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Texas baseball faces Lamar in key mid-week game

The ‘Horns will host a big hitting Lamar team at 6:30 tonight.

Brian Hoang

Coming off of a satisfying 2-1 series win against UConn, Texas Longhorns baseball (5-3) will host the Lamar Cardinals (6-2) Tuesday night at 6:30 CST.

Right-hander Connor Mayes will take the hill for ‘Horns in his second start of the year. Mayes’ 5.40 ERA and 7-1 loss against Rice doesn’t appear appealing on paper, but the junior actually looked strong in his performance against the Owls.

Mayes had only allowed one run and four hits up until the sixth, when he started the inning with two walks. He was pulled from the game and a five run rally ensued.

For the Cardinals, senior Brett Brown (2.08 ERA) will get his first start since 2013. He has four innings of work so far this year, spanning four games. He issued four walks in just 2.1 innings against Milwaukee, so he will look to have better control against the usually patient ‘Horns hitters.

Like last week’s mid-week opponent Sam Houston State, Lamar is a deceivingly strong ball-club that began the season with four straight wins (two against Milwaukee and two against Illinois). Though the Cardinals split their series against Fairfield, Lamar looked convincing at times, such as in their 19-9 victory on Saturday.

Unlike the other teams Texas has played so far, Lamar’s strength is its offensive output. The Cardinals have had more than seven hits in all of its games, while the Longhorns have only had more than seven hits once — in Texas’ Sunday 9-3 win over UConn.

Lamar’s Reid Russell will be a player to watch, as the reigning Southland Conference hitter of the year boasts a .414 average and has a team high two home runs to his name as well. The Cardinals have three other players in the lineup with at least a .300 average.

For Texas to come away with a victory, the walk-prone Mayes will need his command to be at least above average tonight. Lamar will likely get its hits, but Texas can’t afford to amplify the problem by adding free base runners on a ball four.

Tonight’s match-up will be Lamar’s first road game of 2017. The Cardinals have struggled with errors this season, so an interesting development may be Lamar’s ability to stay defensively steady despite being on the road for the first time this season.

With a challenging four game trip to Stanford looming this weekend, Texas needs to notch a victory to add some cushion to its 5-3 record. Lamar will be a hurdle for the ‘Horns — the Cardinals were 35-19 last season and defeated Texas 4-2. The Cardinals even earned a win over No.7 LSU in 2016.

My prediction: Texas wins 5-4. A Texas homer or two and better pitching will be the difference maker despite Lamar having more hits on the night.