After a frustrating series against Kansas State last weekend, head coach David Pierce “laid the gauntlet out,” challenging his group of starting pitchers to raise their level of play.
Pitching wasn’t perfect this weekend, but the improvement was noticeable as Texas surged to a three-game home sweep over Baylor, culminating with a 4-1 win on Sunday and two strong performances from pitchers Chase Shugart and Blair Henley, who helped carry the team to a sweep.
“Chase (Shugart) really stepped up and Blair (Henley) was outstanding,” Pierce said. “It was a good job going out and getting a sweep in the Big 12 because it’s tough. I tip my hat to the team, the support staff and the coaches because everyone’s been locked in all weekend.”
Henley rebounded strongly from a turbulent start against the Wildcats last week ––where he was bounced after giving up nine hits and four runs in 3.1 innings –– by throwing seven solid frames and giving up only one earned run in Sunday’s win.
Henley’s one run came after giving up a solo home run in the second inning, but Henley said he locked in the rest of the way.
“Nobody likes home runs and when I gave it up I realized that pitch was right down the middle,” Henley said. “I can’t do that. I started mixing up my pitches better and not throwing it down the middle.”
With the effort from Henley, Texas needed only one big inning to capture a victory. That inning came right away, when the Longhorn’s scored three runs in the first inning. Junior outfielder Tate Shaw led off the game with a walk, and junior infielder Kody Clemens brought him in with a single.
The next batter, redshirt freshman designated hitter Zach Zubia, hammered his sixth home run of the year to put the team up 3-0.
“For a young hitter, (Zubia’s) a very smart hitter,” Pierce said. “The (home run) he hit into left-center, I don’t know if you can hit it any harder. He’s powerful.”
On Saturday, Shugart provided another solid pitching performance, tossing seven shutout innings as Texas hung on for a 2-0 victory.
Clemens was the only offense the team needed, as his solo home run in the first inning proved to be enough. The team also scored an unearned run thanks to a Baylor error.
Friday saw the Longhorns trail for the only time in the series. Baylor jumped on junior pitcher Nolan Kingham early, hitting a two-run home run in the first inning.
Things didn’t fare any better for the Kingham the rest of the way, as the pitcher was pulled after giving up three hits and two more runs in the second inning. The short stint marked back-to-back two inning starts for the righty.
“Not our best outing from Nolan, and we all know that,” Pierce said. “It wasn’t because of effort. His preparation was good. When things don’t go our way we just have to attack it.”
Despite trailing 4-0 early, Texas clawed its way back into the contest. In the bottom of the third, junior catcher DJ Petrinsky cut the deficit in half with a two-run shot to left field. In the fifth, Texas rallied for four runs to grab a lead it wouldn’t relinquish en route to a 9-5 victory.
The schedule now heats up for Texas. On Tuesday, the team travels to College Station to take on former Big 12 rival Texas A&M. The Longhorns then prepare for a weekend series at Oklahoma against a Sooner team currently undefeated in conference play.