Strong Offense Ignites Texas’ Hot Start

David Leffler

It may be snowing in New York, but it feels like spring here in Texas. And as any sports fan around will tell you, spring in Austin means only one thing: Longhorns baseball. Returning from its first season without an NCAA berth since 1998, this Texas program has plenty to prove.  This is evident in the team’s national ranking. After beginning the season ranked No. 24 in the polls, which was drastically lower than the top 10 ranking they typically begin with, the Longhorns are currently unranked. 

To turn things around this year, they will do so led by a number of rising players who have accumulated experience. Like most other Augie Garrido-coached teams before it, the 2013 team is comprised of talented players — in particular, strong pitchers. 

Led by starting pitchers Nathan Thornhill, Parker French and Dillon Peters, Texas’ defense should be capable of handling the majority of the offenses it will face this year. But when the Longhorns opened the season last weekend at UFCU Disch-Falk Field against the Sacramento State Hornets, it was their offense that looked most impressive. 

Following an encouraging start, here is an in-depth look at what this year’s club brings to the table:

35 – Hits for Texas in its three games against Sacramento State, which translates to a whopping 11.67 a game. Although it is yet to be seen if the offense can consistently perform at such a high level, new assistant coach Tommy Nicholson has got to be smiling. Nicholson took over aiming to improve Texas’ offense, which struggled down the stretch under former assistant coach Tommy Harmon. 

15 – Runs scored for the Longhorns last weekend, good for an average of five a game. Last year’s squad, which finished with a 30-22 overall record, averaged slightly less than that. 

7 – Hits junior outfielder Mark Payton had against the Hornets, giving him a .583 batting average to start the season. Payton could do seemingly no wrong, gathering two extra-base hits while knocking in five runs over the three game series. 

5 – Strikeouts for sophomore right-hander Parker French, whose season debut was nothing short of spectacular. The Dripping Springs native threw seven scoreless innings and gave up only three hits in the Longhorns’ 6-5 victory on opening night. 

4 – The total number of extra-base hits for Texas over the weekend, all of which came from Payton and highly touted freshman C.J. Hinojosa.  If they can improve upon this number and get more production out of the rest of the lineup, the Longhorns have a chance to light up the scoreboard against opponents.

2 – Seniors on the team, Landon Steinhagen and catcher Patrick Marsh. Although this year’s team is largely comprised of underclassmen, it boasts a number of experienced juniors, such as Erich Weiss, Cohl WallaJacob Felts, Corey Knebel and Thornhill. These players should provide this team with some much-needed leadership.