Slow and steady may win the race, but the Longhorns’ success comes from dropping the hammer early.
Texas finally claimed its first road victories of the season in its 2-1 series win over Minnesota last weekend. Despite dropping the opening game 5-1, the Longhorns captured the final two games by scoring early and maintaining the lead.
Game one against Minnesota looked exactly like the other losses for the Longhorns this season, in which opposing teams push across runs early and capitalize on big innings. Minnesota scored two runs in the first inning and three in the third, making Texas’ ninth loss the sixth in which its opponent had an inning with two or more runs.
Minnesota pitcher Tom Windle threw perhaps the best game of his career in the first matchup, posting a complete game with a career-high 12 strikeouts.
The team rebounded in the second and third games by taking the lead early and giving Minnesota a dose of the medicine normally used to defeat the Longhorns. In game two, Texas scored two runs in the fourth and fifth inning before claiming a 5-4 victory in 10 innings.
Texas’ 12 hits compared to 11 runners left on base total raised some concern about capitalizing on opportunities, but the two big innings nullified this. Alex Silver provided the pop that the Texas lineup has lacked on the road this season, going 3-5 with three RBIs.
Game three was a perfect example of what the Longhorns can do when pitching keeps them in the game. In a 6-3 victory, the Longhorns scored three runs in the second inning and two in the fourth, buoyed by 11 hits compared to only five for the Golden Gophers.
It might be pointless to suggest that if the Longhorns scored runs earlier they would have a better chance of winning, but the fact has some merit when examining their biggest losses.
The most runs the Longhorns have given up in a loss this season is seven, which came in a 7-2 loss to Stanford. The Longhorns are capable of scoring runs at any point in a game, but lose focus when they fall behind early.
Texas is 10-2 this season when it scores first and 11-0 when leading after six innings. Of the Longhorns’ 85 total runs this season, 45 of them have come in the first four innings. When the Longhorns have to play catch-up, they usually come out on the losing end, as evidenced by their 1-7 record when trailing after six innings.
The Longhorns’ next opponent, Texas State, has given up five or more runs in 10 of its 14 losses. Despite a 2-8 record on the road, Texas State has scored at least three runs in all of its road losses, which shows that scoring isn’t an issue for the Bobcats.
If numbers don’t lie, then Texas needs to score early and often against the Bobcats on Tuesday in order to win.