Kirk Bohls

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Bohls: Texas baseball team hitting spotty … for now

Posted February 28th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Light-hitting Horns managed just .233 batting average in series
  • High strikeout rate negates Augie's beloved small-ball approach

Texas ended the Stanford series like it started it.

With a loss.

Win some, lose some. In this case, it was win two, lose two in a split of this non-conference baseball series that showed some undeniable truths.

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Both clubs are loaded with pitching, and both could be hitting-challenged.

Stop me if you’ve heard this before. Lord knows Augie Garrido has. So have burnt orange fans, who long for the days when Keith Moreland, now the play-by-play man on Longhorn broadcasts, was spraying the ball all over Disch-Falk Field.

There are caveats. Two of Texas’ top hitters are injured. Stanford has terrific pitching. Garrido is playing up to five new starters who are getting their feet on the ground. It’s early in the season. Those are factors, not excuses.

“This is a lesson in the power of momentum,” Garrido said. “You look at the reverse of last night. The other team becomes us, and we became them.”

The question is will Texas (4-3) become a solid hitting team that backs up outstanding pitching and defense? It looked like one Saturday, clubbing Stanford 9-0 behind 13 hits. However, the home team hit just .233 in this series. The Cardinal? They were worse at .187.

Quite frankly, Texas’ offense stunk on Sunday. It didn’t look a whole lot better on Thursday when Stanford took the opener 1-0 in 12 innings. The Longhorns struck out 18 times in that extra-inning contest. They reduced that total mightily on a sunny Sunday afternoon when they fanned only six times, so that’s progress.

“We want ’em to swing the bat,” Garrido said. “You can’t get your timing down with the bat on your shoulder.”

Now the Cardinal didn’t hit much better. Entering Sunday’s finale, they were hitting a measly .111 with one extra-base hit through three games and had scored a total of four runs. In this one, they blistered Texas starter Connor Mayes and six relievers for 15 hits in an 11-1 romp.

Their offensive slump ended.

“Oh, God, yeah,” gushed Mark Marquess, Stanford’s legendary coach. “Good for us. But that’s why we play them. If you don’t play well against them, you lose. They struck out a lot, but it’s early. My goodness, they run so many good pitchers out there, they’ve got, what, 12 to 15 good arms.”

Arms will take you only so far. Texas does have some promising bats in the bulldogish Joe Baker and freshman Kody Clemens as well as the confident Tres Barrera, who has a hit in every game this year. And two of Garrido’s better hitters — Patrick Mathis and Tyler Rand — are out with hamstring and broken hand injuries, respectively, the latter for maybe six weeks.

“Today, we didn’t have it,” said Texas leadoff batter Zane Gurwitz, who has struggled and is hitting just .207 as is shortstop Bret Boswell. “We had a tough one. The best thing we can do is turn the page. I’m not concerned.”

No one should be. In February anyway.

But it does raise an eyebrow when Texas strikes out 41 times in a four-game series and a staggering 63 times in seven games. Shockingly, Texas, which invented the sacrifice bunt, has just 10 of them in seven games, but if no one’s hitting, there’s no one to move up.

In this series, each team won a close one, and each won a blowout. The other two were up for grabs as Texas’ superior pitching of Ty Culbreth and Kyle Johnston provided two Longhorn victories,

UT starting pitcher Connor Mayes delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against Stanford at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Sunday February 28, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
UT starting pitcher Connor Mayes delivers a pitch in the fourth inning against Stanford at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Sunday February 28, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

and the offense didn’t show up for the two losses.

On Sunday, Texas managed just five hits, none after the fourth inning and one of them an infield single. Freshman designated hitter Kaleb Denny struck out in all three plate appearances, but it’s only his second game. Texas got the leadoff man on just once all day.

In fairness, Stanford was throwing its normal Friday series-opening starter, Brett Hanewich, and he was outstanding with six-plus innings of one-run ball.

“He did a good job for us last year when we lost a couple to Tommy John surgery,” Marquess said. “Some guys throw a heavy ball, and that’s what he does.”

He was helped in a big way by 15 hits, including a three-run home from a batter who entered the game as a pinch-runner of all things.

“That’s good managing,” Garrido cracked. “Pick the right guy.”

Augie’s still looking.

 

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