It’s Tuesday, and you know what that means? Midweek baseball returns to UFCU Disch-Falk Field tonight, and with it comes the familiar attraction of seeing a ranked team take on a younger, “searching-for-their-identity” ball club.
Except this time, the ranked team happens to be the visitors.
The Texas Longhorns (12-9, 3-0 Big 12) host the No. 25 Sam Houston State Bearkats (16-4, 6-0 Southland) tonight at 6:30. You can catch this game either at the Disch, or on Longhorn Network.
This will be the 96th meeting between the two schools, with Texas holding the series advantage at 76-19. Also, this will be Head Coach David Pierce’s third meeting with his old team as a member of the Longhorns. Pierce, who coached at SHSU from 2012 to 2014, coached the Longhorns to victories in both games last year.
Texas comes into this game riding a three game winning streak that came off the heels of a five game losing streak. It’s been an incredibly up and down season for the ‘Horns so far, who have dominated their lesser opponents but have struggled against ranked foes.
Nico O’Donnell (1-1, 4.02 ERA) will get the start tonight, and he will hope to rebound after getting shelled in his last start at Arkansas (3.0 IP, 6 H, 4 ER). And while the pitching will look to improve, a few batters from Texas hope to keep their momentum rolling. Kody Clemens and Masen Hibbeler each continued their great starts to the season with a good series against Kansas, earning Big 12 Player of the Week and Big 12 Newcomer of the Week, respectively.
Sam Houston State enters the game riding a win streak triple that of the ‘Horns at nine games. Over their current streak, SHSU’s pitchers have combined to throw 81 IP, with 88 K and a 1.00 ERA. This is also the last game of an eight game road trip for the Bearkats, who just recently swept a four game series at future UT opponent Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
This will be another big non-conference test for the Longhorns. Given the team’s track record against ranked opponents this year, a good showing and a win against a hot team could go a long way for player growth and momentum as Texas creeps into conference play.
Given that Sam Houston’s pitching staff is on fire right now, it’ll be interesting to see how Texas fares on offense. If the ‘Horns can keep pressure on the SHSU pitchers and put balls in play, Texas will have a decent shot at a win.
The real x-factor of this game for Texas, in my opinion, will be figuring out what version of Nico O’Donnell we have tonight. If O’Donnell can pitch like he did against UTSA, and Texas can transition the game to bullpen without getting into too many jams, then the ‘Horns should have the upper edge against SHSU. If the O’Donnell that pitched against Arkansas shows up... well, at least the football team can keep our spirits up.
Hook ‘Em Horns.