Longhorns begin conference play with victory over TCU

Michael Shapiro

Chase Shugart had been struggling. After blowing two leads in his past six trips to the mound, Shugart was placed in another high-pressure situation against No. 6 TCU on Thursday. The Horned Frogs placed runners on first and third in the sixth inning, threatening to take the lead.

But this time, Shugart came through. The freshman pitcher induced a first-pitch double play, maintaining the Longhorns’ lead. Texas would eventually win the series opener 4-3.

Letting out a scream as he descended from the mound, Shugart looked to regain his confidence. He pointed to the Longhorns’ dugout while strutting off the field, chest-bumping teammates
before exiting.

“I wasn’t myself for the past couple weeks and it got to me,” Shugart said. “Coming into the dugout was insane. I never felt like that in a dugout before.” 

Trailing 3-2 in the fifth, Texas took a lead it would never relinquish. Sophomore Patrick Mathis smacked a homer over the right field wall, scoring freshman Kody Clemens. The timely hitting was a welcome sight for Texas, who had shown little resiliency in non-conference play.

“The team itself has had a very positive attitude,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “They believe in who they are and what they can do. They haven’t lost their confidence.”

Starting pitcher Morgan Cooper rolled through the first three innings. Facing the preeminent offense in the Big 12, Cooper didn’t bat an eye, retiring nine consecutive batters. The right hander received some breathing room from the Longhorns’ offense, as pair of opportunistic singles gave Texas a 2-0 lead.

But the wheels fell off in the fourth. A leadoff walk followed by a single set the stage for TCU catcher Evan Skoug, who launched a fastball over the right field fence. 

Cooper exited the game after just four and two thirds innings, leaving the Longhorns bullpen to finish the contest. Five Texas pitchers appeared out of the bullpen in Thursday’s contest, allowing zero runs and just three hits. Against one of the nation’s best offenses, the Longhorns bullpen came through.

“I got in a little trouble in the fourth and the team picked me up big time,” Cooper said. “Every guy in the pen came in with confidence. It was a team win and there was no better example than tonight.”

After struggling throughout the non-conference slate, the Longhorns now believe they are back on track. Texas is far from the top of the Big 12, but a victory over TCU could be a good start.

“It’s either fight or flight now,” Shugart said. “And we don’t have wings.”