After losing all three of its starting pitchers from a year ago, Texas’ rotation has fluctuated over the course of the season.
But for the first time all year, the Longhorns will have a new Friday starting pitcher. Since the beginning of the season, sophomore Nathan Thornhill (4-4, 3.67 ERA) has started every Friday game for Texas, but freshman Parker French (5-2, 2.89 ERA) will take the mound to begin the No. 25 Longhorns’ series against Missouri (23-21, 7-11) today in Columbia, Mo.
“I’m going to trust the coaches. They know what they’re doing,” Thornhill said. “They’ve been doing this a long time. It’ll give me an opportunity to relax. Parker’s been throwing really well.”
Thornhill will start against the Tigers Saturday while Sunday’s starter has yet to be decided, although Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson indicated that sophomore closer Corey Knebel (3-2, 1.32 ERA8) could make his first career start in the series finale against Missouri this weekend.
Both Thornhill and French had trouble in their last outings last weekend against No. 9 Texas A&M. Thornhill gave up six runs last Friday, only two of them earned as the Longhorns committed three errors behind the Cedar Park native. Texas did not score until the ninth inning, when they nearly rallied to win the game but fell, 6-5.
Texas is 5-6 in 11 Friday games this year — all games Thornhill started — and has lost each of its last three Friday contests. In five of those 11 games, the Longhorns have scored two or fewer runs, not a surprising mark considering the caliber of starting pitching that they have faced on Fridays. Duke’s Marcus Stroman, Stanford’s Mark Appel, Oklahoma State’s Andrew Heaney and Texas A&M’s Michael Wacha could all be picked in the first round of this year’s MLB Draft, with Appel being a potential No. 1 overall selection.
“It’s definitely a motivation,” Thornhill said. “It just keeps you on your toes, maybe wakes me up a little bit. I can’t get outside myself, though. I want to continue to throw strikes like I do and just try to shut them down.”
Texas returned from the hostile environment that was College Station for a home game Saturday against the Aggies at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, where French previously thrived this year. The Dripping Springs product entered this past weekend with a 32.1 consecutive scoreless innings streak at home before surrendering five runs to Texas A&M in a 12-4 last Saturday. Again, French didn’t get any favors from a defense that committed five errors, two of them by French on the same play.