Texas baseball gears up for toughest challenge in Fort Worth

Nick Castillo

Texas hit rock bottom Saturday night when Kansas outfielder Connor McKay hit a walk-off home run.

After losing their 19th game of the season, the full weight of all the losses finally set in.

“As baseball players and competitors, when you get the win on Friday night, we’re feeling good — but, to hit that walk-off home run, it changed all of us,” sophomore center fielder Zane Gurwitz said. “You can only take so much to where you have to fight back and get back to just being out there and being aggressive.”

Maybe the Longhorns just got tired of losing. Maybe it was watching a walk-off home run by Kansas sail over the left field wall. One way or another, Texas has snapped out of its funk. In its past two games, the team has scored 23 runs off 31 hits.

“It was just a last straw sort of thing,” junior left fielder Ben Johnson said. “We were fed up with all the losses we’ve taken. To lose on a walk-off home run like that was pretty tough. We came out Sunday being really aggressive, and it carried over to Tuesday, and, hopefully, it’ll carry over this weekend.”

The Longhorn offense is surging at the perfect moment as they prepare to face their toughest challenge this weekend. Texas (22–19, 8–7 Big 12) will travel to Fort Worth to take on No. 7 TCU (31–8, 7–5).

The Horned Frogs have one of the best pitching staffs in the nation. TCU leads the nation at a 2.15 ERA, has only allowed 6.97 hits per nine innings and averages nine strikeouts per nine innings.

Although TCU presents a difficult challenge, the Longhorns will look to continue attack the ball and fight to score runs.

“We’re not necessarily looking at it as they’re going to have better pitching … [we’ll] just play against the baseball,” Ben said. “Just play the game and just find a way to manufacture runs. That’s what we’re going to keep on doing.”

While the Horned Frogs have a solid pitching staff, Texas’ starting pitchers have been bitten by the injury bug. Sophomore pitcher Kacy Clemens has been ruled out for this weekend’s series because of shoulder soreness. Junior pitcher Chad Hollingsworth might return to the mound Sunday afternoon.

Despite the Longhorns’ pitching issues, associate head coach Skip Johnson said the pitching staff will grind its way through the weekend.

“No game is bigger than any other game,” Skip said. “Every game is important. … TCU’s got a good club. We’ve dealt with a lot of adversity all year long, and we’ll probably have to deal with some this weekend.”

After all the losses Texas has suffered this season, a series win against the Horned Frogs this weekend is important. The Longhorns are fifth in the Big 12 standings but are within two games of leading the conference. With so much on the line, the team is fully aware of what lies ahead of them in Fort Worth.

“It’s going to be a huge challenge,” Ben said. “Going to a place like Fort Worth, it’s kind of an environment like [Texas] — a pretty big stadium and a very passionate fan base. But if we want to get back to Omaha, then we’re going to have to find ways to win series like this.”