Texas showcases solid defense, deep pitching staff against Pats

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Texas is a team built on defense and pitching, and the Longhorns showcased both Tuesday against Dallas Baptist. The Patriots only mustered four hits, all before the fifth inning, and Texas won the game 3-1.

“The game was controlled by outstanding pitching, good defense behind the pitching and timely hitting,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido.

Sam Stafford started for Texas and went 2.2 innings without surrendering an earned run and striking out two batters. It was the second appearance for the junior in as many games, after pitching Sunday in relief.

“I battled some control issues, got 0-2 on them and started to get a little fine instead of pounding the zone and getting those guys out,” Stafford said. “That’s definitely something I’m going to focus on for my next start.”

His next start could come as early as this Sunday against Texas Tech. Garrido said he plans on bumping Cole Green up to the Saturday start and moving left-hander Hoby Milner into the bullpen to bolster the Longhorns’ relief. The coaching staff had planned to pull Stafford earlier than usual in preparation for Sunday.

“We have not had very good success with our left-handed pitching out of the bullpen,” Garrido said. “We need to get somebody dependable — two of the three games we’ve lost [in conference], the setup guy didn’t get us to where we needed to be.”

The Longhorns leaned on their bullpen from the third inning on, getting quality performances from Nathan Thornhill and Josh Urban. Thornhill entered in the third inning and got the Longhorns out of a jam. Stafford walked two consecutive batters with two outs, but Thornhill got Kenny Hatcher to fly out to center field to end the threat.

“I got a little bit outside of myself at times and started rushing instead of trusting in myself and my mechanics; it’s over now,” Stafford said. “There’s nothing I can do about that. I’m just looking forward to my opportunity in my next start.”

Josh Urban struck out four batters in three perfect innings and touched 97 mph with his fastball.

“When you start getting that kind of velocity, it is hard to catch up,” Garrido said. “We got the three runs, and the pitching dominated the game, and that’s the kind of team we are.”

Urban’s innings have increased since conference play began, as well as his role out of the bullpen. Urban seems like a worthy candidate for the setup man with Andrew McKirahan and Stayton Thomas struggling, but Garrido said he may plug the sophomore into the Tuesday starting role.

“My goal at the beginning of the season is to be a starter, but I’ll be whatever the team needs me to be,” Urban said. “With a staff, credit doesn’t matter right now. What matters is wins for the team.”