Jonathan Walsh

Former Texas outfielder and catcher Jonathan Walsh is working his way up in the minor leagues after being drafted in the 11th round last year by the Los Angeles Angels.  Walsh proudly wore an Angels jersey during the Texas alumni game on Feb. 2, where he scored a run and went 1-for-4.  

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

After the longest break from baseball he can remember, Jonathan Walsh is ready to start his second season in the minors. Where he ends up — whether it be San Bernardino, Calif., or Burlington, Iowa — depends on how he performs this month in minor league spring training.

“If I follow the [projected] path, I’ll end up at Burlington (Midwest League, A-ball),” Walsh said last week via telephone. “But if I show up and play well then maybe I can start in the Cal League, which is high-A. What’s most important is not where I start but where I finish. My goal is to end up at high-A.”

It’s a slow climb from rookie ball to the major leagues, but Walsh — who played three years at Texas before being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 11th round of the 2012 MLB Draft — got off to a good start last summer, hitting .300 in 230 at-bats with the Orem Owlz, with 45 RBIs, nine homers and a dead-even walk-to-strikeout ratio.

After Walsh’s season ended Sept. 6, he went to instructional league until Oct. 10, where he met most of the Angels’s prospects and was versed on the “Angel way.” Until the Texas Alumni Game on Feb. 2, Walsh hadn’t seen a competitive pitch. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the No. 18 jersey the Angels sent him, size XXX-L.

“It’s been pretty nice — I won’t lie,” Walsh said of his vacation from the game. “But I’m ready to get back to baseball.”

Here’s a look at the situations other notable former Longhorns find themselves in this spring:

Brandon Belt, 1B
San Francisco Giants 

Now that he’s established himself as a regular with the World Series champion Giants, Belt no longer has to look over his shoulder, dreading his next optioning to Triple-A. Instead, Belt will look forward. He does have much to improve on. He’s a career .259 hitter and thus far has been unable to get enough lift on the ball. Given better job security at first base, Belt will likely better resemble the player who hit .343 in the minors. 

Huston Street, RP
San Diego Padres 

An All-Star last season, Street re-upped with the Padres for two more years at $14 million after trade talks linking him to the Mets fell through. Given the tepid state of the closing pitcher these days — only two players to make the top-10 saves list in 2012 also appeared on the 2011 list — that might be too much to pay, but Street has been a consistent commodity since 2005. Last season he recorded a 1.85 ERA and saved 23 games. As San Diego gets better, more opportunities will come.

Drew Stubbs, RF
Cleveland Indians 

A trade sent Stubbs from Cincinnati to Cleveland, which now boasts one of the best outfields in baseball. But where does Stubbs fit in? For now, he’s probably the fourth outfielder. Cleveland signed Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher in the offseason and holdover Michael Brantley hit .288 in 2012. New manager Terry Francona has in the past done a good job of rotating outfielders for freshness and playing time, and Stubbs will also be helped by Swisher’s ability to slide to first base or the designated hitter spot. Perhaps fewer plate appearances will lend to better discipline for Stubbs. He’s finished sixth, first and fifth in strikeouts among National League players the past three seasons. 

Chance Ruffin, RP
Seattle Mariners 

Relief pitchers who walk nine in 18 innings of work, or who record a 1.5 WHIP, do not hang around in the majors. It’s a short sample size, though, and the bet is Ruffin, a former first-round pick of the Tigers, clamps down.

Taylor Jungmann, SP
Milwaukee Brewers 

It’ll probably be another year until big No. 26 — last seen wearing a lineman’s number at the Alumni Game — gets called up to the majors. Jungmann went 11-6 in 26 starts in advanced-A ball, but his 3.53 ERA and 1.34 WHIP weren’t indicative of his abilities. As a junior at Texas in 2011, Jungmann’s WHIP was .83. 

Hoby Milner, P
Philadelphia Phillies 

The elastic-armed Milner had quite the showing in his first season in the minors. He started 13 of 14 games — and compiled a 2.50 ERA  — but projects as a reliever in
the future.

Brandon Loy, SS
Detroit Tigers 

Perhaps the best shortstop to ever set foot on the 40 Acres, Loy’s coming ascension will surely be because of his glove work. He hit a paltry .240 with Class-A West Michigan, but he was also a late bloomer — at the plate at least — with the Longhorns.

Published on February 20, 2013 as "Walsh works to build career as an Angel". 

Photo Credit: Chelsea Purgahn | Daily Texan Staff

After the longest break from baseball he can remember, Jonathan Walsh is ready to start his second season in the minors. Where he ends up — whether it be San Bernardino, Calif., or Burlington, Iowa — depends on how he performs this month in minor league spring training.

“If I follow the [projected] path, I’ll end up at Burlington (Midwest League, a-ball),” Walsh said last week via telephone. “But if I show up and play well then maybe I can start in the Cal League, which is high-a.”

“What’s most important is not where I start but where I finish. My goal is to end up at high-a.”

It’s a slow climb from rookie ball to the major leagues, but Walsh — who played three years at Texas before being drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 11th round of the 2012 MLB Draft — got off to a good start last summer, hitting .300 in 230 at-bats with the Orem Owlz, with 45 RBIs, nine homers and a dead-even walk-to-strikeout ratio.

After Walsh’s season ended Sept. 6, he went to instructional league until Oct. 10, where he met most of the Angels’s prospects and was versed on the “Angel way.” Until the Texas Alumni Game on Feb. 2, Walsh hadn’t seen a competitive pitch. He went 1-for-4 with a run scored in the No. 18 jersey the Angels sent him, size XXX-L.

“It’s been pretty nice — I won’t lie,” Walsh said of his vacation from the game. “But I’m ready to get back to baseball.”

Here’s a look at the situations other notable former Longhorns find themselves in this spring:

Brandon Belt, 1B, San Francisco Giants

Now that he's established himself as a regular with the World Series champion Giants, Belt no longer has to look over his shoulder, dreading his next optioning to Triple-A. Instead, Belt will look forward. He does have much to improve on. He's a career .259 hitter and thus far has been unable to get enough lift on the ball (groundballs on 50.7 percent of his BAP). Given better job security at first base, Belt will likely better resemble the player who hit .343 in the minors. 

Huston Street, RP, San Diego Padres

An All-Star last season, Street re-upped with the Padres for two more years at $14 million after trade talks linking him to the Mets fell through. Given the tepid state of the closing pitcher these days — only two players to make the top-10 saves list in 2012 also appeared on the 2011 list — that might be too much to pay, but Street has been a consistent commodity since 2005. Last season he recorded a 1.85 ERA and saved 23 games in 24 opportunities. As San Diego gets better, more opportunities will come.

Drew Stubbs, RF, Cleveland Indians

A trade sent Stubbs from Cincinnati to Cleveland, which now boasts one of the best outfields in baseball. But where does Stubbs fit in? For now, he's probably the fourth outfielder. Cleveland signed Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher in the offseason and holdover Michael Brantley hit .288 in 2012. New manager Terry Francona has in the past done a good job of rotating outfielders for freshness and playing time, and Stubbs will also be helped by Swisher's ability to slide to first base or the designated hitter spot. Perhaps fewer plate appearances will lend to better discipline for Stubbs. He's finished sixth, first and fifth in strikeouts among National League players the past three seasons. 

Chance Ruffin, RP, Seattle Mariners

Relief pitchers who walk nine in 18 innings of work, or who record a 1.5 WHIP, do not hang around in the majors. It's a short sample size, though, and the bet is Ruffin, a former first-round pick of the Tigers, clamps down.

Taylor Jungmann, SP, Milwaukee Brewers

It'll probably be another year until big No. 26 — last seen wearing a lineman's number at the Alumni Game — gets called up to the majors. Jungmann went 11-6 in 26 starts in advanced-a ball, but his 3.53 ERA and 1.34 WHIP weren't indicative of his abilities. As a junior at Texas in 2011, Jungmann's WHIP (walks+hits per inning) was .83. 

Hoby Milner, P, Philadelphia Phillies

The elastic-armed Milner had quite the showing in his first season in the minors. He started 13 of 14 games — and compiled a 2.50 ERA — but projects as a reliever in the future.

Brandon Loy, SS, Detroit Tigers

Perhaps the best shortstop to ever set foot on the 40 Acres, Loy's coming ascension will surely be because of his glove work. He hit a paltry .240 with Class-A West Michigan, but he was also a late-bloomer — at the plate at least — with the Longhorns.

 

Four Longhorns begin pro careers

Jonathan Walsh's pro career is off and running.
Jonathan Walsh's pro career is off and running.

Four Longhorns were drafted in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, and they have all signed with their new professional teams.
 

Hoby Milner, Jonathan Walsh and Sam Stafford -- who was drafted in the second round last year by the Yankees, failed to sign because of shoulder problems then missed his would-be senior season because of said problems -- each decided to forgo their last college season. Austin Dicharry, whose collegiate career was marred by injuries, was rather lucky to be drafted by the Nationals in the 24th round.


Milner, drafted in the sixth round by the Phillies, was 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in one short season with Williamsport in the New York-Pennsylvania League. Milner, who projects as a reliever, struck out seven and walked two in 5 2/3 innings pitched. He's since progressed to Class-A Lakewood, where he yielded four earned in one start -- resulting in an ERA of 12.00.
 

The Los Angeles Angels nabbed Walsh in the 11th round, and while it wasn't easy to pass up his final season, the outfielder knew he had to take the money while he could.


"I love Texas, but it was time for me to go, with how the draft works," Walsh said via text.


Walsh saw teammates Cole Green and Kevin Lusson turn down professional offers after their junior seasons, only to see their draft slot drop a year later. Green turned down a $300,000 signing bonus from the Detroit Tigers in 2010. He was picked five rounds later in 2011, a big drop-off in money. Lusson went undrafted this past June.


Through 13 games with the Orem Owlz in short-season rookie ball, Walsh is hitting .244 with two homers. In 50 games with the Longhorns as a junior, Walsh hit six home runs.


"I started out hot, but had a tough last week," Walsh said. "But I'm loving [not having to hit at Disch-Falk Field] for sure."


Stafford hasn't recorded any Minor League stats, as he's still rehabbing from season-ending shoulder surgery. It's a pleasant surprise that he was drafted in the 13th round by the Rangers, despite missing a full season and having a shoulder complication previously red-flagged so much by the Yankees that they couldn't agree to terms.


If Stafford can get healthy and then pitch to his capabilities, it wouldn't surprise anybody within the Texas program one bit if he becomes a top-three starter. He's left-handed, which is a plus, and he has such dynamic stuff -- which at times was better than Taylor Jungmann's in 2011.


Dicharry, a senior, actually improved his draft stock between this year and last. The Phillies took a flier on Dicharry in the 41st round in '11, as he pitched just one inning because of nagging shoulder injury. He made some money this season with a 2.25 ERA in 20 innings pitched.


In three relief appearances with the Nationals rookie squad in the Gulf Coast League, Dicharry has allowed one earned run on two hits in five innings pitched, with five strikeouts. 

Senior Jordan Etier was reinstated to the Texas baseball team on January 18 after he was suspended for the entire season stemming from an arrest for marijuana possession and evading arrest. Since than he’s attempted to make the most of his second chance and be a leader on the field for his team.

Photo Credit: Fanny Trang | Daily Texan Staff

Streaming from the dugout, teammates raced towards Jordan Etier and moments later a massive pile of humanity engulfed him at first base, celebrating Etier’s game winning at bat against Texas A&M last Sunday.

It wasn’t the at bat itself that was so special — just a simple ground ball at the first baseman, and barely far enough up the line to score the runner from third.

But for Etier, it meant so much more. It represented the fulfillment of a second chance, because only a few months ago, he thought he might never get to play baseball again.

On October 15, Etier was arrested on charges of evading arrest and possession of marijuana.

Two days later Etier was dismissed from the team, and in many ways, the dismissal cost him his identity as a person.

“Every day waking up after that happened I thought, ‘God what am I supposed to do today? I only got classes and I have no baseball with my boys’,” he said. “I think that was the biggest thing, just waking up and thinking, ‘God I can’t do this anymore. It was there and now it’s just all gone.’”

However, the time away from the game proved to be a blessing, because it allowed him time to reflect on life and transform as a person. Before the suspension, it was all about baseball and having a little too much fun off of the field, but after his arrest life became more balanced.

“It gave me the opportunity to understand that baseball isn’t everything in life, because it’s not,” Etier said. “I was able to enjoy time fishing with my cousin and doing other little things, like helping my dad in the yard and finding time to spend with my grandparents and my half-sister, who I really go to know. I just really found happiness.”

But the change would have never happened if it wasn’t for one bad decision on a mid-October afternoon.

What happened that afternoon

Like some college students who find trouble on a Saturday, Etier’s issues stemmed from a night of heavy drinking and the bad decisions that come with that. In his case, he made the decision to wake up and attend a tailgate the next morning despite still being intoxicated from the night before.

At the tailgate Etier continued to drink until he and his friend, a baseball player from Oklahoma State, went down to a ravine area near the tailgate, which many students use as a place to drink or smoke, and even as a crude location for a bathroom break.

The latter was the reason that Etier and his friend took a trip down to the spot. A few minutes after they arrived a police officer called out to them to come up to the top of the ditch to talk. At that moment Etier had a choice, approach the officer and risk arrest, as he had two-thirds an ounce of weed on him at the time, or run.

Maybe it was because of the drinking or maybe it was because he thought it was the easiest option at the time, but he knows one thing was true. He was with his friend and he didn’t want him to get in trouble, so he ran.

“Once I saw him, I mean, there were 50,000 people there and he was on a bike, and I just thought it’d be a lot easier to get away real quick,” Etier said. Etier claims he did get away from the first officer, but as he recalls with a slight grin because of his oversight, “I couldn’t get away from their walkie-talkies.”

He eventually ran into Trinity Garage right off of campus and disposed of the marijuana he was carrying along with the receipt it was wrapped in. Both were later found by police and used in the charges against him.

To make matters worse, the arrest took place a night before the team’s first fall game, which he says was the toughest part of the ordeal.

“Sitting in jail while my teammates were out there playing was the worst part,” Etier said. “I wanted to be out there so bad that I was doing pushups, crunches, whatever in the cell to keep my mind off of it.”

However, Etier admits that he wouldn’t change much of what happened over those couple of days, because of the improvements he’s made as a person in the months following.

“I don’t regret it because it’s put me in a good place as far as seeing what I really want in life,” he said. “It’s also helped me see that life is not just all baseball. But I do regret the fact that I ran. I mean, it was a pretty bad deal sitting in a jail cell while all my other friends were out there playing.”

How he turned his life around

That terrible feeling he had about letting his teammates down was the first step in his recovery as a person and in getting back to UFCU Disch-Falk Field as a player.

But it wasn’t an easy road.

At first Etier was upset with the situation and angry with himself about his choices. But his teammates never quit on him, and it was their support during the ordeal that kept him upbeat and attending classes regularly.

His roommate and teammate Jonathan Walsh says that the team just tried to “show him love” throughout the process. Etier was thankful for it, because there were a lot of people around campus and the community who weren’t nearly as kind.

“There were a lot of other people going ‘hey look at that guy, he fucked up his career,’” Etier said. “But it really meant a lot to have that support from my teammates.”

His teammates weren’t the only source of love that Etier received. His family was key in helping him make the necessary changes, and the whole ordeal also brought them much closer together.

For the rest of the fall semester after his arrest, Etier went to live with his grandparents in West Lake Hills. The time he spent there allowed him to reflect and come to terms with his actions on his own.

“When I was able to go out and live with my grandparents I was not only able to make my own decisions, but was also able to have their support,” he said. “That was key because I had to come to terms with it myself, otherwise I don’t think it would have really sunk in the way it has.”

Though, Etier was in no way done with the game. He missed playing with his teammates out on the field and every day after class. In an attempt to fill that void, he would go hit with his dad, his friends or even just the little leaguers who would be outdoors practicing. He missed the game, badly.

Only problem was, despite finding a new perspective on life and making a change for the better, he still didn’t have a place to play his senior season.  

The reinstatement process

When he was originally suspended, Texas head coach Augie Garrido told Etier that he would find him a place to play for his senior year, because he had always respected the tenacity and appreciation for the game that Etier displayed on the field.

Plus, Garrido is a real believer in people receiving a second chance, something he has experienced firsthand after his drunken driving incident in 2009. That event made Garrido a better person in the end, and he attempted to pass on that message to Etier.

“He told me it was just like when he endangered people through his incident and that he learned a lot from it,” Etier said. “That gave me the inspiration that I knew I could do the same and learn from the situation.”

Etier was originally scheduled to play at St. Edward’s University for his senior season — something that he didn’t want to do one bit. But St. Edward’s refused to admit Etier for the spring semester to play baseball, so he turned to his legendary coach for help at a second chance.

“I called coach Garrido, and he was like, ‘That’s not what we talked about, I have your back, and we’ll find you a place to play’,” Etier said.

Garrido set up one last meeting with athletic director DeLoss Dodds attempting to persuade Dodds to put Etier back on the team. In the meeting, Dodds sat right across for Jordan and looked at him squarely in the eyes to determine if he really had changed as a person. The charges had been dropped, but Etier wouldn’t be reinstated if Dodds didn’t firmly believe that Etier had not only learned from the incident but had also transformed as a person.

In the end, Dodds determined that he had earned a second chance, and Garrido had this to say about his shortstop’s reinstatement:

“It was decided by the administration to bring the punishment more in line with Jordan’s wrongdoing. After he was dismissed from the team in the fall, Jordan continued to attend class, which was looked on in a positive light by the administration ... which demonstrated his effort to learn and grow from the incident,” he said.

Fittingly, it was Garrido and not the administration who got to break the news to his shortstop.

“Coach Garrido just called me into his office and was like, ‘This is your second chance, this is your second life. You learned from your first one and now it’s time to make the most from what you learned from it,’” Etier said.

Etier gets his second chance

Etier was reinstated by the administration on January 18 and would have to sit out the first four games of the season due to suspension, but he was just thrilled to be back out on the field with his teammates.

“For so long, I couldn’t even wipe the smile from my face from just being able to be out there with the guys and having fun,” Etier said.

He wasn’t the only one; his teammates were ecstatic to have him back out on the practice field with them. It was not just for what he brings with the glove and with the bat, but because he is an amazing teammate who brings an irresistible level of positive energy to the clubhouse.

“Jordan’s always been a great person and a caring person,” Walsh said. “He’s one of the most loyal friends I know. If I’m lost somewhere at three in the morning, he’ll come pick me up, just like that. He just shows love to everyone. He really is a kind person.”

It’s that ability to care that makes Etier an incredible leader for Texas. He knows when to get on a player for having a bad at bat, but at the same time, he will always be the first player to come up to his teammates with words of encouragement after an error or a strikeout.

He’s also the Longhorns’ vocal leader. He’s the one that keeps spirits up on the field and communicates with the infielders to make sure everyone knows their assignments and are in the right spots.

“He’s always talking out there letting everyone know what to do, and you need somebody like that,” said second baseman and Etier’s double play partner Brooks Marlow. “That’s what Jordan is. He’s a leader and he’ll be a leader for the rest of his life.”

The leadership qualities he displays on the diamond translate directly into the career he wants to have after he’s done playing baseball: coaching. He’s in love with the game, and it’s on display every time he hits the field with a grin that seems to belong more on a hometown sandlot than it does at a big-time college baseball program, and that’s the kind of passion he wants to pass on to future generations.

Fortunately for him, during the past four years he’s had the opportunity to learn from Garrido, one of the best coaches in history and the NCAA’s all-time wins leader, and he’s soaked up all that he could learn from him in his time on the 40 Acres.

Garrido also believes that Etier has what it takes to be a great head coach because of his vast knowledge of the game and because his troublesome experiences make him a more relatable person and compassionate teacher.

“He’s had a lot of decisions to make in his own life and it hasn’t been necessarily a smooth road for him,” Garrido said. “I think what that gives him is an internal and subconscious compassion for people that need to make changes in their life, and that’s what teaching is about.”

Etier is attempting to take Garrido’s philosophical approach to heart this season, and outside of winning a conference championship and making it back to Ohama, his goal for his senior year is to pass on his experiences to his teammates to ensure that they don’t make the same mistakes he’s committed.

“That’s what I want to do more than anything,” Etier said. “You can’t control other people, but you can help them with different situations and you can mentor them, you can tell them what you’ve been through.”

Back on the field

After sitting out the first four games of 2012 because of his suspension, Etier returned with full intentions on making the most of the second chance he was given. This year he’s played with a solid glove at shortstop, and his hitting average is up over .25 points from the previous season to .256.

It might not be the best season by a shortstop in Longhorn history, but the intangibles Etier displays on the field — things like hustling down the line, a positive attitude and working his tail off every day — have earned back any respect he may have lost from his teammates after his arrest.

This is his second life out there on the diamond. He made mistakes in his first one, but he firmly believes that he’s taken the lessons learned from those struggles and transformed himself into a new ballplayer and more importantly, a reformed person. The new Etier was on display on Sunday afternoon in the Longhorns’ final game against Texas A&M, in which he knocked in the game-winning RBI.

After contact, he bounded down the first base line with a look on his face of pure joy, something he knows would have never been possible without the lessons learned from an arrest that now seems to be a lifetime ago.

“That was awesome,” he said. “The fact that I was never going to get to be able to play again was heartbreaking, but to come out here and finish strong on my home diamond and at the dish to put the Aggies away, I couldn’t ask for anything better.”

Mark Payton went 3-for-5 and scored two runs during Texas' 5-2 win. Payton has been consistent all season and is hitting .329.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

Mark Payton made it on base at least once during each of Texas’ first 33 games. Although that streak has ended, his consistency and good timing brought the Longhorns back in the game on Tuesday night when they were down 2-1 to Prairie View A&M.

The Panthers got the edge in the fourth inning. But their lead wouldn’t last for long.

Payton’s base hit in the fifth inning began a rally that was necessary to give the Longhorns the lead that they never gave up.

His hit sent center fielder Tim Maitland to third base. Maitland would eventually score off of a hit from Erich Weiss.

Jonathan Walsh’s two RBI single sent Payton and Brooks Marlow home. Weiss singled and drove Payton home making the score 1-0 Texas in the third inning. Payton bunted to get on base.

“Mark Payton is a ballplayer,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “He is day in day out a really hard nosed quality baseball player. That’s what sets him apart from the others. The others can have really good days. Every day is a good day for him because of the attitude that he has and the work ethic that he has.”

Garrido said because of Payton’s small size, standing 5-foot-8, he has stepped up and become an even better baseball player.

Payton went 3-for-5 and scored two runs against the Panthers. Although Prairie View A&M lost, they put up a strong fight against the Longhorns, who were still surging from the ninth inning victory over A&M on Sunday.

“Mark is an excellent leadoff guy,” Weiss said. “He’s got that spot down. Last year, I think he was two hole sometimes, second batter. He’s developed into a leadoff hitter.”

Weiss said Payton is good at dragging on the count and making the pitcher throw to him a lot.

But, Payton doesn’t take all the credit.

“It’s nice when you have Erich and Walsh hitting behind you because you’re going to get pitches to hit,” Payton said. “They don’t want to walk you. It’s nice when those two are hitting.”

Payton knows that his job is to get on base. This season, he certainly has. He is currently batting .329. That is second highest on the team, only trailing Weiss who is hitting .343.

Last year, he was consistent and made the All-Big 12 freshman team. This year, he is continuing to step up when the team needs him.

“My game has got to be to get on base no matter how it is,” Payton said. “I try not to worry about the statistics at all. My job is to get on base and make plays on the field and put together quality at bats. That’s the only thing I’ve been worried about.”

Payton’s hit in the fifth inning jump-started the Longhorns and led them to the win.

The players and Garrido emphasize “total offense.”

“It’s not focusing on getting a hit but focusing on getting the leadoff man on base,” Walsh said. “We want him to get over and then let the next guy do his job.”

Walsh said hits seem to be contagious sometimes.

“Anytime you get more than one run in an inning is great, especially for your pitching cause that takes a lot of pressure off of them,” Weiss said. “Even hitting, too, because you think that you’re more relaxed up there and take a better at bat.”

Payton’s consistency this season and tonight will continue to get the Longhorns on the scoreboard. With Marlow, Weiss and Walsh behind him in the batting order, Payton will continue to put runs on the board.

Erich Weiss went 2-for-4 and had two RBIs during Texas' 5-2 win over Texas A&M Prairie View.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

For the second straight game, the Longhorns came back to beat A&M.

The only difference was that Tuesday’s win came against Prairie View A&M and it wasn’t nearly as dramatic as Texas’ ninth-inning rally in its 2-1 victory over Texas A&M Sunday afternoon. But after falling behind in the fourth inning against the Panthers, the No. 24 Longhorns (26-16, 11-6) used RBI singles from sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss and junior left fielder Jonathan Walsh in the fifth frame to take down Prairie View A&M (22-21, 13-7), 5-2, Tuesday evening at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

“That’s kind of been like us all year,” sophomore right fielder Mark Payton, who racked up a game-high three hits, including a pivotal single.

Texas fell behind in the fourth inning when freshman pitcher Ricky Jacquez gave up a leadoff double to deep left-center field. The next batter, Brett Valley, beat out a bunt single down the third base line before Jacquez fielded a bunt by the following hitter, Brad Benes, and spun around to throw for a forced out at third base. But, Weiss was nowhere to be found and Jacquez recovered to throw the runner out at first base. Panthers clean-up man Dominiq Harris delivered a two-run single up the middle with the bases loaded that put the Longhorns in a 2-1 hole.

“The defense played well. That’s encouraging,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido about his defense, which didn’t commit an error for the second straight game after committing eight in the previous two. “They made all the plays that they needed to make, except for the confusion twice on the bunt. Outside of that, it was a flawless game.”

The Longhorns roared back in the fifth frame. Senior center fielder Tim Maitland, filling in for the injured freshman Taylor Stell, was hit by a pitch for the team-leading 13th time with one out before Payton singled and freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow was also beaned. Then, with the bases loaded, Weiss singled softly up the middle to bring home Maitland and tie the contest at 2-2. That set the stage for Walsh’s sharp single to right, also with the bases loaded, that gave Texas a 4-2 lead and all the offense it would need.

Since April 13, the Longhorns are batting 8-for-12 (.667) with the bases juiced after hitting just 6-for-34 (.176) in that same situation previously this year. Weiss, who picked up the first of two bases-loaded base hits in that fifth inning, said that Texas has emphasized that situation more often in scrimmages recently.

“Coach Garrido talked to us about not seeing the runners on base and pretending like they’re not there and taking that at-bat like you’re a leadoff hitter,” said Weiss. “During the beginning of the season, we were hitting the ball well but we were hitting it right at them. Now they’re starting to fall in for us. About time.”

Stell, who last played in Friday’s 6-5 loss to Texas A&M in College Station, had surgery Tuesday to repair a knee injury he suffered in last week’s 4-2 victory over Central Arkansas. Garrido said that he’ll be out at least three weeks but hopes to have him back in time for the NCAA Tournament that begins next month. 

Printed on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 as: Weiss, Walsh lead fifth inning rally

Jonathan Walsh crosses home plate in the ninth inning to give Texas a 2-1 victory over Texas A&M on Sunday. The Longhorns avoided a sweep as senior Jordan Etier drove in the winning run.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

After more than 100 years of facing off on the diamond, the Longhorns weren’t about to go quietly to Texas A&M.

Down 1-0 and heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Longhorns worked a two-run comeback to avoid a sweep and to take what is quite possibly the final game for a long time in this historic series.

“It was incredible, I had chills running down my spine,” said Jordan Etier. “I couldn’t ask for a better feeling than the one I had right there.”

The rally started with a single into center field off the bat of Erich Weiss. Then Jonathan Walsh worked A&M closer Kyle Martin to a full count and singled into right field. Walsh was due in that situation, as he had come up all day with long, tough at bats and nothing to show for it.

The hit got the sellout Texas crowd on its feet for the first time all game, and the fight song echoed throughout the stadium.

Alex Silver, in typical Augie Garrido fashion, dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third.

Catcher Jacob Felts came up next, and he continued his hot day at the plate by sending the first pitch he saw up the middle for his third hit of the game. The single scored Weiss and moved Walsh to third.

In what could be considered a slightly poetic moment, Etier — the lone senior starter — was the one that sent A&M to the Southeastern Conference with a loss.

On the first pitch of the at bat, Etier chopped a ground ball right at the first baseman Tyler Naquin. He fielded it cleanly and came home with the ball attempting to throw Walsh, who was streaking home from third, out at the plate. The throw was on time, but Walsh hooked around the tag from A&M’s catcher for the game ending and rivalry-ending run.

“Jonathan [Walsh] running in and scoring was the best part of the game in my opinion,” Etier said. “He was hustling down the line and trying to win one for his boys. You have to tip your hat to him because he made an incredible slide and a great play.”

After Walsh slid in safely at home, the Texas bench exploded onto the field to celebrate. It ended up being a split dog pile between Walsh at home and Etier at first base.

This is not the way the Longhorns would normally celebrate after a regular season win, but it being the final game against rival A&M, the players decided they could make an exception.

“This means a lot with this being the last game against those guys,” Felts said. “This was great and is a huge confidence booster moving forward.”

The ninth inning continues to be a strength for this Texas team, as it seems that the Longhorns play their best baseball when they’re under pressure to close out a game or when their backs are against the wall, attempting a comeback.

“It’s just like a survival instinct knowing that your three outs away from the end of the game,” Felts said. “Everyone is just fighting to keep the game going.”

The will to not give up and fight back gave this team an incredible victory, but more importantly to the players it meant that the final game in the books between these two historic rivals will forever read: 2-1 Texas.

Printed on Monday, April 30, 2012 as: Texas slides past A&m in ninth inning

In his ninth start of the year, Taylor Stell went 2-for-3 with two runs, one walk one double and one sacrifice bunt in Texas’ route of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. The team had12 hits in the first four innings and took a 6-1 lead over the Islanders.

Photo Credit: Rebeca Rodriguez | Daily Texan Staff

The top of the Texas order shined as the Longhorns pushed across six runs in the first four innings, and the early output was enough to allow them to cruise to a 9-2 victory over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Tuesday.

“We had four good innings,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “We took the momentum from the Saturday’s game (a 14-3 victory) and came right in here with the same spirit and did the same kinds of things that we did in Lubbock.

The top four hitters in the Texas lineup: Mark Payton, Taylor Stell, Erich Weiss and Jonathan Walsh went a combined 9-for-16 at the dish and really gave the offense a boost. All four had key hits that started, sustained or capped off rallies in the beginning stages of the game.

“We’re just working counts and finding ways to fight each at bat and battle, to have your best chance to get on base,” Payton said of the top of the order.

Payton exemplified that idea of battling to get on base ­— which he has done all season, as he has reached base one way or another in all 30 games. He had his moments in the first and fourth innings as a table setter.

In the first inning, he began the game with a sharp single up the middle and he eventually scored later that inning after a sacrifice bunt and a single plated him. He made his impact in the fourth with a perfectly placed one out bunt single right down the third base line. The textbook bunt allowed him to serve as the leadoff runner once again, and he was the catalyst for the three run burst Texas enjoyed in the frame.

Stell, who saw playing time in left field to allow Walsh a night of rest as the designated hitter, performed well in his opportunity. In the first four innings alone, Stell had two hits and a key sac bunt. His rope of a double down the left field line in the third inning was the beginning of a two run frame that put Texas up by three.

Weiss and Walsh did exactly what the three and four-hole hitters are supposed to do — send the runners that are on base home. The pair combined for five RBIs in the victory, and both seemed to come up with a clutch hit with runners in scoring position whenever it was needed.

After the first four innings, the Longhorns bats fell into a lull, but the pitching was good enough to pick up the slack.

Five Texas pitchers saw the mound and starter Dillon Peters was solid in his three innings, allowing just one hit and no runs. John Curtiss and Parker French each pitched two innings of long relief and combined to allow only one run and four hits — all off of Curtiss in the fourth.

The staff ran into a bit of trouble in the eighth when Austin Dicharry came into the game, as he allowed four straight Islander runners to reach base, cutting the game to a four run deficit. But Texas was quick to pull Dicharry in favor of Hoby Milner, who came in with the fire hose, and induced three quick outs to extinguish the A&M-Corpus Christi rally.

“We got some quality pitching,” Garrido said. “Dillon Peters was good, Hoby was outstanding, Curtiss had a rough first inning but came out and had a good second inning and Parker French did the same thing.”

After Milner worked the team out of the jam, the bats responded by pushing across three more runs in the bottom of the eighth to seal the game.

Landon Steinhagen and the rest of the Texas offense has shrugged off its slow start to the season, and have averaged 7.18 runs a game in its last 16 contests.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

After 13 games, Texas was struggling to find the win column at 5-8 and averaging an anemic 3.3 runs a game. The pitching kept the team afloat early on, but if their output at the plate didn’t change, any dreams of Omaha would be crushed before the semester is over — for non-baseball playing students, at least.

The Longhorns have responded, however. Since that point they have gone 12-4 and raised their offensive output to 7.18 runs a contest.

What has changed at the plate to give the team such an impressive offensive boost?

The players would tell you that it’s just baseball, the team got off to a slow start but eventually they were going to turn things around.

While that particular cliche has played a part in the huge jump in production, there are a few other important factors that explain the sterling performances the lineup has displayed over the last month.

First of which is that hits started to find gaps that they weren’t early on in the season, and once that happened, it freed up the players to just go out and play baseball.

Early on, the team was pressing; they were looking to get a hit instead of just allowing it to happen, and it cost them.

Once the hits started falling, the batters relaxed and the results of that are quite noticeable in the win column.

The turnaround wouldn’t have been possible without standout individual efforts, most notably the contributions of Texas’ three and four-hole hitters, Erich Weiss and Jonathan Walsh.

Weiss, who was just named Big 12 Player of the Week after he went 10-for-17 at the plate over the weekend against Texas Tech, has been a steady presence in the middle of the Longhorn order after a slow start, giving the team the consistent bat that the offense needs.

Walsh, on the other hand, has been a pleasant surprise in the cleanup role for the Longhorns. Originally, Walsh was batting near the bottom of the Texas order, but head coach Augie Garrido moved him into the four-slot a few games into the season in search of some pop from the slot, and he has thrived in the role. Walsh is hitting at a .350 clip, with a .515 slugging percentage and a .398 OBP.

The rest of the lineup has upped their production since the slow start as well. After the first 14 games the offense was battling to keep their team average above the Mendoza line, but since that point the Longhorns have raised it to a
respectable .278.

It hasn’t been all positives at the plate since that point, though. The Longhorns have failed to come through in many late game situations during this stretch, and their inability to perform in the clutch has cost the team games.

The team still has time to work on this issue, and if they want to be playing in Nebraska later this summer their offensive production must continue to maintain this pace.
 

**CAPTION**

(Daily Texan File Photo)

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Texas sure knows how to come back from a 14-inning loss — just pound out 14 runs the next day.

The No. 25 Longhorns (17-12, 7-2 Big 12) jumped all over Texas Tech (18-15, 3-9 Big 12) on Saturday afternoon hammering out a season high 19 hits in the 14-3 win. The win in the rubber matchup also gave Texas its third straight conference series victory.

Erich Weiss was the pace setter at the plate for Texas on the day, going 4-for-6 with three runs scored and a home run. His impressive day with the bat also gave Weiss a slight lead for highest batting average on the squad at .357, only .07 points ahead of his cleanup hitter Jonathan Walsh.

However, it’s not as if Walsh had a bad weekend, especially on Saturday when he went 3-for-6 with three runs scored.

It wasn’t just the middle of the Texas order that had a strong day with the bat either. Texas had six different players record at least two RBI in the game, including Mark Payton, Weiss, Brooks Marlow, Alex Silver, Taylor Stell and Jacob Felts.

Despite the loaded box score that the Longhorns put together, the Raiders did have the lead for the first third of the game, after they jumped out to an early 1-0 first inning lead.

The Longhorns took control in the fourth inning as they pushed across four runs across the plate. The inning started with two consecutive one-out singles from Weiss and Walsh, and then a single from Marlow plated Weiss to tie the game 1-1. Silver then followed that with the Longhorns fourth consecutive single, which scored Walsh and put them ahead 2-1.

From there the Longhorns did not relinquish the lead, and cruised to victory.

Friday evening’s game was not nearly as productive or easy going for the Longhorns, as they blew a two run lead in extra innings to drop the game, 7-6.

Texas was ahead 6-4 heading into the bottom of the 14th inning after pinch hitter Kevin Lusson came through with a single that scored two.

In the bottom of the inning a pair of poor defensive plays cost Texas the contest.

Fresh off of his heroics in the top half of the 14th, Lusson was unable to coral a sharp hit ball at first allowing Tech’s leadoff runner to reach. Then after a strikeout, the Raiders’ batter hit a ground ball at Jordan Etier that looked like it could be perfect for a game ending double play, but the senior was unable to field the ball, so the inning continued.

After a ground out, a single made the game 6-5. From there, the Longhorns intentionally walked the hard hitting Mason Randolph to load the bases. However, the decision backfired and third baseman Bryant Burleson came up with his first hit of the night — in the most important moment — to score two runners and end the game.

Printed on Monday, April 9, 2012 as: Weiss pounds out four hits, Longhorns produce 14 runs