The Texas Longhorns will begin the difficult task of winning four straight games in the Dallas Baptist Regional in a Saturday elimination game against the host Patriots on ESPN2 at Horner Park.
Originally scheduled to start at 11 a.m. CT, early-morning rain showers caused a delay nearly four hours before the planned start time. The forecast currently predicts the heavy thunderstorms to continue until at least that time, so there may not be any improvement in the soggy field conditions from Friday. And, in fact, the rain could continue all the way until 1 p.m, leaving the start time undetermined.
Surprising losers of Friday's evening game against the VCU Rams, Dallas Baptist's first attempt at hosting a regional game didn't exactly go to plan in the 7-2 defeat. Ace Joseph Shaw got knocked around for five runs in a disastrous fourth inning and the offense never really got going.
The Longhorns, on the other hand, will try to recover from a narrow 5-4 loss against Oregon State.
"Extremely disappointing, but that's been our Friday several times this year," head coach Augie Garrido said after the game. "It's disappointing in the result, but the effort was there, and the will to win was there and I thought both teams played hard, played well."
An extra-base hit from the Beavers didn't come until the game-winning run in the eighth, but a flurry of singles in the middle innings were enough to provide the initial separation to survive a furious Texas comeback from down 4-1. Center fielder Zane Gurwitz brought a home run back into the ballpark and second baseman Brooks Marlow sent a two-run home run well over the right-field fence that tied the game.
Despite those heroics, the ultimate storyline was that Oregon State was able to consistently get the key hit.
"The separation was as a result of two-strike hitting and two-out hitting and the RBIs with runners in scoring position when we needed them," said Garrido.
First baseman Kacy Clemens and shortstop CJ Hinojosa combined to strand six of the seven runners left on base, while relievers Travis Duke and Kirby Bellow gave up two walks and threw nine balls on 13 pitches overall. As a result, Texas needs a more complete effort from the whole team on Saturday with the margin of error diminished by the quality of competition.
There was almost enough magic for the Horns to continue the winning streak that propelled the team through the Big 12 Championship and into the tournament. Just not quite enough.
Disappointing, but not discouraging, according to Garrido.
The Texas head coach also said that he didn't know who would pitch on Saturday with the need to plan for the eventuality of four more games over three days. Left hander Ty Culbreth pitched the second game in Tulsa and right hander Connor Mayes got two outs on five pitches on Friday. Does Culbreth get the ball again to keep Mayes in a potential long relief role if necessary or a potential Sunday start? Or does Kyle Johnston get the start after his impressive title game performance last weekend against Oklahoma State?
Meanwhile, the Patriots could start junior Cory Taylor, the normal pitcher for Saturday games. He went 6-1 with a 3.93 ERA a year after ranking No. 25 nationally in strikeouts. Those numbers dropped in 2015, but he's still a capable swing-and-miss/punchout pitcher with 62 in 71 innings.
Another reality resulting from VCU's unexpected win? Dallas Baptist has also won 22 out of 27 games at home, making the challenge even more significant for Texas. However, the Patriots have lost five of the last nine games overall -- among 14 losses in 2015 -- and the last two games, so the Longhorns clearly hold the edge in recent success.