Texas right where it needs to be going into conference play


Nursing a two-run lead, the Longhorns called on their lights-out closer to race Oral Roberts' best hitter with one out in the eighth inning.

Tyler Boss, whose RBI triple in the fourth inning accounted for the Eagles' only run up to this point, drove in two more runs with another triple, this one a game-tying laser to right-center field.

Knebel walked the next two batters but managed to not keep the go-ahead run from scoring as Texas went into the bottom of the eighth inning tied with Oral Roberts, 3-3.

Three straight two-out singles by Brooks Marlow, Collin Shaw and Weston Hall put Texas back on top, 4-3. Like the Longhorns after they were swept by Stanford earlier this month, Knebel bounced back beautifully and struck out the side in the ninth to pick up his first win of the year.

"I haven't felt like that in a while. I was really nervous for once," Knebel said. "It was just a different ballgame for me [in the 9th]. I started out of the windup. I started with no runners on. It was just a little different."

Thanks in part to Knebel's efforts, Texas takes a five-game winning streak into its conference opener Friday night against Texas Tech. The Longhorns haven't lost since being swept in Palo Alto and are right where they need to be heading into Big 12 play.

"They really feel good about each other," head coach Augie Garrido said. "The chemistry of the team is really good. The teamwork is harder to get because it depends so much on everybody every time doing everything right. It doesn't mean you're going to be safe or out. It doesn't mean you're going to get a hit. It means you're really battling your ass off all the time."

Mark Payton is hitting .418 and getting on base more often than he's gotten out this year. Erich Weiss and C.J Hinojosa are each batting .333 but, other than those three guys, Texas hasn't been that good at the plate.

The team batting average (.265) is two points higher than it was in 2012, Tommy Harmon's last season as the Longhorns' hitting coach. After scoring 4.8 runs per game last year, Texas is scoring just 4.1 runs per game this year.

But, because of their pitching staff, the Longhorns are better than they were last year. Their 2.61 team ERA is much improved from last year's (3.43) and their three weekend starters -- Parker French, Nathan Thornhill and Dillon Peters -- have posted a combined 2.11 ERA this season.

If those numbers can hold up through Big 12 play, Texas won't just get back to the NCAA Tournament after missing out on postseason play but it will have a decent chance to return to Omaha.