After four games, the Longhorns are 2-2 against average competition in Duke and UT-Arlington. Now they have to square off with the No. 3 team in the country, Stanford.
The Cardinals will present some of the toughest competition Texas will face all year and will provide a test for the Longhorns, who have been plagued early on in the season by mental errors and struggles at the plate.
The little mental lapses played a huge part in the team’s 7-5 loss to UT-Arlington on Tuesday. A passed ball in the first inning allowed a UTA runner to score and set the tone for the numerous errors committed the rest of the evening. From there, multiple miscues ensued leading to five of the seven Mavericks’ runs being unearned.
It wasn’t just on the defensive side that the Longhorns made mistakes. In the ninth inning catcher Jacob Felts made a decision to go from first to third, with no outs, on a ball hit into shallow right field. After a great throw from the right-fielder, he was tagged out at third, killing the Texas rally.
These mental lapses shouldn’t happen. The team works on these fundamental baseball principles daily, and when they are not followed, the result isn’t good — as seen in the final score from Tuesday’s game.
“We just need to get back to Texas baseball,” Felts said. “It was a mindset thing on Tuesday and we will come in with a much better one this weekend.”
The team’s struggles at the plate aren’t helping much either.
The Longhorns are only hitting .217 as a team thus far. While they are a team that usually relies on small ball and strong pitching performances to get through games, the offense still has to contribute.
The team will eventually turn its fortunes at the dish around, especially considering that quite a few of the players that are having a tough time with the bat are proven commodities.
Eric Weiss, the leading returning hitter for the Longhorns, is only hitting .167 through four games, a far cry from his freshman season when he was hitting .818 in the same stretch. He went on to hit .348 for the season, and despite his early struggles, he should approach those numbers once again.
Felts is another sophomore that is off to a sluggish start hitting only .167. Like his fellow sophomore, his numbers are also significantly down after four games, compared to last season when he was hitting .500 at this point.
“I’ll work out of it,” Felts said. “You just have to keep playing and take it one pitch at a time. It’s baseball, if you don’t get a hit you don’t get a hit, ultimately you’re just looking for a quality at bat.”
The Longhorns will need these two and the rest of the lineup to step up in order to have a chance against Stanford. But as a team, they feel up for the challenge.
“I think we’re definitely ready to go,” said pitcher Nathan Thornhill. “I think after watching our performance Tuesday night, you could definitely say [that we weren’t ready] because we didn’t play the game of baseball that we can play. But I know we have the guys to compete against Stanford and I think we’re going to go in there with a little more of a chip on our shoulder than we did against UT-Arlington.”
Printed on Friday, February 24, 2012 as: Stanford provides tough test for error-prone Longhorns