The long-awaited dominance of junior starting pitcher Chase Shugart seems to finally have arrived.
On a gloomy Saturday afternoon, Texas fought hard to come away with a 3-1 victory. In contrast to the high scoring on Friday night, pitching was the theme Saturday. Shugart went for a season-high 7.2 innings pitched, allowing just one run on the day. It was arguably Shugart’s best outing of the season thus far.
Shugart, who was one of the team’s top relievers last year, finally looked at ease in the starting role.
“I feel like I’m getting a little more comfortable with (being a starting pitcher),” Shugart said. “Me and Coach (Phil Haig) have been working in our bullpens on executing the lower half. I’ve had a problem leaving balls up when my lower half isn’t working correctly. So working on my lower half has really helped me out.”
Texas head coach David Pierce said he has also noticed the improvement in Shugart lately. He noted the task asked of Shugart to move from the bullpen into a starting role is a lot tougher than most would believe.
“Changing roles isn’t as easy as it appears from sitting in the stands,” Pierce said. “It’s a different role. And he’s truly starting to get comfortable there. So I think that’s the difference. And then he’s learning something about himself, something about his preparation and how he prepares between innings on the bench. So he’s just really doing a better job of being focused on his preparation.”
In the bottom of the first inning, the Longhorns scored two runs on an RBI single by junior outfielder Masen Hibbeler and an RBI double by redshirt freshman designated hitter Zach Zubia.
Zubia, whose homer made the difference in Friday night’s game, went 3-4 on the day with two singles, a double and an RBI. Zubia, who is the team’s cleanup hitter, has reached base safely in 41 straight games, a statistic that continues to rise.
Zubia currently boasts a .314 batting average with nine home runs, 33 RBIs and 30 walks, all of which are tied or ranked second behind junior Kody Clemens.
“I try not to think about it as much as possible,” Zubia said. “Because if you think about it, you’re not going to have success at the plate with all that stuff going through you head. But if you’re on base and you think about it, it’s cool to think about because you’re helping your team out.”
Texas, which has been in two surprisingly tough games against New Orleans this weekend, has already clinched the series but will look to secure the sweep with another win on Sunday. First pitch at UFCU Disch-Falk Field is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.