Palo Alto

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Junior left fielder Ben Johnson had a career day on Sunday. Johnson went 5-for-5 with two RBIs and raised his batting average to .443 on the season.
Photo Credit: Daulton Venglar | Daily Texan Staff

Led by junior left fielder Ben Johnson, No. 12 Texas secured a 12–4 win and a series split against Stanford (9–8) on Sunday afternoon in Palo Alto, California.

Johnson hit a perfect 5-for-5 and finished the game with two RBIs.

“Ben has worked really hard at his game. … He’s worked very hard in the weight room,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “I think this is really leading towards a level of confidence … that feeling of confidence he has, it’s almost magical. He got five [base hits] today, which is a pretty good season for a lot of people.”

The Longhorns (10–6) got off to a hot start in the first inning, scoring five runs. Johnson led off the first with a single to center field. After Johnson’s leadoff single, Stanford was able to get two outs, but Texas answered with four straight walks to score two runs.

Redshirt junior designated hitter Taylor Stell smacked a two-run single to extend the Longhorns’ lead to 4–0. The Longhorns capped off the inning with an additional run to push the lead to 5–0.

Texas continued its offensive explosion in the second inning. Sophomore catcher Tres Barrera ripped a ball past the left-field fence for a two-run home run to put the Longhorns up 7–0.

Stanford tried to fight its way back into the game, scoring two runs in the third and sixth innings. The Cardinal got the game to within three, but Texas quelled the Cardinal comeback in the seventh inning with a pair of RBI singles from Johnson and senior right fielder Collin Shaw.

In the ninth inning, sophomore center fielder Zane Gurwitz hit a two-run home run to push the Longhorns’ lead to 11–4. Johnson followed Gurwitz’s homer with a triple and scored on Shaw’s single.

Stanford couldn’t find a way to score in the bottom frame and Longhorns finished the game with a 12–4 win.

While the offense was on display Sunday, sophomore starting pitcher Josh Sawyer (2–2) had a solid outing, allowing two runs on four hits. 

“[Sawyer’s] improved each time he’s been out there,” Garrido said. “He’s got a little perfectionist in him, which is part of what makes him good. He practices right, takes his bullpens and really works at them game-like. He’s an up-and-coming star pitcher for us.”

After dropping the first two games of a four-game series, splitting the series was important for the team’s RPI, Garrido said.

“If you split 50-50, you’re coming out of it with a pretty good score,” Garrido said. “But if you go three losses and one win, it really adds up in the wrong way quickly.”

Texas returns home to play Incarnate Word (7–9) at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The game will air on Longhorn Network. 

Another year, another disappointing trip to Palo Alto, Calif. 

For the second consecutive season, the Texas baseball team was swept by Stanford, casting a shadow of doubt over what appeared to be a promising season for this unproven Longhorns club. Like last year, Texas traveled to Stanford this past weekend for a series regarded as the team’s litmus test. Just aa in 2012, this year’s team failed that test. Texas now sits at 6-5 amid a four-game losing streak. At this point, there are several different perspectives one can take in assessing this team. Naysayers quickly point out that this year’s team has yet to play a quality opponent and appears destined for another NCAA tournament absence. Optimists, on the other hand, argue the club has a higher ceiling and possesses more talent than last year’s team, which began its hot streak following the Stanford series. Rather than making a grand assumption about this year’s team after only 11 games, let’s take a look at some statistics that should shed some light on the matter. After all, numbers never lie:

28: The number of runs the Cardinal scored during last year’s series, including a 15-1 drubbing in the finale. The Longhorns lost each of those three games by at least four runs and were outscored by a total of 28-5. This year’s series was far more competitive, as Stanford outscored Texas just 11-3. The games were generally much closer, including the Cardinal’s 2-1 walk-off win on Sunday. 

13: The number of hits the Longhorns had in their entire series against Stanford this past weekend, matching the amount they had last year against the Cardinal. Although one can be happy about the fact that Texas was only outhit 29-13 this year, as opposed to 40-13 last year, this is clearly a red flag for new hitting coach Tommy Nicholson. To put things in perspective, Stanford had 13 hits in its 7-2 victory on Saturday alone. 

13: The number of victories Texas had last year in its 17 games following the Stanford series. If the Longhorns want to salvage their season, they will need to duplicate this effort and get on a roll. Considering its relatively easy competition in the upcoming weeks, Texas has a good chance to do exactly that before it enters the meat of its Big 12 schedule.

5: The number of victories Texas had last year against Top 25 opponents in the ensuing 11 games they played after being swept by Stanford, including a three-game sweep of Oklahoma. Unfortunately, it may be a while before Texas notches its first victory against a Top 25 team this year. Facing a weak schedule littered with unranked opponents, the Longhorns will need to get back on track by piling up wins against lesser competition.

Five non-conference baseball series to follow in the Big 12

1. (5) UCLA vs. (27) Baylor, Feb. 22-24, Waco - UCLA visits Waco in the second weekend of the college baseball season. The Bruins will be led by starting pitcher Adam Plutko, a preseason All-American who went 12-3 last season with a 2.48 ERA. The Bruins also have relief pitcher David Berg, a preseason second-team All-American, who returns after a 2012 campaign in which he posted a 1.46 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 74 innings pitched. The Bears will counter with 2012 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year Nathan Orf at the plate. Orf had a .453 on-base percentage throughout last season, and struck out as many times as he walked (33). Max Garner, Baylor’s closer, is another guy to watch for if the Bears have a lead late in games.

2. (26) Texas vs. (7) Stanford, Mar. 1-3, Palo Alto, California - The Texas Longhorns will travel back to Palo Alto, looking to avenge last season’s embarrassing sweep at the hands of the Cardinal. During that series, the Longhorns were outscored 28-5 over a three-game span in which they never led. Stanford returns Mark Appel, who won the 2012 NCBWA Pitcher of the Year Award with a 10-2 record, a 2.56 ERA, and 130 strikeouts in only 123 innings pitched. Texas returns most of its squad, and the Appel vs. Erich Weiss battle will be intrigued. Weiss batted .350 with 38 RBIs playing in every game last season should be more intriguing than Weiss’ 1-for-4 against Appel last season. The Longhorns also return Corey Knebel, who is lights out in close ballgames. If Texas can get ahead late in any games of this series, Knebel (career 1.67 ERA and 28 saves) should be able to bring home a "W" for the ‘Horns.

3. (13) TCU vs. (25) Ole Miss, Feb. 15-17, Oxford, Miss. - TCU opens up its 2013 campaign on the road at a talented Ole Miss team. Mississippi is expecting big things this season, with a preseason rank of No. 13 by Baseball America, its highest ranking ever. The Rebels have senior Tanner Mathis, who hit .359 last season and transfer catcher Stuart Turner Jr., who should help carry the lineup. The stud of TCU’s lineup is Kevin Cron, who hit .338 and drove in 34 RBIs as a freshman in 2012.

4. (23) Cal State Fullerton vs (13) TCU, Feb. 22-24, Fort Worth - The Titans have perhaps the most versatile player in the college game in junior outfielder/relief pitcher Michael Lorenzen. Lorenzen hit .297 last season with 43 RBIs and 14 stolen bases. On top of all of this he was a stud on the mound, pitching 22 innings with a 1.23 ERA and 16 saves. For TCU, Preston Morrison is the Friday starter having gone 9-2 with a 2.08 ERA as a freshman last season.

5. Oral Roberts vs. (17) Oklahoma on March 19-20 in Norman, Oklahoma and on March 26th in Tulsa, Oklahoma - Drew Bowden returns as a senior for Oral Roberts as a preseason third team All-American, having posted a 7-2 record and a 1.95 ERA for the Golden Eagles in 2012. If he gets to face off against OU’s Dillon Overton (6-3 record, 3.15 ERA and 126 strikeouts in 122.7 innings last season) their appearance could turn into a pitchers' duel.

Brock Simmons runs at the Texas Relays last weekend. Simmons finished 14th in the 5,000-meter at the Stanford Invitational this weekend.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

Several Texas distance runners made the trek to Palo Alto, Calif. to compete in the Stanford Invitational Friday.

The Longhorn trio of sophomore Ryan Dohner, freshman Craig Lutz and senior Brock Simmons finished within three seconds of each other in the 5000-meter run.

Dohner clocked in the top time of the three at 13:59.91 for 10th place. In his first collegiate outdoor debut, Lutz finished close behind Dohner with a time of 14:00.45 for 11th place.

Simmons came into the event as the only athlete of the troupe that had ever competed in the 5000, and his performance proved his experience. Despite his 14th-place overall finish, his time of 14:02.70 improved 21 seconds from his previous race in the event.

A second group of three Texas distance runners competed in the 10000-meter race. This marked the first time this season Texas had athletes represented in the event.

Sophomore Will Nation, junior Rory Tunningley and freshman Mark Pinales also stayed close together in the pack, allowing only seven seconds to separate them. Nation and Tunningley crossed the finish line simultaneously and clocked a shared time of 29:33.66. Nation received 25th and Tunningley 26th places. Pinales followed in close pursuit and posted a time of 29:40.34.

The final event for the Longhorns was Friday’s 3000-meter steeplechase. Red shirt sophomore Austin Roth competed in the event for just the second time this year and came in at 9:11:09 for 15th place overall in section two.

With a tune-up meet under their belts, the distance runners look to stay on track and remain consistent going into this weekend’s Texas Invitational. The entire team will compete together again beginning on Saturday, as they welcome familiar opponents back into their home arena.

Printed on Monday, April 9, 2012 as: Longhorns come up empty at Stanford