TEXAS FACING OK STATE IN CRITICAL SERIES

Each week during the season, HD contributor Tyler King gives you his latest thoughts on the Longhorns' baseball team.

* Due to impending severe weather, Game 1 of the Texas-Oklahoma State series Friday will move to Saturday, and Games 1 & 2 will be played as a doubleheader starting at 2:30 PM CT Saturday.

* Sunday's game is still scheduled for 1:30 PM

A LOOK AT OKLAHOMA STATE: The Cowboys lead the Big 12 in team ERA, and for Game 1 they'll probably trot out their ace, sophomore Thomas Hatch, who has a 1.72 ERA over 68 innings in 10 starts this season.

Hatch was recently named the Big 12’s pitcher of the week after he threw a complete game shutout against TCU.

Oklahoma State's closer, Tyler Buffett, has a 1.90 ERA in 23 appearances with 7 saves.

 

Offensively for the Cowboys:

Senior Donnie Walton and JUCO transfer J.R. Davis are ones to watch.

Walton is leading the team hitting .365, 12 doubles and 28 RBI; and Davis is hitting .336 with 7 doubles and 15 RBI.

To slow down OSU, you can't give them free bases, and Texas pitchers have given up too many walks this season. That has to end.

Ok State has an on base percentage of .355, which is 100 points higher than their team batting average.

THE STATE OF THE LONGHORNS:

So as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago in my Thursday Thoughts, the Texas baseball team needed to become more aggressive and like the Kansas City Royals.

Well, since the Game 1 loss to Kansas, this team has started to get right.

Texas coach Augie Garrido has repeatedly told his players to “take ownership.” They're finally doing it. The results have been a bounce-back series win against Kansas after dropping Game 1 and an even bigger bounce-back series win over first-place Texas Tech after dropping Game 1.

 

Since that loss to Kansas, the Horns have scored at least six runs and had at least seven hits in each of the last six games.

The only loss in that span was last Friday night to Texas Tech, when the Texas defense helped squander a 5-0 UT lead as Tech scored 13 unanswered runs in a 13-6 victory by the Red Raiders.

 

If you had to guess who was leading the Big 12 in team home runs during conference play?

I don't know how many of y'all would guess Texas, but you'd be correct.

The Horns lead the Big 12 with 15 HRs in Big 12 play, and that is all about them taking advantage of playing in small ballparks for their road series so far.

At Texas Tech they hit three homers. At Kansas State they hit six, and in six conference games at Disch-Falk, Texas has hit six.

 

I believe those numbers show Texas is being more aggressive at the plate.

Even though strikeout numbers are still a little high, they are laying off pitches outside the zone better and attacking the pitch they want. And one nice thing about last weekend’s beat down of Tech on Sunday, they kept their foot on the gas and didn't let up. The coaches didn't call for small ball/bunting until late in games, allowing players to swing away and maintain their momentum at the plate.

 

More consistent defense and a healthy Joe Baker, Patrick Mathis, and Tyler Rand are making a difference.

Those guys were all playing so well at the beginning of the year then incurred injuries that put them out for weeks.

Last weekend was a great example of these guys being key parts to the offensive production:

* Rand had a HR and three RBI on Sunday.

* Mathis had 9 RBI over the whole weekend and now leads the Big 12 with 19 RBI in conference play

* Baker went 6-for-12 with a HR and 6 RBI (all 6 RBI came on Sunday).

 

I harp on those guys because this offense needs to have guys around Tres Barrera and Kacy Clemens who help with the production.

Two guys can't do all the heavy lifting.

Also moving Travis Jones from LF to DH, Rand back to LF from CF, Zane Gurwitz back to CF from 2B, and Jake McKenzie inserted at 2B has helped shore up the defense.

It also keeps Jones as the lead-off hitter in the lineup while not having him be a defensive liability in LF.

 

This team knows it can beat top competition (with series wins over TCU and Tech) and that they can do it in come-from-behind fashion (at Tech last weekend). If they want to make it to the NCAA tournament, they can control their own destiny by continuing to win.

 

Garrido said Wednesday it's nice to have a Big 12 representative on the committee this year, unlike the past two years.

He also said in most years, to make the tournament as an at-large team, you need your RPI to be around 75. Texas currently has an RPI of 102.

For Texas to get to at least the 75 mark, in my mind, they can't lose the series this weekend. And the Horns probably need to win 10 of their last 11 games.

 

Or, they could pull off a repeat of last year and win the conference tournament.

This weekend series at home against Oklahoma State will tell us a lot.

 


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