Coming off of a three game win streak, the Longhorns entered Lubbock with tentative confidence and high ambitions. Coach Augie Garrido told the Austin American Statesman that his team's goal is to win the last 15 games of the season. It would've been a miracle finish, giving the Longhorns a respectable tournament resume with a 32-20 regular season record.
As unlikely as Augie's dreams were, it was hard not to feel a jolt of hope when Texas jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the third inning of yesterday's series opener at Texas Tech. Ranked 11th nationally, the Red Raiders are Texas' most intimidating foe remaining on the schedule. A series opening win would've been monumental for the team's confidence, and an improbable sweep would've put Texas back at .500 with three winnable series remaining.
Alas, the fate of Augie's squad was not destined for victory in their first matchup against Tech. After the Tres Barrera and Patrick Mathis lead 5-0 surge, Texas was outscored 13-1 the rest of the game and fell 13-6. The issues Texas had in the first game were the same problems that have been frustrating fans all season: poor defense, and inconsistent pitching. Texas had three errors on the day, which doesn't sound disastrous, but the timing of the mistakes was terrible. Two errors directly resulted in runs being scored, and the Red Raiders also touched home on a passed ball on a Blake Wellmann pitch in the seventh inning.
Texas' seventh inning was particularly catastrophic. The Longhorns went through three pitchers and gave up seven runs on only four hits, but four walks. That brought the score from 6-5 to 13-5 and created an insurmountable hole for young 'Horns squad.
The beginning of Saturday's game was the inverse of Friday's early inning success. Ty Culbreth, who has been an anchor for Texas' pitching, gave up four runs by the end of the fourth inning to Tech. The culmination of an early sac fly, two RBI singles, and a solo home run tied the most runs Culbreth has given up all season. However, Culbreth settled down and pitched a phenomenal final three innings before being replaced by Nolan Kingham in the seventh.
After falling behind 4-1, Texas clawed back in unconventional ways. In the fifth inning, Kody Clemens got on base from a hit by pitch and then scored on a Tres Barrera double. Barrera then stole third off of a wild pitch, and touched home after a Kacy Clemens sac fly.
Down 4-3 in the seventh inning, Texas had exactly who they wanted at the plate with two outs and the bases loaded-- Patrick Mathis. Mathis, the Longhorns home run and batting average leader, delivered, knocking in two runs on a hard hit single. Zane Gurwitz then got in on the action with a one run RBI hit of his own, extending Texas' lead to 6-4.
Texas added another run in the ninth inning in bizarre fashion. Gurwitz again came through in the clutch with a two out double, scoring Tres Barrera. However, Kacy Clemens was thrown out at home on the same play on a controversial call. The umpire seemed to think Clemens did not touch home on his slide, resulting in no call being made until Texas Tech catcher Kholeton Sanchez made a tag after an awkward couple of seconds. Despite this,Nolan Kingham didn't need an eighth run, and closed out the ninth to give Texas the 7-4 win.
The sluggish start and near flawless finish of Saturday's game was the opposite of Friday's early scoring and late collapse. Though neither outing was a complete game, it's always a sigh of relief to see the Longhorns close strong. They certainly did today.
Texas' flashes of potential may be the most aggravating aspect of their season. Augie's team seems to have an affinity for leaving just enough hope to keep you watching and praying for a turnaround. Though the Longhorns didn't end up winning their final 15 games, they should still feel energized if they can take the series against a great Texas Tech squad. To make the postseason on an at large bid, the 'Horns can really only drop one or two of their final thirteen games. For now, let's just enjoy the win today.
Sunday's matchup will take place at 2 PM CT, and can be heard on 104.9 FM the Horn. Open thread for tomorrow's game in the comments.