Good early. Great late.
Texas Longhorns head coach David Pierce laid out the goal for his team’s trajectory last week. Over the weekend in Arlington at Globe Life Field, Texas fell short of that initial standard, losing 3-2 to No. 9 Arkansas on Friday, 6-5 to Missouri on Saturday, and 12-2 to No. 10 Vanderbilt on Sunday.
The Longhorns have been in this position before — the 2021 team started 0-3 in the College Baseball Showdown before making a deep run at the College World Series. But that team was coming off a week without practice following the freeze and had much higher upside.
Friday’s game proved that the Longhorns can already compete with a top-10 team and the schedule lightens considerably for the rest of the non-conference schedule with only a single road trip before Big 12 play begins. If Texas can limit bad losses at home and improve steadily, they’ll have a chance to be competitive in the conference.
First, let’s look at the good, bad, and ugly from the weekend.
Replacing Douglas Hodo III in center field, Kennedy is off to a strong start, going 4-for-12 (.333) over the weekend with a home run and a stolen base. The top of the order is in good shape with the fifth-year senior leading off.
Gordon may not have a power arm like former Friday starter Ty Madden, but he pitched well on Friday against Arkansas, keeping the Razorbacks off the board over five innings while allowing only two hits with six strikeouts and a walk. While an inability to pitch to contact and a hard ceiling on Gordon’s pitch count kept him from working deep into the game, the California product provided a strong early indication that he’s up for the challenge as he tries to add a slider to his repertoire.
None of the starters made it past the five inning, leaving plenty of innings for the bullpen over the weekend. Right-handers Andre Duplantier and Heston Tole and left-handers Chase Lummus and David Shaw combined for seven scoreless innings with Shaw striking out four batters and avoiding any walks in two innings.
The overall defense
Replacing defensive standouts like shortstop Trey Faltine, third baseman Skyler Messinger, and catcher Silas Ardoin was never going to be easy, but the Longhorns were outright bad in the field in Arlington, committing eight errors over three games that resulted in nine unearned runs and leaving the Metroplex with a .928 fielding percentage. Not only did O’Hara and Duplantier have the catastrophic inning on Sunday, but Daly looked shaky at times playing shortstop, raising questions about whether second base is a better position for him.
With the starters struggling at the plate outside of Kennedy, Pierce gave a handful of players opportunities on Sunday — Tanner Carlson, Cam Constantine, Rylan Galvan, Ace Whitehead, Max Belyeu, and Cade O’Hara. In 10 combined at bats, they went hitless.
Sunday’s eight-run second inning
In an attempt to get a look at O’Hara and Jayden Duplantier, both freshmen, Pierce sat Mitchell Daly and Jack O’Dowd on Sunday. It backfired spectacularly in the second inning when O’Hara and Duplantier both committed two errors, setting starter Travis Stehle up for failure in what became an eight-run inning for the Commodores, who were able to put the game away early. Stehle also paid for a slider up and out over the plate without any bite that resulted in a grand slam.
Other than Peyton Powell’s .400 batting average in only four at bats, Kennedy is the only Texas player hitting over .200 as the team batted .141 with 35 strikeouts. There wasn’t a lot of power, either, with only five extra-base hits over the three games, good for a .239 slugging percentage. Four players exited the weekend with five strikeouts — right fielder Dylan Campbell, first baseman Jared Thomas, left fielder Porter Brown, and third baseman Jalin Flores, who is still looking for his first collegiate base hit. The two freshmen, Thomas and Flores, were a combined 1-for-16 with 10 strikeouts.