Texas A&M is next on the schedule.
Just last week that might not have been met with the most positive of attitudes after the Texas Longhorns went out to Stanford and lost three of four.
But that was then.
Coach David Pierce’s crew may have found something over the past few days. Some may say they found an opponent that’s not as good as Stanford, but I’m choosing to say it’s some confidence. The first-year coach likes this new-found mental toughness, a trait that can go a long way in getting to the special places this program visited under Augie Garrido.
With the coaching legend watching from the stands, the Longhorns polished off UCLA, 10-5, at a wintry Disch-Falk Field for the program’s first three-game sweep since the 2015 season. And for those who have witnessed the struggles of Texas baseball over the last couple of seasons, it really means something for the Horns to be 12-6 and six games over .500 this early in a season since 2015.
“When we fight through a weather day like (Saturday),” Pierce said, “coming out and having that mentality to finish the job. … because it’s tough to sweep, at home or on the road. We just did a great job of playing inning by inning.”
After surviving a three-run homer that cost them a seventh-inning lead Friday, the Horns rallied to win the opener then overcame the rain Saturday night to take the series. Pierce thought runs would be at a premium in the final,e but his team mildly surprised him with a second straight double-digit output.
Of note, Texas fans should be happier with his team’s latest showing against a California opponent. Entering the weekend, the Longhorns were 6-15 in games played against Cali teams dating back to the 2015 season, so even when Texas teams were bringing it on a national level, they struggled in those instances. In case you’re wondering, that 2015 team, which finished the season in Omaha, started the season 8-2 before losing four straight to San Diego and Stanford.
Now 18 games into this season, the Horns are showing signs of becoming more of an offensive club though much work remains to be done. Texas hit just .258 through the first two games of the series, slightly above their .249 average coming in, with 10 strikeouts and 16 runners left on base, but hit it .411 Sunday with 14 hits in a four-hour, five-minute marathon that was slowed to a crawl by each team walking six times.
The bats coming to life coincided with Texas’ first regular-season five-game winning streak since sweeping Minnesota on Feb. 21, 2015. So it’s been 95 games since we’ve witnessed a Texas team win this often in a regular season.
All of a sudden, Pierce has offensive options starting to emerge. The top of the order — Tate Shaw, David Hamilton and Kacy Clemens — combined for six hits, six runs and seven RBIs Sunday, while Cedar Ridge product Michael McCann continued to wield a hot axe with a 3 for 4 showing with a pair of runs batted in.
The pitching has been solid and the hitting has been behind, but we figured that would be the case early on.
What we still don’t know is if the offense will hold up through the season, but the 5-0 week that featured 44 runs was an encouraging step in the right direction. We’ll see if that continues as the Horns take a step up in competition against the 17th-ranked Aggies.
A baseball season isn’t a baseball season without a bit of a roller coaster. Texas is on the upswing and the contributions are coming from different sources in all three areas, though Pierce hopes his normally reliable defense returns to form after a committing a couple of errors Sunday.
Pierce joked that Tuesday will be just another midweek game, but wasn’t able to keep a straight face. I’m looking forward to seeing if the Horns are going to respond with the same confidence against some of the same players that flashed the Horns down after Michael Barash’s sol0 homer in the ninth gave the A&M a 5-4 win in in College Station.
When asked if the Horns were over that loss and show of disrespect, Clemens answered in true Clemens fashion.
“I want to know if they’re over us knocking them out of the regional my freshman year,” he said. “That’s what I want to know. Hopefully they’re not over that.”
Well played, Rocket Jr. I get your point. The Horns are feeling good moving forward.
It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that.