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After celebrating head coach Michael Center’s 50th birthday, the No. 7 men’s tennis team took on Baylor, but the results left little to be happy about.
The Longhorns took on No. 6 Baylor on Wednesday, with a loss of 2-5. Texas is now 19-4 overall and 3-1 in the Big 12. On Saturday, the Longhorns will compete in their final match of the regular season against Texas Tech. The Big 12 Men’s Championship will then be the next stop, on April 25 in Fort Worth.
Recently, the team defeated Big 12 Conference favorite and third-ranked Oklahoma with a score of 4-3 — its best win of the season.
Texas has had a great turnout with its 7-3 record against top-25 opponents this season.
Texas head coach Augie Garrido sat in the Longhorn clubhouse at Disch-Falk Field last Tuesday, fielding questions from the media, just a few minutes after his team had suffered a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Rice Owls.
“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Garrido said of his hitters’ inability to make contact. “Because it hasn’t happened to us before.”
Of course, Garrido would have rather been sitting there singing his team’s praises after a hard fought win. But his obvious unfamiliarity with this team’s inability to produce base runners and drive in runs was very telling of just how good his ball club has been this year.
Halfway through April, the Longhorns have already won 29 games, two more than they did all of last year. Texas has won 13 of its last 15 contests and is preparing for a nine-game home stand. Garrido’s team is on pace to finish the regular season with a record of 42-11.
If the Longhorns continue at that pace, they’ll finish the regular season with a higher winning percentage than the 2002 and 2005 national championship teams, which is fitting because this team might just be the best Garrido has ever coached at Texas.
Given that last season’s core of players was responsible for one of Texas’ worst seasons in program history, it’s hard to believe that those same core players are now leading Texas in one of its best seasons.
Nathan Thornhill, who passed up on the pros to return for his senior season, has led a Longhorn pitching staff that has been virtually untouchable most of the season. The Cedar Park native has posted a perfect 6-0 record on the season with an incredible 0.78 ERA and an impossible 0.91 WHIP.
Thornhill hasn’t been the only ace for Texas this season. Sophomore Travis Duke has yet to give up any runs in 14.1 relief innings and starters Dillon Peters and Parker French both have ERAs below 3.00. As a staff, the Longhorn pitchers have a miniscule 2.12 ERA and have surrendered an average of just 1.7 runs per game in Texas’ 29 victories.
Just as the Thornhill has led a resurgence among Texas’ pitchers, senior outfielder Mark Payton — who also turned down an opportunity to go pro — has led an even more improbable resurrection of Texas’ hitters, many of whom struggled mightily just a year ago.
Despite his current 76-game on-base streak, Payton’s numbers are actually slightly down from the absurd averages he put up last year. But his consistency has inspired a massive increase in production from a number of his teammates. Senior infielder Madison Carter’s batting average is up more than 100 points from last year while sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson’s slugging percentage has risen by almost 70 points.
Most of all, this year’s team has been able to win close games. In a small-ball system like Garrido’s, close games are the rule, not the exception, and this more experienced Longhorn team has proven it can handle the pressure. Texas is 9-2 in games decided by two runs or less, with the victories coming from a combination of clutch late-game hitting and lockdown pitching with the game on the line.
More than just an improvement over last year’s last-place team, the 2014 Longhorns look even better than the 2002 and 2005 team’s that won it all in Omaha.
Erin Shireman, a sophomore catcher/third baseman, is perhaps the most interesting player on head coach Connie Clark’s team.
Shireman embodies the role of a student-athlete, currently pursuing a degree in aerospace engineering and continuing her family’s legacy.
“I have grown up with [aerospace engineering] my entire life,” Shireman said. “My parents got me into it at a young age, especially being from Houston. My dad works at NASA, so I have always been in that atmosphere and learned a lot from him. I have recently started flying, and that has kind of changed my mind, or given me a tough decision, as whether to go with space or atmospheric in the future.”
Shireman hopes her degree will be a launching pad for her ultimate goal of being an astronaut.
“I still want to be an astronaut, but I am being realistic that it may not happen,” Shireman said. “But now, having gotten my pilot’s license, I am really enjoying the atmospheric part of it. My parents keep me intrigued with that, and we go on family flying trips all the time.”
Many student-athletes view sports as their ultimate career destinations, often emphasizing their roles as athletes over being students. But when asked to choose which accomplishment she was most proud of, Shireman was stuck in the middle.
“That is a tough question because they are both a big part of my life, and so if I say I am more proud of one, I am kind of letting down the other part of me,” Shireman said. “I am proud of everything. Softball has given me the opportunity to come to UT and do the school aspect and then school will help me later on in the future, so they are pretty evenly balanced.”
Shireman and her teammates have had an up-and-down season thus far, but she has a concise summary for what has happened so far.
“Entertaining,” Shireman said. “There is never a dull moment when you have 19 girls on a team, and even when things are going rough we are always picking each other up and during the good times it is just easy, breezy rolling.”
The Longhorns made it to the semifinals of the College World Series last year and hope to reach similar heights this season despite their relative youth.
“We have had a lot of games where we have lost by one run, or they have been really close games,” Smith said. “If we can just work on finishing that or getting ahead that will be the key to getting us back to the College World Series.”
After a two-year hiatus from national relevance, Texas baseball has burst back onto the scene thanks to head coach Augie Garrido’s age-old formula of defense and small ball.
The Longhorns currently sit at 22-7 and eighth in the Baseball America poll, a huge step forward for a team that finished 27-24-1 last season, its worst in 15 years. Texas’ success this season resembles when the Longhorns were perennial contenders in the College World Series in the early 2000s.
Those Texas teams were headlined by strong pitching staffs who put strangle holds on opposing hitters, which allowed Garrido to implement a conservative offensive strategy using sacrifice bunts and timely hitting. Although this tactic was in place the past two seasons, Texas lacked the dominant pitching staff necessary for it to work effectively.
This season has been a different story. Led by starters senior Nathan Thornhill and junior Parker French, the Longhorns enter April as the No. 4 pitching staff in the nation, limiting opponents to less than two runs per game. This strength powered the team to a 4-1 record against Rice and Houston, both currently ranked in the top 25.
Across the board, Texas’ defense has been phenomenal. Along with its 1.98 ERA, the Longhorns rank ninth in fielding percentage, 14th in hits allowed and have shut out opponents on five occasions — an impressive feat considering last year’s team had eight all season.
The Longhorns have already almost equaled last season’s win total despite ranking 142nd in team batting average and 187th in runs scored per game.
Of course, there are a few bright spots in the Texas lineup. The obvious example here is senior outfielder Mark Payton, who has maintained a red-hot .402 batting average while leading the team in hits, RBIs and on-base percentage. Junior outfielder and Austin-native Collin Shaw has emerged as another solid offensive threat for the Longhorns, compiling a .313 batting average and a team-high seven stolen bases.
If Texas can continue to make use of this pitching staff and progressive offensive, it can begin recreating the winning culture the program has lacked in recent years.
After 1,894 victories as a head coach, Augie Garrido and his team have only one thing on their minds: Lubbock.
Twelfth-ranked Texas will battle Texas Tech (21-7, 3-3 Big 12) on the road this weekend after making history on Tuesday night with a 5-1 victory over Texas State. Garrido became the all-time winningest coach in college baseball history but his Longhorns still have a season to keep playing.
“I don’t know that I was the inspiration — all we did was play the game,” Garrido said after Tuesday’s win. “I think that Tommy Nicholson was the inspiration, and Ryan Russ was the inspiration. They are the two that spend the most time with them over the hitting. [The players] came out and hit the ball hard, they really did, they lit it up. They have been lighting it up for about two weeks now, and they are making progress, and they are maturing. Those are the things I look at, not the results. The results are what they are, but [Nicholson and Russ] are making the progress that’s making this team move forward.”
And the Longhorns’ hitting has been the biggest story as of late, with the team scoring 34 runs in the past five games.
Sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson has contributed greatly to this streak, launching his second home run of the season over the left field wall during Tuesday’s win. Johnson attributes the offensive improvement to the team’s realistic mentality, particularly at home where the ball doesn’t fly as well.
“I think we had a hitters meeting last week and we talked about how guys really weren’t going to hit too many home runs here and we need to start getting on top of the ball more,” Johnson said. “When we play at Disch-Falk we need to use that to our advantage knowing that it’s a big field and you have to get on top of the ball.”
Heading into this weekend’s series against the Red Raiders, whose pitching staff boasts a solid 2.78 combined ERA, every hitter will need to do his part. As of now, Texas (20-6, 1-2 Big 12) has six players hitting at least .250 at the plate for a combined .256 team average that’s growing every game.
Senior outfielder Mark Payton continues to lead the charge, upping his average to a .420 after a 3-for-4 performance against the Bobcats, but it’s the younger players that are continuing to improve every time out.
Freshman catcher Tres Barrera is currently fourth on the team with a .268 average after hitting just under .150 three weeks ago. Johnson’s .280 average is third best on the team, and his 19 runs easily lead the Longhorns.
Texas knows it can count on its pitching staff that features a combined 1.89 ERA, but as the hitters continue to improve, the Longhorns will be a tough team to contain, much less defeat, as the season goes along.
After the No. 12 Longhorns beat Texas State 5-1 Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the fans rose to their feet, chanting “Augie” as the Longhorn players all tipped their caps to head coach Augie Garrido.
And rightfully so. With the win, Garrido became the winningest coach in the history of college baseball.
With his 1,894th win, Garrido, who was already the winningest coach in Division I history, passed Gordon Gillespie for the record. Gillespie coached at Lewis University (Division II), Ripon College (Division III) and St. Francis (NAIA).
“The only thing 1,894 wins proves is that you are old,” Garrido said. “But it still feels good.”
Garrido — who is in his 45th year of coaching — has been at Texas since 1997, garnering 739 of the 1,893 victories on the 40 Acres, including two championships. At Cal State-Fullerton, Garrido won 929 games and three national championships. He has also coached at Illinois, Cal Poly and San Francisco State.
“I get the credit, but it belongs to everyone,” Garrido said.
Texas jumped all over the Bobcats (15-9) early as junior pitcher Lukas Schiraldi completely shut down Texas State. He held them to just one hit in eight innings to improve a team ERA that ranks fifth in the nation.
“[Schiraldi] is the best Tuesday night pitcher in college baseball,” Garrido said.
Texas (20-6) scored two runs in the first and second to open it up early and give Schiraldi (4-1) a nice cushion. Sophomore right fielder Collin Shaw put the Longhorns on the board with an RBI fielder choice, barely legging out a double-play grounder with the bases loaded to score sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson. Freshman catcher Tres Barrera then followed with a single up the middle to push the lead to 2-0.
The Longhorns scored two more in the second, highlighted by sophomore shortstop C.J Hinojosa’s RBI double off the top of the left field wall. Johnson then led the fourth with a monster home run off the Longhorns’ sign well beyond the left field fence.
The Longhorns have allowed just three runs in the last 45 innings. They will travel to Texas Tech this weekend for their second Big 12 series, but they won’t soon forget Garrido’s new title.
“It’s something I’ll be able to tell my kids and grandkids: that I got to play for the greatest college baseball coach of all time,” Johnson said.
Despite the team-first approach of head coach Augie Garrido’s small-ball system, freshman infielder Kacy Clemens has already found a way to stand out.
Entering his first collegiate season, most of the focus was on Clemens’ name. As the son of Roger Clemens, former MLB all-star and Longhorn legend, expectations were very high, with the spotlight fixed on his every move.
While Clemens is just starting to find his rhythm at the plate, currently hitting .224 with just three RBIs through 25 games, his ability to do the small things has made him stand out in Garrido’s mind.
“He is another example of not bringing any fear into this game from that other game, and that is what ballplayers have to be able to do,” Garrido said after Clemens went hitless in the Kansas series two weeks ago. “Both [he and freshman catcher Tres Barrera] have power, if they can start to be consistent at the plate and be a little more aggressive, they can add another element to the team.”
After a slow start, Clemens’ hitting has shown great improvement as of late, especially his plate discipline after recording two hits and drawing three walks against Columbia last weekend.
His work in the field, however, has been spectacular since opening day.
Clemens is currently sporting a .985 fielding percentage with just four errors at first base this season, where he sees more action than any other defender. His stellar defensive play seems to be rubbing off on his teammates too, as the Longhorns have committed just two errors over the course of their current four-game win streak.
Texas has recorded 29 runs on 42 hits during the win streak, and, if Clemens can get his bat going, the wins will continue. Clemens and the Longhorns will get their next chance to continue the hitting display against Texas State on Tuesday.
The Bobcats will travel to Austin from San Marcos face the Longhorns, sporting a respectable 15-8 record this season. Texas State is coming off of an impressive series with Western Kentucky, in which it won two of three games while scoring 21 combined runs.
But the Bobcats’ 3-4 record on the road and a 3.76 combined ERA plays strongly into what the Longhorns are doing well at the moment. Texas State can score plenty of runs, averaging just over five runs per contest, but bad pitching against a hot Texas lineup cannot happen.
The Longhorns are playing well in all facets of the game as of late, and, if Clemens and other young players can expedite the learning curve, the possibilities are endless for this Texas team.
Many Texas players saw their first collegiate postseason action Sunday afternoon, and the fifth-seeded Longhorns were shaky at times before pulling away from No. 12 seed Penn, 79-61 in College Park, Md.
Head coach Karen Aston’s team struggled early, repeatedly trading leads with the Quakers early in the first half as neither team led by more than four points.
Texas fell behind soon after, as 12 first-half turnovers and poor shooting kept the Longhorns stuck at 17 points for more than nine minutes. Sophomore guard Celina Rodrigo finally broke the drought with a jumper, but the damage had already been done.
“They came ready to play and they’re a good basketball team,” Aston said in a statement after the game. “I think we just didn’t know how good they were.”
It was Aston’s first time in the tournament since taking over as head coach for the Longhorns, but she had been there before, when she helped lead Texas to the Final Four as an associate head coach in 2003.
Among Texas’ challenges was scraping off the rust. The Longhorns hadn’t played a game since March 9, when West Virginia defeated them in the semifinals of the Big 12 Championship series. The Longhorns finally seemed to get warmed up at the end of the first, though on a 14-6 run to cut the deficit to seven.
Texas continued its spurt after halftime, featuring a complete role reversal after Penn’s dominance nearly took Texas’ chances.
“We told them at halftime: either you wanna go home or you don’t,” Aston said.
Apparently, they didn’t. The Longhorns newfound energy and drive, sinking the first two baskets en route to a lead around the 14-minute mark. Within minutes, Penn found itself dug deep into a hole.
The Quakers — playing in front of a supportive crowd only two hours away from home — knew they had lost with just over a minute to go. As each player returned to the bench, she received a standing ovation from the crowd and hugs from coaches before settling into watching the season end.
The Longhorns’ victory was their first NCAA tournament win since 2008, and they will face fourth-seeded Maryland on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Terrapins will be playing on their home court.
“We’re gonna have to play harder for 40 minutes,” Aston said.
Head coach Carol Capitani says her team must never take a top-10 finish for granted. With a third consecutive ninth place finish, Texas showed a complete team effort from both its swimmers and divers. The Longhorns tallied up 144 total points in the three-day championship event but came up short against back-to-back champion Georgia (528 points) and runner-up Stanford (386).
Texas senior diver Maren Taylor capped off her final NCAA Championships with two runner-up finishes. Taylor tallied 399.30 total points including a meet-best 73.5 that led her to a second-place finish in the three-meter diving event.
“My hat’s off again to our divers,” Capitani said. “They are incredible. It’s great inspiration. It’s fun to be working together as a team.”
Longhorn junior diver and UCLA transfer, Emma Ivory-Ganja, had a roller coaster ride in the final. Ivory-Ganja began to climb the standings two rounds into the five total from fifth place. She jumped her way into third place with her 1.5-twist somersault before just one round remained. Ivory-Ganja saved her best for last, scoring 76.80 with a final dive that catapulted her into first place. USC diver Haley Ishimatsu eclipsed Ivory-Ganja’s total with her last dive of the event, but Ivory-Ganja still provided Texas with significant points in a second-place finish.
The Longhorns capped off the meet finishing fifth in the 400 free relay consolation final. The relay team was led by seniors Ellen Lobb, Alex Hooper and Samantha Tucker, as well as junior Gretchen Jacques.
“I’m proud of the leadership and how the upperclassmen are passing the torch down to our younger kids,” Capitani said. “Gretchen [Jacques] has definitely grown up.”