TUESDAY'S SHOWDOWN IN COLLEGE STATION: Longhorns (7-9) v No. 3 Aggies (15-1) at 6:30 PM CT on SEC Network+.
PITCHING MATCHUP: Texas RHP Morgan Cooper (1-0, 1.50 ERA) vs. Texas A&M RHP Brigham Hill (2-0, 1.40 ERA)
1. Texas’ bats are coming around now after the weekend in California
After scoring only 11 runs in a four-game sweep by Cal in Austin, Texas has scored 26 runs in the last four games (14 runs in the three-game series at UCLA and 12 runs in a rout of Sam Houston State last Tuesday).
The only problem is the bats didn't come through in the clutch at UCLA. That needs to change.
The Horns left 25 runners on base in three games this past weekend, including men on second and third with no outs and the game tied 4-4 in the top of the ninth in Game 2. Zane Gurwitz struck out swinging. Travis Jones grounded out to third, and Bret Boswell struck out swinging to end the inning, and UCLA won the game, 5-4, with a walk-off homer in the bottom half of the inning off of RHP freshman Blake Wellmann.
2. The pitching did not help much at all this past weekend
In Friday night’s game, the Longhorns almost blew another five run lead, giving up three runs in the ninth inning as Chase Shugart struggled with control. UCLA loaded the bases with no outs and luckily only scored three runs as Texas held on for a 7-5 victory.
On Saturday, the pitching honestly wasn't bad.
Ty Culbreth gave up three runs (two earned) in the first three innings but threw four shutout innings, giving up just one hit to UCLA, from the fourth inning through the seventh.
A defensive mental error let UCLA take the lead in the eighth and an absolute bomb won the game in ninth inning. Ty Culbreth, Travis Duke, and Beau Ridgeway pitched well, it was just one pitch from Blake Wellmann in the bottom of the 9th that ended the game.
On Sunday, Connor Mayes pitched five strong innings, giving up one run on three hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
But the pitching imploded in the sixth inning, when Jon Malmin relieved Mayes after Mayes gave up a single. Malmin gave up a walk and a single and then walked in a run before being replaced by Ridgeway.
Ridgeway gave up three straight singles that allowed three more runs to score before recording the first out of the inning (on a foul popout).
UCLA also managed a sacrifice bunt off of Ridgeway for the fifth run of the inning before Nick Kennedy relieved Ridgeway to get the final out. But the damage was done, with a 2-0 Texas lead now a 5-2 UCLA lead.
The Bruins scored their runs on a bases loaded walk, 2-RBI single to left field, infield single and a squeeze bunt. Out of the five runs, only two were scored by a hit getting out of the infield.
3. When Texas gets back to full strength, Jones needs to stay in the leadoff spot
Jones hit .400 (4-10), scored three runs, hit one homerun, two RBIs and had an on-base percentage of .571 (4 BB).
He was on base in all three games this past weekend and is now hitting .412 (14-34) on the season with an OBP of .488. He has also been on-base in all 10 games he has started and played in this season.
You can't keep that type of production on the bench.
4. If Texas wants any pitcher to go against A&M, it would be Morgan Cooper, Tuesday's starter
Cooper has a 1.50 ERA in three appearances (two starts) going a total of 12 innings pitched. His last start against Sam Houston St was his best so far.
He had all three pitches working for him and he was able to hold his velocity throughout the entirety of his start, which was something he hadn't been doing. He also went six innings, which was the amount of innings he had thrown in his two previous appearances combined.
5. When Cooper does go back into the rotation, you could possibly see Johnston slide into the closer role
Texas has struggled with late inning pitching and has been relying on freshman Shugart to close out games.
Johnston could move out of rotation mainly because the other two weekend starters, Culbreth and Mayes, have been more consistent with their control.
Also, why not have someone close out games who can light up the radar gun to the tune of 98-99 MPH like Johnston?