Texas continues battle for Red River and the Big 12

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Senior outfielder Mark Payton leads the Longhorns’ lineup with a .361 batting average, but has struggled to find his swing in the last few games. Texas will need his bat if it wants to perform well against Oklahoma this weekend.

Photo Credit: Sam Ortega | Daily Texan Staff

When Texas travels to Oklahoma this weekend, it will be competing for a lot more than Red River bragging rights.

The Longhorns will try to continue their recent Big 12 success after dropping a tough game to Rice 7-2 Tuesday night. Texas was held to a season-low one hit against the Owls, but head coach Augie Garrido believes the loss was a valuable learning experience.

“Absolutely [it’s a learning experience], because it hasn’t happened to us before,” Garrido said. “The thing we want to do is separate the emotional bad feelings, or embarrassment or whatever you want to call it. Everyone is going to be affected a little differently emotionally. We are going to take that out of it, and we didn’t discuss it tonight. We are going to take from it the positive things that they need to recognize when they are in that state of mind.”

Garrido’s squad is 5-1 in its last six conference games and is coming off of a sweep of Baylor last weekend, the team’s first since last season. Prior to the Rice game, Texas had successfully tallied at least six hits in 13-straight games. 

“I think we were satisfied with a lot of the wins that we had and the two wins we had over [Rice] earlier and took a less than highly competitive frame of mind in the game,” Garrido said. “That is the first time we have done that. But, I don’t want it to sound like we turned the game over to [Rice].”

If the Longhorns want to take control of the Big 12, they can’t walk into Norman, Okla., without a competitive state of mind. The Sooners are 4-2 in the Big 12 this season, with a combined batting average of .294 and an ERA of 3.05. 

Senior center fielder Mark Payton, whose .361 batting average has carried the team this season, will need to step up his game consistent this weekend. Texas has averaged 5.8 runs per game over its last 13 contests, but Payton has only compiled four hits and two runs in the last seven games.

Freshman Tres Barrera has led the team over the past 13 games with a .382 batting average during that span. Since March 11, Barrera has raised his batting average an astounding 156 points while compiling 15 RBIs and 11 runs. 

The statistics are fairly even for the two teams, but the Longhorn pitching staff will be the key to taking down the Sooners, who boast a combined .294 batting average this season. As a staff, Texas pitchers rank No. 5 in the country with a 2.13 ERA this season and are holding opposing hitters to just a .222 batting average.

Texas and Oklahoma sit at No. 1 and No. 2 in the conference, respectively, and a strong showing this weekend could go a long way in distancing Texas from the pack.