Series Sweep Over UIC Is a Good Start

After this weekend's four game series versus the University of Illinois-Chicago, it is clear that the pitchers are leading the way right now giving up only 3 runs. The 2009 Longhorns offense clearly won't have the same power it did last season without Kyle Russell and Jordan Danks, but they were a scrappy bunch all weekend. In just four games, Texas has seven sacrifice bunts and five sac flies.

Game One: Texas 6 – Illinois-Chicago 1

• The ‘Horns jumped out to a 5-1 lead after two innings and never looked back. A patient Texas offense scored six runs in six innings off UIC ace Chris Kovacevich. The southpaw gave up nine hits and walked four batters. The Texas bats made use of their outs early in the game, as they had two sacrifice bunts and three sac flies in the first two innings alone.

Chance Ruffin had perhaps the least impressive performance for a Longhorns starting pitcher this past weekend, yet he gave up just one run in seven innings.

The sophomore battled without his best stuff for most of the game. He struggled with command and got just one swing-and-miss in the game's first five innings. But the ultra-tough Ruffin was still able to succeed early before turning it on in his final three innings. The right-hander showed dominant stuff – and appeared to be more fired up – late in the contest.

• Reliever Stayton Thomas pitched the eighth inning, and he had a rough start. The Corsicana native threw his first few fastballs between 84-85 mph, and none of them were near the strike zone. Luckily, Thomas settled down, his velocity crept up, and he finished the inning with a double play and a strikeout.

• Freshman Austin Dicharry – the team's likely starter for Tuesday's tilt against UT-Arlington – got his first collegiate action on Friday afternoon. Dicharry began the frame by allowing a single and a walk, but he settled down afterwards. The hurler could have the team's best breaking ball and changeup this season. Dicharry will be an key asset out of the bullpen once conference play begins.

Brandon Loy isn't batting second in the order on accident. Just a freshman, Loy is neck-and-neck with second baseman Travis Tucker for the honor of being the team's best bunter and defensive player. Loy follows the on-base machine Tucker in the lineup because of his ability to consistently execute sacrifice bunts.

Game Two: Texas 10 – Illinois-Chicago 1

• In a way, Taylor Jungmann was just one pitch away from a no-hitter in his first collegiate game. Such a feat is impressive regardless of whether he faced Texas A&M or Alabama A&M.

The tall righty did walk four batters, but he was around the strike zone all game long. The zone was actually fairly tight during games one and two. Jungmann has good velocity on his fastball to go with a promising slider, but that's not what makes him a candidate to be the Longhorns' best pitcher this season. Despite being a freshman, Jungmann shows poise on the mound and he consistently keeps the ball down in the strike zone.

• Much like the first game, the Texas bats jumped all over the UCI starting pitcher from the beginning. Flames starter Brad Riegler didn't retire a hitter until David Hernandez popped out. Hernandez batted eighth in the order. The ‘Horns took advantage of opportunities once again, scoring 10 runs on just nine hits.

• Left-hander Andrew McKirahan is just a freshman, but he will log key innings out of the bullpen in 2009. A native of Georgetown, McKirahan is a finesse lefty with excellent command of all his pitches. He made very quick work of the UIC lineup while throwing the game's final inning.

Game Three: Texas 3 – Illinois-Chicago 1

Wood threw four scoreless frames against UIC.
• Shortstop David Hernandez committed Texas' only error of the weekend in the first game of the doubleheader, but he more than made up for it in the ‘nightcap'.

Hernandez helped complete what will be one of the season's top defensive plays in the fourth inning. Second baseman Travis Tucker ranged towards the bag after Illinois-Chicago DH Brett Schaefer hit a ball up the middle. The ball glanced off Tucker's glove, into Hernandez's hands, and the California native fired a strike to first base to nail Schaefer.

But Hernandez wasn't done for the game. The junior – who was 3-for-4 on the day – broke a 1-1 tie with his two-RBI line-drive single in the bottom of the eighth inning. After one weekend, Hernandez leads the team with a .462 batting average [6-for-13].

• Right fielder Kevin Keyes was 0-for-3 in the game – and he went just 3-for-12 on the weekend with no extra-base hits – but he hit the ball hard more often than not. Particularly in Saturday's second game, Keyes' biggest problem was that he hit line drives directly at the defenders.

Cole Green worked without his best stuff in the first couple of innings, but he settled in eventually. The sinkerballer kept the ball down, recording 12 ground ball outs versus just four in the air. He ended up yielding just one run on three hits in five innings. Green walked one and struck out five.

• Senior lefty Austin Wood got his first action of the season and had little trouble picking up his 20th career win. Wood, who didn't allow a ball to leave the infield, retired all six batters he faced.

Game Four: Texas 1 – Illinois-Chicago 0

• With their first shutout of the season, the Longhorns lowered their team ERA to 0.79 in four contests. Starting pitcher Brandon Workman was perfect through the game's first 5.2 innings. He struck out seven batters in seven scoreless innings and was just simply overpowering. Workman's curveball appears to be sharper and much more consistent than it was one season ago.

• After one weekend, there is still no telling who will be the weekend rotation's odd man out when the ‘Horns visit Stanford for a three-game tilt in two weeks. Cole Green could be the likely candidate simply because his stuff plays well out of the bullpen and he has extensive experience as a reliever. But when the starting pitchers combine to allow 10 hits in 27 innings, it's really a crapshoot.

• Texas had three baserunners in the game's first three innings, but they didn't place a runner in scoring position until the fifth inning. The Longhorns used that momentum to build another rally in the sixth, when they scored the game's only run.

Third baseman Brandon Loy led the way with two singles, but Brandon Belt had the game's lone run batted in. The junior knocked a double into the right-center field gap to score Loy.

• Without Kyle Russell and Jordan Danks, the 2009 Longhorns offense clearly won't have the same power it did last season, but they were a scrappy bunch all weekend. In just four games, Texas has seven sacrifice bunts and five sac flies. The team combined to strike out just six times [while drawing 16 walks] in 110 at-bats over four games.


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