"Total Offense" Has Been Key for Horns

The Texas Longhorn team batting average is up over 30 points in the last few weeks and the improvement can be tied back to a couple simple changes – one of approach at the plate and another of introduction music. Coach Augie Garrido refers to the new plate approach as "total offense," but he is not so sure about the importance of the music.

Baseball players are notoriously superstitious, and that certainly rings true with the Texas Longhorns.

When the ‘Horns batted just .229 and averaged 3.9 runs per game during a recent 14-game stretch, the team's hitters looked for ways to change their luck.

Team leader and second baseman Travis Tucker reacted by changing his at-bat intro song of nearly two years, "Push It" by Rick Ross.

"We had to change some things up," said Tucker of the new song. "Baseball is very superstitious and we weren't getting the job done."

Around the same time Tucker changed his song, the bats began to re-heat. Over their last six contests, the Longhorns are hitting .329 and they're scoring 7.7 runs per contest.

"Really as soon as we changed our songs," he said, "it started turning around for us. It's kind of funny."

Naturally, Tucker gives all the credit to his new song.

"Personally, I attribute about 89 percent of it to the song," Tucker said jokingly. "It's all the song, not me."

Supernatural reasons aside, the Texas offense is scoring more runs because they have made the necessary adjustments at the plate. The Longhorns are playing what Head Coach Augie Garrido often refers to as "total offense."

The turnaround began shortly after Texas' recent three-game set against Texas Tech. After that series, Garrido came away impressed with the Red Raiders' offense.

"They can hit," Garrido said of the undersized Texas Tech club. "They do a good job. They just hit it where it's pitched. They play pepper with it. Every once in awhile they run into one and it goes a long ways."

The Red Raiders' performance must have made an impression on the Longhorns.

Earlier in the season, the Texas hitters used a pull-heavy approach. Once the scouting report got around, the entire Big 12 began pitching the Longhorns low and away, making it nearly impossible to pull the ball.

Things have changed lately. Michael Torres, a hitter who sprayed the ball all over the field last season, has raised his batting average nearly 40 points in two weeks by consistently hitting singles to the opposite field. Catcher Cameron Rupp hit two home runs in Friday's doubleheader against Nebraska -- both to the opposite field.

Of Texas' 10 hits in game one of the Nebraska series, just one ball was pulled.

Left fielder Tant Shepherd, another hot-hitting Longhorn, says the team has changed its approach.

"I think we kind of got into the mindset that we had to pull everything," Shepherd said. "But I think now we're not really trying to not pull it, we're just trying to put the best swing on the ball and let it go where it's supposed to go."

Because the ‘Horns have changed their approach, Tucker believes opposing pitchers are having to use the inner half of the plate more often.

"Now that we're starting to hit the ball to every single part of the field, the pitchers open up," the senior second baseman said. "They don't sit there on low and away. They'll come in to where guys like [Kevin] Keyes and [Cameron] Rupp can hit a bunch of home runs, so that's going to open up the offense. We'll be able to have more total offense."

With six home runs in their last five games, the Longhorns already appear to be hitting for more power. The Texas bats hit just 10 round-trippers in their previous 27 contests.

The additional baserunners have also allowed the team to be more aggressive offensively. Over the past three weeks, the ‘Horns have put more pressure on the defense with sacrifice bunt attempts, stolen base attempts, and hit-and-runs.

The Longhorns have 35 stolen bases in 33 games this season, but they didn't run much early in the year. Things have picked up lately, as they've swiped 14 bases [in 15 attempts] over their last four games.

"We have to be aggressive on the bases," said Garrido. "We have good running speed and we can't play station-to-station. You're losing one of your assets on offense when you don't run."

Texas has also pressured its opponents by taking early leads. The ‘Horns have scored first in 11 consecutive games. Not surprisingly, they've won 10 of those contests.

The Longhorns are doing everything possible for the offense to be successful -- and it's working. In classic Augie Garrido fashion, the head coach sums up exactly why it is important for the ‘Horns to continue being aggressive with a solid approach.

"We're trying to play total offense and take the emphasis off hitting," he said. "That takes a lot of pressure off the hitting. We're trying to play offense to score runs, not get hits."

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