Through two games, the Texas lineup has had two performances that are completely at odds with each other.
One of them produced 11 strikeouts, the other 11 runs.
Short stop Bret Boswell thinks he knows which one is more indicative of how the Longhorns will swing the bats in 2016.
“Oh, definitely today,” Boswell said after an 11-2 romp over Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday. “We just had to get the first game out of the way — under the lights, opening day. Everyone’s calmed down and playing the way we need to.”
Head coach Augie Garrido, who secured his 800th win at Texas, began his press conference by saying, “What a difference a day makes.” Employing the same lineup as the one that lost 4-3 in 12 innings Friday, UT scratched out 13 hits and all nine batters scored a run.
Boswell, Michael Cantu, Kacy Clemens, Zane Gurwitz (triple) and Patrick Mathis (home run) each had an extra-base hit, and the Horns jumped all over UNLV’s five errors with four unearned runs.
“That’s the team I’ve been talking about, and that’s the way they’ve been in practice, and they brought it to the game today,” Garrido said. “They responded in a positive way, and they responded to the lack of success from last night. That’s what we were hoping for.”
Ty Culbreth recorded the win with five innings of work and looks as if he’ll be a left-handed fixture in the weekend rotation. He yielded four hits, including a solo homer in the fourth inning by Andrew Yazdanbaksh, who smacked his second of the series to left field. Other than that, Culbreth threw a pretty clean game, striking out four and walking one.
The way Garrido talks, Culbreth has outgrown the spot in the bullpen that he occupied for the first two months of last season and will fit in on Saturdays to keep righties from throwing consecutive games.
“He likes it better,” Garrido said. “He knows he’s going to warm up, go in the game and pitch his game. He doesn’t like getting up, warming up, not knowing whether he’s going to go in or not.”
After retiring the side to start the game, Culbreth got into trouble in the second when Austin Anderson followed a single by Yazdanbaksh with one of his own. Culbreth struck out the next two batters, though, and UT scored a run in the bottom of the frame for a 4-0 lead.
“The fact we put up three in the first, you feel you don’t need to do too much,” Culbreth said. “It’s a lot easier to throw when you have the three-run lead, especially that early.”
The aggressive tone to UT’s offensive approach was set early when Gurwitz and Boswell started the game with opposite-field singles off Kenny Oakley (three innings, three earned runs). Two batters later, Tres Barrera got the first of his two RBIs on the day. Then Cantu sent a shot to left field that caused trouble for UNLV when Payton Suier couldn’t grab it. That miscue resulted in two more runs for the Horns, pushing the lead to 3-0.
The next inning, Barrera drew a walk with the bases loaded.
The day was a bit of redemption for Mathis, whose misplay of a fly ball in Friday’s eighth inning gave UNLV two runs and tied the game.
“He actually wanted to blame himself,” Boswell said.
Mathis apparently took out his frustration during Saturday’s eighth inning, when he claimed UT’s first home run of the season on a 408-foot blast to right-center. It was Mathis’ first hit of the weekend.
UT’s other corner outfielder, freshman Tyler Rand, continued his quality start with a two-run single in the seventh before diving near the line to take away an extra-base hit in the top of the eighth.
Rand also drove in a run Friday.
“Very mature for a freshman and very savvy,” Garrido said.
Garrido downplayed his 800th victory, deflecting praise to the players he has coached in his 20 seasons with the program.
“I’ve never played in an inning in a college baseball game that goes on my record,” he said. “It’s all about the talent, the contributions, the sacrifices, the skill, the commitment — all the big words it takes for a team to be really, really good.”