The bulk of Texas baseball’s nonconference slate wasn’t particularly kind to the Longhorns. After opening at 3–1, head coach David Pierce’s ballclub struggled to find any continuity amid a difficult stretch of opponents which included nationally ranked teams such as Stanford, Arkansas and LSU. At one point, the Longhorns had dropped five consecutive games heading into the series against Kansas.
The team’s fortunes, however, have brightened since the commencement of Big 12 play. Since getting swept out of Fayetteville, Arkansas, the Longhorns have won seven of their past eight games, notched an impressive win against Sam Houston State, and now find themselves near the top of the conference standings after battering Oklahoma State and Kansas.
This midseason revival can be attributed to a variety of things: gaining experience, building team chemistry and feeding off momentum.
But what’s certain is that much of the climb has to do with the maturation of the Texas pitching staff. From the series against LSU to the one with Arkansas, Texas surrendered just shy of 5.8 runs per game. Since the loss to the Razorbacks on March 14, the Longhorns have trimmed that number to 2.9.
The man at the forefront of this development is junior pitcher Nolan Kingham. The preseason All-American endured a few rocky outings in late winter, but he has won his last two starts and given up just five runs in his last 18 innings pitched. After notching a save and a win against Sam Houston State and tossing eight innings of one-run ball versus Oklahoma State, Kingham was named Big 12 Pitcher of the Week.
His efforts are part of a wider trend of general improvement from Texas hurlers shown below:
February 23–March 14 (LSU through Arkansas):
Opp. Batting Average: .285
Opp. On-base Percentage: .464
Walks-Hits per Innings Pitched (WHIP): 1.71
Opp. RPG: 5.8
March 15–present (last eight games):
Opp. Batting Average: .247
Opp. On-base Percentage: .371
Opp. RPG: 2.9
The most impressive aspect of this turnaround may be the success in eliminating free bases. In the six games preceding the first rubber match with Kansas, Texas had given up 7.2 walks or hit batters per game. Since then, they’ve allowed a mere 4.1.
Looking ahead, the Longhorns will now go north to Manhattan, Kansas, to tangle with Kansas State in a very winnable three-game series. If the Texas pitching staff is able to continue its upward rise, the Longhorns could be sitting very nicely atop the Big 12 standings three weeks into conference play.