Texas returns to UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday night for the home opener as it looks to find its groove at the plate against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (2-2).
Run scoring was a premium last season for the Longhorns, who finished last in the Big 12 with fewer than four runs per game.
“Things didn’t fall our way last year,” said senior outfielder Mark Payton, who led the team in hitting last year. “This is a new season, though.”
So far this year, it’s the same problem. The Longhorns couldn’t muster a run against Cal’s opening day freshman starter over the weekend. Then, in the following game, Texas only pushed one run across, spoiling a gem by junior starter Dillon Peters.
Only Payton, sophomore shortstop C.J. Hinojosa and freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens recorded a batting average above .218 over the weekend. The five-through-nine slot in the batting order is hitting a measly .167 with more strikeouts than hits. But head coach Augie Garrido doesn’t care about the batting average.
“We are taking emphasis off batting average and putting it on run scoring, the true way to win,” Garrido said. “We want guys to keep the rally alive.”
Unfortunately for Garrido, 19 strikeouts and three double-plays aren’t a good way to keep the rally alive — although it’s just an early sample size — but, if the trend continues, run scoring will be a major problem again.
So far, the starting rotation is, once again, the strength of the team.
If finishing No. 7 in ERA last season and returning the weekend rotation didn’t catch college baseball’s attention, Texas’ weekend performance did.
“Those guys all know how to pitch at the college level,” Payton said. “They are good workers and know what it takes to get the job done.”
The weekend trio of senior Nathan Thornhill and juniors Peters and Parker French went 20 innings, surrendering no earned runs.
“I’m really excited to see what we can do as a pitching staff,” Peters said. “There’s not a lack of confidence in our pitching staff.”
But despite a .33 starters ERA, Texas left Cal after splitting the four games, partly because of six errors, accounting for seven unearned runs. Garrido saw this becoming a problem earlier in the year.
“We are far behind in terms of bunt defense,” Garrido said before the season, bringing light to the two errors on bunts.
When the Longhorns take the field tonight against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi at 6 p.m., they will look to hit their stride at the plate and sure up their defense. But the starting pitching gives them a good base.
“[Our starters] give us confidence and something to build upon,” Garrido said.