Through seven games, Longhorns still a long way from a complete team

Shane Lewis

For Texas, the first two weekends of the season have been a tale of two teams.

In their season-opening series against Louisiana-Lafayette, the Longhorns (4–3) rode the strength of their pitching staff and airtight defense. But those same facets let the team down this past weekend in a disappointing three-game series against LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Against Louisiana-Lafayette, Texas gave up only five runs over the course of three games.

Against LSU, Texas gave up five runs in the series opener’s first inning.

Texas head coach David Pierce attributed the inconsistencies to concentration.

“We don’t have the ability and we’re not good enough to drop our guard,” Pierce said. “You can’t have your focus disappear in the middle of the game in one inning. We have to play the entirety of the game. Leadership has to take over there.”

One drop off with the Longhorns was in the starting pitching department. Junior ace Nolan Kingham, who pitched an eight-inning shutout in his first start of the season, was chased after giving up eight hits in three innings during Friday’s game against LSU.

Junior Chase Shugart, who was impressive against Louisiana-Lafayette in his first career start last weekend, struggled late against the Tigers. Shugart gave up five runs and eight hits on Saturday after pitching four shutout innings against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Texas surrendered 24 runs in total against the Tigers this past weekend.

The usually sure-handed gloves of the Longhorns’ infield also faltered. Texas committed five errors during the series, three of which eventually resulted in runs scored for LSU. Texas committed only two errors in its series against Louisiana-Lafayette.

“The mistakes have been a lack of focus and not putting our body in front of the ball at times,” Pierce said. “We made only two errors in the first four games. We’ll learn from it.”

But while pitching and defense took a dip in Baton Rouge, the Longhorns looked to be rounding into form in the batter’s box. After posting its first double-digit-hits game of the season against Lamar last Wednesday, Texas had two such games against LSU.

The Longhorns did a much better job hitting for power. Freshman infielder Zach Zubia had his coming out party, finishing with six RBIs and popping his first two home runs of the season.

The freshman has earned his spot as the designated hitter, but Pierce now expects Zubia to improve defensively in order for him to be featured more regularly in the lineup.

“He’s the starting DH right now. He needs to improve his feet so he can play some first base,” Pierce said. “We need some of that flexibility in order to play him in the field.”

The Longhorns finished with 10 extra base hits in the LSU series, three more than their first four games combined.

Texas will look to combine the best of both weekends — the sharp pitching of the first with the explosive hitting of the second — as the season progresses. The Longhorns get their next opportunity to do so on Tuesday night when they host UTSA.

UTSA comes into the game fresh off a series sweep, dropping three straight to Texas Tech. Tuesday’s game against Texas will be the Roadrunners’ fourth game in the last four days.

The Longhorns take the diamond at UFCU Disch-Falk Field at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday.