Prior to Tuesday night’s matchup with UT Rio Grande Valley, it looked as though the Longhorns would cruise. Texas had defeated the Vaqueros in all of their past 40 matchups, dating back to 1972.
But on Tuesday, the victory didn’t come so easy. After falling down 3-0 early, the Longhorns desperately needed a spark. And in danger of falling five games below .500, they found that spark — not at the plate or on the mound, but on the base paths.
Texas took advantage of redshirt junior catcher Austin Oakes’ inefficiency behind the plate throughout the night. The Longhorns completed the game with four stolen bases, in addition to advancing on two passed balls and three wild pitches. The carousel on the base paths combined with some timely hitting gave Texas a 7-5 win, its third in four games.
“A lot of times we have folded this year when we were down,” freshman outfielder Tyler Rand said. “Tonight, we showed we still have a lot of fight in us.”
After a stagnant opening two innings, Rio Grande Valley got the scoring started in the third. A one-out walk was followed by back-to-back hits, including a bloop single to left, scoring two runs. The
Vaqueros added another run via single with two outs in the inning, extending their lead to 3-0.
While none of the base hits came against sophomore starter Connor Mayes — that honor would go to freshman pitcher Blake Wellmann — he still picked up all three earned runs. When Mayes’ stat-line was complete, it was ugly: three earned runs, three hits and four walks, all in less than three innings. The poor performance failed to net Mayes his first victory of the season, holding his record to 0–4 on the year.
“[Mayes] obviously is struggling with his confidence,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “He’s a really good pitcher, he’s just struggling.”
The Longhorns took the lead in the fifth, thanks to Oakes’ shaky defense. Three balls slid past the Vaqueros catcher in one at bat, with two wild pitches and one passed ball leading to two Texas runs. Heading to the sixth, Texas led 5-4.
“The opposing catcher was a good friend,” Garrido said. “Going into the game there had been 49 stolen base attempts against him. And 40 of them were successful.”
Once given the lead, the Longhorns never looked back. A pair of insurance runs were highlighted by a home run from freshman infielder Kody Clemens as Texas claimed a 7-5 win.
The Longhorns now sit at 17–20 on the year, far from where they had hoped to be when the season began. But with 15 games left in the season, Garrido isn’t looking in the rearview mirror. He’s looking straight ahead.
“If we win the 15 games that are in front of us, we have a good chance to win the league,” Garrido said. “We have 15 games to play, and our job is to go out and win them.”