The Texas starters were down 15 runs when their turn to bat in a practice came last week.
The result wouldn’t go in the record books. It wouldn’t be a loss or a win. The Longhorns were playing a game called 21 outs hoping to find their confidence again.
The premise for the drill was simple: One team fields, and the other one bats until it reaches 21 outs. A comeback against the Texas second-string team would be the boost the team needed as the Longhorns were searching for their groove again.
After a disappointing 6–5 mid-week loss to UT-Arlington on Tuesday when the Longhorns gave up a 5–2 lead in the ninth inning, Texas was in search of confidence.
Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson has wanted to play 21 outs during practice for years. Eventually, head coach Augie Garrido gave in to Johnson’s game in hopes of helping his team.
“We looked to develop confidence and trust in each other,” Garrido said.
As the starters tried to chip away at the second team’s lead, they did something they’ve done too often this season — they tried too hard. The starters received eight straight outs on missed hit balls. However, they settled down, found their groove and won with two outs left.
Although it’s a simple game one might find at the sandlot, it helped Texas get back into the swing of things.
“We came out and got refocused,” sophomore pitcher Kacy Clemens said. “It was a good practice. Everybody was upbeat and alive. It just got us ready for the weekend.”
The practice game and the two practices Texas had after losing to UT-Arlington helped, as the Longhorns swept Kansas State this past weekend.
“They came with a different level of confidence,” Garrido said. “The offensive players hit the balls hard throughout the series. They hit the balls deep. They could’ve taken the opportunity to be frustrated and disappointed. … That is a significant improvement over what most teams and most players are able to do.”
In Texas’ 6–1 win over the Wildcats on Sunday, senior right fielder Collin Shaw said the victory was the team’s most complete game of the season.
“I think [it was the best game] for sure,” Shaw said. “We have great pitching and really great defense, and we took good at bats 1-9 throughout the lineup.”
With their confidence growing, the Longhorns look to build off of their series sweep Tuesday, when they take on Texas State (10–12–1, 6–3 Sun Belt). The Bobcats are coming off of a 2–1 series loss to South Alabama.
Despite Texas State’s below-.500 record, the Longhorns look forward to playing an in-state team.
“It’s always a fun game [against Texas State],” Shaw said. “We know a lot of guys on their team, and they know a lot of guys on our team just [because we’ve grown] up in the state of Texas. They’re always a competitive team, and they’ll be ready to play. It’ll be a fun game.”
First pitch Tuesday night is scheduled for 6 p.m. in San Marcos.