Skip Johnson

Freshman catcher Michael Cantu has been a bright spot during Texas’ struggles. Cantu had four hits and walked four times this weekend against Oklahoma.
Photo Credit: Lauren Ussery | Daily Texan Staff

When Texas dropped its third-consecutive three-game series Sunday, associate head coach Skip Johnson decided to deliver a “sermon” after the game.

After a 3–2 loss to Oklahoma, in which the Longhorns had 11 hits but only scored twice, Johnson’s message was simple. “You got to do better,” said Johnson.

“You got to convert and take quality at-bats in timely situations,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “That’s really the problem. Last series at Oklahoma State, they had 17 RBIs, and we had five. It’s about RBIs.”

Texas has struggled lately to bring runs home. In Friday’s game against the Sooners, the Longhorns had the bases loaded in the first inning but only scored one run. Texas had the bases loaded Sunday, but, again, it brought just one run home.

“We hit balls hard, but they just didn’t fall for us,” freshman catcher Michael Cantu, who had four hits and four walks against Oklahoma, said. “We squared some balls up with runners in scoring position; they just didn’t fall. It’s frustrating.”

While the players were frustrated with the lack of clutch hitting, Garrido was upset about the many losses the team has accumulated. The Longhorns have lost nine of their last 11 games — five of the last six conference games — and they have fallen from first to fifth place in the Big 12.

“[This weekend] was more frustrating because the losses are piling up,” Garrido said. “If you look at it, you know that’s what it’s about. … It’s just the number of losses that are frustrating.”

Although the losses have been frustrating, Cantu said the team needs to keep grinding and focusing on one game at a time.

“We just need to stay focused and composed,” Cantu said. “Baseball is a frustrating game, and it’s just how you react to it and keep rolling.”

Texas (19–17, 6–6 Big 12) will look to have a positive reaction to Johnson’s postgame comments when it takes on Sam Houston State (19–19) Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

The Bearkats enter the game on a five-game winning streak, including a three-game sweep of Incarnate Word, a team the Longhorns defeated, 7–1, on March 10.

With Sam Houston State in town, Texas will try to get back on track. With a little over a month of baseball remaining, Garrido said the team is in danger of failing and missing out on its goal of a return trip to the College World Series.

“We still have a mission to follow,” Garrido said. “If we win the conference and don’t go to the regionals or lose in the first round of the regionals, this season was a disaster. … If we don’t go to the super regionals [or] if we don’t go to the College World Series, we have lost.”

Junior Nathan Thornhill throws to the plate in Sunday’s match up against Oklahoma. The Longhorns loss the series to their rival and Big 12 foe 2-1 despite strong starting pitching over the weekend. Thornhill recorded a career high seven strikeouts in his outing. 

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas locker room was quiet immediately following Sunday’s heartbreaking 4-2 loss to Oklahoma — the first series Texas has dropped to the Sooners in 14 years.  

“It kills us,” junior right fielder Mark Payton said. “It’s dead silent in there and it hurts us right now, but we’re going to learn from it and move forward.”

The Longhorns handed the ball over to closer Corey Knebel in the eighth inning with a one-run lead, but he was unable to nail down the win. Knebel allowed three runs on four hits in the eighth inning, with the big hits being a game-tying RBI single by Max White and a go-ahead two-run double by Hector Lorenzana with two outs.

Knebel, who had not allowed a run in his previous 11 outings, picked up the blown save and fell to 3-2 on the season.

“He’s human,” pitching coach Skip Johnson said. “Everyone is going to walk out there and fail. It happens. It’s baseball.”

Junior Nathan Thornhill delivered one of his strongest starts of the season, as he limited the Sooners to an unearned run on four hits in seven innings. The right-hander tied his career high with seven strikeouts and punched out five consecutive batters in the sixth and seventh innings.

Thornhill’s lone blemish came in the second inning when his throwing error on a two-out bunt attempt by Garrett Carey scored Kolbey Carpenter from third base. Although he retired the final eight batters he faced and had only thrown 85 pitches through seven innings, Thornhill did not second-guess the decision made by his coaches to bring in Knebel in the eighth.

“I have confidence in Corey,” Thornhill said. “The competitor in me [makes me] want to be out there, but I trust their judgment and they’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have.”

Junior Erich Weiss provided the offense for Texas with a two-run triple in the third inning to give the Longhorns a 2-1 advantage. Texas would only record two hits in the final six innings, however, and failed to push across another run.

With the loss, Texas falls to 3-6 in conference play and is yet to win a Big 12 series this season. The Sooners improved to 7-2 against Big 12 opponents and maintained their one-game lead in the conference standings.

Oklahoma took the first game of the series Friday night behind a dominating eight-strikeout performance by right-hander Jonathan Gray. Dillon Peters had an equally as impressive outing in the Longhorns’ 1-0 win Saturday, as the left-hander held the Sooners hitless through the first seven innings. Sunday’s loss in the rubber match marks the first time Texas has lost a series to Oklahoma in 14 years.

Texas will look to get back into the win column Tuesday when it hosts Texas State. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Nathan Thornhill has moved around the rotation while at Texas. But he is willing to go werever he is needed in the lineup. His flexibility gives the Longhorns a reliable option in the pitching rotation.

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

A day after his 21st birthday, Nathan Thornhill is the one helping pitching coach Skip Johnson unload a circular orange tarp from a golf car onto the Disch-Falk Field mound after Thursday’s practice.

It’s Thornhill’s arms that are full of sticky, clay-colored spots — not the arms of any of Texas’ 10 freshmen, five of them pitchers.

“He just grabbed me,” the junior right-hander said. “It’s whatever. I don’t care.”

When the team lost staff ace Sam Stafford last season after having shoulder surgery, it was Thornhill that stepped in as the Longhorns’ Friday starting pitcher. By season’s end, he was a middle reliever, giving way to freshman Parker French, who took over as the team’s No. 1 starter.

“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Thornhill said. “Last year toward the end of the year, I got moved. The coaches felt like that was best for the team, and I performed wherever they needed me to. My freshman year I was a reliever, also. That’s the character of this team.”

It’s time for Thornhill to return to the Longhorns’ rotation.

His numbers won’t blow you away. He went 4-5 with a 3.87 ERA last season. Texas went 5-6 in his 11 starts.

But when you dig a little deeper, you find out Thornhill was much better than those numbers indicate. The Longhorns scored 12 runs in the six games they lost when Thornhill started, scoring two or less in all but one of them.

Four of the starting pitchers Texas faced when Thornhill started were among the first 22 selections in this year’s MLB Draft: Stanford’s Mark Appel (No. 8), Oklahoma State’s Andrew Heaney (No. 9), Texas A&M’s Michael Wacha (No. 19) and Duke’s Marcus Stroman (No. 22). In those four starts, Thornhill went 1-3 with a 2.38 ERA.

“It’s going to be a clean slate for everyone,” Thornhill said. “There’s a lot of things I need to get more consistent on.

I need to be able to throw any of my pitches at any time. I’ve got to get better. I’m not going to worry about what I did last year or what I’ve earned.”

Thornhill doesn’t have to be — and very well may not deserve to be — the team’s ace like he was for two months last season. French returned, now recovered from an elbow injury that caused him to miss the final two weeks of last season. The Dripping Springs product threw 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings at one point last season and could prove to be the Longhorns’ best pitcher.

“It is way too early to tell,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “The end result comes as a result of a lot of experiences that we haven’t had, a lot of different environments that we haven’t been in yet ... Our pitching staff is going to depend on the recruited players making major contributions. Who’s going to do that? I honestly don’t know.”

What we do know is that sophomore right-hander John Curtiss won’t be one of those guys. After a promising freshman campaign, Curtiss underwent Tommy John surgery last month, leaving Texas with a gaping hole in its rotation.

“It’s sad to see John go down, because he’s a great kid and he works his butt off,” Thornhill said. “Our trainer has us doing more band work to get our arms in better shape to withstand a whole season. John’s injury seems like kind of a freak thing. Parker’s injury was definitely a freak thing. But we’re just doing more to keep our arms in shape and prevent something like that from happening again.”

Curtiss went 2-3 with a 3.50 ERA last season, coming out of the bullpen for 24 of his 28 appearances, the second most on the team behind only Hoby Milner, who is currently in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. Like Thornhill, Curtiss started last season in the Longhorns’ rotation before serving primarily as a reliever.

The Longhorns are no strangers to such offseason injuries. Stafford, along with outfielder Cohl Walla, who tore his ACL last February, were both lost for the season before it began. This time around, though, the Longhorns seem better equipped to overcome such a loss.

“John’s [injury] happened at a time where we had time to replace that slot,” Garrido said. “Sam’s happened unexpectedly at a crucial time where we just had to scratch him with no replacement
in sight.”

Dillon Peters, who went 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA last season, tied Thornhill with a team high of 11 starts as a freshman and has a chance to crack the three-man weekend rotation. As does junior Corey Knebel, who tied a school record with 19 saves as a freshman but expressed his desire to start as a sophomore.

With a deeper staff, Knebel could better serve as the team’s full-time closer again. Texas should score more than 4.8 runs per game this upcoming season, giving the quirky flamethrower more save opportunities than he had as a sophomore.

As for the Longhorns’ bullpen, that’s completely up for grabs.

“Some players play better in a competitive environment, and some players practice better,” Garrido said. “So until we start competing for real and for playing time, we won’t know that part of the equation.

Without that as part of the recipe, we can’t really bake the cake.”

That cake will be a lot sweeter if Thornhill is part of the recipe that is the Longhorns’ rotation. He’s earned it.

Printed on Friday, September 28, 2012 as: Thornhill deserves to be in rotation


The Longhorns practiced in 100-degree heat this morning, in preparation for their Super Regional against Arizona State. Texas and the Sun Devils will play a best-of-three series, beginning on Friday. Here are some notes from the availability after practice

Head coach Augie Garrido has already got his pitching rotation set, and it’s a familiar one.

“We’ll start Taylor Jungmann on Friday, then Cole Green on Saturday and Sam Stafford on Sunday,” he said. “That’s because of the rest factor.”

Garrido is referring to this past weekend, where Stafford threw a combined 171 pitches in two games, Green threw 112 total pitches, and Jungmann only tossed 97.

It’s also the usual standard rotation for the weekends. In past postseasons, Garrido has liked to throw Jungmann in the second game of any series, so that he can either close out a best-of-three series (if the team had won the day before) or save the Longhorns from elimination (if they had lost the day before).

The past weekend’s pitch counts won’t permit that to happen this time. But it’s not such a bad thing — Jungmann is undefeated on Fridays.


With the series against the Sun Devils (42-16) looming, Garrido reminded the media that he’s not a guy to pay too much attention to what the other team does.

“We’re not a real over-the-top scouting team because we play within ourselves,” he said. “You want to avoid recognizing the opponent too much, because they you start to tell the players to be afraid and watch out for what they’re going to do instead of paying attention to what your own team does.”

But, he admitted, you have to know a little about your opponent.

“But there are some things you want to know — who can run, who hits with power, certain tendencies,” Garrido said. “You can look at numbers, and you can also talk to other teams that have recently played them. There may be some film on them, but it’s unlikely because they don’t film college baseball much.”


Pitching coach Skip Johnson, who has coached big leaguers Clayton Kershaw and Homer Bailey, says that Jungmann is the best he’s ever tutored.

“His attitude is above and beyond," Johnson said. "What I mean by that is he can make adjustments that it would take some guys a week to make. He can do it pitch to pitch.”


Tant Shepherd became the second Longhorn this year to be drafted by a Big Apple team when the Mets took him yesterday in the twenty-fourth round (the Yankees took Sam Stafford in the second round).

“I’ve honestly liked the Mets for a while, they used to be one of teams I watched and kept up with,” Shepherd said. “I was really excited when I got drafted — I had a good feeling I’d get drafted but didn’t know by what team.”

I actually left the house about 20 minutes before I got drafted, and my Dad called me to give me the good news.”

Shepherd, who is hitting .300 this year with a team-leading five homers, has greatly improved his draft stock this season since the Reds drafted him in the 47th round last year. An undersized first baseman, he may be switched to a different position in the majors.

“I haven’t talked about positions with them or anything,” he said. “I know last year Cincinnati wanted me to move over to second. I’m down with anything.”


Associate head coach Tommy Harmon — who is in charge of recruiting — says that it’s not too hard to get players to come to Texas.

“Texas recruits itself,” he said. “There’s not a lot you have to sell if you walk into this ballpark and see what’s here and see the tradition."

Multiple high schoolers who have signed for this year’s recruiting class with the Longhorns were drafted over the past few days. But potentially losing kids to the big leagues isn’t as frustrating or disappointing as some may think.

“We have a real good line on who’s going to sign and who's not,” Harmon said. “We’re trying to recruit guys who want first-round money but are third or fourth round picks. Or we’re trying to recruit guys who want to go to school and will go no matter where they’re drafted. When we lose high school kids, it is very seldom unexpected. 

Junior pitcher Taylor Jungmann was selected No. 12 overall by the Milwaukee Brewers in Monday's MLB First-Year Player Draft. Jungmann, who would have one year left of college eligibility if he chose to stay in school, has until Aug. 15 to work out an agreement with the Brewers.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

Hello, Wisconsin.

The Milwaukee Brewers made Texas pitcher Taylor Jungmann their first pick of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, selecting the right-handed junior with the No. 12 overall spot.

“Being drafted in the first round is a testament to what Taylor Jungmann is,” said Texas’ pitching coach Skip Johnson in a press release. “It says everything about his work ethic and the hard work he puts into pitching and how much he cares about baseball. We couldn’t be happier for him.”

Jungmann is the highest-selected Longhorn in the draft since center fielder Drew Stubbs went No. 8 overall to Cincinnati in 2006.

For his junior season, Jungmann is 13-1 with a 1.40 ERA — largely inflated after he gave up seven runs to Kent State on Saturday — and 119 strikeouts. The Brewers, apparently trying to bolster a pitching rotation that already includes Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo, spent the No. 15 pick on an arm as well, going with lefty Jed Bradley from Georgia Tech.

If Jungmann chooses to sign with the Brewers — all indications are that he will — he’ll have until August to work out the negotiations. If he declines, he would have one year of eligibility remaining at Texas.

The Longhorns also had two high school signees drafted in the first round. Dylan Bundy, a pitcher from Oklahoma, was taken No. 4 overall by the Baltimore Orioles, and Blake Swihart, a switch-hitting catcher from New Mexico, was chosen at No. 26 by the Boston Red Sox.

Texas fans shouldn’t hold their breath on these two guys. It’s all but a lock that Bundy will go, though he is reportedly asking for an absurd signing price — near $30 million — and Swihart might be unable to turn down the allure of playing for the Sox and whatever money Boston might throw at him.

Rounds 2-30 of the draft continue today, so expect Longhorns Brandon Loy, Sam Stafford, Cole Green, Tant Shepherd and Cohl Walla to be off the board by the end of the night.