Texas's Kyle Johnston against UNLV Rebels during the NCAA men's college baseball game at the UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin,Tex., Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2016. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Baseball

Uncharacteristic showing costs Texas in season opener

Posted February 20th, 2016

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To hear Augie Garrido tell it, his Texas baseball team’s season opener looked nothing like the practices leading up to it.

A 4-3 12-inning loss to UNLV on Friday exposed some flaws Garrido hopes will be the exception rather than the rule for his 20th season with the Longhorns.

“There were a lot of surprises,” he said.

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Namely, his pitchers combined for 11 walks, his hitters combined for 11 strikeouts, and Patrick Mathis, usually reliable in right field, took a bad route to a pop fly which resulted in two runs and a tied game in the eighth inning.

“It was a game where we were out of character,” Garrido said.

Redshirt freshman Parker Joe Robinson took the loss after serving up a solo bomb to Andrew Yazadanbaksh in the 12th inning. The shot cleared the bullpen and the advertisements in left field, and the way Texas was hitting — which was hardly at all — it might as well have been a walk-off homer.

Garrido, who is stuck on 799 wins in his Texas coaching career, has got to be hoping Friday’s showing at the plate is not a carryover from last year’s prolonged slump. The night started off well enough, with Nos. 8 and 9 hitters Jake McKenzie and Tyler Rand driving in runs for a 2-0 lead in the second inning. Another run came across in the third on Michael Cantu’s single to right. But the Horns were unable to solve relievers Dean Kremer and Blaze Bohall and managed just two hits and zero runs over the final nine innings.

Seven different Longhorns struck out, including Bret Boswell (three), Kacy Clemens (two) and McKenzie (two).

Garrido stated the obvious by saying, “We struck out more than we thought we were going to.”

Garrido was just as confounded about Mathis’ fielding gaffe. It came with two outs in the eighth inning after relievers Blake Wellman and Travis Duke had each walked one batter. After misjudging the ball and running in, Mathis realized his mistake and retreated in a circular motion. He got there a tad late, resulting in a deflating triple by No. 9 hitter Cooper Esmay.

“You watch him practice and he catches balls all over the place,” Garrido said. “He could play center field not only here but at a pretty high level defensively.”

Mathis nearly made up for it in the 10th, but UNLV center fielder Cody Howard made a diving catch to rob Mathis of what might have been a triple of his own.

For Texas, Kyle Johnston was shaky in his fifth career start, struggling with his command and walking five batters in four scheduled innings. He loaded the bases in the first but got out of it with a flyout. He did strike out four, which all came within a span of five batters.

“He’ll get better as it goes along,” Garrido said. “Opening night may have played into it.”

Following Johnston on the mound were — though not in order — three freshmen making their college debuts. Wellman, of Brenham, faced five batters and walked one. Chase Shugart opened the ninth with a four-pitch walk before retiring the next three hitters. He ran into worse trouble in the 10th, throwing wide to second base on a fielder’s choice and putting a second runner on with no outs. But he fought back once again, striking out the next two batters, including Esmay on a wicked slider, before inducing a soft groundout.

“I think that’s his cup of tea,” Garrido said. “I think that could be in his character where he fights his way out of things.”

Robinson, who redshirted last year with an injury, worked the final two innings before being pulled with two outs in the 12th.

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