Texas baseball faces tough conference test in West Virginia

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Sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson has carried the Texas offense in the last few series and is currently second on the team with a .294 batting average and first on the team with five home runs this season.

Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Coming off a resilient victory on Tuesday night, the Longhorns’ main concern is moving up the conference standings this weekend.

No. 19 Texas (33-13, 10-8 Big 12) will head to Morgantown, West Virginia, for a three-game slate with West Virginia (24-16, 7-7 Big 12) this weekend. The Longhorns dropped two of three games in their last conference series against Oklahoma State, dropping them to fourth place in the conference.

Texas has had a hard time scoring runs in its last six Big 12 matchups, totaling just eight compared to a combined 18 for its opponents. West Virginia sits two spots below the Longhorns with a .500 conference record and will likely be hungry to move up with the Big 12 tournament looming.

On paper, the Mountaineers have a solid offensive attack that could challenge the Texas pitching staff, which has done the best it could in the last few conference series. West Virginia batters are hitting a combined .290 at the plate while averaging just over five runs per game.

Despite five losses in their last six conference games, the Texas pitching staff still holds a Big 12 leading 2.22 ERA while also giving up just under two runs a game. Opposing hitters are batting just .222 combined against the Longhorns’ staff.

Sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson is coming off of a 2-for-4 performance against Prairie View A&M and has posted a combined five hits in his last three games. His .294 average is second best on the team, which is hitting a combined .257.

The Mountaineers will enter the game with momentum in the Big 12, as they have won five of their last six conference games. During that span, they scored 41 runs and allowed just 17 runs.

As always, Texas will need a big showing from senior center fielder Mark Payton, who still leads the team with a .335 batting average and leads the Big 12 in on-base percentage (.474) and walks (40), and ranks third in triples (5). Payton was recently named one of 10 finalists for the Senior Class Award.

After this weekend’s series, Texas will face off against Texas State on May 13 before playing in its final conference series May 16-18 against Kansas State.

The Longhorns have plenty of work to do to improve their spot in the Big 12, but a solid series at West Virginia could give them momentum before the Big 12 tournament on May 21.