Texas Longhorns baseball ushered in the 2016 season over the weekend at UFCU Disch-Falk Field against the UNLV Rebels and started the road to Omaha with a solid 2-1 series win, landing head coach Augie Garrido his 800th win at Texas in the process.
Here are the highlights and a quick recap of each game for anyone who missed them over the weekend. Michael's excellent recap is here.
Game 1: UNLV 4, Texas 3 (12 innings)
What was often a moribund Texas offensive attack in 2015 got off to a fast start, scoring three runs in the first three innings. However, continued issues with control for starting pitcher Kyle Johnston, as the sophomore allowed five walks in only four innings of work. And then the bats went quiet, a misplay in the outfield tied the game, and a home run in the 12th by the Rebels gave them the win in the opener.
"The pitching staff that normally doesn't walk anybody walked some people," Garrido said. "We struck out more than we thought we were going to. So, it was a game where we were out of character. One of our best defensive outfielders misses a ball that he catches in his hip pocket. That's baseball, man."
Game 2: Texas 11, UNLV 2
After the Friday loss, Garrido said he wanted to see how his team would deal with the "uncontrollables" and baseball. And they responded. Center fielder Zane Gurwitz and shortstop Bret Boswell both collected three hits on the day and sophomore right fielder Patrick Mathis found some offensive redemption by hitting a 408-foot home run, his first in a Longhorns uniform.
The hit parade reduced the pressure on starting pitcher Ty Culbreth, who got the win and assistance from three relief pitchers in closing out the game.
"I loved the aggressiveness," Garrido said. "That's the team that I've been talking about and that's the way that they've been in practice. They brought it to the game today. They responded in a positive way to the lack of success last night and that's what we were hoping for."
Game 3: Texas 7, UNLV 0
It didn't take long for Mathis to make an impact once again on Sunday -- he only needed to see one pitch before hitting his second home run of the season, sparking another double-digit hit parade for the Longhorns. On the mound, sophomore Connor Mayes pitched the first four innings of the shutout effort and freshman Chase Shugart once again finished off the game with a flame-throwing effort, hitting the mid-90s on the radar gun.
However, the big story on the mound was the return of redshirt sophomore Morgan Cooper, who missed all of last season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He retired all three of the batters he faced and struck out two in an impressive effort.
"It was exciting, I've been looking forward to it for a really long time," Cooper said. "Finally getting out there and throwing against somebody, my heart was pumping a little bit, I had the adrenaline going. Once you get out on the mound, it's just like old times. Just back to pitching. It was a little exciting."
Most importantly, he wasn't nervous about his arm, which can often happen when pitchers come back from such a significant surgery, and he had all three of his pitches -- fastball, curveball, changeup -- working for him. Cooper back, y'all.