On a balmy Tuesday night, Texas Baseball’s non-conference schedule mercifully drew to a close.
The Longhorns’ 3–2 loss to Texas State was a fitting conclusion to a non-conference slate that began with an extra-inning loss to UNLV, saw a string tough road losses in California and a devastating home shutout at the hands of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.
For the umpteenth time in 2016, strikeouts, stranded runners and errors let victory slip through the Longhorn’s fingers.
“It’s been way too consistent and we had hope for a solution because we have always had strong pitching and good defense,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “We have the lowest fielding percentage and the weakest defensive statistics that we’ve had in many years so it’s a major problem.”
The woes began with the first batter of the game.
Pitcher Connor Mayes, who was looking to put a nice cap on what has been an up and down season for the sophomore, saw his third pitch of the game fly off the bat of Jonathan Ortega and over the left field bullpen.
The Texas offense stampeded back in the second with three walks and a two run double from freshman outfielder Tyler Rand, but the offense fell stagnant after that.
The Longhorn leadoff hitters in the next five innings all struck out, setting the table for a string of goose eggs on the scoreboard that would last until the final three hitters struck out to end the ninth.
“When you don’t get that leadoff hitter on it becomes very expensive and it limits the run scoring,” Garrido said. “The strikeout was there a lot not only in the leadoff but at a time when we were behind by one run.”
Despite all the strikeouts, the Texas pitching staff by-committee turned in a string of solid innings to maintain a 2-1 Longhorn advantage at the start of the seventh.
Then the defense, which has been shaky all season, fumbled away the victory.
With one out in the seventh, Bobcat right fielder Theodore Hoffman hit what appeared to be an innocuous single. But after a pickoff attempt skidded away from junior first baseman Kacy Clemens and a pitch from freshman Nolan Kingham flew past the catcher, Hoffman easily scored a single up the middle.
One inning later, sophomore outfielder Patrick Mathis bobbled the ball, giving the Bobcats a 3-2 advantage. Then, following the trio of strikeouts in the bottom of the ninth, Texas’s non-conference schedule came to a close.
“What they can learn right now is how tough it is when you are losing and continue to lose,” Garrido said. “They’re fighting with those demons right now.”
The Longhorns will return to action on Thursday at 6 p.m. to start a three game home series against Big 12 rival Baylor Bears to close out the regular season.