Blair Henley

Sophomore pitcher Blair Henley delivers a pitch during Texas’ game against Louisiana-Lafayette on Feb. 18. Henley kept the Tigers off the board for six innings during Texas’ 11-1  victory on Sunday afternoon. 

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

Texas seems to have found its stride entering conference play. After a five-game losing streak to end the nonconference season, the Longhorns are back on track.

Texas (11–9) took the opening game of the series against Kansas on Friday, and the Longhorns won again on Saturday, this time by a score of 4-0.

The story of the game was sophomore starting pitcher Blair Henley, who threw seven complete innings, allowing just five hits and zero runs. Henley came into the day with a 2–1 record in four appearances and sported a 2.35 ERA. Saturday’s numbers will further his impressive statistics for the year.

One of Henley’s more impressive traits relative to his fellow Texas pitchers is his command of the fastball. His ability to place the ball down in the zone this year has helped him out immensely, especially against an early-season schedule that was loaded with fastball hitters.

Texas head coach David Pierce even went as far as to say that Henley’s fastball command was “outstanding.”

“We just did our job all around (today),” Henley said. “(I) commanded the fastball again, like I try to do every week. Then I mixed my other two, three pitches in when I had to. Other than that, all we had to do is go out there and compete like we do every time.”

Another revelation from the pitching staff Saturday was the long-awaited return of a solid pitching performance from junior closer Beau Ridgeway.

Ridgeway, who has struggled on the mound recently no matter the situation, finally showed Texas fans a glimpse of the dominant reliever he had proven himself to be over the last two years.

Ridgeway came into a tough situation with zero outs in the eighth inning, with men on first and second base. His performance was nothing short of fantastic, as he made quick work of the eighth and was lights-out in the ninth. In total, Ridgeway threw for two complete innings and allowed zero runs and only one hit.

“For him to come in and get the job done was as big for him as it was for the team,” Pierce said. “Just another confidence booster. When I went to the mound, I started saying and rattling a bunch of stuff to him, then I finally just looked at him and said, ‘Believe in yourself and compete.’ And that’s what he did.”

Offensively, Texas had an average day at the plate. The team only scored four runs on seven hits and surprisingly struggled to put good swings on the ball. The Longhorns were able to do more than enough, however, as the four runs comfortably gave Texas the win.

Junior infielder Kody Clemens, though, continued to play out of his mind. He went 2-4 at the plate and had two RBIs. His shining moment of the game was his solo home run in the bottom of the first inning. Clemens showed that he has plenty of power, as he made it a team-leading five home runs on the season.

“(Kody’s) not only a leader, he’s just fun,” Pierce said. “He plays the game with energy. He plays the game with passion. And when he’s swinging it well, he’s as good as anybody.”

Texas will play its final game of the Kansas series on Sunday, looking for a sweep. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.

With two outs in the top of the first on Saturday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Stanford plopped an innocent fly ball to center field.

What looked like a routine fly ball dropped in between three Longhorn defenders — none of whom signaled for the ball — and led to the Cardinal scoring their first run of the game.

Texas would get out of the inning without any further damage, but the mistake set the tone and got things rolling for Stanford early in what turned out be a lopsided 9-3 loss for the No. 23 Longhorns.

“It did (affect us mentally),” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “We just had a communication breakdown. David (Hamilton) has to keep going when an outfielder doesn’t call him off, and Kam (Fields) just got a poor read. It was just a poorly played ball.”

The No. 7 Cardinal jumped out to a big lead in the second. Sophomore pitcher Blair Henley struggled with his control in the frame, walking two batters and hitting another. Stanford capitalized, notching four runs in the inning thanks to a triplet of singles.

Texas (9–6) made things more interesting in the bottom of the fourth.

Junior infielder Masen Hibbeler got things started with a deep double to left field, and junior infielder Kody Clemens followed with a walk. Freshman designated hitter Zach Zubia took advantage, launching a home run over the left-field wall to pull Texas within 5-3. Texas proceeded to load the bases but failed to induce any more damage in the inning.

But outside of a fourth inning in which Texas recorded four hits, Texas was quiet. The team was shutout in eight innings, managing only three hits.

Despite the lack of success against one of the top pitching units in the country, Pierce thought the team did well enough against Stanford’s starter Erik Miller to win the game.

“They threw some great arms at us. They had Miller going up to 97 MPH with good stuff,” Pierce said. “I don’t like our results against him, but we got him out of the game. We put ourselves in a position to have a shot in the middle of the game.”

Stanford put the game on ice in the ninth inning, dashing any hopes of a Longhorn comeback. The Cardinal rocked junior pitcher Beau Ridgeway, going on a four-run spurt that was highlighted by a booming three-run home run over right field.

Henley came into the game sporting a 0.53 ERA but had a disappointing outing statistically. The sophomore gave up five earned runs on five hits and walked four batters in six innings.

However, Pierce commended his pitcher’s ability to bounce back from a rough start.

“The third through the sixth (inning) I loved him,” Pierce said. “He was ticked off and he got in attack mode. He let some calls affect him early, but he overcame it. He didn’t give up anything else.”

Texas has one last game remaining against Stanford on Sunday at 1 p.m. and will look get a series split.

Photo Credit: Katie Bauer | Daily Texan Staff

In what was probably the least exciting and fulfilling game of the weekend, Texas failed to complete the series sweep of Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday afternoon at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

The Longhorns fell to the Ragin’ Cajuns, 2-1, in a game that totaled 10 combined hits and featured dominant pitching performances and stellar defensive plays.

“It was a great series against a good team,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “We really faced some good pitching, and we grew up this weekend. That’s for sure.”

Texas’ starting pitcher, sophomore Blair Henley, threw five innings, allowing five hits and one earned run. His successors, redshirt juniors Josh Sawyer and Andy McGuire, were equally efficient, allowing one earned run on only one hit. Junior third baseman Kody Clemens believed that the pitching staff did more than enough to put the Longhorns in a position to win on Sunday.

“Nolan (Kingham), Chase (Shugart) and Blair (Henley) all threw really well,” Clemens said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the run production we needed to win this last game. We learned a lot. I thought the pitchers threw well, but we just got to get better.”

The offense struggled to get anything going behind Texas’ pitching, particularly with bringing the runs in. Clemens collected two of Texas’ four hits with his two singles. The theme of the game seemed to be hard-hit balls in easy-to-reach places.

“Today was rough,” Pierce said. “We hit a lot of balls hard today. Had no luck today. Some quality at-bats, a couple mistake pitches and that was the difference.”

The weekend as whole showed plenty of promise for the Longhorns’ 2018 season. The first day exhibited a true top-of-the-rotation “ace” pitcher in junior Nolan Kingham. He started off the season with one of the best starts of his career, pitching eight shutout innings and a career-high 10 strikeouts while giving up only three hits.

“It was awesome. It was awesome going out there and going as long as I can, but with this group of guys, I think it’s expected,” Kingham said. “So we’re just going to keep moving forward and build off it.”

The second game of the series brought with it some drama and late-inning fireworks. After grabbing, losing, re-grabbing and re-losing the lead, Texas ended the day with a bang. Sophomore outfielder Austin Todd called ballgame in the bottom of the ninth with a moon shot to left field, giving the Longhorns a 5-3 win. The walk-off homerun sent fans into a frenzy and left Todd’s face covered in shaving cream and grinning from ear-to-ear.

“Personally, it was my first-time ever to hit a walk-off,” Todd said. “And it’s probably one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had playing baseball.”

The most eye-catching offensive revelation of the weekend may have been from Texas’ two and three-hole hitters — junior infielder Masen Hibbeler and Clemens, who are each batting at or above .500.

“I think (we) can go a long way,” Clemens said. “Masen’s the type of dude — he’s got the type of mindset (to be special). He’s going to be a stud all year. I know that if I keep this consistency, us two are going to produce.”

Pierce’s overall takeaways from the weekend were positive. He believes his team is right where it needs to be, even though it couldn’t close out the series with a sweep.

“You’ve got to build off of this,” Pierce said. “It’s a good, quality team. They’re picked to win the Sun Belt. Sure, we’d want the sweep. We’d like to finish. We just couldn’t get a clutch hit, and (we) made a couple of mistake pitches.”

The Longhorns will take to the diamond on Wednesday when they face Lamar at home before heading to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to play LSU in a weekend series. First pitch at Disch-Falk Field on Wednesday will be at 7:30 p.m.