Valiant pitching efforts being wasted by sluggish Longhorns bats

Christian Corona

The Longhorns are pitching too well for them to be 12-8, winless in conference play and on the road.

Texas travels to Minnesota for a three-game series this weekend hoping to score more than the four runs it put up in last weekend’s series against Texas Tech and the three runs in its only other road weekend series of the year, when the Longhorns were swept by Stanford in Palo Alto for the second straight year.

Hoping to raise its dismal .256 team batting average, which is lower than the .263 mark that left longtime Texas assistant Tommy Harmon without a job. Former Longhorns second baseman and current hitting coach Tommy Nicholson, who is more than half Harmon’s age, hasn’t helped Texas make any strides at the plate yet.

With the Longhorns’ pitching staff performing at the College World Series level, their bats have to come alive for them to have a chance at going to Omaha.

Parker French, who will skip this week’s start, threw six shutout innings before leaving last Friday’s game against the Red Raiders with forearm tightness. Ty Marlow’s first pitch was taken deep by Jarrard Poteete in the seventh and French’s efforts were wasted.

In the Longhorns’ only win over Texas Tech last week, Dillon Peters allowed just one run on five hits in 8.3 innings but left with the game tied at 1. Corey Knebel struck out the only two batters he faced and picked up the win after Jacob Felts’ walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth.

Nathan Thornhill surrendered three runs on five hits in six innings, striking out seven without issuing a walk Sunday but took the loss as the two runs Texas scored in the second inning would be the only runs it scored the whole game.

“The series was very disappointing,” head coach Augie Garrido said after Sunday’s loss. “This season will be determined by and our team is going to evolve as a result of the adversity that we face. It is how the teams evolve that matters. … This game is all about who you become from the middle part of the season to the end.”

Texas got three quality starts last weekend and yet not a single starting pitcher picked up a win. The Longhorns held Texas Tech to a .159 batting average in those three games but posted a meager .223 average themselves. That’s a disturbing trend for a team with College World Series aspirations.

When Texas went to Omaha two seasons ago, its 2.35 team ERA was the second best in the nation and the 6.38 hits per nine innings it allowed were the fewest in the country. The Longhorns (2.60 team ERA, 7.43 hits per nine innings) aren’t far behind this year but won’t come close to reaching the College World Series if they can’t turn things around at the plate.