Michael Cantu

Freshman catcher Michael Cantu has made his presence known behind the plate, throwing out seven would-be baserunners this season.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Trying to steal a base against freshman catcher Michael Cantu isn’t an easy task.

The feat proved especially challenging Saturday, as Cantu displayed his defensive prowess against Oklahoma. In the sixth inning, a Sooner runner tried to steal second, but the freshman made a phenomenal off-balanced throw from his knees to senior second baseman Brooks Marlow for an inning-ending out. He followed that with another equally impressive throw from his knees to freshman shortstop Joe Baker later in the game.

“Cantu did a great job throwing people out at the plate,” sophomore pitcher Kacy Clemens said after the game.

Cantu, a Corpus Christi native, has thrown out seven runners attempting to steal on him this season. He’s hitting .265 on the season and is tied for third in the Big 12 in walks with 25. The 6-foot-3, 237-pound catcher has been a bright spot throughout the season — especially when the team overall is struggling.

Although Texas dropped two out of three against the Sooners, Cantu hit .500 and drew three walks. Head coach Augie Garrido said he was impressed with Cantu’s play.

“He threw out every runner that tried to run on him,” Garrido said. “He was a very mature baseball player. If we could get everybody particularly on offense competing the way he competes — they certainly have a leader and a model to follow in him.”

Cantu came to the team with high accolades. Before coming to college, he was ranked the No. 1 catcher in the state by Perfect Game USA. Perfect Game USA also named him an underclass second-team All-American in 2013 and a third-team All-American in 2014. The Texas Sports Writers Association named him a first-team all-state catcher in 2013 and second-team in 2014. Cantu was also drafted by Chicago Cubs in the 30th round in 2014.

Cantu has proven himself with his confident play from behind the plate. Cantu said that confidence comes from his trust in himself and his baseball ability.

“You got to be confident,” Cantu said. “I was always told that there’s no age in baseball. It doesn’t matter. If you can play, you can play. That’s the big thing: You got to have confidence and trust yourself and trust that what you’ve been doing that’s got you here will keep you going.”

Although he isn’t shy about his skill, Cantu also is quick to mention his teammates and throw the spotlight off himself.

“I’ve just been trusting myself and having confidence in my teammates,” Cantu said. “I threw a guy out that Joe [Baker] caught [against Oklahoma]. The ball was up the line, and he made a great play on it. It’s just trust in ourselves and trusting our defense.”

Texas (19–18, 6–6 Big 12) hopes to live up to that trust as they continue to battle through recent struggles.

Cantu and the Longhorns will try to break out of their slump in a three-game series against Kansas starting Friday at 6 p.m. in Lawrence, Kansas.

Freshman catcher Michael Cantu has been a bright spot during Texas’ struggles. Cantu had four hits and walked four times this weekend against Oklahoma.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

When Texas dropped its third-consecutive three-game series Sunday, associate head coach Skip Johnson decided to deliver a “sermon” after the game.

After a 3–2 loss to Oklahoma, in which the Longhorns had 11 hits but only scored twice, Johnson’s message was simple. “You got to do better,” said Johnson.

“You got to convert and take quality at-bats in timely situations,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “That’s really the problem. Last series at Oklahoma State, they had 17 RBIs, and we had five. It’s about RBIs.”

Texas has struggled lately to bring runs home. In Friday’s game against the Sooners, the Longhorns had the bases loaded in the first inning but only scored one run. Texas had the bases loaded Sunday, but, again, it brought just one run home.

“We hit balls hard, but they just didn’t fall for us,” freshman catcher Michael Cantu, who had four hits and four walks against Oklahoma, said. “We squared some balls up with runners in scoring position; they just didn’t fall. It’s frustrating.”

While the players were frustrated with the lack of clutch hitting, Garrido was upset about the many losses the team has accumulated. The Longhorns have lost nine of their last 11 games — five of the last six conference games — and they have fallen from first to fifth place in the Big 12.

“[This weekend] was more frustrating because the losses are piling up,” Garrido said. “If you look at it, you know that’s what it’s about. … It’s just the number of losses that are frustrating.”

Although the losses have been frustrating, Cantu said the team needs to keep grinding and focusing on one game at a time.

“We just need to stay focused and composed,” Cantu said. “Baseball is a frustrating game, and it’s just how you react to it and keep rolling.”

Texas (19–17, 6–6 Big 12) will look to have a positive reaction to Johnson’s postgame comments when it takes on Sam Houston State (19–19) Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

The Bearkats enter the game on a five-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of Incarnate Word, a team the Longhorns defeated, 7–1, on March 10.

With Sam Houston State in town, Texas will try to get back on track. With a little over a month of baseball remaining, Garrido said the team is in danger of failing and missing out on its goal of a return trip to the College World Series.

“We still have a mission to follow,” Garrido said. “If we win the conference and don’t go to the regionals or lose in the first round of the regionals, this season was a disaster. … If we don’t go to the super regionals [or] if we don’t go to the College World Series, we have lost.”

If there was any doubt about who was the ace of the Longhorns pitching staff, Parker French put that to rest Friday night.

While the senior pitcher only struck one batter out, French limited Minnesota to only three hits in six innings and allowed only one run.

Meanwhile, the Texas offense exploded for 13 runs on 17 hits to secure a 13-2 victory over the Golden Gophers in the first game of a four-game series.

As they did Tuesday night against UTSA, the Longhorns got off to a quick start on the mound and behind the plate. After French led off the game with a quick 1-2-3 inning, junior left fielder Ben Johnson opened the bottom half of the inning with a fly ball that went just underneath the right fielder’s glove for a triple. Senior right fielder Collin Shaw then brought him in on a ground out to give the Longhorns the early lead.

After adding another run in the first, Texas struck again in the second, scoring on a wild pitch and then Shaw added an RBI triple just over the left fielder’s head to up the Longhorn’s lead to 4-0. After Minnesota got on the board in the fourth, the floodgates opened for Texas in the fifth.

Junior shortstop C.J. Hinojosa reached on an error to start the inning, chasing the Golden Gopher’s starter Ben Meyer from the game, the next two batters reached on walks and then freshman third-baseman Bret Boswell drilled a ground-rule double to right field to bring in two runs.

Two batters later, fellow freshman Michael Cantu singled to right center field to up the Texas lead to 8-1. Cantu then added to his RBI total with a bases-loaded triple in the eighth to increase the lead 13-1.

“Ben’s been swinging the bat good and Collin and Tres [Barrera] and we feed off of that and hit the ball well,” Cantu said.

French, meanwhile, did more than his part on the mound. The right hander threw first-pitch strikes to the first 10 batters he faced. French also limited Minnesota to only two extra base hits.

As good as he was pitching, French said he didn’t mind coming out after six innings.

“It’s a marathon, not a sprint,” French said. “You don’t win national championships in February.”

The Longhorns and Golden Gophers will square off in a double header Saturday afternoon. The first game is scheduled to start at 3 p.m.