There’s a lot for the Longhorn baseball faithful to be excited about after an undefeated start to the season. But given the level of competition the Longhorns have played so far, there are still several questions the team will have to answer.
There’s a lot the team will learn this weekend when they head to Minute Maid Park in Houston to face their biggest tests yet against No. 11 LSU, No. 6 Arkansas and Missouri. One area where the Longhorns look to gain clarity concerns second base.
Over the first nine games of the season, Texas second basemen are 2-for-30 with one home run and are batting a slash line of .067/.125/.167. No one from the position has recorded a hit in the past six games.
After the first five games of the season, the coaching staff supported slumping freshman Brenden Dixon, who at the time was batting .087 in his 23 at-bats as second baseman.
“I just walked out of the office with Brenden,” head coach David Pierce said. “And I basically said, ‘You’re the starting second baseman. Relax and go play because you’re putting some pressure on yourself … You’re trying to make up ground when you’ve only played five Division I baseball games.’”
The next four games following that conversation, Pierce started junior Murphy Stehly twice at second base. Sophomore Lance Ford pinch hit for Dixon on Sunday in his first and only at-bat of the season. Despite being passed on for starting at second base in two of the Boise State games, Dixon still has his teammates’ support.
“It’s early, and everybody goes through slumps,” freshman infielder Trey Faltine said. “(Dixon’s) a good player. We saw that in the fall when he did his thing, so we know he has it in him. He’s just got to do it, and it’ll come out eventually.”
Heading into this important three-game stretch, there is still indecision on who will start at second base.
“It’s pretty much wide open right now,” Pierce said. “I really love Dixon’s mentality and all, but he’s just putting so much pressure on himself right now. He’s a kid that, when he came out of the womb, he was ready to be a Texas baseball player. It’s what he wanted to be growing up.”
Pierce leaving second base open could result in a repeat of what happened at third base with redshirt junior Cam Williams. After sitting on the bench at the start of the season, Williams was given his shot in the series against Boise State.
“Something we noticed about Cam is when we were at Rice, he didn’t play,” Pierce said. “But he didn’t pout, and he just kept working. … When he got his opportunity off the bench against UTSA in a bad environment, in terms of weather and sitting all night, he was ready. Somebody’s gotta bump Cam out of there.”
This weekend in Houston is a prime opportunity for someone to take advantage of the opening at second base just like Williams did last weekend at third. Even the difference between below-average and average production from the second base spot could prove crucial for this Texas lineup against more talented opponents.