Last season, the Texas Longhorns faced a crossroads sitting at 17-12 following a series loss in Manhattan to the Kansas State Wildcats salvaged only by a Sunday victory. After that series to end March, head coach David Pierce’s team won eight of its next nine games and 20 of the next 26 to end the regular season, eventually earning a trip to Omaha with a magical postseason run.
This year, the Horns face a similar crossroads after dropping to 23-15 and dropping out of the Top 25 following a series loss to the Wildcats in Austin salvaged only by a Saturday victory. After Sunday’s loss, Pierce promised changes in an effort to spark another run to finish the season.
Kody Clemens isn’t walking out of the locker room and onto the artificial turf at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday evening against the Lamar Cardinals, however.
Without the clutch hitting of Clemens, the table-setting speed and defense of David Hamilton, the offense of DJ Petrinsky, or the experienced arms that keyed last season’s surge, Pierce simply doesn’t have the same level of talent at his disposal.
A healthy Hamilton and a healthy Petrinsky might be enough to make a difference, but they aren’t walking out onto the field this evening, either, following season-ending injuries.
Instead, Pierce will send senior right-hander Matteo Bocchi to the mound for his second start of the season. Now featuring a lowered arm slot and increased movement on his pitches, Bocchi is second on the team with a 2.29 ERA and boasts a 1-0 record this season.
The lineup may feature some changes, too, but Pierce simply doesn’t have many options — there’s not much experience on the bench and little success.
Still, look for freshman left fielder Eric Kennedy to return to the lineup after sitting out the last two games. And fellow freshman Bryce Reagan could get another look in the infield after replacing freshman second baseman Lance Ford during Saturday’s victory, but he was benched originally because of his struggles on defense and inability to consistently hit breaking balls.
With the release of the starting lineup, Reagan rejoins the starting nine at second base for Ford, but senior Tate Shaw remains in left field in place of Kennedy with sophomore Sam Bertelson at first base. Behind the plate, redshirt freshman Turner Gauntt will receive his first start after recently joining the team due to injuries.
Lamar comes to Austin on a three-game winning streak that boosted its record to 13-23. In the all-time series Texas leads 23-7 against a program that currently ranks No. 196 in the Massey Composite ratings.
The Cardinals will send junior right-hander Eric Key (0-0, 14.54) to the mound. Key has only pitched 4.1 innings this season, with his ERA taking the biggest hit from an outing against Tulane that saw him give up five earned runs while getting only two outs. With an injured bullpen, Lamar simply doesn’t have a lot of healthy arms and could quickly get into trouble if Key can’t pick up some outs.
Lamar does hit fairly well, however, with the team batting average sitting at .276 and six players hitting over .300, led by junior infielder Logan Berioff, who went 4-5 on Sunday against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi to raise his batting average to .382. Meanwhile, junior infielder Anthony Quirion leads the team with seven home runs.
First pitch is at 6:30 p.m. Central on Longhorn Network and 104.9 The Horn.