Finally, all is right again in the world of Longhorns midweek baseball.
Capitalizing on a tough night by UT Rio Grande Valley’s catcher, Texas overcame an early deficit to prevail 7-5 and snap a streak of three straight Tuesday losses.
The victory, UT’s third in a row, came on the heels of recent mid-week setbacks to Houston, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Lamar, and improved the Horns’ record in those games to 4-4.
In a dress rehearsal for this weekend’s big series at Big 12-leading Texas Tech, the Horns scratched out nine hits, stole four bases, and took advantage of three wild pitches and two passed balls.
Entering the matchup, Texas players were instructed to apply pressure to Vaqueros catcher Austin Oakes, who had thrown out only nine of 49 base-stealers. Turned out, Oakes also has trouble blocking the plate, and during Patrick Mathis’ fifth-inning at-bat, Oakes and reliever Eddie Delgado combined for two wild pitches and one passed ball. The miscues resulted in two runs scored and UT (17-20) took a one-run lead it would not relinquish.
“The catching position is not their strength,” Longhorns coach Augie Garrido said.
If the name UT Rio Grande Valley sounds unfamiliar, it’s because the school was formed last summer by the merger of UT Brownsville and UT Pan American, the latter of which had a baseball team that Texas had beaten in 39 of 40 meetings.
The Vaqueros (17-15) sit fourth in the Western Athletic Conference.
For UT, Kody Clemens homered for the fourth time and doubled, and Bret Boswell tripled and doubled. Mathis drew three walks. Tyler Rand swapped two bases, and scored in the fourth on a wild pitch.
“I knew going into the game I was going to steal if I got on first,” Rand said.
The only drawback was starter Connor Mayes, who had control issues and failed to make it out of the third inning in back-to-back starts. Mayes hit the first batter of the game and walked a batter in all three of his innings. He loaded the bases in the third and was replaced by Blake Wellmann, who got Oakes looking for the second out. The next batter, Victor Garcia slapped a shot inside the left field line to score two runs. A single by Jacob Huckabay gave the Vacqueros a 3-0 edge.
Mayes, who walked four, has slipped from weekend started to closer to mid-week starter and hasn’t been able to settle into a role.
“He’s obviously struggling with his confidence,” Garrido said. “Why? I can’t answer that. He’s a really good pitcher and he’s just struggling.”
Beau Ridgeway (1-0) pitched two clean innings for his first collegiate win, and Chase Shugart kept the bases empty in the ninth for his third save.
Clemens’ home run in the eighth gave Shugart an insurance run with which to work with.