Texas? Michael Cantu hits a single RBI during a NCAA college baseball game at Disch-Falk Field, Sunday, March 6, 2015. (Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman)

Baseball

Garrido hoping for Virginia-like turnaround for struggling Longhorns

Posted April 7th, 2016

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Multiple times this season — two, maybe three — Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido has invoked the 2015 Virginia Cavaliers to gain some sense of comfort with his own team’s sad state of affairs.

Over a nine-game stretch last March, the Cavaliers lost seven games, sending off sirens in Charlottesville, Va.

By the end of the year they regrouped and won the College World Series.

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“Virginia was a mess at mid-year,” Garrido said. “Talked to their coach about it and he didn’t know what he had. They couldn’t do anything.”

Yet at its roughest point, UVA was a respectable 14-8, a mark the 12-17 Horns would do flips to have entering this week’s Big 12 series at Kansas State. One team’s low was six games over .500; the others is five games below.

On Wednesday, Garrido answered a question to open his weekly press conference, and six minutes later he was still going, delivering what might as well have been a therapeutic state of the union address. The highlights:

  • Garrido said Texas is playing “out of control” by pressing too hard offensively and is swinging at too many pitches out of the zone, leading to an average of eight strikeouts per game.
  • One of his outfielders let a ball drop last week at Oklahoma because he was confused by his role in a “no-doubles” defense.
  • It makes no sense, Garrido said, how a team that took two of three games from No. 8 TCU also lost to Texas A&M Corpus Christi, which UT did on Tuesday, 5-0, in its most embarrassing showing to date. The Islanders then turned around on Wednesday and lost at Texas State, 4-1, to fall to 11-17 overall.

None of Garrido’s observations are up for debate, except perhaps for his linking his team to Virginia’s. At this point, such talk appears to be a stretch.

“It can happen,” Garrido said. “It has happened. It will happen again. Will it happen to us? We’ll see, but it certainly won’t happen if we take on the emotions of the defeated. We have a choice in that. Our choice is to move forward with a positive attitude.”

Shame on Texas if it can’t build some momentum this month. If K-State (13-17, 0-6) isn’t the worst team in the Big 12, then it may be Kansas (11-16, 1-4), which comes to Austin next weekend. They have the league’s two worst ERAs, with KU out-stinking their state rivals, 5.15 to 5.11

Should UT take both series, and maybe mix in a sweep, it could be back in the thick of the league title race and give credence to Garrido’s optimism for a Virginia-like redux.

Then again, K-State and KU are probably thinking they can right themselves against Texas, which has dropped five of six after taking those first two games against TCU.

“By no means is this season over,” second baseman Zane Gurwitz said. “There’s plenty of time to play great baseball. The only pressure is that we have to do it. There’s no more losing a game here, losing a game there. We have to show out.”

Gurwitz (.265, 8 RBIs) is among the many struggling parts in a lineup that had 10 strikeouts on Tuesday for the eighth time in 29 games. Catcher Michael Cantu (.179) is in the lineup strictly for defensive purposes, and Bret Boswell (.204), who has lost his everyday starting job, is striking out once in every four at-bats.

As a whole, UT is just 2 for 23 in pinch-hit situations, yet Garrido continues to go to right-hander Jake McKenzie (.200) and lefty Ben Kennedy (.067) in late-game spots.

Only Joe Baker (.314) and Tres Barrera (.305) are hitting .300 among those on the team who have 50 or more at-bats, and Baker is currently out with a stress fracture and won’t return for another week or so.

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