Horns have chance to earn final bragging rights over Aggies this weekend

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The Longhorns and Aggies shake hands after last season’s series between the two clubs, which Texas took 2-1. If Texas can pull out a series victory again this season it would give the school the overall Victory in the Lone Star Showdown. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Erika Rich | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns’ football team is 13-12 over the last two years. The Texas men’s basketball team has won exactly one NCAA Tournament game in the last three. It’s been eight years since the Longhorns’ women’s basketball squad has gotten past the second round in the NCAA Tournament.

But the way Texas has played against Texas A&M recently has been anything but mediocre.

The Longhorns have dominated their in-state rival over the past few months and have nearly clinched the final Lone Star Showdown before the Aggies move to the SEC. The Longhorns hold a commanding 9-4 lead heading into this weekend, needing only one more point to earn bragging rights over Texas A&M one last time. With the Texas baseball team and softball squad squaring off against the Aggies this weekend, the Longhorns have a great chance to get that crucial 10th point.
“It’s going to be a war,” said sophomore right-fielder Mark Payton. “It’s a hyped-up series and there’ll be a lot of emotions. We have to keep those emotions in check and find ways to grind out W’s.”

If the last eight years are any indication, No. 20 Texas (24-14, 11-4) should have no problem taking care of business this week against No. 9 Texas A&M (29-12, 9-6). The Longhorns have won 16 of their last 18 contests and each of the last eight series against the Aggies, sweeping them four times during that span. This season, Texas has won six of its last seven games and every single one of its five series against Big 12 foes.

“It never matters what the record is between the two teams,” said sophomore first baseman Alex Silver. “They want to beat us just as bad as we want to beat them. If we play our game, we can take care of business.”

But beating Texas A&M won’t be easy, especially with the two pitchers at the top of its rotation — All-Americans Michael Wacha and Ross Stripling. Wacha, who will start on Friday against Thornhill, is 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA while striking out 69 batters and walking just 12. But he struggled against Texas last year, allowing four runs in 5.2 innings as the Longhorns triumphed, 6-4. Stripling, on the other hand, was brilliant. The 6-foot-3 hurler tossed a complete-game, four-hit shutout in the series finale for Texas A&M a year ago. Stripling will pitch on Saturday, against Longhorns freshman Parker French, who will look to extend his streak of 32.1 consecutive scoreless innings at home.

“I’m trying not to think about [the streak] too much right now,” French said. “Once they say, ‘Play ball,’ it kinds of goes out the window. I just have to focus on throwing the ball to the mitt and keeping it simple, not worrying about the intangibles surrounding the game.”

If Texas can win tonight, French will have a chance to clinch the series at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday. He might not go down as a hero quite like Justin Tucker did when he hit a 40-yard field goal as time expired in Kyle Field at College Station last Thanksgiving, but he’ll give the Longhorns a series victory and a Lone Star Showdown victory.

“Every inning is going to be a battle,” Thornhill said. “Football did their job and basketball did their job. It seems like everybody’s done their job. We want to continue the trend.”

Texas has a great opportunity this weekend, because there’s no next year for Texas A&M to bounce back from a Lone Star Showdown loss.

Printed on Friday, April 27, 2012 as: Lone Star Showdown victory in reach for Horns