A game against Texas State – who owned the nation’s best ERA coming into this week and who strung a 57 2/3 consecutive scoreless inning streak together earlier this season – did not seem like the best way to revive a struggling Texas offense.
The Longhorns entered the game with a .212 team batting average, good for 278th out of 291 Division I baseball teams and last among Big 12 squads. But Texas (7-8) scored in five of the first six innings en route to handing Texas State (11-5) a 6-0 loss at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Tuesday night in front of 7,748 fans, a record attendance for weekday home game for Texas.
“What the team did was make the adjustment in their attitude offensively,” said Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido. “They’ve been out of character a lot. But you can’t say that if they don’t have any character.”
Despite only pushing five runs across in their last 31 innings and having only three of their previous 28 leadoff hitters reach base, the Longhorns offense turned things around Tuesday. Texas scored in five of the first six innings, saw six of its first seven leadoff batters reach base, and pounded out 11 hits. Meanwhile, Texas State tied a season-high by surrendering six runs and Louis Head turned in the shortest outing (3 1/3 innings) by a Bobcats starting pitcher in 16 games this season.
“This is the first time they’ve showed it – where my confidence in them was demonstrated on the field,” Garrido said. “I’ve seen them play like that a lot. That was an average game for them. That’s not something that’s spectacular.”
The first eight batters in the Longhorns lineup each notched at least one base hit with sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss, sophomore first baseman Alex Silver and senior designated hitter Kevin Lusson each picking up two hits. Senior shortstop Jordan Etier was the only one to go hitless but contributed on offense by laying down a pair of sacrifice bunts.
“I’m not asking them to do something that I haven’t seen them do,” said Garrido. “I’ve seen them play just like this in scrimmages. We don’t have to be somebody spectacular. We don’t have to be somebody different. We don’t have to be somebody new. We just need to come out here and scrimmage.”
Once again, the Longhorns implemented a pitcher-by-committee approach to its to staff for a midweek game. After using six pitchers in each of its last two Tuesday evening contests, Texas only used four hurlers to take care of the Bobcats as freshman Parker French, junior Hoby Milner, freshman John Curtiss and sophomore Corey Knebel combined to limit Texas State to four hits and one run.
French threw four scoreless innings in his first career start but didn’t begin the game on the right foot. A leadoff triple in the first inning by Tyler Sibley was how French got out of the gate but the Dripping Springs product calmly navigated through the rest of the frame without allowing Sibley to score. Garrido said after the game that French would start Sunday in Texas’ series finale against its first Big 12 foe, Oklahoma.
“I think at first there were a little bit of nerves with it being my first start,” French said. “I was trying to settle in and minimize the damage at that point. It wasn’t even about not letting them score. They were only going to hit mistakes and if I made my pitches, we were going to be good.”
French got the next batter to ground out to first, which was followed by freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow fielding another ground ball and throwing Sibley out at the plate. It would be another six innings before Texas State mounted a scoring threat, when Curtiss balked home a Bobcats run with two outs in the seventh.
Milner, who began the season as the Longhorns’ No. 2 starter, pitched a perfect fifth and sixth inning while striking out three of the six batters he faced. He will return permanently to a relief role.