3 with an RBI, and Brooks Marlow and Bret Boswell each went 2 for 4 with an RBI. It was Marlow's crushing homer in the fourth that broke up a scoreless tie. Barrera followed with a triple that featured confident base running and some impressive hustle, and he was brought home with a Boswell double to flirt with the cycle for the inning. In fact, of the Horns' 12 hits in the game, 6 went for extra bases.
Kacy Clemens got his second start after his unimpressive opening at Rice, and did not disappoint. In 5 scoreless innings, Clemens went 1 H - 2 BBs - 4 Ks to pick up his first win in the 8-0 Texas win. Ben Johnson led the charge on offense, going 4 for 5 and picking up a run with 2 stolen bases.
Texas starts and finishes strong, leaves no doubt
After facing a strong opponent in Rice, the Horns had the opportunity to gain some confidence against a less impressive Minnesota, and they did just that. It was Texas' first 4 game series sweep since 2010, and they never trailed all weekend. And the wins featured complete baseball: strong starting pitching, excellent relief work, and consistent offense that did not need to fall back on Augie's customary small ball.
Augie, on letting the team swing:
Yeah, why change. They put in a lot of work in their hitting game and I want them to get as much confidence out of it as they possibly can. We can play that way, we'll play that way. Where you're going to have to be multidimensional is against great pitching. I took a team to the College World Series one year and what we could do was hit home runs. We had a high team batting average, and stole bases. We were the best in the country at that. However we faced two Major League pitchers in the first two games. So you can't just get one dimensional. If you do, and you face great pitching, it's going to hurt you. But when they are swinging the bat like that, let's go for it.
With difficult non-conference series ahead, including several difficult road trips, taking advantage of home-stands like the one this weekend will be key for finding rhythm and post-season posturing. The Horns did all they needed to do against the Gophers.
Starting rotation finds its form, and bullpen keeps the pace
After failing to pick up a win in Houston, and struggling to assert itself early, the starting rotation settled in early and gave Minnesota no chance this weekend. The starting group of French-Sawyer-Hollingsworth-Clemens went a combined 4-0 and didn't allow an earned run, bringing the group's collective ERA from 4.30 to 2.36.
The bullpen kept up their strong start to the year, moving their collective ERA to 0.96 on 4 runs in 37 2/3 innings.
In all, the pitching staff tossed 3 straight shutouts for the first time since 2002, and for the second time since 1983. And with the only runs coming Friday on two unearned, not a single earned run was put across by Minnesota. The Gophers only managed 3 for 45 hitting with runners on base, and were 0 for 18 with runners in scoring position.
Diverse offense puts up most runs in 4 games since 1989
Despite a new look to the starting rotation in 2015, and the wealth of promising young offensive talent and returning contributors, the concern in most fans' eyes was in how the offense would fare. And this weekend, they flexed some muscle, and not just by bunting. Sunday's explosion was kickstarted by 6 stolen bases. The 3rd game was blown open on a home run and a pair of extra bases. It's still early, but an improved offense taking advantage of college baseball's new ball looks promising, with 6 Horns recording an OPS over .800 at this point: Barrera, Johnson, Cantu, Boswell, Marlow, and Shaw, and all but Marlow are hitting above .300.
The offense has been particularly effective when getting the leadoff man aboard, with 44 of 63 team runs coming in innings where Texas gets the lead man on base. And with men aboard, the Horns are hitting .302 as a team and .364 with runners in scoring position.
The weekend's 31 runs ended up being the most Texas has put up in 4 games since 1989.
It was an all around strong performance that could be a sign of good things to come for the Horns.