Same story, different year

David Leffler

Amid the news that the men’s basketball team was not even invited to the NIT, the NCAA Tournament’s ugly stepsister, Longhorn fans are having a hard time remaining clear-eyed. 

Like its hoops counterparts, the Texas baseball team will travel to the University of Houston to face the Cougars this week. The Longhorns, who play Houston on Tuesday, typically has a powerhouse baseball program that compensates for any sort of shortcoming by the basketball team.

This year’s baseball team, unfortunately, has also given fans little to cheer about. The Longhorns concluded a lackluster beginning to Big 12 play on Sunday with a 4-2 loss to Texas Tech, leaving them at 12-7 on the season and full of question marks. Although they were supposed to overcome last year’s disappointing season, many of the same problems Texas had in 2012 still plagues it this year. This especially applies to the hitting department, which has been the Longhorns’ Achilles heel the past two seasons. 

Fans hoped hitting coach Tommy Nicholson would provide a remedy for Texas’ issues at the plate, but the Longhorns show no such progress. In fact, they have regressed as a team and the offensive void puts more pressure on a young pitching staff — one that has performed very well but cannot carry the team all season. If Nicholson and head coach Augie Garrido do not come up with a solution before conference play is in full swing, they will most likely join their basketball counterparts in missing out on the NCAA Tournament.

166: The Longhorns’ national rank in team batting average as of last week, which is lower than all but two Big 12 teams. Texas is currently hitting .258, a five-point drop from last year’s .263 batting average. Although more than half the season still remains, it is obvious that hiring Nicholson as the new hitting coach has done little to improve Texas’ offense up to this point. 

70: The number of runs Texas has scored this year, averaging out to roughly 3.7 a game. Just as with batting averages, the Longhorns are worse in run scoring than they were last year, when they scored 86 runs through 19 games. Much of this can be attributed to this year’s club’s inability to get extra-base hits, as the entire team only has 33. 

29: The number of stolen bases Texas has this year out of 35 total attempts, good for an 82 percent success rate. The Longhorns clearly have speed and Garrido would be wise to exploit that in order to maximize the team’s scoring opportunities. 

27: The Longhorns’ national rank in team ERA as of last week, highest among all Big 12 teams. Texas pitchers are giving opposing hitters all they can handle, registering a 2.51 team ERA and striking out nearly three hitters to every one they walk. However, it is hard to win games when the offense scores fewer than four runs per game. Consequently, this impressive effort by the Longhorn pitching staff has been overshadowed by the team’s offensive struggles.