Fourteen games into the season, Texas baseball has already celebrated its fair share of blowouts, comebacks and even a shutout.
Add those all together and you’ve got 11 wins, the latest of which came at the expense of UT-Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday. The Longhorns (11-3) are also only a few days removed from finishing off a sweep of LSU, which was the second-ranked team in the country at the time. If Texas wins its next game, it will be the program’s best 15-game start since it jumped out to a 12-3 record in 2010.
Texas, now ranked 12th nationally, heads to California for its next test — a four-game series at No. 6 Stanford (9-2) that begins on Thursday. Texas and Stanford have met every year since 1998. The Cardinal took three of the four games in Austin last year and hold a 42-35-1 edge in the all-time series.
“Coming off a good series against LSU, obviously we have all the confidence in the world right now,” junior pitcher Blair Henley said. “It’s just kind of about keeping that mentality throughout the whole weekend.”
Texas is scoring 6.6 runs per game, a statistic that wasn’t helped by a shutout loss to Purdue on Feb. 23 or Tuesday’s four-run performance against UT-RGV. The Longhorns, though, have had some outbursts on offense. They’ve scored double-digit runs three times. Last week against LSU, Texas tallied at least seven runs in each of its three victories.
The outfield also has posted impressive numbers; Duke Ellis leads the country with 23 walks, Eric Kennedy ranks 16th nationally with 20 runs scored and only one Big 12 player has more than Austin Todd’s 20 RBIs.
“Every time we give a run, (the offense) seems that they come back and score five or six or whatever it is,” Henley said. “Obviously, we’re going to try and limit as much as we can. We do have the confidence to trust ourselves and keep going out there because they’re going to put up more runs than the other team.”
Texas has played seven teams so far. Only one of them boasts a team ERA better than 3.50. Stanford, however, ranks 16th nationally with a 2.46 mark. Longhorns coach David Pierce has praised Stanford’s ability to pound the strike zone. Only 23 teams have a better strikeout-to-walks ratio than the Cardinal’s 3.29.
“As a hitter, you want the best of the best coming at you and really test you. It’s great. I love the competition,” Todd said. On Monday, he was named the Big 12’s player of the week. Kennedy also was honored as the conference’s top newcomer.
Pierce told reporters this week that freshman Ty Madden will start the opener of the Stanford series, which will allow Texas to maintain its regular weekend rotation of Bryce Elder, Henley and Coy Cobb. Pierce also has given a vote of confidence to shortstop Bryce Reagan.
The freshman has committed a team-high five errors, but Pierce reiterated that “Bryce Reagan’s our starting shortstop.”
One player who started against UT-RGV on Tuesday night will be unavailable for the Stanford series — and the rest of the season. Senior DJ Petrinsky, who started at catcher in 51 of UT’s 65 games last year, is set to have season-ending surgery on a torn labrum in his shoulder. He had been unable to catch this year but had found playing time at first base.
Texas has plenty of options — including converted outfielder Tate Shaw, Sam Bertelson, Zach Zubia and Peter Geib — to replace Petrinsky at first. Senior Michael McCann and freshman Caston Peter are the only catchers left on the roster.
This week’s series
No. 12 Texas at No. 6 Stanford, Thursday-Sunday, Pac-12 Network, 104.9
Thursday (8:05 p.m.) — UT RHP Ty Madden (2-0, 1.04) vs. RHP Brendan Beck (0-1, 2.37)
Friday (8:05 p.m.) — UT RHP Bryce Elder (2-0, 0.44) vs. LHP Jacob Palisch (1-0, 3.52)
Saturday (4:05 p.m.) — UT RHP Blair Henley (2-0, 6.75) vs. RHP Alex Williams (1-0, 1.80)
Sunday (3:05 p.m.) — UT RHP Coy Cobb (0-1, 3.60) vs. LHP Erik Miller (1-0, 3.60)