As expected, the Longhorn baseball team has relied heavily on pitching this season to take control of games while waiting for hitting to follow along.
It happened in Houston last weekend after the Horns failed to muster a single run to accompany Brandon Workman’s near-flawless eight innings on the mound. They came back Sunday against Missouri with a 12-hit, eight-run performance, trying their best to imitate the Horns’ pitching staff in their success.
“Offensively we want to be confident and hit like our pitching staff,” first baseman Tant Shepherd said after Sunday’s win against Missouri. “They come out every day and know they are going to do good and throw strikes.”
Still, the Longhorns haven’t been able to consistently perform at the plate over the past week and a half. They needed a pair of bases loaded and two out balks to beat UT-Pan American 3-2, and they had to have some late-inning heroics from pinch-hitter Paul Montalbano on Tuesday to take down Texas State 4-3.
“They found a way to grind it out and fought against adversity,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “We’ll find our niche hitting and have a run at the plate, but right now these close games are about building confidence.”
Texas’ pitching staff is leading the way right now with a combined ERA of 2.10 and a defense that has only committed six errors in 12 games.
“We all knew it was about pitching and defense,” Garrido said. “Disch-Falk is a defensive ballpark. The offense will catch up as it moves along.”
Texas will have its chance at the plate this weekend with a four-game series against Iowa. The Horns play a game tonight, a double-header Saturday and finish up with a game Sunday afternoon.
The Hawkeyes are coming to Austin swinging the bat well, hitting .320 as a team with a .469 slugging percentage, seven home runs and 66 runs scored.
The Horns hope to continue their dominance on the mound, starting with Taylor Jungmann tonight. Jungmann (2-0) leads Texas with a 0.83 ERA in 21.2 innings and 26 strikeouts.
Jungmann’s last start was a no-decision in the Horns’ 2-1 victory against Rice.
“Taylor is a thinker and has his own style,” Garrido said. “He picks the hitters he wants to face and pitches he wants to throw. He has a plan and he knows how to use it.”
With the double-header, Cole Green and Brandon Workman are scheduled to start Saturday with freshman Hoby Milner finishing up the series Sunday.
Texas is 2-0 all-time against Iowa, but the two haven’t played each other in 80 years. And like Tuesday — and almost every other opponent Texas has faced this season — the Hawkeyes are coming in with something to prove.
“Everyone we play doesn’t have much to lose, and there is a great advantage in that because you play so much more relaxed,” Garrido said.