Stafford’s performance key to Horns’ opening round

Trey Scott

Sam Stafford will get the ball for Texas’ first game in the Austin Regional, Friday night against Princeton. The question is, which Stafford will show up?

Good Stafford has control of his pitches, gets ahead in the count, turns bats into jelly and lasts well into a ball game. Bad Stafford can’t find the strike zone, gets behind the count and is given a quick hook. Good Stafford has won five games and has an ERA of 1.70. Bad Stafford has issued 37 walks in 63 innings.

“He’s had trouble being consistent from inning to inning and pitch to pitch,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “But he’s brought most of that under control now.”

The Longhorns (43-15) are putting their postseason money on the hope that Stafford will be at his best against the Tigers. Given the opponent and the circumstance, he should be.

Stafford was the Tuesday starter for the Longhorns for most of the season. In games against Texas A&M Corpus Christi and Houston Baptist, Stafford feasted on small-conference hitters.

The junior southpaw has advanced stuff — as nasty as anyone on the Texas staff not named Jungmann — and is maybe the most gifted athlete on the team. It’s safe to say that Princeton hasn’t faced a heater or a breaking ball like the one Stafford will be throwing at them Friday. All that, plus the fact that a majority of the hitters in the Tigers’ lineup are left-handed, means that Stafford has a great shot at setting a winning tone for the Longhorns’ weekend.