Texas Shut Out Twice In Doubleheader Loss

If No. 1 (and falling) Texas should stub its toe between now and the College World Series, it likely will have to do with its Achilles Heel that was exposed during Saturday's doubleheader loss to North Carolina State: weak hitting.

In a matchup intended to keep the Longhorns fresh during its Big 12 open week, the visiting Wolfpack blocked three punts, er, shut out Texas on both ends of the twin bill by scores of 2-0 and 1-0, respectively, at Disch-Falk Field. Wolfpack starters Michael Rogers and Vern Sterry both tossed complete-game, three-hit shutouts as the Horns fell to 46-10 on the season while N.C. State improved to 31-19.

The setback marked the first time all season Texas lost consecutive games at home. It also was the first time in 2004 that the Horns failed to score in back-to-back outings (and the first time since the 2000 season that UT suffered back-to-back home shutouts).

In the first game of the day, J. P. Howell struck out seven through his first three frames and didn't allow a hit until the top of the fifth. Both Howell and Rogers combined to limit both offenses to three total hits through a scoreless four innings. But in the top of the fifth, the Wolfpack broke on top with a pair of runs as Mike Jensen and Eric Taylor both singled, advanced on a sacrifice bunt and then came around to score on a Tim Holt single up the middle. From there, Rogers retired Texas' next 15 batters to close out the 2-0 N.C. State victory. Rogers garnered the win after a three-hit complete game effort in which he walked only one and struck out 10, while Howell shouldered the tough loss following his fourth complete game of the season in which he surrendered two runs on seven hits while fanning a career-best 14 hitters.

In Game Two, the Wolfpack got all the offense they needed in the top of the first as Matt Camp walked to lead off the contest, stole second and then scored on a Bryan Kinneberg single up the middle to give N.C. State a one-run lead that proved to be the game winner. Although the Longhorns put runners on base in the first, third, fourth, fifth and seventh innings, Sterry retired 26 of the 32 batters he faced while striking out 11 to pick up the complete game win.

Texas starter Sam LeCure was handed the loss despite giving up only one run on two hits over six innings while striking out three. Buck Cody and J. Brent Cox came on in relief and limited the Wolfpack to two hits over the final three frames.

Up next, the Longhorns conclude the regular season by opening a critical three-game conference series at the Disch against the Big 12's fourth-best squad Texas A&M (38-14, 13-9) on Friday at 6:15 p.m. The series, which will help determine the Big 12 regular season champion, shifts to College Station for its final two contests on Saturday, at 7 p.m. (CDT) and Sunday at 1 p.m. (CDT). The Saturday matchup will be televised by Fox Sports Net.

Texas (17-6 in league play) will enter next weekend's series at the top of the league standings, a half-game up on OU (17-7), which travels to Nebraska to close out the regular season. Oklahoma State (15-7), which spent some time atop the conference standings earlier this season, has split its first two games this weekend with Texas Tech (13-9, fourth in the Big 12 a game ahead of the fifth-place, 12-10 Ags through Saturday's action).

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