Horns win snoozefest, 6-1, over UTPA but still have lot of work to do to avoid missing out on NCAA Tournament

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Junior outfielder Weston Hall stepus up to the plat against Texas Pan-American. Hall cored on Mark Payton’s RBI single in the first inning of Tuesday night’s game.   

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

You couldn’t tell Augie Garrido was leading a team in danger of missing the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row by his demeanor after Texas’ 6-1 sleep-inducing win over The University of Texas-Pan American on Tuesday night.

Upon learning that Josh Urban, who started and gave up one run on four hits in 2 innings, had picked up the win and not Travis Duke, who pitched 2.1 scoreless innings in relief, Garrido took it in stride.

“I just congratulated Duke!” Garrido said. “Go in there and tell him to stop dancing.”

By the time the Longhorns had finished picking up their second 6-1 victory over UTPA in as many months, more Texas fans had left UFCU Disch-Falk Field than remained in its bleachers.

The Longhorns drew 12 walks — six of them in a three-run third inning — and recorded 10 hits but managed to score just six times. Texas took a 1-0 lead into the third, scoring twice on bases-loaded walks and again on a bases-loaded balk later in the frame.

“We took a page out of [former Texas Baseball Coach Cliff] Gustafson’s playbook,” Garrido said. “We just kept giving take signs as long as they were throwing the ball outside the strike zone.”

But don’t be fooled. Texas is far from being an NCAA Tournament-worthy team. The Longhorns, who missed out on the postseason for the first time in 14 years last season, would have lost to most, if not all, Big 12 teams playing the game they played Tuesday night. 

Leaving 15 men on base and going 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position, including 0-for-3 with the bases loaded, isn’t exactly a recipe for success. 

“We have people playing to get hits. We have people playing to sign contracts,” Garrido said. “We have people playing to look better on the Jumbotron when their name comes up. We’ve got to handle the fundamentals of the game. They are the weapons of war.”

Texas has one of the best pitching staffs in the country. Its three weekend starters — Parker French, Dillon Peters and Nathan Thornhill — hold a collective 2.37 ERA but are just a combined 8-8 on the year. Seven of the Longhorns’ 15 losses this season have come by one run. 

They are close. So close to being one of the best teams in the Big 12, one that can make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. But if Texas keeps playing like this, it won’t have that chance.

“We’re a lot different than last year,” closer Corey Knebel said, who tossed two scoreless innings in his first appearance since being sent home last weekend from Kansas. “We’re actually a team that’s really good and we’re not showing it right now. We know it’ll turn soon because it’s got to. The team we have is really good. It just hasn’t gone our way sometimes.”

Knebel may be right. But if it doesn’t turn around soon, the Longhorns will be on the outside looking in on the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year.