Texas Baseball will return to action tomorrow evening, opening a 4 game series against the 7th ranked Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal enter the series with a 11-1 record, with 3 game sweep over Cal State Fullerton and a 4 game sweep over Rice.
Last weekend, the Longhorns rebounded after losing Friday’s series opener to Northwestern, taking the final 3 games and the series. The Texas bats exploded the final 3 games of the series, combining for 38 runs. Senior Jake McKenzie said the Longhorns know Stanford will present a tough test, but the offense will need to focus on taking advantage of any mistakes from the Cardinal pitching staff.
“It will definitely be a test. A lot different from Northwestern,” McKenzie said when asked about the upcoming series. “We expect them to come in and not make as many mistakes as we saw this past weekend. We are going to have to take advantage of the mistakes they do make and try to capitalize on those.”
Junior Kody Clemens echoed that sentiment, saying the team is focused on staying with the same approach they have had all season.
“Obviously they are ranked in the top 10, and it puts a little bit of pressure on us,” Clemens said. “They are a good team with a lot of good people. We don’t up our game, we just take the same approach to every game. Maybe some guys will be a little bit more fired up since this team is top 10.”
Stanford boasts an impressive starting rotation, led by junior RHP Tristan Beck, who holds a 1.50 ERA after 3 starts. Texas head coach David Pierce said although the Longhorns will face a tough pitching staff, he wants his hitters to continue to be patient and wait on their pitch.
“They (Stanford) are very good on the mound, and we know that,” Pierce said. “I’d like to see our guys compete the way they did against Northwestern and have the ability to lay off the pitches and be read when they get a pitch to hit. Beck starting it out is very aggressive, he’s going to attack and so we have to be ready.”
On the mound, Texas will start freshman Nico O’Donnell in the series opener, with Nolan Kingham, Blair Henley and Chase Shugart to follow over the next 3 games. The most notable takeaway from the rotation set-up is the move of Shugart from Friday to Sunday. Pierce said he wanted the option of having the right-hander available out of the bullpen on Thursday.
“I still think we have more in the bullpen. Putting Chase to Sunday, allows him to help us in the back end tomorrow night. So I’m going to utilize the best guys available, and in this case he’s our best swing guy.”
The Longhorns will play their next 6 games against top 10 opponents, with a 2 game midweek series at Arkansas awaiting after this weekend. With a tough schedule on the horizon, Clemens said it will be a good test to see where the Longhorns stand.
“I think we need to see what we can do with these types of teams, see what we can put out on the field against this amazing competition,” Clemens said. “Obviously that will work out for us in the future. I’m sure we will have some sort of a regional environment this weekend and at Arkansas for the midweek games. It will be a test for us and we are looking forward to it.”
Pierce said he will be looking at a lot more than the win-loss record over the next 6 games.
“I don’t think it’s a win-loss deal,” Pierce said when asked what is he is looking for from his team over the next week. “I think it’s just quality pitches. You can have a great outing and not have quality pitches or you can go out and repeat really good pitches. If they beat you on good pitches, you live with that. I think we have to repeat quality pitches. We have a handful guys that need to be better at managing the running game. Defensively, continuing to make the routine play, and every opportunity we have to make a great play, be in the position for it. Having great first step and good angles, being accurate with your throwing. Offensively, each guy has their niche that they have to be good at, and piece that together. I just want to see them keep trying to become a complete player, and we will be a better team.”
All 4 games of the series will be broadcasted on Longhorn Network. First pitch for Thursday and Friday are set for 6:30, with a 2:30 start time Saturday and 1:00 Sunday for the series finale. Follow along at HornSports.com and on Twitter (@HornSports) for live updates.
Pierce said OF Austin Todd is still not at 100% health as he recovers from a thumb injury. The head coach said Todd should be available as a defensive replacement and pinch runner, but that he does not expect him to be able to hit.
With 6 games over the course of 7 days, it will be on hands on deck on the mound. Pierce said Jake McKenzie could be an option in the bullpen after having an extended throwing session yesterday as he recovers from a shoulder injury. Freshman Kamron Fields could be available in the bullpen later in the weekend after battling a shoulder injury to begin the year.
So what has been the key to Kody Clemens success at the plate? Clemens himself said he made it an emphasis this year to work on his pitch selection and not chase pitches. It seems to have paid dividends so far, as he has worked 14 walks through the first 12 games of the season.
Stanford starters Tristan Beck and Kris Bubic are no strangers to Austin. The duo started a game a piece when Stanford visited Texas in 2016. Beck lasted 3 innings, allowing 3 runs on 4 hits, receiving a loss in a 4-3 Texas victory. Bubic threw 4.1 scoreless innings in the series opener, striking out 7 in what ended up being a 1-0 Stanford victory in 12 innings.
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