Tim Maitland

Senior center fielder Tim Maitland, who sat out this past week’s series opener against Cal with an ankle injury, got four hits in seven at-bats in the last two games of the series, including an eighth-inning triple in the last game of the series that brought Texas to within a run of the Golden Bears.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

After missing two games stemming from an ankle injury he suffered in the Kansas State series, Tim Maitland returned for the last two games against Cal over the weekend.

Maitland’s return brought a spark and a level of toughness to the diamond for Texas. He’s an excellent defender in center field and really plays the game the right way, with hustle and effort in every move.

He was also a bright spot at the plate in the team’s two losses, going a combined 4-for-7 at the dish. This is a great sign for the team, as Maitland had been going through a midseason lull after a rapid start to the year that had him hitting as high as second in the Texas order.

“I just wasn’t feeling comfortable in the box,” Maitland said. “I talked to the coaches and worked on a lot of things by myself, and I just tried to get back into the swing of things. And right now it’s feeling pretty good.”

Texas falters against Pac-12 foes

If you ask the players, they would tell you it’s their performance in conference play and chasing a Big 12 title that really matters, which is good for them because Texas is off to a 5-1 start in Big 12 play.

However, the team is struggling in nonconference play. Texas is 15-11 overall, but they are only .500 in games that don’t count toward the Big 12 standings, at 10-10.

Even worse for the Longhorns, they have had difficulties at beating top-quality opponents that are considered typical baseball powers — the team is only a combined 2-7 against Stanford, Rice, Tennessee, Arkansas and Cal.

This could be problematic when it comes down to selection time for the NCAA tournament, as the Longhorns’ poor performance in the nonconference games will hurt their RPI and, in turn, their seeding.

“We all know that the out-of-conference games are still big games for RPI, especially the Pac-12, which is a good baseball conference,” said outfielder Mark Payton. “Stanford beat us pretty good, so we thought we needed to come back and beat another Pac-12 team in Cal, and we had our chances and just didn’t come through.”

Summers struggles in field, at plate

Brooks Marlow and Jordan Etier are penciled in at second base and shortstop every day, but even the best players need a rest every once in a while, and that’s when a solid backup middle infielder comes in handy.

Christian Summers is supposed to be that player for Texas, but he has struggled in limited action this season — he’s only hitting .106 on the year with a putrid .867 fielding percentage.

On Saturday, Summers replaced Marlow in the lineup as coach Augie Garrido was looking to give him some experience in case one of the starters went down with injury. However, that decision didn’t work out. Summers struggled at the plate and made key errors in the field that cost the team runs.

“It backfired a lot [the decision to play Summers at shortstop],” Garrido said. “We hoped that he could be able to do that, so in the event of an injury to one of those two middle infielders, so we would have someone to put in there that has some experience. Obviously, it didn’t work. His nerves got the best of him at the plate and on the field.”

Printed on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: Maitland heats up after ankle injury

Tim Maitland bunts against California. Texas had opportunities to pull out the victory in the closing innings, but fell short.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

Texas came into its latest three-game series with a 14-9 record. So did Cal. For the 34th time in school history, the Longhorns advanced to last year’s College World Series. So did Cal.

So it was only natural for the Longhorns and Golden Bears, after exchanging 10-run victories the previous two days, to be tied at 4-4 after four innings on Sunday.

Cal capitalized on consecutive hits in the fifth inning and a leadoff walk in the sixth, scoring one run in each frame to take a 6-4 lead. The Golden Bears (16-10, 1-5) would go on to triumph, 6-5, over the No. 18 Longhorns (15-11, 5-1) and win two out of three games against Texas this weekend.

“They got the leadoff hitter on, they gave themselves more opportunities to score and they had more clutch hits than we did,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “That’s what separated the two teams.”

Texas nearly tied the game again in each of the last two innings.

In the eighth, senior center fielder Tim Maitland’s triple brought freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow home with one out, trimming Cal’s lead to 6-5. But Maitland, who had a game-high three hits in four at-bats, was stranded at third base after sophomore right fielder Mark Payton, with the Golden Bears infield playing in, grounded out to shortstop. Senior shortstop Jordan Etier struck out looking to end the threat.

“I just look at it as another stepping stone, something to overcome and work off of,” Maitland said. “It’s really frustrating. It pisses you off. But it happened. We have a lot to learn from it.”

Sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss led the ninth inning off by drawing a five-pitch walk and was moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt by cleanup hitter Jonathan Walsh.

With Weiss in scoring position and one out, sophomore first baseman Alex Silver and junior pinch-hitter Kevin Lusson both struck out swinging.

Freshman Ricky Jacquez made his fifth start Sunday, allowing five hits and four runs in 3.1 innings. All three of the errors committed by the Longhorns came with Jacquez on the mound.

Junior Hoby Milner, who fired six scoreless innings in his last outing Wednesday against UT-Pan American, was saddled with the loss after surrendering the go-ahead run in the fifth. Freshman John Curtiss allowed another run in the sixth inning before sophomore close Corey Knebel ended the contest with three scoreless innings.

“It’s a heartbreaker,” Knebel said, who lowered his ERA from to 1.08. “When I saw Tim get that hit, I thought for sure that we would have it tied, and we were going to get the win. I knew it.”

After scoring three first-inning runs and jumping out to a 10-0 lead after the fourth inning, Texas trounced Cal, 13-3, in the series opener. But the Golden Bears bounced back, scoring the first seven runs of Saturday’s game and blowing out the Longhorns, 12-2, to even the series.

The Longhorns fell to 1-5 against Pac-12 Conference opponents, including a three-game sweep at the hands of Stanford.

“Out of conference games are still big games, especially against the Pac-12,” Payton said. “Stanford beat us pretty good so we thought we needed to come back and beat another Pac-12 team. We had our chances but we just didn’t come through today.”

Printed on Monday, April 2, 2012 as: Evenly matched Bears take down Longhorns.

Senior center fielder Tim Maitland has taken over the starting center field role for Texas and has been a spark for Texas in the lineup. He has hit .294 this season and leads the team with on base percentage.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Crowding the plate, Tim Maitland stares intently at the pitcher and does not give an inch, even as a 90 mph fastball heads directly at him.

At this point, most hitters would take their cue and move off of the plate to avoid the sting of impact — not Maitland. He takes the pain and calmly strides to first base.

Seeing him walk to first after getting hit by a pitch is no surprise to anyone familiar with Texas baseball. It seems that every game or two Maitland is plunked and gets the free pass to first. This was never more evident than in Tuesday’s game against Dallas Baptist, where the center fielder was hit by inside fastballs in his first two plate appearances and was nearly grazed again in his third at bat.

“It’s kind of my thing I guess,” said Maitland with a laugh. “I’ve always been known for not moving away from the pitch and I guess I just got really good at not moving.”

Really good might be an understatement. He’s already been hit six times this season, single-handedly accounting for 30 percent of the team’s hit by pitches.

However, Maitland, a senior, brings much more to the team than a high pain tolerance. He is a leader on the field and plays the game the correct way, giving his all to every inning and every pitch, which has garnered him the ultimate respect of his teammates and his coaches.

“He is very popular with his teammates because he does everything the right way, he does everything to the best of his abilities,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “He provides leadership with the way he does things on a daily basis, everyone trusts him and everyone respects his work ethic. I think he has the ultimate reward from a team standpoint that everyone on the team respects him tremendously.”

Maitland’s success hasn’t come overnight, however. This is his first full season as a starter, as he has waited his turn behind a group of talented outfielders in his time on the 40 Acres. Actually, he wasn’t slated to be the starter going into this season. It took a season-ending injury to returning starter Cohl Walla for Maitland to get his opportunity to start in center — and he’s taken full advantage of it.

Maitland has been a steady presence in the No. 2 spot in the lineup for Texas, hitting .294 and leading the team with a .442 on base percentage. On top of that, he’s been a spark in a batting order that has been in desperate need of help.

“I’ve worked my hardest everyday out there in practice and in the game to make sure I’ve put all I can into it,” Maitland said.” And I’m pretty confident with the way I’m playing out there right now.“

Garrido knows he can rely on him to be a consistent presence the rest of the year in center and at the plate. But what he really likes is that he is a “pest” at the plate for opposing pitchers and makes them work the whole at bat — a description Maitland has embraced.

“Anytime you have a little lefty that crowds the plate, has a good eye and is willing to wear anything inside, if I was a pitcher I’d find that annoying,” Maitland said. “As a small lefty, I’ve got to be as pesky as I can to get on base.”

Maitland will bring that same tough-minded approach to the plate this weekend as Texas takes on Loyola Marymount at home in a three game set.

Printed on Friday, March 9, 2012 as: Maitland gets chance, makes most of it

Consistent games.

That’s what Texas head coach Augie Garrido wants to see out of his team, and that’s what he got Wednesday night against Houston Baptist. The Longhorns (16-5) needed only seven innings to blank the Huskies 12-0.

The run-rule game was a far cry from the two extra-inning games Texas won last weekend against Kansas State. Houston Baptist played Sam Houston State the night before, and it showed in their slow defensive start.

“They probably will think twice about scheduling back-to-back games,” Garrido said. “No one in college baseball has the pitching to handle that many innings in a row in that short of period in time. That caught up to them.”

Texas pitcher Sam Stafford improved to 3-0 on the season, giving up two hits and striking out six batters in four innings. Stafford ran into some trouble in the third inning, surrendering a single and a walk after striking out the leadoff batter. The junior got second baseman David Pfuntner to ground into the 6-4-3 double play and end the threat.

“I have true confidence in my defense to throw strikes and not worry to strike everybody out, because I know my defenders are going to make the play,” Stafford said.

It took only nine pitches for the Texas offense to get on the board in the first inning. Mark Payton laid down a sacrifice bunt that scored Brandon Loy, and Lucas Kephart doubled to right center field to score Tim Maitland. Maitland, who started for only the third time this season, finished 1-3 with two runs, two RBIs and a walk. Texas hitters walked seven times in the game.

“We have this approach where we’re looking for one pitch and we focused on that game plan today and it paid off,” Maitland said.

Texas scored six runs in the third inning, aided by five Husky walks, two hit-by-pitches and two errors. The Longhorns took advantage of Houston Baptists’ mistakes, and weren’t looking to press things on offense.

“We just took care of the small things and they all added up and got us runs,” Maitland said.
Jordan Etier continued his hot streak by going 2-for-3 and scoring two runs, while driving in another. Etier’s average hovered above .200 for most of the season, but in the last two weeks has seen it increase to .271, good enough for third on the team.

“Right now, he’s probably the hottest hitter on the team,” Garrido said.

Etier hit sixth in the batting order instead of his usual ninth spot. Garrido moved him up to see if the change would affect him mentally, which it did not.

“I’ve been present in the box and really focusing on the baseball, just calming things down, and that’s been going good for me,” Etier said. “I felt like momentum was going good, and everyone else was hitting the ball, so I had to, too.” 

The Longhorns sure know how to end a slow-paced game with excitement.

Texas (15-5, 3-0) needed 14 innings to win 6-5 and close out the series sweep of Kansas State (12-7, 0-3) on Sunday. With the final run coming on a two-out RBI double from Brandon Loy that fell just fair along the right-field line. Tim Maitland singled the previous at-bat and scored the winning run from first base.

“The wind blew the ball back onto the field and down, keeping it away from the right fielder,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “It wasn’t his mistake as much as it happened to be high enough and in an open spot where the wind was getting to it.”

Wildcat right fielder Mike Kindel decided to throw to second instead of home to get Loy out before Maitland crossed home plate, but he was not in time.

Loy started the scoring off in the third inning, when he tripled to left-center, scoring Jordan Etier from second base. But Kansas State quickly responded, scoring three runs of its own in the fourth inning. Cole Green started for Texas and gave up four hits and two earned runs in 4.2 innings.

“I wasn’t happy with the way I pitched,” Green said. “A couple balls could have gone a couple different ways, and it could’ve been a totally different story. It’s just part of the game, and I just need to bounce back and learn from it.”

Andrew McKirahan came in to pitch with runners on the corners and two outs remaining in the fifth, and he surrendered an RBI single on his second pitch. Then a balk put both runners in scoring position, but the junior got Jason King to pop up to end the inning.

Texas entered the seventh inning trailing 5-1, but Tant Shepherd led off with a triple to right center field, and Etier brought him home with a single to left field that just cleared shortstop Tanner Witt’s glove. Texas loaded the bases with a Loy single and a walk by Mark Payton, and cut into the deficit with a bases-loaded walk by Erich Weiss that scored Etier. Cohl Walla tied the game two batters later on a single to left center that scored Loy and Payton. Walla is hitting 3-for-5 with seven RBIs with bases loaded this season.

“A lot of times, guys get over-aggressive at the plate and want to knock all the runs in, and you’ve got to stay relaxed,” Walla said. “I’m just not putting too much pressure on myself, looking for a good pitch, looking for a pitch I can hit.”

Texas had a chance to complete the comeback in the ninth with the bases loaded for Jordan Etier, but the junior lined out to third base to end the threat, resulting in extra innings.

The two teams traded scoreless innings until the 14th, when Loy hit the game-winning RBI.

“I didn’t know if it was going to be fair or foul. When I saw I hit it fair, I was just busting it,” Loy said. “I thought they held Maitland at third, and I just happened to look, and I saw him running down the line, and I knew it was over.”

Tim Maitland did a Superman slide headfirst into home plate, arms outstretched and artificial turf pellets flying up all around him, to score the dramatic game-winning run in the bottom of the 14th inning against Kansas State.

It sure was a big difference from how he began the day. For most of the season, he’s been a seldom-used role player. On Sunday, Tim Maitland got to play hero.

In most outings, Maitland starts and finishes the game in the Texas dugout. No catching fly balls in the outfield grass, just cheering for his teammates. No hitting, just handing out high fives. In 20 games all year, the junior outfielder has registered only two starts, to go with a handful of pinch-hitting appearances.

“It’s never easy sitting around in the dugout,” he said.

Maitland did a lot of sitting, standing and pacing Sunday, until the eighth inning — finally getting his number called as a pinch-hitter for Paul Montalbano. He worked the count to 3-1, and then advanced to first after getting hit by Wildcat Jake Doller’s pitch.

Two innings later, still in a 5-5 tie, Maitland grounded out to second. He got another chance as the game continued, registering his first hit of the season in the bottom of the 12th. But the Longhorns’ rally fizzled as Erich Weiss struck out to end the inning.

Then came Maitland’s moment. In the 14th inning of a game that lasted four and a half hours, he came up to bat with two outs and nobody on. He hit the first pitch he saw to left field, his second hit of the season.

Maitland would score from first, two pitches later on a Brandon Loy double that just stayed fair down the right-field line.

“I thought it was a routine fly ball, so I was just running my hardest with two outs. I saw Coach [Tommy] Harmon wave me in, and I had no idea where the ball was, so I was just running my hardest,” Maitland said. “I saw Mark Payton behind home plate throwing his hands down telling me to slide. So I just slid in, and we won.”

Texas head coach Augie Garrido has been more willing to give reserves like Maitland more opportunities based on their hard work in practice.

“His performance is a reflection of his hard work in practice. It’s why he got the start the other day,” Garrido said, referring to Maitland’s second start of the year Saturday. “He works hard every day.”

Maitland started opening day as the leadoff batter because Garrido said he had earned it in the offseason. That day, he was 0-for-4 at the plate. Between then and Sunday, Maitland would only start one other game, spending the rest of the season chained to the dugout with a few rare plate appearances. But his most recent game made it all worth it.

“It felt really good to just get out there and play the game,” he said.

Baseball

In head coach Augie Garrido’s utopia, the leadoff batter always finds a way to get on base. The next man up always lays a good sacrifice bunt, taking the out but advancing the runner to second. A few pitches later, the leadoff batter is always crossing home plate, thanks to a hit from either the three- or four-hole man. Runs are always on the board and rallies are never-ending.

Most call it “small-ball,” but locals like to refer to it as “Augie ball.” Garrido has ridden the game plan relying on singles and bunting to historical heights: five national championships and 1,629 career wins, the most all-time of any Division I coach.

Garrido likes the style — he’s never needed too many runs because of the wealth of great pitchers he’s put on the mound, and it’s the best way to score at the cavernous Disch-Falk Field, a venue where it’s sometimes impossible to clear the fences.

“This ballpark favors pitching and defense,” he said. “To score, you have to be able to execute. You need to be able to bunt and to understand the concepts. When you play like this, you need every guy in the lineup to perform consistently in order to score runs.”

The Longhorns will rely on the fundamentals of Augie ball more than ever this year. Gone to the pros are the powerful Cameron Rupp, Kevin Keyes and Russell Moldenhauer and their combined 34 home runs from last season.

The first step to successful small-ball is a good leadoff hitter, one who has a good eye for the ball, can make contact and has first-class speed on the base paths, should he need to steal a base or beat a throw home. Junior Tim Maitland will get first crack at the spot.

“The best player of the fall was Maitland,” Garrido said. “He does everything right, every day. And of course, he’s been productive. He’s certainly earned the leadoff spot.”

Maitland only appeared in 18 games last season and started three. He is one of the fastest guys on the team and is capable of stealing bases, but only logged one run all of last season. After a summer spent practicing and working out, he looks up to the job.

“The main thing I did over the summer was play every day in Alaska,” he said. “I was able to get a lot of at-bats in and just worked seeing the ball. I also hit the weight room and added some muscle.”

Maitland replaces sophomore Cohl Walla, who batted .316 last season. Walla’s play during fall practices resulted in him being moved down in the order.

Once Maitland reaches base, it’ll be junior Brandon Loy’s turn to advance him, a job he’s familiar with, as he hit in the two-hole last year. Loy is a skilled defensive player with a wide range at shortstop, but he’ll be asked to do the dirty work at the plate.

“I’ve embraced this role and the fact that I have to sacrifice an out to get the runner to second,” he said. “My job is to find a way to get him over any way possible. It’s something that I’ve worked hard on.”

Loy will usually be asked to bunt, which forces the throw to first base, thus giving the runner an open route to second — but almost always sending Loy back to the dugout. Garrido once said that he’d bunt with even Babe Ruth at the plate — that the task of effectively getting the leadoff runner to second base is more important to the offense.

Once the leadoff batter is at second, it takes just one hit out of the infield to get him home. That’s where Mark Payton and Paul Montalbano come in.

“It’ll be my job to bring the leadoff batter home,” said Payton, a freshman from Chicago who will hit in the three-hole. “It won’t happen every time, but I have to find a way to get a productive at-bat and get a run on the board.”

Montalbano, a senior who transferred from Weatherford College in 2010 will most likely start the season at the cleanup spot, where he’ll be asked to continue sustaining the rally with a hit.

Though the lineup will undergo changes during the long season, it’ll be up to those four to get Augie ball rolling for now.