Following a narrow victory over the Texas State Bobcats last Tuesday, Texas Longhorns baseball entered the weekend series against the Cal Golden Bears needing a strong showing to fend off some growing concerns about a stagnant offense limited by two key injuries.
Instead, the Longhorns suffered a four-game sweep at the hands of the Golden Bears that culminated with Texas blowing a 7-0 lead on Sunday. Never before in school history had Texas been swept in a four-game series. Now the season seemingly rests on the brink with a road series against UCLA looming next weekend and questions about whether head coach Augie Garido has reached the end of his illustrious career.
Thursday: Cal 4, Texas 1
Looking for more run support than he got a week ago, freshman Nolan Kingham gave a solid four innings of work in his second career start against the nationally-ranked Golden Bears. Eight hits and a walk by Kingham netted a pair of third-inning runs for Cal. But more run support Kingham would not get, as the Texas bats were smothered by Cal's starting pitching and only mustered three hits through his six innings.
HOME RUN KACY CLEMENS! Longhorns get one back here to lead off the 8th.— Texas Baseball (@Texas_Baseball) March 4, 2016
Fishing for bright spots on the night, junior Kacy Clemens recorded the second home run of his career on a solo shot in the 8th. If the power surge continues, Clemens providing some pop at the bottom of the order could be a boon for the Texas lineup.
Friday: Cal 4, Texas 3
The Horns wouldn't have it any easier on Friday's matchup. Cal's Friday pitcher, Daulton Jefferies, hadn't given up a run on the season. And early on, the matchup proved a bit much for the Texas bats.
Kyle Johnston answered the call for the Horns, however, and gave six innings of strong pitching. Six strikeouts and two walks came across for Johnston, and Cal posted nine hits on the starter. The effort would have been enough if not for some poor responses from the Texas defense. To lead off the third, Johnston hit the Cal leadoff batter before a sacrifice bunt and groundout got Texas to two outs. But with an opportunity to get out of the inning, a two-out walk put runners at first and second and a single scored the game's first run. With another opportunity to limit the damage, Johnston threw a wild pitch to score the game's second run.
The game remained relatively silent into the 6th, when Johnston gave up four straight singles to start the inning and a throwing error extended the damage to a 4-0 Cal advantage.
In the bottom half of the inning, Texas began its rally. Zane Gurwitz singled with an out, and an unfortunate ground rule double for Bret Boswell put two in scoring position. A Joe Baker sacrifice fly cut the Cal advantage to 4-1, but Texas failed to cut it any further.
In the 7th, the Horns continued to chip away. With two outs, Texas went single-walk before freshman Brady Harlan knocked an RBI single up the middle to cut the lead to 4-2. And in the bottom half of the 8th, Texas threatened again, as Joe Baker singled and Tres Barrera recorded his first extra-base hit of the year to bring Baker across, but that would be it for Texas scoring opportunities.
The only reason Texas had a shot in the game was a second straight night of excellent relief pitching -- Beau Ridgeway gave 2.2 innings of one-hit relief and Travis Duke finished with the final out.
Saturday: Cal 6, Texas 0
What hope the Texas Friday rally gave the Horns was stamped out on Saturday, as two Cal pitchers gave up a mere three hits to Texas and shut them out.
Following Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors, Ty Culbreth was touched for two runs to start the game and a solo home run in the 6th. Over eight innings, Culbreth struck out six and walked two while allowing six hits and giving up the three runs, earning his first loss of the year. Blake Wellman and Travis Duke gave up an additional three runs in the final frame.
Sunday: Cal 10, Texas 7 (11 innings)
Facing a four-game sweep, Texas came out swinging and dealing to earn a commanding 7-0 advantage. Sophomore Connor Mayes gave six firm innings, striking out five and walking three while allowing five hits and no runs.
The Texas bats jumped out early and often, getting off to a 7-0 lead through seven innings. Led by Bret Boswell's 3-5 with an RBI, and Kacy Clemens' second homer of the series, the home team was well on their way towards salvaging a win against the Pac-12 foe. Reliever Nick Kennedy gave up two runs to make it interesting in the 8th before Chase Shugart came on to end the inning.
It was the 9th inning that would do Texas in. Shugart, who had been impressive as Texas's closer to start 2016, gave up a pair of singles to begin the inning before picking up two quick outs. But with two outs, Shugart allowed a flurry of singles to score four runs. With a chance to escape to a 7-6, a long hopper was mishandled by Kacy Clemens at first, scoring the tying run.
In extras, Cal used a three-run 11th to take the final game and sweep the Horns.
Texas record: 5 - 7
This week: Tuesday vs. Sam Houston, weekend three-game series at UCLA