Longhorns search for answers prior to conference play

Michael Shapiro

Head coach Augie Garrido described the state of the Longhorns following Sunday’s 5-3 loss to Tulane. At 8–12 on the season, Texas holds its worst record through 20 games in over a decade, but Garrido insists that the team’s woes aren’t because of a lack of talent.

Instead, a litany of errors — both mental and physical — serves as the root problem.

“We have to get back to taking pride in the ability to play catch,” Garrido said. “Our strength is in our pitching staff. We have to play defense at a high level.”

The Longhorns certainly didn’t follow Garrido’s prescription on Sunday. Texas fumbled its way to three errors, two of them at crucial times. In addition to the errors, the Longhorns simply aren’t playing smart baseball.

Freshman pitcher Chase Shugart displayed a lack of defensive awareness in the eighth inning of Sunday’s contest. The young pitcher fielded a bunt instead of letting the ball trickle foul, allowing a Tulane runner to score from third base.

“It was going to be foul, no doubt,” Garrido said. “Everybody was yelling not to pick it up.”

Aside from two blowout losses at the hands of Stanford and California, the Longhorns have had opportunities to win numerous close games. But the lack of defensive discipline has cost them dearly.

“We’ve given away 11 games,” Garrido said. “We’ve given them too many opportunities, too many outs within the framework of the inning.”

Texas’ bats won’t be able to bail out the defense in 2016. The offense has been mediocre by most measures this year, ranking fifth in the Big 12 in batting average and seventh in slugging percentage. And no Longhorn ranks in the top 10 in home runs or hits.

The Longhorns claim that a punchless lineup won’t be their undoing. Junior center fielder Zane Gurwitz stayed on message when addressing the media after Sunday’s defeat, saying Texas’ struggles are because of the mistakes made by the burnt orange.

“We’re making errors or bad decisions at the perfect time for the other team,” Gurwitz said. “That’s something we can fix. It’s within us. These teams aren’t any more talented or better than us.”

If the litany of errors can be fixed, the Longhorns will have little time to do it. A matchup with UTSA on Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field precedes the beginning of conference play, where Texas will face a Big 12 powerhouse in No. 6 TCU.

Nonconference play has been a rocky road for Texas, and four games under .500 isn’t where Garrido expected his team to be after twenty games. But the Longhorns’ leader still believes his team can get back on track.

“I know they can be [a champion],” Garrido said. “All things are possible. It’s in our hands.”

But first, they need to catch the ball.