Reaching the College World Series is not the goal for Texas. It’s an expectation.
The Longhorns have made 35 appearances in the program’s storied history, 12 more than the University of Miami, which ranks second. Since 2000, eight Texas squads have finished their seasons in Omaha, which alone would tie the University of Florida for the 17th most in the country.
After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2012 and 2013, the 2014 Longhorns nearly played for the national title as part of a surprising run to Omaha. Texas’ season ended in the 10th inning of an elimination game against the eventual champions, Vanderbilt, on a walk-off infield single with two outs.
The nature of the loss, combined with the returning talent and incoming freshmen, made many believe that the year’s team had the ability and grit to play for the championship that eluded its 2014 counterparts.
The Longhorns returned seven of its nine players in its starting lineup and added some touted freshmen, such as first baseman and catcher Michael Cantu.
With so much returning experience, the Longhorns were expected to produce a fairly potent offense. Instead, through 28 games, the Longhorns have scored 233 runs, which equates to 5.07 per game, just over one-half a run better than the 4.46 it averaged in 2014.
In last weekend’s disastrous series in Lincoln against the Nebraska Cornhuskers, the Longhorns mustered only 12 hits in 105 at-bats, while scoring three runs in 33 innings. In three games, Texas’ team batting average dropped nearly 20 points, from .270 entering the weekend to .252.
However, the bats have given fans some reasons to be optimistic, such as the team’s slugging percentage, which sits at .395, up from the .353 it hit a year ago. This is a result of the 2.96 bases hits the team is averaging per game, after only averaging 2.03 such hits last season.
In contrast, Texas’ pitching staff has suffered significant losses to the MLB Draft and graduation, with senior right-handed pitcher Parker French as its only returning weekend starter. After two months of the season, the starting rotation seems set, as junior right-handed pitcher Chad Hollingsworth and sophomore right-handed pitcher Kacy Clemens are settling in as the other weekend starters.
The staff’s ERA is currently 2.67, down from 2.25 it posted a season ago, but it’s been performing better as of late. However, Texas has been unable to get its hitting and pitching clicking concurrently.
As a result, the Longhorns have already lost 11 times in 28 games. Texas didn’t suffer its 11th loss until its 41st contest a season ago. This year’s team has battled adversity from the start of the season, while the 2014 team’s struggles came in the form of dropping seven of nine during a crucial stretch in conference play from mid-April to early May.
Texas just needs to win enough to secure a tournament bid, as it’s converted three of its four trips into College World Series appearances since 2009. This team has enough talent to reach the College World Series for the 36th time in program history, and it very well might start with a strong showing in this weekend’s series at Oklahoma State.