Another lapse in focus leads to close Series loss to Oklahoma

Matt Warden

The pitching is there, but the consistency hasn’t yet shown itself.

Texas needed a win as it entered its big series with Big 12 frontrunner Oklahoma. Despite very solid pitching performances from the Longhorns, the Sooners found a way to escape with two razor-thin victories.

In Game 1, Texas ace Parker French tossed a solid 5 1/3 innings, giving up only two runs, which proved to be the only ones Oklahoma would scratch across home plate. The Texas hitters, however, could only find one run against Jonathan Gray, who struck out eight Longhorns in his 6 2/3 innings of work.

It was the same story for the Longhorns, who had eight hits and nine runners left on base. Mark Payton and Alex Silver, who went 0-3 and 1-4 respectively in the game, each accounted for two of the 12 strikeouts.

Game 2 was won by the Longhorns because of a stellar day on the mound by Dillon Peters, who threw 7 2/3 innings, only allowing two hits and no runs. Big 12 Stopper of the Year Corey Knebel closed out the game with 2 1/3 innings of shutout pitching. The Longhorns only had five hits and one run, but that was enough to secure a win.

Heading into Game 3, the Longhorns needed to score early and prove they could be consistent, and they got that early jump by scoring two runs in the third inning. Texas held a 2-1 lead until the eighth inning when everything collapsed, leading to three runs for the Sooners and another loss in the Big 12 for the Longhorns.

After seven innings of solid work on the mound, the Longhorns gave up another big inning which led to their defeat. At the plate, Texas amassed four hits to eight runners left on base as the three of the team’s leading batters, Payton, Silver and Erich Weiss, went a combined 1-10 in the 4-2 loss.

Texas now sits at 3-6 in the Big 12 entering Tuesday’s game with Texas State, probably wondering how they are going to make it to the College World Series after missing out last year for the first time since 1998.

The Longhorns’ pitching staff has a combined ERA of 2.66, including a 2.51 ERA in Big 12 games. Texas hitters have totaled 251 hits in 30 games, which gives them an average of just over eight per game. With numbers like these, it’s tough to believe they are only 3-6 in the Big 12.

The answer for this problem is simple: Texas can’t find consistency at the plate or on the mound. Texas scores the majority of its runs in the first four frames, but its opponents have scored a combined 31 runs in the seventh and eighth innings alone.

Texas has all the tools to beat any team, and will likely beat Texas State on Tuesday after earning a 5-3 win over them already this season. But Texas cannot continue to fold in the late innings after building a lead with solid pitching.

Texas is currently tied for seventh in the Big 12, and if Weiss, Payton and Silver do not do their part at the plate when the team gets the lead, the Longhorns will be watching the College World Series again from the couch in the dog days of summer.