David Pierce has mentioned multiple times throughout the season about his desire to see his team continue to focus on the process rather than the results. Tuesday’s close loss to Texas A&M provided a lot of learning moments for a Texas team that is preparing to open up a 3 game series on the road against Oklahoma, who currently sits in first place in the Big 12.
“When you look at that ballgame, you look at a couple of missed opportunities,” Pierce said about the 6-5 loss on Tuesday. “We left 13 guys on base, but you have to get 13 guys on base to lose those opportunities, so i thought throughout the course of the game you can look at numerous things, but we put pressure on their defense and on their pitching staff. Either they made a play or we didn’t come up with that one extra hit in the inning. It kind of separated the game.”
The Longhorns were only able to get a ⅓ of an inning out of starter Nico O’Donnell, who after retiring the leadoff batter on the first pitch of the game, allowed 4 straight baserunners. The short outing meant a long night for the Longhorns bullpen, which responded by allowing only 2 runs in 8 ⅔ innings.
“We had a handful of guys that threw well out of the bullpen,” Pierce said. “I thought Kamron Fields was outstanding after he settled in. I would like to see him do a better job of inheriting runners. Parker Joe (Robinson) was very solid again, Josh (Sawyer) did his job for one hitter and I thought that was as good as we’ve seen Andy (McGuire) as far as stuff and location combined. It’s not all for a loss. Of course we want to win those games, but there’s so many things I think we are getting better at.”
The Texas pitching staff will be tested again this weekend by an Oklahoma offense that has 5 players hitting over .300, led by Steele Walker (.338, 8 HR, 33 RBI’s). The Longhorns will be looking for a bounce back performance from Nolan Kingham, who only lasted 2 innings last Friday in his start against Baylor. Combine Kingham’s outing with the short outing of O’Donnell, and the Texas bullpen has been busy over the past week.
“The goal of our starting pitchers is a minimum of 7 innings. If we get 6, it’s doable, it’s something that’s workable. When you start putting guys in a different role earlier, then you change the scope of the entire bullpen for that day. It happened to us on Friday (against Baylor), with Nolan throwing 2 innings. It changes the entire weekend. We were able to survive that. Tuesday’s are no different. Nico (O’Donnell) has earned the right to start because he has the right stuff. Everything has he does in his bullpen, everything he does in his preparation, is right. Now I just think he needs to grow up and become a competitor. That’s not to say that he is immature. This is a different environment than Churchill High School. Either you can and you can’t, and at this point Nico has to have a one-on-one with himself and say ‘This is why we do all the prep, so we get the opportunity to compete’. He has to give us a much better chance to win every single Tuesday he pitches.”
At the plate, Kody Clemens continues to pace the Texas offense. The junior finished Tuesday’s game 3 for 5 with 3 RBI’s, bumping his season average up to .367. Zach Zubia extended his on-base streak to 34 games with 1 for 2 performance with 3 walks.
“I thought last night that [Kody] went in a little bit overhyped,” Pierce said on Wednesday. “I thought he made a great in-game adjustment of just calming down and taking what they give him. He had two poor at-bats, and then finished with 3 hits. The kid is unbelievable because he has so much confidence in himself and he feels like he can conquer the world when he is in the batter’s box, and that’s a great feeling as a hitter. He has the ability to fight off pitchers’ pitches in 2 strike counts and then work the pitcher to taking the base on ball or having the ability to get a ball that he can handle.Those are great qualities that great hitters have. Do I think he can improve? Well, we’re always striving for that. His numbers say continue the pace and he will be an All-American, and he’s getting recognition with that. The thing is when you start getting mid-season recognitions, you want to say, ‘How did I get here?’, and continue that. And I think he has the ability to do that, as well as get better.
Texas will enter Norman with an overall record of 22-13, with a 9-3 mark in Big 12 play. The Longhorns currently sit in 3rd place in the conference, behind Oklahoma (8-1) and Oklahoma State (7-2). Follow along at HornSports.com this weekend for live updates.