Texas baseball opened conference play with a 3 game sweep against Kansas, winning Sunday’s series finale by a final of 5-4. After an emotional week, the Longhorn’s now sit atop of the Big 12 standings and will take on Sam Houston State on Tuesday before returning to conference next weekend when they host Oklahoma State in Austin. Let’s take a look at some thoughts and takeaways from the weekend.
Pitcher of the Weekend- Blair Henley
For the first time since opening weekend, Texas saw all 3 members of their weekend rotation deliver good starts. Nolan Kingham kicked off the series by allowing 4 earned runs, but tossed a complete game at a time when the Texas bullpen desperately needed the rest. Chase Shugart closed out the series by lasting 6 innings and allowing 3 runs, striking out 2. In between them, Blair Henley scattered 5 hits across 7 scoreless innings, striking out 4. The sophomore right-hander continues to show great command and the ability to throw all his pitches for strikes. Overall, it was an encouraging weekend by the Longhorn rotation against a Kansas team that entered Big 12 play as one of the better hitting teams in the Big 12.
Hitter of the Weekend: Kody Clemens
Clemens continues to be one of the best hitters in the conference. The junior hit .363 with 2 home runs and 6 RBI’s over the course of the 3 game series, adding a pair of walks. Both home runs came in the 1st inning of games 2 and 3, jump starting the Longhorn offense. Clemens has started all 21 games in the 3 spot of the order and continues to produce.
Stat of the Weekend- .363
.363 is what Texas’ 1-4 hitters combined to hit on the weekend. Masen Hibbeler, Duke Ellis, Kody Clemens and Zach Zubia were very reliable at the top order. Although Kansas was missing their top starting pitcher, the Longhorns saw some quality arms throughout the series, and the top half of the order produced good results. Hibbeler and Ellis gave Texas a good combination of contact hitting and speed all, with Clemens and Zubia taking advantage of RBI opportunities. The lineup will only continue to get better once they welcome back David Hamilton, who missed all 3 games with a thumb injury.
The biggest takeaway from the weekend is the fact Texas showed a lot of mental toughness. The Longhorns entered the weekend on a 5 game losing streak and then were delivered the news on Thursday that legendary coach Augie Garrido had passed away at the age of 79. It was an emotional week for the players and coaches, but it helped propel them to maybe the 3 most complete performances of the season. It is only fitting that Texas showed a style of baseball that would make Garrido proud. Good pitching, solid defense, timely hitting, determination and unselfish play were on display all weekend, and all those traits were used to describe nearly every Texas team under Garrido. A series sweep against a solid Kansas club is exactly what Texas needed heading into the rest of conference play.
Random Notes and Thoughts
Andy McGuire picked up his first career save on Sunday afternoon. David Pierce said after the game that he felt the Jayhawks were making good adjustments to the fastballs Texas pitchers were showing them, so he decided to bring in McGuire and have him ulitize his slider. It worked out perfectly.
It appears Jake McKenzie is making a strong case to be the primary first basemen. The lone senior on the club continues to show terrific defense and is stringing together quality at-bats, including a 3 walk performance in the series finale.
One other player who had a good weekend and has not been mentioned is Tate Shaw. Shaw hit .454 in his 11 at-bats, including a RBI triple on Friday night. The junior has been very strong against right-handers this season, and should continue to receive the bulk of the playing time in LF.
Quotes from David Pierce
Overall thoughts on the sweep
“There’s a lot of great teams in our league. To get that last one today to finish it was just a great tribute to our team. We needed a lot of people to get it done today and they did, especially in the back end. We jumped on them early, and did a great job of jumping on Zeferjahn and they had to start pitching us backward, and we ended up having 7 base on balls and tacking on. Just a great, great sweep for us to start conference.
On the bullpen
“I thought Josh really had stuff on the ball. He really did. He’s just to keep working on getting the ball down. His curveball is good and we have to continue to work on his changeup. They had seen Beau so many times and I felt like he had did his job there in the 8th, and Andy was awesome in the 9th.”
On ending the week on a high note after a tough start
“We had a brutal week last week, and to regain confidence and come back home and open conference play and sweep is huge. I just like the way we played, not so much that we won 3 games, but we pitched well, played great defense all weekend and swung the bats really well. What can you say? Now we build on it, now we have to be in a position where we are never satisfied, and that’s what we have been talking about. Hopefully we can continue to play the game right.