Texas Longhorns baseball defeated Sam Houston State 7-2 on Wednesday night in Huntsville. In David Pierce’s first road game as the ‘Horns skipper, Texas faced some trouble early, but got a surge of runs on a pair of long bombs and kept the lead with stable pitching.
The Longhorns are now 3-2 on the year after splitting last weekend’s series with Rice. Next up for the burnt orange is a series date with UCONN this weekend at the Disch.
Here’s some observations from today’s victory.
- Senior Zane Gurwitz was out again with a hamstring injury, but he is day-to-day. Texas would love his consistency at the plate as a potential lead-off man.
- Texas baseball’s first ever trip to Huntsville began was not pretty as the ‘Horns didn’t have a hit until the top of the 5th inning.
- Michael Cantu’s two-run homer to break open the scoring in the 5th inning was awesome. It was only the junior’s second long ball of his career, with his first coming as a freshman. Make no mistake about it, though. Cantu has significant power, he just hasn’t shown it yet at the collegiate level. Perhaps today’s shot will be a momentum booster for him, because it certainly gave life to the rest of the team.
- Travis Jones added to the home run action with a three-run shot to right center, scoring Kacy Clemens and Ryan Reynolds in the 6th. Heading into tonight, Jones’ .143 average and Cantu’s .111 average were the two lowest on the team behind only Andres Sosa (who has only had one at bat). The sample size was of course limited to four games, but both players needed a spark, and they got it.
- I guess it’s worth mentioning all of Texas’ other hits since the team only got four more besides the homers. Tyler Rand had a great night, going 2-2, Brett Boswell earned himself a double, and Patrick Mathis notched a base hit. Mathis had dropped in the order from third to sixth after going 2-13 last weekend.
- Texas had only 34 home runs in its 57 game season in 2016. This year, the ‘Horns already have six dingers in five games. The moved in fences don’t impact road games — Texas is truly hitting the ball harder this season, and it’s fun to watch.
- The ‘Horns finished with only six hits compared the Bearkats’ nine. But Texas only struck out five times compared to Sam Houston State’s 11. The Longhorns have a long way to go at the plate, but they did get it going in the second half of the contest.
- Texas starter Nolan Kingham had command issues in the 3rd, allowing three walks to start the inning before somehow reigning it in and escaping without a run after a put-out at home followed by a double play. His final line was impressive though: 5.0 innings pitched, five hits allowed, no runs, and five strikeouts. All three of his walks came in that dangerous 3rd inning.
- Lefty Jon Malmin was the guy David Pierce turned to first out of the bullpen. He only pitched 12.1 innings all season as a junior last season. However, Texas’ new coach clearly likes what he sees in the senior, as he also came on in relief against Rice last weekend. Malmin had the worst performance of any of the three Texas pitchers tonight going 1.2 innings pitched, and allowing two runs. What really hurt Malmin was the two walks he allowed.
- Beau Ridgeway looked solid again. The sophomore pitched two scoreless innings against Rice last weekend and put in 1.1 innings tonight as a set-up man for Chase Shugart. He allowed two hits, but his role should continue to grow as the season progresses.
- Chase Shugart should reclaim some confidence after giving up three runs in the ninth inning against Rice on Saturday and nearly costing the ‘Horns the game. The sophomore came in to close against the Bearkats, immediately gave up a hit and a walk, but then finished things with two straight strikeouts and a ground out to end the game. Shugart’s success is key for the Texas bullpen, so his finish may be the most positive aspect of tonight’s game.
- The Bearkats left 10 runners on base. Texas pitchers allowed Sam Houston State to reach base, but reeled it in when seriously trouble was brewing. This has been an early theme with the pitching rotation, and is much different than the big inning prone bullpen of last season.
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Well folks, I had predicted a 6-2 Texas win and was off only because of a 9th inning error that scored Joe Baker. It was bittersweet.
Regardless, the ‘Horns have put up at least five runs in all three of their victories, though they continue to do so in idiosyncratic fashion. I think that this season, Texas pitchers are reliable enough that the team should win nearly every game that they put up at least a five spot in.
Coming up soon is a UCONN preview — the series begins Friday at 4 PM CST and will be available on the Longhorn Network or on 104.9 the Horn, where you can listen in free online.