After missing two games stemming from an ankle injury he suffered in the Kansas State series, Tim Maitland returned for the last two games against Cal over the weekend.
Maitland’s return brought a spark and a level of toughness to the diamond for Texas. He’s an excellent defender in center field and really plays the game the right way, with hustle and effort in every move.
He was also a bright spot at the plate in the team’s two losses, going a combined 4-for-7 at the dish. This is a great sign for the team, as Maitland had been going through a midseason lull after a rapid start to the year that had him hitting as high as second in the Texas order.
“I just wasn’t feeling comfortable in the box,” Maitland said. “I talked to the coaches and worked on a lot of things by myself, and I just tried to get back into the swing of things. And right now it’s feeling pretty good.”
Texas falters against Pac-12 foes
If you ask the players, they would tell you it’s their performance in conference play and chasing a Big 12 title that really matters, which is good for them because Texas is off to a 5-1 start in Big 12 play.
However, the team is struggling in nonconference play. Texas is 15-11 overall, but they are only .500 in games that don’t count toward the Big 12 standings, at 10-10.
Even worse for the Longhorns, they have had difficulties at beating top-quality opponents that are considered typical baseball powers — the team is only a combined 2-7 against Stanford, Rice, Tennessee, Arkansas and Cal.
This could be problematic when it comes down to selection time for the NCAA tournament, as the Longhorns’ poor performance in the nonconference games will hurt their RPI and, in turn, their seeding.
“We all know that the out-of-conference games are still big games for RPI, especially the Pac-12, which is a good baseball conference,” said outfielder Mark Payton. “Stanford beat us pretty good, so we thought we needed to come back and beat another Pac-12 team in Cal, and we had our chances and just didn’t come through.”
Summers struggles in field, at plate
Brooks Marlow and Jordan Etier are penciled in at second base and shortstop every day, but even the best players need a rest every once in a while, and that’s when a solid backup middle infielder comes in handy.
Christian Summers is supposed to be that player for Texas, but he has struggled in limited action this season — he’s only hitting .106 on the year with a putrid .867 fielding percentage.
On Saturday, Summers replaced Marlow in the lineup as coach Augie Garrido was looking to give him some experience in case one of the starters went down with injury. However, that decision didn’t work out. Summers struggled at the plate and made key errors in the field that cost the team runs.
“It backfired a lot [the decision to play Summers at shortstop],” Garrido said. “We hoped that he could be able to do that, so in the event of an injury to one of those two middle infielders, so we would have someone to put in there that has some experience. Obviously, it didn’t work. His nerves got the best of him at the plate and on the field.”
Printed on Tuesday, April 3, 2012 as: Maitland heats up after ankle injury