Freshman Zach Zubia bustled his way down the first base line, determined to outrace the throw.
The designated hitter found himself in a mad dash after sending a soft grounder to shortstop in the eighth inning of Sunday’s home loss against New Orleans. The throw to first came just in time as the umpire called Zubia out.
The out looked routine enough, but after the Longhorns failed to give Zubia another at-bat in the ninth, it held a bit more significance. The play marked the last chance for Zubia to keep his 41-game on-base streak alive.
Not since Texas’ season opener against Louisiana Lafayette, over a period of 66 days, had Zubia failed to reach base in a game. He did it a variety of ways, too, totaling 44 hits, 30 walks and two hit-by-pitches during the span.
The streak may be attributed to Zubia’s approach to baseball. Although in his first year, Zubia has displayed a veteran’s composure, slowing things down and taking it game by game.
“This game’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint,” Zubia said. “You just gotta see ball, hit ball. Especially for me, that’s what I’ve been doing. You got to stay relaxed and stay within yourself.”
Zubia’s streak drew admiration from his teammates, who feel confident that the freshman will get back to his on-base ways when the Longhorns host Houston on Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
“Forty-one games, that’s a heck of a streak,” sophomore infielder Ryan Reynolds said. “He’s always on base, always producing and scoring runs and hitting RBIs. I hate to see (the streak) end, but there’s always Tuesday to start a new one.”
Zubia started the year not even having a certain place in the lineup. The Longhorns (28–15, 11–4 Big 12) used Zubia sparingly in their season-opening series against Louisiana Lafayette, only listing him as a pinch hitter.
But in the next weekend’s series against LSU, Zubia solidified himself as the team’s designated hitter, knocking out two home runs and totaling six RBIs against the Tigers. Since then, the freshman has held down the four-spot in the team’s lineup.
Zubia has flourished as the cleanup hitter, ranking second on the team in both home runs and RBIs. Texas head coach David Pierce has praised the ability of the freshman to step up into a big role.
“The kid has done an awesome job for us,” Pierce said. “Hitting in the four hole as a very young hitter has just been tremendous for us, and he’s shown the discipline as well. (I’m) just really proud of what he accomplished so far. He can start a new streak on Tuesday.”
Starting another streak won’t be easy against Houston, though, as the Cougars enter Tuesday’s clash boasting the second-best ERA in the American Athletic Conference. Houston is coming off a series sweep over No. 24 Wichita State, in which it limited the Shockers to seven runs over three games.
As the season winds down and the NCAA tournament approaches, Pierce has stressed the importance of continuing to snag quality wins for the selection committee, especially after Sunday’s loss.
“We’re right in the middle of building a resume and mid-April baseball,” Pierce said. “We’re excited to have the opportunity to get the bitter taste of this loss out of our mouths. (Houston’s) playing very well, and if we don’t play well, we won’t win.”