After dropping the series opener on Friday night, Texas baseball responded by winning the next 2 games and taking the series over Oklahoma State. Sunday’s 10-5 win puts Texas’ conference record at 5-1 as they head into a midweek matchup with Texas State before traveling to Kansas State for a 3 game series next weekend. Let’s take a look at some thoughts and takeaways from the series victory over the Cowboys.
Pitcher of the Weekend- Nolan Kingham/ Bryce Elder
Kingham was given an extra day of rest after recording his 2nd save of the season on Tuesday against Sam Houston State, and it seemed to very beneficial. The right-hander tossed 8 innings on Saturday, allowing 1 run and striking 5. The important number for Kingham was number of walks he allowed, which was 0. Saturday’s outing may have even been more impressive than the complete game performance he turned in last weekend against Kansas. Kingham did an excellent job of utilizing his sinker to get easy outs and showed good command of his offspeed pitches. While he still possesses the power fastball that can get into the mid 90’s, the ability to attack hitters and be aggressive in the zone was very encouraging to see.
Bryce Elder turned in his best performance of the season on Sunday, tossing 4 scoreless innings in relief of Chase Shugart, striking out 5 and only walking 1. When the freshman commands his cutter, he is one of the best options in the Longhorn bullpen.
Hitter of the Weekend: Ryan Reynolds
Reynolds finished the weekend 4 for 11, collecting 3 doubles and 2 RBI’s. The sophomore has looked a lot more comfortable this season solely hitting from the right side. It was tempting to go with Kody Clemens with this honor, but Reynolds had a very solid weekend and deserves credit for the quality at-bats he continues to put together.
Stat of the Weekend- 2.70
The Longhorn’s bullpen finished with a 2.70 ERA on the weekend. Along with Elder’s dominant performance on Sunday, Texas also received good showings from Beau Ridgeway, Kamron Fields, Andy McGuire and Chris Fearon. Assistant coach Sean Allen mentioned after Sunday’s game that the the pitching staff is beginning to feel more and more confident as roles are defined. Fields in particular continues to be intriguing as he works his way back from a shoulder injury. He flashes plus stuff and attacks hitters. His role will likely continue to grow as the season progresses.
A 5-1 record after 6 conference games is about as good of a start as the Longhorn’s could have hoped for. After getting shut down by Joe Lienhard on Friday night, David Pierce has to be happy with the way his team responded over the next 2 days. Texas showed timely hitting and received a good performance from their bullpen. It appears role are beginning to be defined on the pitching staff, which bolds well moving forward. Overall, it was another good series for Texas and they have now positioned themselves to be a contender for the top spot in the Big 12 as conference play unfolds.
Random Notes and Thoughts
Masen Hibbeler went 0 for 10 in the first 2 games of the series, but rebounded to collect 2 hits on Sunday while also driving in a run. What may be more important is the two games he started at first base on Friday and Saturday. The junior college transfer looked comfortable for someone playing the position for the first time, and he looks to be a viable option at first base moving forward.
Head coach David Pierce has mentioned before about how important mental toughness and having a good approach is to the success of a team. His team seemed to show that on Sunday. Despite falling behind 2-0 early in the game and having to deal with the ejection of their head coach, the Longhorns continued to battle and claw their way back into the game, ultimately taking the lead and running away with things.
David Hamilton returned to the lineup on Friday after dealing with a thumb injury, and the sophomore started all 3 games of the series. His speed was on display on Sunday, when he stole 2 bases. If Hamilton can remain healthy, it will only strengthen a lineup that already boast a lot of athleticism.
Quotes from Sean Allen
On the middle inning adjustments:
“We made an adjustment to our approach and gave up the middle-half of home plate. Early in counts we were hunting the fastball. We just made an adjustment and our guys bought in and we got some big hits there.”
On seeing the team execute:
“It was awesome. [Carson] Teel’s a good pitcher. He can flat out pitch. His stuff wasn’t as good as it normally is today but he really commands the fastball. The biggest thing is we’re not trying to command the entire strike zone. As a hitter, you can’t handle the entire strike zone, you have to handle part of it. The guys bought into it, made the change in the middle innings and were able to string together three or four really good at-bats.”