Texas' Joe Baker makes a toss to second for the double play against California during a NCAA college baseball game at Disch-Falk Field, Sunday, March 6, 2015. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Cedric Golden

American-Statesman Staff

Column

Golden: Texas baseball, Garrido facing big challenge

Posted March 6th, 2016

Advertisement
Story highlights
  • Longhorn bullpen, defense stumble while giving up 7-0 lead
  • Program suffers four-game sweep for first time in school history
  • Augie must work hard to help team keep confidence

We’re not very good.

Augie Garrido must block those four words from taking up permanent residence in his team’s collective conscience.

Even if it’s true.

Advertisement

Teams blow 7-0 leads all the time, but that’s more likely to happen on a football field than a baseball diamond.

After Sunday’s murderous collapse and the resulting gut punch that was the 10-7 loss to the Cal Bears, doubt is having a field day with the Texas Longhorns after 12 games. They’re two games under .500 and entirely capable of being much worse, and they are just 35-34 in their last 69 games. Want more bad news? They just became the first team in school history to suffer a four-game sweep.

It came against the Cal Bears, who took the field for the finale with a pocket full of house money since they had already taken out the Horns in the first three games. Cal had zero to lose, and a nice three-out-of-four series win seemed to be in order after the Longhorns bolted out to a touchdown lead through seven innings.

If ever a team was facing a must-win this early in the season, it was Texas, which rode the arm of starter Connor Mayes and a three-run bomb from first baseman Kacy Clemens in what could best be described as an early-season gut check. At that point, it seemed that an hour-long talk from its coach following the Game 3 loss would add up to the desired result.
It didn’t.

In the span of three innings, Texas lost its edge, and closer Chase Shugart uncharacteristically gave up five tying runs in ninth. The frame was lowlighted by a missed connection between shortstop Bret Boswell to Clemens that would have ended the game, 7-6, in Texas’ favor. Instead, the Horns found themselves in an extra-inning dogfight with a team that had taken its measure of Texas all weekend.

It was easy to figure out how it would end. And end it did.

This epic meltdown brought to mind a similar outcome from a much better Texas team from the past. The 2006 Longhorns lost 13-12 to UNLV in a Friday night opener after leading 10-0 after five innings, but the difference is that team was loaded with stud horses that had confidence from having just won a College World Series the previous summer.

This team, on the other hand, isn’t nearly as talented or confident. Add the burden of expectations that come with wearing that uniform and it’s the toughest on-field challenge of Garrido’s tenure.

Hate to say it, but the Horns are actually starting to resemble the 2015 team: an offensively challenged bunch that’s going to be hovering around .500 for most of the season with a slim chance of making the postseason. And remember: That team had to win the Big 12 Tournament to avoid missing the postseason for the second time in three seasons.

The real question has to be one of talent and desire. Are they good enough, and do they want it bad enough to come up with the type of quality baseball that get can things turned around? Plus, how does Augie keep this thing from going completely off the rails in these nine games before Big 12 play starts?

Garrido talked about conducting a coaching clinic in the throes of an 11-game losing streak in his second stint at Cal State Fullerton. He called it How to Lose Consistently, a title that sadly appears to be back in vogue.

“To be consistent in losing, the unexpected in a negative way has to happen to the parts of the team that you have the most confidence,” he said. “You put in a guy for defensive reasons, and he makes an error. Everything gets backward.”

Augie has spent enough time in dugouts to know that no college baseball season was ever lost in March, but the power of consistent failure cannot be overlooked. Winning on Tuesday nights doesn’t create a championship mindset, especially at this time of the year when the scheduled is front-loaded with home games. Everybody is working for the weekend, and those games separate the good from the bad moving forward.

Garrido isn’t about to give up the ghost, but it’s a players’ game, and only the guys on the field can pull this team out of the malaise it has been in for most of the season.
Looking ahead, to project this team winning a Big 12 title or advancing deep into the NCAA tournament would be akin to saying Peyton Manning can play another 10 seasons at a high level. The hope is there for the fans but the eyes tell a different story.

They’re 5-7. Sounds familiar. And not in a good way.

Comments