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NO 6 TEXAS TECH CLINCHES SERIES WIN AT UT

The reason why No. 6 Texas Tech clinched the Big 12-opening series for both the Red Raiders and Longhorns Saturday with a second straight, 2-1 victory at Disch-Falk Field was unmistakable - UT's lack of offense. At one point from Game 1 on Friday to Game 2 on Saturday, Texas went 34 batters without a hit.

Texas redshirt junior RHP Morgan Cooper, who came into the game with a 1.88 ERA, took the loss Saturday in Game 2 against the Red Raiders and fell to 2-1 on the season - even though Cooper gave up just two runs on six hits with 9 Ks while pitching into the seventh inning (a 2.05 ERA for the game).


Mo Coop's final line: 6.2 innings pitched, 6 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 9 strikeouts, 3 walks, 120 pitches (with 81 for strikes, including 30 fouled off).

Sophomore righty Chase Shugart threw 2.1 innings of no-hit relief.

But we know pitching isn't the problem for Texas (13-8, 0-2 Big 12), which came into its series with Texas Tech (16-4, 2-0) with a better team ERA (2.54, 16th nationally) than the Red Raiders (3.13, 38th nationally).

Hitting woes in a 2-1 series loss at Stanford that dropped Texas' team batting average to .203 also appeared to be fading after the Longhorns' erupted for 48 runs in a six-game winning streak that included three wins against UCLA, which has veteran pitching, as well as a 4-3 win over Texas A&M on Tuesday.

But in the first two games of the Tech series, Texas is 1-for-23 with runners on, including 1-for-14 in Game 2 on Saturday. And UT is 1-for-13 with runners in scoring position in the series (1-for-9 on Saturday).

The Horns went 34 straight batters without a hit - from a David Hamilton hit to lead off the sixth inning in Game 1 to a Hamilton single with two outs in the bottom of the fifth inning in Game 2.

Texas' only run in Game 2 on Saturday came after a walk and fielder's choice throwing error into the outfield by Tech starting pitcher Steven Gingerly (WP, 4-0 ... 6 IP, 2H, 1R-unearned, 2BB, 5Ks) in the first inning.

Oddly enough, UT has outscored opponents 20-1 in the first inning this season. 

But asking the Longhorns' pitching - as good as its been - to make a 1-0 first-inning lead hold up would prove unrealistic. 

Cooper had three 1-2-3 innings. But he gave up three of his six hits in the third inning, and Tech was able to turn them into two runs.

Tech, the No. 1 fielding team in college baseball (.988), has committed three errors in the series, including two on Saturday (one of which led to Texas' only run in Game 2) compared to one error by Texas (by SS David Hamilton Friday that didn't lead to any runs).

But even with the errors, Tech has been able to make two, 2-1 leads hold up, because the Longhorns were 2-for-27 at the plate (.074) on Friday and 4-for-31 (.129) at the plate on Saturday.

Pierce has some decisions to make to improve the Longhorns' offense heading into Game 3 of the Tech series on Sunday at 1 pm CT.

The team's best defensive catcher - junior Michael Cantu is just 7-for-52 at the plate (.135) this season, including a meager 2-for-36 (.056) in his last 13 games and is currently in an 0-for-13 drought (0-for-5 vs Tech).

Meanwhile, redshirt sophomore backup catcher Michael McCann is batting a team-best .458 (11-for-24) this season.

But the only two at-bats McCann has gotten against Texas Tech came with two outs in the bottom of the eighth in Game 1 and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth in Game 2 - after becoming a desperate substitution by Pierce. Hardly ideal situations to be thrown into.

Pierce has also stuck with sending sophomore Kody Clemens to the plate  - either as a pinch runner or in 12 starts as designated hitter - despite going 1-for-17 dating to UT's game at Stanford on March 2. That lone hit came Saturday in a pinch-hit situation, snapping an 0-for-16 drought. Clemens is batting .143 for the season (7-for-49).

Purely by batting average, freshman OF Tate Bucey, who has only played in three games (with two starts), might be an intriguing option at DH. Bucey's .286 average is fifth on the team, even though he's only got seven at-bats. Bucey, who committed to Texas A&M as a sophomore at Corpus Christi Carroll, fell into Pierce's lap when A&M over-extended on scholarships and failed to make good on an offer to Bucey.

The questions about how to fix UT's offense are complicated by the fact Pierce already has a couple young players who are struggling in his lineup in starting freshman shortstop David Hamilton (.167, 12-for-72) and starting freshman third basemen Ryan Reynolds (.194, 12-for-62).

But Hamilton and Reynolds aren't going anywhere, because the two have been so good defensively they are a big part of the reason Texas has improved from fielding at a .964 clip last season to a .984 clip this season. Through 21 games, Reynolds has committed one error and Hamilton three. Last season, 20 errors were committed by Kody Clemens primarily at third (12) and Bret Boswell primarily at short (8). 

Hamilton bats second in the lineup because of his speed.  Reynolds opened the season in the No. 3 hole but is now batting sixth.

There's absolutely no shame in losing a pair of 2-1 games to the No. 6 team in the country. But Pierce doesn't want a team that has heard for the past three years about its lack of hitting to start believing it can't hit this year - despite the 48 runs scored in the six wins preceding this weekend.

Every hitting streak starts with a hit. And every drought at the plate starts with an out. The Horns can't afford another stretch in which 34 straight batters fail to produce a hit.

(Game 3 on Sunday is scheduled for 1 pm CT at the Disch with freshman RHP Blair Henley slated to start.)

 

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