Texas Baseball wrapped up a series victory over Northwestern on Sunday, defeating the Wildcats 12-1 in 7 innings. After dropping the series opener on Friday, Texas outscored Northwestern 38-11 over the final 3 games. Let’s take a look at some takeaways and notes from the weekend.
Hitter of the Weekend- Masen Hibbeler
Following Sunday’s game, Hibbeler joked that the baseball looks as a big as a beach ball right now when he is at the plate. The junior college transfer started all 4 games in left field and finished the series 8 for 16 (.500), driving in 7 runs and also stealing 2 bases. Hibbeler drove the ball all over the field throughout the weekend, capping it off with a 4 for 5 performance in the series finale.
Pitcher of the Weekend- Blair Henley
For the second straight weekend, Henley tossed 6 scoreless innings. Despite a steady rain falling for most of his outing, the right-hander only allowed 2 hits and struck out 4, walking none. David Pierce spoke at length this past Wednesday about Henley’s development and how important fastball command is for him. Henley displayed a plus breaking ball and kept his fastball around 90-92 MPH, a recipe that continues to work well. After flashing major potential as a freshman, it appears everything is starting to click and come together.
2 Key Takeaways
1. Everything that could have gone wrong on Friday, did go wrong. Texas went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position and Chase Shugart was touched up the third time through the order for the second straight outing. Several players mentioned the word “embarrassed” when describing what they felt after Friday’s game, and it certainly appeared they took out their frustration the following 3 games. Northwestern came to Austin after losing their opening two series to Nebraska-Omaha and Kansas. Texas needed to take at least 3 of 4 for it to be a successful weekend, and the Longhorns did just that. The offense pounded out 33 hits over the final three games and several players were able to gain some confidence at the plate.
2. The bullpen continues to the biggest question mark after the first 3 series of the season. While certain pitchers have had good performances, the unit as a whole is still working on defining roles and finding out where everyone fits. David Pierce mentioned on Sunday that they need to find a way to get Beau Ridgeway back to where he needs to be, which is throwing his fastball low in the zone. Bryce Elder turned in an excellent performance on Sunday, tossing 2 ⅔ scoreless innings, striking out 4. Pierce said Elderis someone who will continue to get important innings in the bullpen, possibly in a late inning role.
1. Pierce said on Sunday that he is going to continue to work with Shugart on utilizing both his breaking balls and relying on movement on his fastball to get outs instead of trying to overpower hitters.
2. Duke Ellis connected on his first career home run on Saturday, driving a ball into the visitors bullpen that hit the top of the wall and bounced over. So did the head coach expect that kind of power from his center-fielder? “I didn’t think Duke would ever hit one out of the yard,” Pierce joked.
3. In game two of Saturday’s doubleheader, Jake McKenzie saw action at first base, third base and shortstop. The utility man has also started games at second base and the outfield in his career, as well as seeing time on the mound. Pierce said the only position he hasn’t played McKenzie at during practice or a game is catcher.
Quotes from David Pierce
Overall thoughts from the series:
“After losing Friday, coming back and winning 3 straight and taking the series was just a great tribute to our guys just fighting back and getting focused.”
On Matteo Bocchi:
“It starts with his preparation. Matteo prepares as well as any player we have and he wants it badly, and it was very obvious with his approach. We had a great plan going against them after 3 games and just knowing what he wanted to do with all their hitters, and he did a great job of executing that.”
On the response of his team after losing the first game of the series:
“I think the best thing was the ability to flip the momentum. To be able to get a lead early in Game 1 on Saturday was the key. Then just going out there and playing. We understood that one got away from us on Friday night but we couldn’t dwell on it because we had a lot of baseball in front of us. We did a nice job of that moving forward.”
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