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Texas Longhorns baseball hosts Baylor in key conference series

The ‘Horns will look to establish their identity as a Big 12 contender this weekend against the Bears.

Masen Hibbeler celebrates a home run with Kody Clemens
Texas Sports — @TexasBaseball Twitter

The 2018 Texas Longhorns baseball team is following a highly similar track to the 2017 edition of the group. Just like the 2017 team, the 2018 ‘Horns are 19-12 after 31 games, still in fairly comfortable position despite lacking consistency.

Texas will look to solidify its identity as a quality team this weekend, when the Longhorns (19-12, 6-3 Big 12) will host the Baylor Bears (14-13, 3-6 Big 12) for a conference series at the Disch. The first pitch this weekend will be at 6:30 pm CST on Friday, and you can catch the game on the Longhorn Network.

The question of who can be reliable contributors on the mound is the biggest issue plaguing Texas thus far. The Longhorns have often listed at least one weekend starter as “TBA” this season, as David Pierce does not have three consistent arms to automatically plug into the weekend spots.

The ‘Horns, however, do not have a TBA this weekend, as Pierce will be rolling with Nolan Kingham (4-2, 3.92 ERA) on Friday, Chase Shugart (2-2, 4.92 ERA) on Saturday, and Blair Henley (4-3, 3.19 ERA) on Sunday. These are the three guys who were expected to be solid starters for the ‘Horns at the beginning of the season. All three have shown flashes of excellence, and all three have faltered at points in the year.

The Bears only have one confirmed starter this weekend, which is sophomore righty Hayden Kettler (3-2, 2.92 ERA) on Friday. Kettler’s showdown with Kingham should be a good one, as Kettler has only allowed opponents to hit .233 against him, and has a team second-best 33 strikeouts in his 43 innings pitched.

Baylor as a team has been solid from the mound, as the Bears have a team ERA of 3.51 compared to Texas’ 4.62.

There’s a reason Baylor has lost four of their last five, however, and that’s due to a lack of production at the plate. The Bears have only scored 10 runs in their last five games, and have a team batting average of only .253, and have only hit 20 homers on the season.

Baylor’s lone batter hitting above .300 is Andy Thomas, as the sophomore catcher is hitting .363. The Bears’ power threat at the plate is sophomore first baseman Shea Langeliers, who has bashed seven homers on the season (no other player on the team has more than four).

Texas’ strength of schedule will significantly pick up after this weekend’s match-ups against the Bears, so the ‘Horns are in need of a series victory. Texas will take on Texas A&M on Tuesday, and face No. 20 Oklahoma in Norman next weekend.

For now, the ‘Horns will need to focus on the Bears to remain at the top of the conference standings. Here’s to hoping Texas can find its footing on the mound this weekend and establish its identity as a team deserving to be at the top of the Big 12.

This post is your game thread. Hook ‘Em!