Augie Garrido wants his team to resemble the Kansas City Royals — at least the Royals’ small-ball aspect.
He wants the ball in play, and he wants runners on base. There should be steals, bunts executed, runs scored, strikeouts avoided.
But the metamorphosis from Longhorn to Royal isn’t easy.
Thursday night, Garrido saw Cal, not Texas, execute small ball. The Bears had 11 hits, three sacrifice bunts and struck out only three times. Texas squeaked out only four hits, one bunt and struck out nine times in a 4-1 series-opening loss at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
“Doesn’t that look good when it works?” Garrido said, referring to small ball. “We’re not there yet.”
Small ball depends on baserunners. It requires patience at the plate. It can’t work when the Longhorns (5-4) are hitting weak grounders, lofting soft fly balls or whiffing at pitches.
“You swing and miss, swing and pop it, roll over it, hit high bouncers on this AstroTurf, it’s pretty easy for the defense,” Garrido said.
The Bears didn’t trouble with putting the ball in play. They knocked around Texas starter Nolan Kingham. He allowed a hit in each of his first four innings.
In the top of the third, Cal had back-to-back singles from Preston Grand Pre and Aaron Knapp. Mitchell Kranson moved both runners over on a bunt. Designated hitter Devin Pearson singled to bring in Grand Pre and then the next batter, Brenden Farney, singled to score Knapp and give the Bears a 2-0 lead.
In four innings, Kingham allowed two runs on eight hits and struck out only one.
Pitcher Jon Malmin replaced Kingham in the fifth, but Malmin didn’t last long. Cal doubled its lead against Malmin. Kranson singled to lead off the fifth and then Malmin pegged Pearson. Farney advanced the runners over on a bunt, and shortstop Brett Cumberland lined a 2-1 pitch into left field, bringing in both runners.
Texas struggled to get runners on base throughout the night. Cal starter Jeff Bain kept the Horns off-balance all night. In 6 1/3 innings, Bain struck out five and allowed three hits.
The Horns seemed eager to jump on him, with four one-pitch outs.
“That part we’re asking them to do,” Garrido said. “The first pitch in college baseball many times is a BP fastball we call it, and that’s a good pitch to hit.”
Garrido will live with those outs, but the outs that should have been walks were what bothered him.
“The 3-2 pitch, for example, we swung at ball four three times,” Garrido said. “That needs to be addressed and needs to be improved.”
Texas had a chance to get make it a game in the seventh. The Horns loaded the bases with one out, but Kody Clemens hit into an inning-ending double play.
Third baseman Kacy Clemens homered to right field in the eighth to give Texas its only run. Clemens’ homer was one of the few balls Texas annihilated that didn’t find a glove.
“We hit a bunch of balls on the ground that were hit really hard that went right at people,” Clemens said. “And they hit a bunch of balls that were hit pretty hard that were right at were nobody was.”
Baseball, however, isn’t predicated as much on skill as it is on luck. Once the ball connects with the bat, you don’t know what will happen. Screaming line drives may land in a glove, while feather-soft bloopers may land on the grass.
“Who invented this game,” Garrido asked. “Some sadomasochistic person?”
Hey, it can be cruel, but that’s baseball.