Entering the weekend, the road had not been kind to Texas. The Longhorns entered the series against 16th ranked Oklahoma with a 4-7 record away from UFCU Disch-Falk Field. David Pierce spoke earlier in the week about trying to establish a routine and get his players in a rhythm when they play away from home. The results were encouraging, as Texas used 2 come from behind victories to take a road series over the Sooners.
In game 1, Texas trailed 4-1, 5-2 and 6-3 before ultimately scoring 4 runs in the final 2 innings to take the opener, 7-6. Matteo Bocchi received the win and Andy McGuire locked down his 5th save of the season. Masen Hibbeler smacked the game winning 2-run double in the top of the 9th.
Similar to game 1, game 2 started off with Oklahoma jumping out to a 3 run lead. The Sooners plated 3 runs against Chase Shugart in the 1st, but Shugart responded by shutting out Oklahoma for the next 4 innings. Duke Ellis hit a 2-run double, Kody Clemens blasted a 2-run homer and Zach Zubia hammered an opposite field home run as the Longhorns scored 5 unanswered runs to take game 2, 5-3.
Game 3 belonged to Oklahoma. Nathan Wiles fired 7 ⅔ shutout innings, and Brylie Ware collected 2 hits and 2 RBI’s as the Sooners took the finale by a final of 6-0.
Let’s take a look at some thoughts and takeaways from a big series win for the Longhorns in Norman:
Pitcher of the Weekend- Nolan Kingham
Friday’s opener began with the news that Nolan Kingham would not make his scheduled start due to failing to adhere to the teams academic attendance policy. Bryce Elder made the spot-start in Kingham’s place, and it was announced Kingham would be available out of the bullpen for the series.
After Shugart’s 5 innings of work on Saturday, Pierce handed to the ball to his usual Friday night starter, and Kingham responded by throwing 4 shutout innings, striking out 6 and walking 1. He showed improved command of all of his pitches compared to his last start against Baylor. It was the first multi-inning appearance for Kingham out of the bullpen this season, and he showed some encouraging signs that he will look to carry back into his starting role next weekend.
Hitter of the Weekend: Kody Clemens
Another series, another great performance from Kody Clemens, who finished the weekend 5 for 13 (.384) with 2 home runs, 2 RBI’s and 4 runs scored. Clemens continues to be one of the hottest hitters in the country, and the emergence of Zach Zubia in the clean-up spot behind him has only benefitted Kody, who continues to see good pitches to hit.
The ESPN broadcasters talked throughout the weekend about Clemens and the MLB draft, and it’s no surprise considering the junior is now hitting .369 on the season. Combine his bat with solid defense at second base, and there is a strong possibility Clemens could hear his named in the money rounds of the MLB draft.
Stat of the Weekend- .192
Steele Walker and Kyler Murray, Oklahoma’s 3 and 4 hole hitters, combined to go 5 for 26 (.192) for the series. The only big damage was done on a 2-run home run by Walker in game 1. The Longhorn pitching staff did an excellent job of dealing with the heart of the Oklahoma lineup.
The Longhorns needed a signature series win for their resume, and capturing a road series win against a top 20 opponent means Texas will likely be ranked on Monday morning. Texas’ RPI sat at 23 entering Sunday, which is very good and could continue to improve if Texas keeps playing well. The Longhorns have now positioned themselves to make a run at the Big 12 regular season title and possibly be in position to host a regional with a strong finish. The biggest tests remaining on the schedule is a road series at Texas Tech and a home series against TCU. Texas’ road struggles had been well documented up to this point, but this weekend showed that the Longhorns could be beginning to hit their stride.
Random Notes and Thoughts
Zach Zubia’s on-base streak has now reached 37 games with a 2 for 4 performance on Sunday. As I mentioned above, Zubia’s presence behind Clemens has been huge for the offense this season. I have been impressed with Zubia’s willingness to take the ball to all parts of the field with power.
Bryce Elder lasted a career high 5 innings in a spot spot on Friday, allowing 4 runs on 8 hits. With 2 midweek games this week, it will be interesting to see if Elder possibly receives another start. Even if he returns to the bullpen, it will benefit Texas greatly to have a guy with his type of stuff, who can throw multiple innings.
Next weekend, Texas will get a break from Big 12 play and host New Orleans in a non-conference series. The Privateers currently sit at 17-19, with a 7-10 mark in Southland conference play. The Longhorns will also host UT-Rio Grande Valley (18-18) on Tuesday and travel to Sugarland on Wednesday to play Texas Southern (16-20)