UT's Morgan Cooper delivers pitch in the first inning against Kansas at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Friday April 15, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Baseball

Horns continue to struggle in openers, get shut out by Oklahoma State

Posted April 30th, 2016

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Story highlights
  • Texas is now 1-6 in series openers at home and has dropped eight of 11 series openers overall
  • Morgan Cooper matched career highs with strikeouts (eight) and innings pitched (six) but made a costly error that led to OSU's first run
  • OSU starter Thomas Hatch threw his second straight complete game shutout and has now allowed an earned run in 26 1/3 innings

Texas isn’t making it easy on itself to start these series.

Hoping to establish early control against No. 25 Oklahoma State, the Longhorns instead did nothing offensively and were shut out 3-0 in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

A lineup that over the past three weeks had raised its collective batting average by 14 points scratched together five hits — three from Travis Jones — against Cowboys starter Thomas Hatch, who went the distance for his second straight shutout.

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Shaky fielding led to all of OSU’s runs, including two in the ninth when first baseman Kacy Clemens couldn’t stop a sharp liner and Patrick Mathis hurried and fumbled the ball in right field. It all rolled into the fourth shutout of the season for UT (20-22, 9-7).

The Horns have dropped three straight series openers and eight of 11 openers this season. They’ve lost six of seven home openers.

Those numbers would seem to lend credence to the idea that Ty Culbreth, the team’s top pitcher and its game two starter, should move to the top spot and change the early complexion of these series. However, that should not be viewed as a slight against Morgan Cooper, who matched career highs in strikeouts (eight) and innings (six) in his finest effort of the season. His only costly mistakes came in the fifth inning, when he walked the leadoff batter and mishandled a sacrifice bunt. OSU (26-15, 10-6) ended up going ahead 1-0 without hitting the ball out of the infield.

Culbreth (8-2, 2.97) took on OSU’s Trey Cobb (4-6, 3.78) in Saturday’s rematch, which finished late.

These teams, which came into the weekend tied for third in the Big 12 standings, were meeting for the first time since last season’s title game. Texas, of course, won on that rainy May day in Tulsa to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Given the way things have transpired this season, a repeat performance might be necessary for another postseason trip.

Unlike in recent weekends, big hits never came on Saturday. Then again, there weren’t many opportunities for them. A pair of first-inning singles by Travis Jones and Tres Barrera amounted to nothing when Clemens grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Texas’ next hit, by Jones, wouldn’t come until the sixth, at which time Hatch had retired nine batters in a row and 13 of 14. The sophomore right-hander, who did not pitch last season due to an elbow injury, improved to 4-1 and lowered his ERA to a minuscule 1.52. A week earlier he got things off on the right foot for the Cowboys with a shutout in an eventual series win over TCU.

Hatch has not given up an earned run in his last 26 1/3 innings.

He started laboring late in the game, but Texas couldn’t capitalize. Mathis stood on third in the eighth when Bret Boswell came on to pinch hit for No. 9 batter Jake McKenzie. Boswell, who was taking his first swings in eight days, missed on three cuts for his 33rd strikeout in 118 at-bats.

In the ninth, Jones led off with his third hit of the day. Clemens drew a two-out walk, bringing up Joe Baker with a chance to tie the game. With the count full, Baker tapped back to Hatch to end the game.

OSU struck for two runs in the top of the inning when J.R. Davis ripped a shot to first off Travis Duke, the third UT pitcher of the inning. Clemens couldn’t get in front of the ball, leading to one run. The second run came on an error by Mathis, who couldn’t field the ball cleanly.

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