Augie ball still answer for struggling Longhorns

Michael Shapiro

Augie Garrido radiated confidence as he stepped onto the turf at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Feb. 17. In his first media address of the season, Texas’ head coach compared his team to the World Series champion Kansas City Royals, noting the litany of hitters who could produce for Texas in 2016. 

“We’re doing a much better job of producing runs,” Garrido said prior to opening day. “We have a lot of guys who have worked hard and are excited for the season.” 

It seemed to be a match made in heaven: a Texas team heavy on contact and low on strikeouts paired with Garrido’s bunting bonanza. 

But Garrido hasn’t proved to be a prophet thus far. Texas’ bats have struggled to awaken 13 games into the young season with the Longhorns slumping to a lackluster 6–7 record. Texas has averaged just over two runs per game in losses this season and have been shutout twice. 

“It does get a little frustrating — it’s a frustrating game,” junior first baseman Kacy Clemens said. “When you’re hitting, it’s one versus nine. Sometimes it doesn’t go your way.”

Some have blamed the Longhorns’ lack of run production on Garrido, instead of those in the lineup. The legendary manager’s reliance on the bunt has been derided as outdated and old-fashioned, and while the critics may be right, they’re missing the point. With the roster as currently constructed, Texas must manufacture runs if it wants to win.

The Longhorns lineup has multiple quality hitters, but none who strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers. While Clemens and sophomore outfielder Patrick Mathis have made strides in the offseason, they are far from mashers. And the top returning hitters from last year — junior catcher Tres Barerra and junior
outfielder Zane Gurwitz — have failed to produce at a consistent rate. Both have failed to eclipse a .280 batting average at the plate this year, and neither player has mustered a home run.

In addition to the lineup woes, Texas’ home turf doesn’t lend itself to high-scoring affairs. UFCU Disch-Field is a pitcher’s paradise, with notoriously large dimensions. At 400 feet to center field and 375 feet in the left and right center gaps, the stadium will never oversee a home run derby.

“Our ballpark certainly doesn’t help with scoring runs,” Garrido said. “But we have to make contact and try to put together good at-bats. It’s about our mindset at the plate.”

Texas has struggled to get its bats on track 13 games into the season. It hasn’t been the prettiest start for the Longhorns, but the season is far from over. To deviate from Garrido’s system now would be nothing short of foolish. Augie ball may not be perfect, but it fits the Disch.