Texas baseball to battle Rice after series sweep of Baylor


Jarrid Denman

Senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill winds up during a game against Kansas on March 16. Thornhill leads Texas' pitching rotation, which has been solid all season, with a 0.73 ERA and a 5-0 record. 

Matt Warden

The No. 8 Longhorns had been on a tear at the plate heading into last weekend’s series with Baylor, and, when the weekend was over, Texas had shown it has the will to match its skills.

Texas (26-7, 6-3 Big 12) will battle Rice for the second time in a week after sweeping Baylor at home this weekend. While the offense stayed hot, scoring 15 runs combined in the three games, the team proved it can always find a way to win, no matter what the situation.

“I think, over the weekend, what we demonstrated was three different ways to win a ball game,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “That’s what it’s going to take. It takes versatility. You can’t just have one dimension to your offense that will win a game. I think we have more balance in our lineup now, for sure. Any part of that lineup can score runs in any one of the innings, and we proved that over the weekend and over the week.”

Texas won a come-from-behind thriller Friday night when senior center fielder Mark Payton, who was hitless until his at-bat in the bottom of the ninth, smacked a three-run double to clear the bases and gave the Longhorns a walk-off win in game one. Although Payton will get the credit for that win, the Texas lineup as a whole showed that, when the chips are down, they can still score runs.

“One through nine [in the order] is not an easy out,” Payton said. “That is always good to have. Even the guys on the bench are tough outs. Like I said, we believe we can do it with nobody out, or we can do it with nobody on and two outs, so we are just going to keep having quality at bats.”

While the Longhorns’ offense continued to progress this weekend, senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill staked his claim as perhaps the most dominant pitcher on a solid pitching rotation after his eight-inning, two-hit stint in Sunday’s 4-0 victory. Thornhill is now 5-0 on the season with a 0.73 ERA that buoys the Longhorns combined 1.98 ERA on the year.

“Nathan was excellent today,” Garrido said after Sunday’s win. “But that’s within the framework of what he’s capable of doing when he focuses on hitting the mitt and not feeling responsible for winning the game.”

Texas knocked off Rice (22-12) on the road 5-2 last Tuesday behind 10 hits and two big RBIs by freshman Tres Barrera, who is now second on the team with a .295 batting average.

Now, Texas will face the Owls at home, where it holds a 17-4 record this year.