Horns hope to slug their way past Bears

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Augie Garrido stood at the top of the dugout, facing his team seated on the benches below. Practice was over, and 34 sweaty faces looked up at their coach, waiting for their next lesson.

Much has been made of Texas’ hitting woes this season. The Longhorns are second to last in the Big 12 in batting average, hitting at only a .259 mark. They’re also tied for dead last in home runs with five — first place Oklahoma has hit 25.

Garrido preached to his team that it’s not about the averages. He told them not to concern themselves with things they can’t control and that their averages don’t reflect what they can and have contributed to the team.

“To me, it’s all history,” Garrido said. “If you’re depressed or distracted because you aren’t hitting, then you aren’t allowing yourself to see your potential for the future, and your chances for success aren’t very good.”

Texas will have a chance to improve its hitting this weekend during two games in Waco where the Longhorns (22-7, 7-2 Big 12) take on Baylor (17-13, 4-5). The third game will be played Sunday in Austin. The first two games were moved up I-35 because of the Texas Relays.

Several struggling hitters stayed after practice Wednesday to practice hitting while the rest of the team lifted weights. Sophomore outfielder Jonathan Walsh, who’s hitting only .157 in conference play, took pitches from freshman Kirby Bellow, who hasn’t seen action in a game since giving up two hits in one-third of an inning to Oral Roberts on March 29.

“Throwing simulated starts helps keep us as pitchers ready for games,” said senior pitcher Cole Green. “We’re always trying to keep it as competitive as we can to prepare us for the games.”

Green has settled since starting off the season poorly and has seen his in-conference ERA drop to just above 3.00. He’s striking out more batters, and he feels more comfortable on the mound.

“We’ve come a long way as a pitching staff,” Green said. “We’ve gone through some rough spots where we’ve had to come together as a team, but right now, I feel we’re really close. We’ve still got a ways to go, but I think we’ve done a really good job with what we have.”

Green has been a leader to the younger pitchers on the team who have blossomed since last fall. Sophomore Hoby Milner has solidified himself as Texas’ Saturday starter, and freshman Corey Knebel is the team’s closer.

“I struggled at the beginning of the year, and I think that was an example to the younger guys on the staff that it’s not always going to be perfect. Everybody, no matter who you are or what you’ve done, is going to have to go through challenges,” he said. “You can’t worry about the outcome, just worry about your preparation, and control what you can and not worry about anything else.”