Struggling Longhorns look to avenge loss earlier this season while hosting Houston

Peter Sblendorio

After another disheartening loss in a Big 12 series rubber game Sunday, the Longhorns are hopeful to get back on track Tuesday night when they welcome the Houston Cougars to Austin for a non-conference matchup.

The Longhorns dropped their first game against Houston this season, 4-3, last month in what was their only Tuesday road game of 2013. Texas will look to even the season series against the Cougars at home, where it is 17-8 and has won three consecutive non-conference games.

Texas has been the beneficiary of strong pitching at home all season long, as it had only allowed more than five runs in a game once at UFCU Disch-Falk Field before West Virginia scored six runs in a 10-inning loss Sunday. Non-conference road teams have averaged just 2.7 runs against the Longhorns in seven Tuesday games.

Houston is in the midst of a strong season, as the Cougars are 27-13. In addition, they have performed well away from home, going 7-5 in road games.

The Cougars’ biggest weapon on offense has been Frankie Ratcliff, who leads the team with 35 RBIs, nine doubles and six triples. The Longhorns will also have to account for Caleb Barker, who has hit three home runs with 32 RBIs, and Justin Montemayer, who has started every game this season and leads the team with a .314 batting average.

With their loss to West Virginia on Sunday, the Longhorns are now 5-10 against Big 12 opponents this season. Texas has yet to win a conference series in 2013 and is tied for last place in the Big 12 with Texas Tech.

Junior outfielder Mark Payton said Sunday’s loss in extra innings was perhaps the toughest one to cope with thus far, and he believes his team needs to turn things around soon.

“It is probably the worst one because we had our chances to win the game in the eighth and the ninth, but we didn’t get the big hit,” Payton said. “It is baseball and we try to limit them these days. We have had too many of them and it has got to get turned around pretty quick.”

Although a win Tuesday over Houston would not help the Longhorns climb up the Big 12 standings, a victory could provide a needed boost in confidence heading into their final two conference series.

The Longhorns could get a lift from Erich Weiss, who may be back in the starting lineup after not starting the final two games of the West Virginia series. The junior third baseman, who took a pitch off his nose Friday night, pinch-hit in the fifth inning on Sunday and stayed in for the rest of the game.