• Payton, French pair up to pace the Longhorns

    Entering 2013, there were plenty of reasons for the Longhorn baseball team to wipe the slate clean and start over after last year’s disappointing season. Two Texas players have instead used last year as a launching pad to early success this year. Junior right fielder Mark Payton and sophomore pitcher Parker French,  have picked up right where they left off after they excelled in last year’s Big 12 conference play down the stretch. Leading the team in hitting and pitching, respectively, Payton and French have steered Texas to a much-needed 6-1 record. Although the team has yet to play an opponent that nears its level of talent, it was imperative that the Longhorns execute a strong start after 2012’s disappointing end. Fortunately for Texas fans and thanks in large part to Payton and French, that is exactly what they have done. With a three-game series this weekend against No. 11 Stanford, a team that swept the Longhorns in convincing fashion last year, Texas will need this budding duo to show up big at the plate and on the mound. And if the statistics from this season are any indicator, they will.

    14: The number of games it took last year’s team to reach six wins, a season in which the Longhorns failed to win the Big 12 for only the second time in seven years. Behind Payton and French, Texas is currently 6-1 and in the midst of a five-game winning streak. However, this week’s series at Stanford will be a huge test, as the Longhorns have yet to face a ranked opponent. 

    10: The number of RBIs Payton has this year through seven games, giving him by far the most on the team.  Although he is unlikely to maintain this torrid pace, he should bypass his numbers from last season easily, when he had 29 RBIs in 52 total games, including 16 in 24 conference games. At this point, no other Longhorn has knocked in more than three runs this year. 

    8: The number of games played last year by the Longhorns before French recorded his first win, a 2-0 victory against Houston Baptist. Through seven games this year, French has already won twice at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.  After a strong Big 12 season, in which he went 4-1 in conference play, French was named this year’s opening-day starter and has not looked back. 

    1.35: French’s ERA after his second victory of the season, an 8-2 win over Nebraska on Friday night. Through 13 1/3 pitched this year, French has surrendered only two runs, improving from his performance against Big 12 opponents as a freshman, when he posted a 2.54 ERA in eight appearances.

    .500: Payton’s batting average through seven games, thanks to another impressive weekend series that has him at 12 hits in 24 at-bats. This offensive outburst appears to be an encore for last year’s Big 12 conference play, when he hit .343 in 24 games. 

  • Handing out Oscars for the best performances in Texas sports this past year

    Best Actor - Alex Okafor

    Third baseman Erich Weiss and golfer Dylan Frittelli were considered for this, but Okafor’s Alamo Bowl performance put him over the top. In 2012 the Pflugerville product made 68 tackles, a whopping 18 of them for a loss, including 12.5 sacks and 20 quarterback hurries, both team-highs by far. The 4.5-sack effort he turned in during Texas’s triumph over Oregon State last December was a fitting end to his career and may have earned him a spot in the first round of April’s NFL Draft.

    Best Actress - Blaire Luna

    Luna, a local product from Austin's Bowie High School, went 22-6 with a 2.31 ERA last year, when she nearly led Texas to its first Women’s College World Series berth since Cat Osterman was on the 40 Acres. She’s off to a scorching start this season, going 7-0 with a 0.50 ERA in her first seven outings as the Longhorns (16-1) are off to their best 17-game start in school history. She almost tied her career-high by striking out 16 Tulsa hitters in Sunday’s win without issuing a single walk. Luna and the Longhorns could very well be Oklahoma City-bound in a few months.

    Best Actor in Supporting Role - Hoby Milner 

    Milner started out last season in the Longhorns’ starting rotation but, by the end of the year, he was the team’s set-up man. What seemed like a demotion proved to be mutually beneficial for both Milner and his squad. Texas had a reliable option behind closer Corey Knebel and Milner, who admitted to being more comfortable coming out of the bullpen, ended up being drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the seventh round of last year’s MLB Draft. 

    Best Actress in Supporting Role - Hannah Allison

    Allison was an essential piece to the Longhorns’ championship puzzle last season. She averaged more than 10 assists per set this past year and had 254 assists in six NCAA Tournament games, including a mind-boggling 53 in the Final Four five-set triumph against Michigan. As great as Bailey Webster, Haley Eckerman and Khat Bell were, Texas would not have won a national title without Allison.

    Best Picture - Men’s golf team winning a national title

    Texas captured two national championships over the last 12 months, one in volleyball and one in men’s golf. But the Longhorn volleyball team swept Oregon in its national title game, leaving little doubt who the best squad in the country was. The Texas men’s golf squad, on the other hand, provided much more drama on its way to winning a championship. Senior Dylan Frittelli sank a 30-foot, title-clinching birdie putt on the final hole of the Longhorns’s national championship clash with Alabama, sending his teammates in a frenzy and giving Texas its third national title in men’s golf.

    Best Director - Jerritt Elliott

    After several uncharacteristic losses in non-conference play, Elliott, the head volleyball coach, talked about how he has been toying with his lineup, still unsure of what group of players will work. Texas began the year by losing three of its first nine matches but reeled off 17 straight wins, including a school-record 15 in a row to begin Big-12 play, before falling to Iowa State in five sets in its regular season finale – a loss some players said would actually serve the Longhorns well in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Sure enough, they blazed their way through the tournament, losing just one set in their first four NCAA Tournament matches, all of which were in Austin, before battling back in a five-set win over Michigan and a sweep of Oregon in the title match. Eddie Reese, John Fields and Augie Garrido are really good at what they do, but Elliott may very well be the best coach on campus.

  • Swansea City celebrates 100 years with first major title

    It took 100 years of waiting but Swansea City finally has reason to celebrate. Celebrating its 100-year anniversary, Swansea City raced past Bradford City en route to a record 5-0 win to claim its first major cup in the inaugural Capital One Cup final. Nathan Dyer and Jonathan de Guzman each scored two goals on a historic night for Swansea, who had the game safely tucked away by halftime.

    "The first trophy is always special and next year in Europe will be a nice experience," Swansea manager Michael Laudrup told reporters after the win. 

    No doubt the former Denmark great will have reason to smile in the upcoming days as he helped bring a team that 10 years ago was on the edge of extinction to its first major cup. Bradford's fans stayed loyal throughout the game making their voices heard when their team would advance into Swansea territory and cheering on their team as they made their exit from the arena in a class act.

    Manchester City to battle back?

    Barclays Premier League:

    Yaya Toure will not say die. The Manchester City midfielder believes that the reigning league cup champions can defend their title despite trailing neighboring Manchester United by 12 points with only 11 games left in the season. Despite this gloomy outlook for City, Toure believes that his team can fight through it and anything can happen. If this is true then it wouldn't be the first last-season drama between the two rivals, as last year's title was decided in a heartbreaking fashion for Manchester United. Manchester City scored two goals in stoppage time against Queens Park Rangers to save a memorable season and stun a stadium full of Manchester United fans watching the City game expecting to win another Premier League title. Of course, before we can start hoping to watch another memorable day of soccer like that day, City needs to pull itself out of the 12-point hole it resides in.

    Premier League Top Five

    1. Manchester United - 68 pts

    2. Manchester City - 56 pts

    3. Chelsea - 49 pts

    4. Tottenham Hotspur - 48 pts

    5. Arsenal - 47 pts

    Reports of a divide in Real Madrid dressing room

    La Liga:

    In La Liga play it seems that Barcelona will once again runaway with the league title; Barcelona sits comfortably 12 points ahead of Atletico and 16 points ahead of rival Real Madrid. Despite the return of one of the most gifted players we have ever seen, Kaka, Real Madrid has had a disappointing season by its standards. It has been reported that there could be a divide in the Real Madrid dressing room between the Portuguese clan including Cristiano Ronaldo, Coach Jose Mourinho and players represented by agent Jorge Mendes and Spain international stars Sergio Ramos and Xabi Alonso. Such claims have been denied repeatedly by Ronaldo and Alonso, but the idea of such a divide is a distraction for a team that needs to play perfect if it wants any chance at catching up to rival Barcelona.

    La Liga Top Five

    1. Barcelona - 68 pts

    2. Atletico -  56 pts

    3. Real Madrid - 52 pts

    4. Malaga - 42 pts

    5. Valencia - 41 pts