Sometime between now and next weekend, the Texas baseball team needs Tres Barrera to go grocery shopping.
Barrera, the sometimes catcher, sometimes first baseman, is running low on single-serve cups of coffee, which, if not taken care of, would be a major disservice to one of his teammates.
Before his past two starts, left-hander Ty Culbreth has texted Barrera a friendly reminder to bring a cup of coffee — splashed with vanilla cream — to the ballpark. The added jolt worked last week against UNLV, and it worked again Saturday, when Culbreth doubled his career high with 12 strikeouts and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning in a 9-0 dusting of Stanford.
In seizing control of the four-game series, Culbreth looked every bit the part of a staff ace, locating his 88-mph fastball anywhere he wanted and mixing in his change-up and slider when needed.
Culbreth probably could’ve finished the game, but he lost that battle with pitching coach Skip Johnson and took a seat after eight innings and 91 pitches. He surrendered two hits — both of them singles in the seventh — and did not walk a batter. His earned-run average after two starts? A microscopic 0.69.
During Culbreth’s TV interview, pitchers Josh Sawyer and Jon Malmin sneaked up from behind and smeared his face with shaving cream. It probably lacked the taste of Barrera’s vanilla cream, but Culbreth wasn’t complaining.
“My coffee’s the one that’s giving him power,” Barrera said.
Culbreth, one of only three seniors for Texas, struck out at least one hitter in every inning, and recorded two punchouts in four innings. He picked off a runner at first base to end the fourth and then opened the fifth by fanning catcher Alex Dunlap and matching the six strikeouts he posted at TCU on April 25, 2015.
As he walked off the field and into the clubhouse, Culbreth was stopped by a familiar face. Roger Clemens yelled, “Hey. Nice. Nice.”
“Probably one of the best command days I’ve had,” Culbreth said.
Stanford’s Nico Hoerner ended Culbreth’s no-hit bid on a weak tap up the middle with one out in the seventh. Shortstop Bret Boswell made the stop but had no time for a throw to first.
For the second night in a row, Texas (4-2) used a big inning to score most of its runs, dropping a six-spot on starter Chris Castellanos in the fourth. Nos. 7-9 hitters Travis Jones, Kody Clemens (double) and Jake McKenzie drove in consecutive runs, and two batters later, Boswell crushed a three-run homer to right for a 7-0 lead.
Yet the best theatrics in the fourth inning came on a stolen base, Barrera’s first in his career. The junior had never even attempted one before Saturday — and for good reason.
“He likes to run the bases,” coach Augie Garrido said. “Most slow guys do.”
Barrera singled to lead off the inning and moved to second on a hit-and-run. Then, inexplicably, he motioned to the dugout that he was going to steal and then took off for third. The throw from Dunlap was in time, but third baseman Mike Diekroeger dropped the ball and couldn’t apply the tag.
The Texas dugout went berserk.
“Everybody started yelling, ‘Speed!’” Culbreth said. “Even though he’s not fast, he always says he is.”
Barrera, who came home on a suicide squeeze, conceded that he’s slow but said, “I think I can get Big Mike (Cantu). Maybe.”
Before the game, a UT spokesperson said that left fielder Tyler Rand will miss four to six weeks after breaking his hand trying to square up a bunt in Friday’s win. That means the Horns, for now, are without their two corner outfielders. Patrick Mathis strained his hamstring in Thursday’s loss.
Garrido said Mathis will be back soon and was available to pinch-hit on Saturday.
The replacements for Mathis and Rand — Jones in left field and Jake McKenzie in right — each had three hits and contributed four RBIs. McKenzie doubled and drove in two of his three runs with an eighth-inning single. He also made a sliding catch in the sixth to preserve Culbreth’s no-hitter.
“Good choices,” Garrido quipped.