Despite dropping the series finale to Louisiana, 2-1, there was a lot to like about the series win by the Longhorns. Here are 3 thoughts I’m thinking following opening weekend:
Texas has to chance to have one of the top rotations in the conference
If there was one word to describe the weekend rotation for Texas after one week, it would be impressive. Nolan Kingham delivered a masterful performance on Friday, throwing 8 scoreless innings with 10 strikeouts. Chase Shugart followed it up with 6 ⅔ innings in his first collegiate start on Saturday, with the only run being unearned. Blair Henley allowed 1 run in 5 innings on Sunday. Shugart was the one I was watching closely, knowing this is uncharted territory for him after being a reliever for 2 years. He definitely passed the eye test. He showed improved command on his pitches and still has the ability to reach back into the mid 90’s when he needs to. Barring any health issues, Texas will have a chance to have one of the top rotations in the Big 12.
Hamilton and Hibbeler at the top of the order is lethal
David Hamilton set the tone for the season on Friday during his first at-bat, when he hit a triple off the wall. Even though he only finished the series 2-10, the sophomore SS drew 3 walks and stole 3 bases. Hibbeler entered the season with a lot of hype, and did nothing but back it up through 3 games. The junior college transfer finished the weekend 7 for 13 with 2 stolen bases. His ability to handle the bat and cause havoc on the base paths makes him a huge weapon at the top of the order. Hamilton and Hibbeler should continue to set up ample RBI opportunities for the middle of the order.
Josh Sawyer and Bryce Elder
Texas needed guys to define their roles in the bullpen quickly to start the season, and Josh Sawyer and Bryce Elder had good first impressions. Sawyer returned to the mound for the first time in 2 years on Sunday, and proceeded to throw 2 ⅓ scoreless, striking out 3. His fastball reached into mid 90’s and it was encouraging to see the left hander trust his stuff and be back on the mound. Elder made his collegiate debut on Saturday and struck out 2 in 1 ⅓ scoreless. David Pierce raved about Elder’s cutter and ability to locate his pitches, and the freshman showed exactly that. A healthy and effective Sawyer, combined the emergence of Elder, should give the coaching staff confidence as they try to get the ball to closer Beau Ridgeway.