Longhorns look to get back on track against Dallas Baptist

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Junior left fielder Jonathan Walsh roams the dugout at Minute Maid Park last week. Walsh batted.500 and hit three doubles during the Houston College Classic en route to being named Big 12 Player of the Week Monday.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Texas didn’t get swept this past weekend like it did by Stanford earlier this season, but the remainder of the Houston College Classic did not go particularly well for the Longhorns.

They took down No. 5 Rice, 11-8, last Friday but dropped consecutive contests to Tennessee, 5-4, and No. 4 Arkansas, 7-3. Texas showed marked improvement offensively at Minute Maid Park last week but could not get its pitching staff to follow suit. The Longhorns raised their team batting average from .195 to .226 over the course of those three games but no starting pitcher lasted more than six innings or allowed fewer than three runs. Now Texas (4-7) will try to bounce back against Dallas Baptist (6-5) in a home game Tuesday.

“We’re trying to create an environment that’s realistic and that supports the players’ confidence,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “I think they have the right to be confident because they have played at a much higher level. They are playing well below their average performance level.”

The Longhorns have split their first two mid-week games, dropping a 7-5 decision to UT-Arlington two weeks ago before blanking Houston Baptist, 2-0, last Tuesday. Texas gave up four unearned runs in the loss to UTA but allowed just three hits in the victory over Houston Baptist a week ago. The Longhorns will try to improve to 2-1 in mid-week contests against a Dallas Baptist team that used upsets over TCU and Oklahoma to advance to the Super Regionals last season.

“That’s the way baseball is. Sometimes they fall in, sometimes they don’t,” said sophomore right fielder Mark Payton. “If we don’t make mental errors and play our game, the wins and losses will take care of themselves.”

Before their trip to Minute Maid Park last week, the Longhorns owned one of the poorest batting averages in the country. But they came close to hitting .300 as a team in their three games at the home of the Houston Astros, registering season highs in runs (11) and hits (13) in the win over Rice Friday night. Texas scored 18 runs in the tournament after putting up 23 in their previous eight games combined.

Junior Jonathan Walsh was the catalyst of the offensive turnaround, going 6-for-12 with three doubles, two runs and two RBI during the three-game stretch.

“We found that attitude that Coach Garrido had been looking for and we had in us but we just hadn’t triggered yet,” said senior shortstop Jordan Etier, who tripled against the Owls for his only hit in 16 at-bats so far this season. “To get all cylinders pumping on offense and defense would be nice. We’re going to get it going.”

For the second straight week, Texas surrendered at least five runs in three consecutive contests as its 4.65 ERA team era this season is nearly twice what it was a year ago. Sophomore Nathan Thornhill, who has assumed the role of the team’s ace since senior Sam Stafford was scratched for the season before it began with a shoulder injury, gave up six runs in his second straight start against Rice but picked up his second win of the year thanks to the Longhorns’ season-best offensive performance. The Longhorns were dominant on the mound against Houston Baptist this time last week and will try to return to that form when they face Dallas Baptist.

“We can’t have the inconsistency that we’ve been having,” Thornhill said. “This team started off slow, but I see a lot of great things in this team.”

The competition that awaits Texas in its next several games is not nearly as tough as the competition it faced in its first 11 games, which included five against opponents ranked among the top five in the country. The Longhorns get Dallas Baptist Tuesday, then a three-game series with Loyola Marymount — who is also currently 4-7 on the year — before squaring off against Texas State. The Bobcats should present a much stiffer test as they found themselves at No. 21 in the latest Baseball America Top 25, are riding a six-game winning streak and have thrown 50.1 consecutive scoreless innings.

Published on Tuesday, March 6, 2012 as; Texas looks to get back in win column