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Texas tries to maintain home winning streak as New Orleans comes to town

The Longhorns are generating some momentum and want to keep it against a Privateers team that has played a weak schedule.

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Syndication: Austin American-Statesman Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK

Halfway through, all possible wins stacked — the Texas Longhorns have notched victories in all seven home games during the current 14-game stand with the New Orleans Privateers up next in the final weekend series Big 12 play begins against the Texas Tech Red Raiders next weekend.

It comes as Texas starts to find its groove at the plate with the team batting average rising to .271 thanks to six regulars now hitting .284 or better, led by versatile breakout player Peyton Powell, who leads the team with a .400 batting average over 11 starts and is stabilizing the top of the order behind center fielder Eric Kennedy. The fifth-year Florida product is now tied for the team lead in home runs with four after hitting two on Wednesday and is batting .333. Both players have an OPS over 1.000.

With Powell moving into the regular starting lineup, freshman third baseman Jalin Flores now has the space to develop more slowly — in practice and in favorable matchups after hitting only .114 in 35 at bats.

On the mound, right-hander Max Grubbs and right-hander Cody Howard have emerged in recent days, combining for five appearances and 8.1 scoreless innings with nine strikeouts and only five hits allowed. Left-hander David Shaw and right-hander Heston Tole have remained steady while pitching coach Woody Williams hopes that left-hander Chris Stuart bounces back from some recent struggles.

In the starting rotation, left-hander Lucas Gordon is looking for his second win of the season after holding Manhattan scoreless in six innings last Friday. On Saturday, right-hander Travis Sthele will receive the starts as head coach David Pierce leaves the Sunday spot open, perhaps with an eye on moving right-hander Lebarron Johnson Jr. into the weekend rotation. The Saturday starter so far this season, right-hander Zane Morehouse, picked up his first save with the Longhorns on Wednesday in the win over the Bison during his bullpen day. Johnson was limited to 2.2 innings the day before in his typical weekday start.

New Orleans enters what is forecast to be an overcast and chilly weekend with an 11-6 record, including a 12-0 loss to No. 18 Southern Miss and Tuesday’s 16-0 loss to No. 1 LSU. So an otherwise soft schedule has inflated the team’s .310 batting average, but even against weak competition, the 25 home runs by the Privateers are something the Longhorns pitching staff should take seriously — five players have three or more through 17 games.

Outfielder Tristan Moore is batting .442 with four home runs, while infielder Tyler Bischke is at .397 with three home runs.The less productive players near the bottom of the lineup do have a propensity to strike out, putting a premium on the Texas pitching staff keeping those players off the bases.

An odd trend continues this season with New Orleans starting lefties on Friday and Saturday, both have held opponents under .200 this season. As a staff, the Privateers have a 5.98 ERA with opponents batting .266. They can pitch to contact with confidence since New Orleans is fielding .983 with only 10 errors.

First pitch on Friday is at 6:30 p.m. Central followed 2:30 p.m. Central on Saturday and 1 p.m. Central on Sunday. Longhorn Network will carry all three games.


FRIDAY–Texas LHP Lucas Gordon (1-0, 1.77) vs. New Orleans LHP Tyler LeBlanc (2-1, 3.68)

SATURDAY–Texas RHP Travis Sthele (1-2, 5.40) vs. New Orleans LHP Brandon Mitchell (3-1, 3.15)

SUNDAY–Texas TBA vs. New Orleans RHP Collin Horton (2-1, 5.75)