The Texas winning streak reached 6 games following a 4-1 victory over Baylor on Sunday, completing the series sweep over the Bears. Blair Henley allowed 1 run in 7 innings, striking out 4. Josh Sawyer recorded the the final 6 outs and picked up his first save of the season. At the plate, Zach Zubia picked blasted his 6th home run of the season. Let’s take a look at some thoughts and takeaways from the weekend series.
Pitcher of the Weekend- Chase Shugart
With temperatures around 40 degrees, Chase Shugart turned in one of his best performances of the season. The right-hander threw 7 scoreless innings, scattering 5 hits and striking out 1, throwing a total of 120 pitches. After the game, Shugart admitted he may not have had his best stuff, but he was able to effectively throw his sinker and pitch efficiently. After Friday night starter Nolan Kingham only lasted 2 innings, Texas needed a lengthy outing from Shugart, and he delivered.
Hitter of the Weekend: Zach Zubia
Zubia finished the weekend 5 for 11 (.454) with a pair of double, a home run and 2 runs batted in. For the season, the redshirt freshman is batting .292 and has an on-base streak of 33 games. David Pierce opted to move Zubia back into the cleanup spot on Sunday, and he was rewarded when Zubia blasted a 2-run home run in the bottom of the 1st inning. He then added a double in 5th inning.
Despite being limited to DH duties and leading the team in strikeouts, the presence of Zubia’s bat in the lineup has given the Longhorns offense some needed power this season. It is intriguing to think about how good Zubia can be once he improves at first base and gets a year of college experience at the plate.
Stat of the Weekend- .81
The Texas bullpen combined to throw 11 innings on the weekend, allowing a single run, good enough for a .81 ERA. Bryce Elder, Matt Whalen, Kamron Fields, Josh Sawyer and Andy McGuire all had scoreless appearances. Parker Joe Robinson was the only reliever to allow a run, but Robinson still picked up his 2nd win of the week. McGuire’s emergence in the backend of the bullpen as been a huge boost to a pitching staff that is still trying to define roles. Elder and Fields flashed major potential and their confidence seems to be growing each time they take the mound.
Baylor entered the series 3-6 in conference play, but had an impressive series win over Texas Tech on their resume and presented some tough matchups on the mound. Aside from the first couple of innings on Friday, the Texas pitching staff had their way with the Baylor offense for most of the weekend. David Pierce has talked before about forging an identity through wins and losses, and it appears his players are beginning to find that identity through timely hitting, good pitching and solid defense.
A big test awaits this coming week, when the Longhorns will travel to College Station to face Texas A&M, and then travel to Norman for a series against Oklahoma, who sits atop of the Big 12 standings. A 9-3 start to conference play is about as good as Texas could have hoped for, but the Longhorns now have a big opportunity to pick up a road win against their in-state rival and cement their place atop of the Big 12 next weekend.
Random Notes and Thoughts
David Pierce said the plan is for Nolan Kingham to throw 2 bullpen sessions this week to get him ready for Friday night’s series opener against Oklahoma. This would likely mean Kingham is not available out of the bullpen on Tuesday against Texas A&M
Jake McKenzie started at 3rd base on Sunday, replacing Ryan Reynolds, who was given a partial day off before being used as a defensive replacement late in the game. Masen Hibbeler moved in from LF to 1B to replace McKenzie, allowing Duke Ellis to get a start in the OF.
The improvement offensively for DJ Petrinsky has been noticeable over the past several weeks, but his improvement defensively has been just as big. Petrinsky threw out a pair of base runners on Sunday and looks a lot more comfortable blocking balls and handling the running game. Petrinsky and Shugart also called their own pitches on Saturday, which resulted in a shutout.
Quotes from David Pierce
Overall thoughts on the win
“Saw some outstanding pitching, some great defense, and that’s what we are built around. Today we had some timely hits and were very aggressive early, and players really executed. Really awesome days for Jake McKenzie, DJ (Petrinsky), great job by Zach, he hammered that ball, and then solid, solid pitching from Blair (Henley). Having Sawyer come out in the 9th was big for him, as well as us. Get him in a six out save was just outstanding”
On Blair Henley’s performance after allowing a solo home run
“I thought he was good. He got behind on Wendzel in a 3-1 count and tried to throw him a strike, and he got extended on it, but that was the only pitch that hurt him. He was good all day. Late when they started looking like they started cheating away and looking outer half, he started mixing some pitches in, as well as hitting with the breaking ball. Just a really, really good performance by him and the defense.”
Overall thoughts on the starting pitching for the weekend
“Not our best outing by Nolan and we all know that. We had a good conversation about it and it’s not because of effort, his preparation is good. Now he’s got to do what we talk about, and when things don’t go our way, we got to attack it. He’s got to have a quality week, but Chase really stepped up in some really stuff conditions and Blair was outstanding. It was a good job of going out and getting a sweep in the Big 12 at home because it is tough. I tip my hat to the team, the coaches, the support staff, all of them. Everybody was locked in all weekend, all week really, and we reaped the benefits from it and now we get to go on the road and see if we can continue to play the right way.