junior pitcher

Senior pitcher Parker French has taken over the top spot in the pitching rotation after posting a 2.41 ERA last season.
Photo Credit: Amy Zhang | Daily Texan Staff

This weekend, the No. 6 Longhorns’ goal for their opening series at Rice is simple.

“[I want them] not to be nervous like we were against Cal last season,” head coach Augie Garrido said. 

Last year, in the opening series at California, Texas committed six errors in its first two games, quickly earning a 0–2 record, before recovering to take the next two games of the series.

A similiar performance this weekend against No. 13 Rice would likely end up with disastrous consequences. The Owls enter the season as the unanimous choice to win Conference USA and a fellow contender to make it to Omaha, Nebraska, in June.

Rice’s junior pitcher, Blake Fox, was named the preseason pitcher of the year for the conference after posting a 1.46 ERA last year, and senior catcher John Clay Reeves was tabbed the preseason player of the year.

But Texas senior second baseman Brooks Marlow said the team is not worried about how Rice is doing.

“We’ve just got to take it pitch-by-pitch and game-by-game,” Marlow said. “It doesn’t matter who we play; we’re just going to play
Texas baseball.”

The Longhorns have firepower of their own, with 22 returning players from last year’s team, including seven starting position players who made a run at the College World Series. Texas even beat Rice in the regional round of the NCAA tournament last year.

Garrido said experience should help eliminate the early-season errors they had last year.

“They most likely will not doubt themselves as much [this year] because of that,” Garrido said. “That is my hope at Rice.”

One potential early-season weak spot is the team’s pitching. While senior pitcher Parker French will get the start Friday, sophomore pitchers Kacy Clemens and Josh Sawyer, Saturday’s starters, have yet to see substantial time on the hill in collegiate action. Last year’s postseason star, junior pitcher Chad Hollingsworth, is coming off shoulder issues from the summer.

On the offensive side of things, the Longhorns stand out. Junior shortstop C.J Hinojosa, sophomore catcher Tres Barrera and Marlow, who drilled four home runs last year, are just the tip of the iceberg of what Texas brings to the batter’s box this year.

With freshmen such as catcher Michael Cantu, who hit .352 in high school, and third baseman Bret Boswell, who hit .410 before coming to college, Texas feels confident it’ll be solid on all sides of the ball this year.

“We’ve got one of the best pitching staffs, and we have one of the toughest hitting lineups in the country,” Marlow said. “I think it’s all going to come together, and it’s going to be really good.”

How good the Longhorns will be this season probably won’t be determined during this four-game series, given the ups and downs the team had last season on its run to the College World Series.

Still, the Longhorns want to make a statement this weekend.

“We’ve got to go out there and play a hard game,” Marlow said. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen that need to get their feet wet. This is the weekend to do it and see how they’re going to react to the atmosphere around them and see what they’re capable of.”

Texas knocked off Rice 3-2 in 11 innings to remain undefeated in the Houston Regional on Saturday.

Both teams went down in order in the first inning, but the Longhorns threatened in the first. Freshman catch Tres Barrera reached first and advanced to second on an error, but was out at third base after a failed bunt by senior designated hitter Madison Carter.  Carter advanced to second on a failed pickoff attempt, but the Texas hitters were unable to drive him home.

The Owls scored one in the bottom of the first on two hits, but left two on base as junior pitcher Parker French managed to pitch Texas out of a jam.

The Longhorns answered the Owls in the sixth inning, but running errors prevented them from taking control. Sophomore leftfielder Ben Johnson started off the inning with an infield single but he was subsequently picked off by Rice’s ace Blake Fox. That first out was followed by a double by senior centerfielder Mark Payton, that probably would’ve scored Johnson, but extended Payton’s on-base streak to 97 games. Barrera drove Payton home on a double of his own but Texas failed to produce another run.

Rice answered with a run of their own, thanks to a single, a sacrifice bunt and a double that gave them a 2-1 lead.

Texas had an opportunity to tie the game in the seventh inning after freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz reached on a single.  Gurwitz advanced to second on a wild pitch that was right in front of the catcher, but was thrown out at third after being too aggressive. Junior second baseman Brooks Marlow followed with a single that would’ve scored Gurwitz.  Rice rattled off two hits in the bottom of their inning, but junior leftfielder Collin Shaw gunned out the Rice runner at third to relieve the threat.

The Longhorns tied the game in the eighth inning with a Payton double and Barrera single that put runners on the corners with no outs. After Carter struck out, sophomore shortstop CJ Hinojosa drove home Payton on a sacrifice fly that was hit just deep enough to score the run.

Texas nearly scored in the ninth inning after, Marlow pounded a ball that just missed leaving the park, but he was stranded at second.

Texas led off the 11th inning with a double by Gurwitz, which was followed by a Marlow single driving in the run.  Marlow tied a career-high with four hits in the contest.  The Longhorns retired the side in the bottom half of the inning to earn the win.

Junior pitcher Parker French pitched a gem, throwing six and two thirds innings of six hit baseball, allowing two runs. Sophomore closer John Curtiss threw four perfect innings to get the win. 

Texas now waits the winner of the Texas A&M and Rice elimination game. The Longhorns will play at 7 PM tonight.

Sophomore C.J. Hinojosa got a double off of TCU's Brandon Finnegan, who surrendered just four hits, and struck out 11 in eight innings. 

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

With the weekend series having moved up a day for Easter, TCU took a rainy game one 3-0 as No. 6 Texas had no answer for junior pitcher Brandon Finnegan, a projected first round pick in the 2014 MLB draft, in front of 20-plus scouts at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. 

“This night belongs to [Finnegan],” Garrido said.

The game, quite predictably, turned into a pitcher’s duel as the top two pitching teams in the Big 12 trotted out their typical Friday night starters. Junior Parker French (4-3) and his 2.27 ERA paired up against Finnegan (7-2) and his 1.56 ERA.

“I don’t think anyone in the nation would be hitting [Finnegan] tonight,” French said.

After four, quick, scoreless innings, the Horned Frogs (24-13, 8-5 Big 12) finally broke through for three in the fifth inning after a lead-off double got things started.

An RBI single drove in the first run and put men at the corners. Then, with two outs, French threw a pick-off throw to first away to allow another TCU run. With the same batter at the plate, a grounder off the glove of the diving junior second baseman, Brooks Marlow, allowed TCU to tack in the third run of the inning.

“I felt good tonight,” French said. “That one inning, though, kind of got away from me.”

That was all the Horned Frogs would manage against French, who went 6.1 innings, allowing six hits and two earned runs, followed by sophomores Travis Duke, Chad Hollingsworth and Ty Culbreth’s combined hitless 2.2 innings. But TCU wouldn’t need any more.

Finnegan mowed down the Longhorns, going eight innings, allowing just four hits — none after the third — while striking out 11. Texas had opportunities early but couldn’t push home any runs.

The Longhorns’ (30-9, 9-4 Big 12) first major chance came in the second after junior designated hitter Madison Carter’s bunt moved sophomore shortstop C.J Hinojosa, who doubled to lead off the inning, to third. But a freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens strikeout and a freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz fly out to center ended the threat.

In the third, for the second straight inning, Texas got a runner to third. A two-out bunt single by senior centerfielder Mark Payton extended his nation-leading on base streak to 78. He then stole second and advanced to third on the throwing error. But freshman catcher Tres Barrera’s strikeout kept third base full for the second straight inning.

“Truth of the matter [is] we didn’t score early,” Garrido said. “In those three innings, we were as good as anybody. Great pitchers do what he did after that. He took his game up a notch.”

Texas managed no more hits after the third as Finnegan got into a groove.  

The series will continue Friday at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk field with junior Dillon Peters (5-2, 2.70 ERA) paired up against TCU’s Preston
Morrison (4-3, 1.80 ERA).

Junior pitcher Lukas Schiraldi had the roughest outing of his short Longhorn career Tuesday night in a 7-2 loss to Rice. Schiraldi allowed seven runs on 10 hits in just 4.1 innings against the No. 21 Owls.

Photo Credit: Fabian Fernandez | Daily Texan Staff

Junior pitcher Lukas Schiraldi struggled to find the zone Tuesday night, and the Longhorns paid for it.

No. 7 Texas (26-8, 6-3 Big 12) fell to No. 21 Rice (23-12) 7-2 in the second meeting between the teams in the last week. Schiraldi had delivery problems early in the game before being chased after allowing seven runs on 10 hits in 4.1 innings.

“I’m not sure [Schiraldi] didn’t have better stuff this time than when he pitched down there,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “It’s just that they were ready, man. They hit the balls hard and must have had six or seven right over second base. But really, it was about them outplaying us.”

Rice jumped out to an early lead with an RBI single in the top of the second inning before Texas answered in the bottom half. The Owls scored again in the third and held the 2-1 lead until things went south for the Longhorns’ pitching staff.

Schiraldi surrendered three runs in the top of the fifth before being relieved by sophomore pitcher Travis Duke with the bases still loaded and only one out. Two batters and two runs later, Duke was relieved by sophomore pitcher Chad Hollingsworth who got Texas out of the inning after five runs and five hits from the Owls.

The Longhorns’ first run of the game came in the second inning when freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz grounded out to first to score senior infielder Madison Carter. Texas’ lone hit came in the fifth inning on a RBI single by sophomore left fielder Ben Johnson.

The 13 hits by the Owls were the most Texas has given up in a game all season. In addition, Texas’ one hit was the least it has produced in a game this year.

“Their pitchers did a great job tonight and they kept us off balance,” senior center fielder Mark Payton said. “They pitched backwards and really did a good job.”

The loss marked the second time Texas has lost in its last 13 contests, and the first time it has lost in its last 13 Tuesday night games dating back to last season.

“They have to realize that there’s no days off when you’re the Longhorns,” Garrido said.

The Longhorns will head to Norman, Okla., this weekend and try to regain conference momentum against the Sooners.

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

The pitching staff continued its dominance this weekend, but it was the Texas bats that stole the show against Columbia.

No. 19 Texas played nearly flawless baseball this weekend, sweeping Columbia in its three-game series. The Longhorns tallied 24 combined runs, showcasing a new element that the team has been searching for all season.

Game 1 was the closest of the weekend, but Texas used timely hitting to defeat Columbia 7-3, behind six strong innings from junior pitcher Dillon Peters. The Longhorns started a rally in the fourth inning after junior outfielder Collin Shaw tripled to score sophomore shortstop C.J. Hinojosa, before scoring himself on a double by freshman catcher Tres Barrera.

Texas pounced on Columbia again in the next inning when Shaw singled with the bases loaded to put two more runs on the board, making the score 5-0. Shaw finished the game with three hits and three RBIs to lead the team.

“[Shaw] is making it look easy,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “You don’t always get a hit. The weakest ball that Ben Johnson has hit in a week was a hit. So this business of hits, I told Ben it is just about luck — maybe hitting is about being lucky. But, Shaw did a great job.”

In Game 2, Texas pulled out in front in the first inning with an RBI groundout by Hinojosa. Columbia answered with a run of its own in the top of the second, but it would be the only run the Lions could push across against the Longhorns.

The Longhorns ended up taking the game 6-1 behind 7.1 strong innings from junior pitcher Parker French, who struck out six while allowing just six hits. Junior second baseman Brooks Marlow buoyed the offense with a 2-for-4 and two RBI performance while Hinojosa added two RBIs of his own.

Game 3 was the most lopsided win of the weekend, and perhaps of the year for Texas. Senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill starred with his eight innings of scoreless baseball on the mound. When the dust settled, Texas had compiled 11 runs on 13 hits, taking the game 11-0.

The biggest surprise of the third game was the 4-for-5 effort by Barrera, who has struggled at the plate all season. He, along with three other Longhorns, posted two RBIs a piece in the blowout.

Texas will look to keep the offense firing on all cylinders when they host Texas State on Tuesday night.

The No. 15 Longhorns strong-armed the competition in the Houston College Classic behind their exceptional pitching staff that allowed only two earned runs in three games.

Junior pitcher Dillon Peters took the mound against No. 12 Rice on Friday night, striking out six in eight shutout innings of work. Texas jumped on the Owls early, scoring two runs in the fourth inning, which ended up being all it needed to dispatch Rice 2-0.

Freshman infielder/pitcher Kacy Clemens reached on a single up the middle before freshman catcher Tres Barrera doubled to right field to put the first run on the board. Sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson doubled to left center in Texas’ next at-bat, scoring Barrera.

Texas held the 2-0 lead into the ninth, when senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill picked up his first save of the year in relief of Peters, striking out two of the four batters he faced. The Longhorns recorded six hits in the game, four of which came from Clemens and Johnson who both went 2-for-3 at the plate.

Texas’ domination on the mound continued in its second game of the weekend, as junior pitcher Parker French allowed just one earned run in seven strong innings against Houston. French struck out seven Cougars, ending Houston’s undefeated season while allowing seven hits in the Longhorns’ 3-2 victory.

The teams traded runs in the second inning as Houston scored the first run of the game on an RBI single by senior outfielder Landon Appling. In the bottom half of the inning, Johnson grounded out to second base which scored freshman infielder Andy McGuire to tie the score at one a piece.

Senior outfielder Mark Payton got back into the hit column against Houston after his 18-game hit streak came to an end against Rice, doubling in a run in the bottom of the third. Clemens came across the plate after a fielding error by the Cougars, bringing the Texas lead to 3-1.

Despite a Houston run in the top of the ninth, Thornhill came in to record the last out of the game, picking up his second save on the season and second in two games. Sophomore infielder C.J Hinojosa tallied two of the Longhorns’ four hits in the contest.

In its last game on Sunday, Texas showcased its resiliency with a come-from-behind 3-2 win against Sam Houston State. Sam Houston State took advantage of shaky pitching in the first inning, scoring two runs on two hits and an error by the Texas defense.

The Longhorns responded with two runs in the seventh inning in lieu of a sacrifice bunt by Hinojosa and a single by Clemens that scored Payton.

Texas notched the winning run in the top of the eighth on a sacrifice fly by junior outfielder Collin Shaw. Clemens and Shaw tallied two hits apiece to make up four of Texas’ 10 in the game.

The Longhorns will attempt to continue their win streak at home against Valparaiso on Tuesday night. 

Junior Gabby Smith starred for Texas against LSU on Thursday, pitching seven strong innings.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

After a long offseason of facing the same batters and the same pitchers, the first tournament of the season is an exciting moment for teams.

Playing five games over the course of three or four days allows coaches to see who their starters will be conference play starts, and young players are able to get used to the college game.

“Going into the first tournament is always exciting,” junior pitcher Gabby Smith said. “It’s preseason and it’s just so much fun.”

The Longhorns will play their first tournament of the year away from home for the first time since 2007, electing to compete in the Louisiana Classic in Lafayette, La. Texas will face North Carolina, Louisiana-Lafayette, Purdue and Northern Iowa in the three-day tournament.

While Texas comes in as the highest-ranked team in the tournament — ranked No. 10 by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association — they’ll face stiff competition, particularly from Louisiana-Lafayette.

The Ragin’ Cajuns are coming off of a run to the Super Regional where they fell to Michigan. This season, they are ranked No. 13 in the preseason ranking and pitcher Jordan Wallace is looking to continue her success from a year ago when she was 32-9 with 382 strikeouts.

The Longhorns swept all three games the two teams played last year, but head coach Connie Clark knows it will be different this time around playing in Lafayette.

“They usually draw pretty well and they really enjoy their softball down there,” Clark said.

Texas will face North Carolina in its first game of the tournament. The Tar Heels finished last season 40-21 and made it into the NCAA tournament. They return 10 of their key players, including pitcher Lori Spingola, who went 30-15 last year with a 2.50 ERA and 304 strikeouts.

Clark said starting the season with both of those teams will be a needed challenge for the Longhorns.

“I think that’s exactly what we need to get these young players into the fire as quickly as we can,” Clark said.

The Longhorns are coming off of a 6-1 win over LSU in their opening game of the season. Senior shortstop Taylor Thom boosted the Texas offense with a three-run home run in the fifth to put the game out of hand. Junior pitcher Gabby Smith allowed only one unearned run and struck out two in the complete game.

The Louisiana Classic is part of a tough non-conference schedule for Texas, who will also play Arizona State, Michigan and Washington — all of which are ranked in the top 10 going into the season. With seven freshmen joining the Longhorns for 2014, senior shortstop Taylor Thom said the team’s focus for the tournament and the rest of the non-conference schedule will be consistency.

“There are a lot of new faces out there and not a lot of experience, so we’re just going to have to continue to work through the ups and downs,” Thom said.

But now that the Longhorns are playing someone other than themselves, Smith said they’re ready to go out and have fun.

“I know we’re all really anxious to have a different opponent,” Smith said. “It’s going to be good to see different batters.”

Junior pitcher Corey Knebel was named to the 2013 Baseball America  All-America second team announced Thursday. The Georgetown, TX native led the team last year with a 4-5 record and a 2.08 ERA with nine saves. In 73 2/3 innings, he allowed 50 hits and 17 earned runs on 20 walks, while compiling 68 strikeouts. 

Knebel currently has 28 career saves and needs only 13 to tie the UT career mark of 41 set by current major league closer Huston Street in 2005. He tied the school single-season record for saves (14) in his freshman season as he was named Freshman Pitcher of the Year by Louisville Slugger/Collegiate Baseball. 

After a switch from the ratation to the bullpen Hoby Milner has excelled with a 4-1 record and a 1.59 ERA after having a 6.23 ERA as a starter.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

Through 23 games, junior pitcher Hoby Milner leads Texas in wins. And losses.

Milner began the season as the No. 2 starting pitcher behind sophomore Nathan Thornhill but struggled until he moved to the bullpen, where he spent most of his time during his first two years at Texas. In three starts, Milner is 1-2 with a 6.23 ERA but in 11 appearances coming out of the pen, he’s 4-1 with a 1.59 ERA. Milner’s last outing was his longest and arguably his best as the Fort Worth product tossed six shutout innings in a 9-5 win over UT-Pan American Wednesday, the Longhorns’ ninth in their last 10 games.

“An outstanding performance,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido of the performance. “You see what quality pitching can do to quality hitting. We didn’t expect that to happen. We were hoping he could give us two innings in relief.”

Instead, Milner threw 101 pitches, scattering two hits and two walks across those six innings, meaning that he will not likely pitch in all three games this weekend like he did in last weekend’s series against Kansas State. The No. 19 Longhorns (14-9, 5-1) will almost certainly be without Milner today when they begin a three-game series with Cal (14-9, 1-5) at the Dell Diamond in Round Rock.

“We may pitch him, we may not,” Garrido said. “We’re not anxious to burn him up this early in the season. We’re not even to the halfway point yet.”

But Milner, who claims that two days of rest is plenty for him, could pitch again as soon as Saturday. Garrido said that had a series against a Big 12 foe been on the horizon, Milner would not have been left in the game that long.

“If we would have been in conference, we would not have done that. A win here is the same as a win in Round Rock,” Garrido said. “One of the factors that went into it was he was confident. He was in control. But the other thing was that we didn’t have conference play.”

Things started well enough for Milner when he assumed his role as a starting pitcher. He took advantage of Texas, scoring three times in the third inning and twice in the fourth, allowing two earned in runs in five innings to pick up his first win of the season. But Milner surrendered nine runs over his next two starts against No. 3 Stanford and Tennessee, lasting just four innings in each of those outings.

“I think my mindset was a little different when I was starting,” Milner said. “I was trying to go out there and try to last seven or eight innings, so I wasn’t pitching my normal game. I realized when I came back to the pen that I could be really effective.”

Since returning to the bullpen, Milner has improved dramatically, as evidenced by his last four outings, each of which have come in Texas’ last four contests. In all three games against the Wildcats last week, Milner was the first pitcher out of the pen to replace the Longhorns’ starter, allowing just one run in 4 2/3 innings of work. After his performance Wednesday, Milner is 2-0 with a 0.84 ERA over that four-game stretch.

“I think it’s a relief for him because that’s what he was used to doing the last couple of years,” said Texas pitching coach Skip Johnson. “It’s a comfort zone. He’s pitching in a zone that’s comfortable for him.”

Printed on Friday, March 30, 2012 as: Milner thriving after move from rotation to bullpen

Texas pitcher Sam Stafford talks to family members after being drafted by the Yankees on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

It has been quite a week for Sam Stafford.

On Friday, he started and won Texas’ opening game of the Austin Regional against Princeton. Monday, he again led a winning effort, throwing three innings against Kent State for the regional championship.

Oh, and he became a New York Yankee on Tuesday.

The junior pitcher’s name was called No. 88 overall on the second day of the First-Year Player Draft by the Yankees, the most successful organization in professional, American sports.

“Who wouldn’t want to be drafted by the Yankees?” Stafford said. “To go from the University of Texas to New York is awesome. I couldn’t imagine myself going to a better ballclub.”

Stafford admits he does have a decision to make, alluding to the fact that Cole Green was selected in the fourth round of the draft last year and turned down a six-figure signing bonus for the opportunity to return to school. But the amount of money the Yankees may throw at him, plus the opportunity to play in New York, could be too much to turn down.
“I’ve always been a Yankee fan,” he said. “I’ve always loved to watch them play. They play great baseball.”

Stafford was in junior shortstop Brandon Loy’s room following the draft updates on his computer when he saw New York was on the clock.

“I looked at that and said, ‘Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t mind playing for them,” he said.

Then he looked back at the computer screen, and he saw his name.

“I got a call from their guy to tell me that they had selected me, but he heard Brandon screaming in the background so he figured I already had found out,” Stafford said.

And then his phone started blowing up.

“I’ve talked to all the immediate family already; they’re excited,” he said. “I’ve also gotten texts from the teammates. We’ve got a bunch of guys who are Yankee fans and they think I’ll look good in pinstripes.”

Ironically, Stafford was drafted out of high school by the Yankees’ arch nemesis, the Boston Red Sox, in the 40th round of the draft. He elected to go to school and, after two seasons spent as a reliever, has put together a solid year as a starter. His 1.57 ERA ranks second on the team among the starting pitchers, and opponents hit .188 against him this season.

Safe to say, he made the right decision. Not only has his draft stock improved substantially, but he has the opportunity to help the Longhorns chase their seventh College World Series Championship.

“Being drafted is a dream of mine,” he said. “But at the same time, you have to focus on maybe even a more exciting thing — chasing the dream of a national championship. I feel fantastic.”