Longhorns look to continue hot hitting

Michael Shapiro

For much of the season, the Longhorns lineup looked dead. Following a 3-2 loss to Houston on April 12, Texas ranked seventh in the Big 12 in batting average, RBIs and runs. The Longhorns were additionally shut out three times and failed to muster over two runs in six other contests. 

The lack of run support had the Longhorns dejected.

“We’re just in a hole, and we have to get out,” junior first baseman Kacy Clemens said after Texas’ 5-0 loss to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on April 5. “It seems like everything that could go wrong has gone wrong.”

But the despair that surrounded the Longhorns for much of the season has now turned to optimism after an offensive explosion over the past week. Texas has won five of its last six games, averaging a staggering 9.5 runs per game. 

“We’ve been more patient at the plate and maintained our aggressiveness,” head coach Augie Garrido told 104.9 The Horn following Sunday’s 17-1 beatdown of Texas Tech. “We’re not swinging at balls outside the strike-zone, and it’s forcing [the pitcher] into giving us better pitches to hit.”

Key to the offensive improvement has been the top of Texas attack. Sophomore outfielder Travis Jones has settled into his role in the leadoff position, hitting an average .380 in his last six games in addition to scoring seven runs. 

The Longhorns have deviated from the tenants of Augie ball over the last week, instead relying on extra-base hits to fuel their lineup. And while the bunt is still an integral part of Garrido’s strategy, the Longhorns scored 12 of their 17 runs on Sunday via extra base hits, including seven through the long ball. 

The surplus of run support has also aided Texas’ pitching staff. After giving up 13 unanswered runs on Friday night’s 13-6 loss, the Longhorns gave up just five runs in their next two games. Sophomore right hander Kyle Johnston noted the lack of pressure Texas’ staff feels when the lineup gets going.

“We don’t have to put it all on ourselves,” Johnston said. “We can just focus on pounding the zone, throwing strikes and know the offense will be there for us.”

Heading into Tuesday night’s contest with Texas State at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the Longhorns sit at 19–21, 9–6 Big 12. Texas currently sits at fourth place in the conference, trailing the Red Raiders by three games.

With 12 matchups left in the regular season slate — including nine against Big 12 opponents — there is still ample time for the Longhorns to climb the standings. But if they want to dethrone Tech and perennial power TCU, their bats will need to stay hot.