Texas starting pitcher Kacy Clemens turned in one of his best performance of the year, but the Longhorns' offense had trouble getting things going, losing 1–0 in extra innings.
Sophomore right-hander Clemens only allowed two hits and a walk while throwing seven innings of scoreless baseball.
Offensively, the Longhorns tried to help Clemens as they were able to get on base three times in the first four innings. But the Cornhuskers shut the Texas offense down.
The Longhorns were kept hitless until the 14th inning when junior left fielder Ben Johnson singled.
Nebraska was able to take advantage of Texas’ mistakes in the 15th inning as junior pitcher Travis Duke hit the Cornhuskers leadoff batter senior catcher Tanner Lubach. Nebraska bunted Lubach over to second and scored him home on game-winning single by senior outfielder Austin Darby.
The Longhorns dropped a pitchers duel Friday and to avoid being swept tomorrow at 12:05 p.m.
Texas head coach Rick Barnes isn’t expected to return to the Longhorns next season, according to a report from 247 Sports.
Multiple reports surfaced Thursday that athletic director Steve Patterson wants Barnes to make significant changes to the program or risk losing his spot. However, a source told 247 Sports that the veteran head coach is not expected to consent those requests.
Barnes’ job security has been in talks this season after once again failing to produce a deep postseason run. Last season, the Longhorns lost in the round of 32 before falling to Butler in their first game of the tournament last week.
Through his 17-year tenure, Barnes, the winningest head coach at Texas, has tallied 402 wins with the Longhorns, but hasn’t appeared in Sweet 16 or beyond since 2008.
Barnes’ contract, which runs through March 2019, is currently worth $2.5 million per year. After his recent contract extension at the end of last season, he is due $1.75 million if he is fired before. But after that date will be due $1.5 million.
With the first spring practice in the books, it’s officially football season.
The first practice was telling in regards to the Longhorns’ attitude and direction. The changes that Longhorn fans have been craving after a disappointing 6-7 season are already present, with both offensive and defensive scheme shifts on display early.
The Longhorns new-look offense can best be described with one word-- tempo. The teams’ conditioning was tested early with the offense running to the line after each snap and getting set without a huddle. It’s clear that head coach Charlie Strong and his staff want the offense to play fast this year, similar to the up-tempo offense ran by former offensive coordinator Major Applewhite during the final years of the Mack Brown era.
Texas also seems to be getting more creative with offensive formations. The Longhorns displayed a primarily shotgun and pistol offense, which is something quite different from last season where the Longhorns often preferred to be under center.
Texas lined up in a variety of shotgun and pistol formations, including sets using full backs and tight ends in the backfield, as well as multiple spread formations with three-to-four wide receivers. Creativity was also present in play calling with junior receiver Daje Johnson taking end-around handoffs out of shotgun formations.
Though Strong said Monday that rising junior quarterback Tyrone Swoopes and redshirt freshman Jerrod Heard would be taking equal reps, it seemed that Swoopes had the early advantage in Texas’ quarterback battle.
Swoopes looked confident and sharp when throwing the ball and made a number of nice throws in traffic. Heard had his moments, but he struggled with his accuracy at times and limited himself to shorter range throws. Though they received about an even number of total plays, Swoopes took all of the major reps with the first-team offense.
Other offensive standouts include rising sophomore receiver Lorenzo Joe who was impressive in using his six-foot-two height to box-out defenders and make grabs in traffic. Junior receiver Marcus Johnson also made noise using his speed to gain separation on several different route types.
Defensively, the Longhorns showed a different look from last year’s 4-3 defense, with three linebackers, three linemen and five defensive backs on the field at almost all times. The new defensive look may be an attempt to get faster in a conference that features up-tempo passing offenses.
Though it’s very early in spring play, the Longhorns showed they are making strides in addressing last season’s shortcomings. There is still a lot of work to do before the spring game, but with already noticeable changes on both sides of the ball, Longhorns fans have something to hang their hat on.
The Dallas Stars have won eight of their last 10 games and are currently riding a three game winning streak. They are undoubtedly playing their best hockey of the season at just the right time.
Yet, the Stars (34-28-10) still remain 6 points behind the Calgary Flames for the final wild card spot in the Western Conference.
The late run has been sparked by the stellar net minding of goalie Kari Lehtonen, who has a 1.98 goals against average (GAA) and a save percentage of .925 in the month of March.
It’s no secret that things haven’t gone to plan for Lehtonen and the Stars this year. Pre-season, the Stars were a hot pick to not only make the playoffs, but to have a decent chance of advancing into the deeper rounds come spring.
“Luck hasn’t been on my side too much this year, so maybe now it’s turned” Lehtonen said after a recent 33-save shutout of the Chicago Blackhawks.
There have been times in which the 31-year-old Finnish goaltender has played well, but the puck still managed to find its way over the wrong side of the goal line.
Other times, Lehtonen’s performance has simply outraged fans and team members alike.
Just last month, Stars’ head coach Lindy Ruff was clearly frustrated with Lehtonen’s play.
“The goaltending performance doesn’t match the effort of the team,” Ruff remarked after a 5-4 loss to the Colorado Avalanche. “Our goaltending has been tough on our team, and I think that’s where the frustration is.”
While Ruff is right in saying that Lehtonen has struggled mightily at times this year it is unfair to place the entire blame for the Stars’ lack of achievement on the goalie.
Furthermore, the blame in no way should be put on the offense. The Stars are currently second in the entire NHL with 3.1 goals scored per game.
Rather, it is the Stars’ defensive efforts that have been subpar all season long. The team currently ranks 26th in goals allowed per game at 3.2. While it might be true that the goalie plays a significant part this statistic, so does a team’s defense.
The return of big defenseman Patrick Nemeth from an arm laceration injury that had him out for over 4 months has helped the Stars revamp their depleted blue line.
Nemeth returned on March 3, a 3-2-overtime victory over the New York Islanders. In the 10 games that Nemeth has played since returning, the Stars are only giving up an average of 2.3 goals per game, almost an entire goal lower than their season long average of 3.2.
More experience for defensive rookies John Klingberg and Jyrki Jokipakka has also been instrumental to the Stars’ improved play recently. The duo has been playing far better of late than they did early on in the year.
With little surprise, Lehtonen attributes his recent success to a total team effort. “We’ve been working a little bit on being more aggressive when there’s traffic,” Lehtonen said. “That’s been working pretty good.”
When the team plays better defensively in front of Lehtonen, it is easier for the big Fin to see the puck more clearly. And when Lehtonen is seeing the puck well, it leads to the superb play we have seen from him of late.
With only nine games left in the season and no control over what the teams in front of them in the standings accomplish, the Stars certainly need to help Lehtonen continue his exceptional performance.
If they don’t, expect to see the Stars watching at home during the playoffs for the sixth time in the last seven years.
After defeating Arkansas, 8–7, in extra innings Saturday, the Longhorns drifted past the Razorbacks, 11–2, in the second game of the three-game series Sunday.
Senior Gabby Smith showed no sign of soreness from the mound as she struck out three and allowed just one earned run over six innings.
“The biggest thing about Gabby is she can do so many things for us,” head coach Connie Clark said in a media availability Thursday. “For us right now, she is probably the single most key to our success as we go down the stretch.”
Texas' offense has been solid in the first two games of the series with a .350 overall batting average and 19 runs. The Longhorns tallied 13 hits alone Sunday.
Texas plays Arkansas for the final game of the sequence at 8 p.m. Monday.