Down 5–1 in the eighth inning against Texas Tech on Sunday, junior left fielder Ben Johnson stood at the plate with a 3–1 count, two outs and the bases loaded.
Two pitches later, Johnson was called out on strikes. Both of them could have gone either way to end what started as a promising inning. He was then ejected for arguing with the home plate umpire. He threw his helmet in frustration before returning to the dugout.
It’s been that kind of season for a Longhorn offense that has scored only 226 runs this year — second-worst in the Big 12 conference. With just over two weeks before the Big 12 tournament — a tournament Texas has to win to ensure a spot in the NCAA tournament — that’s going to have to change quickly, starting against Texas State on Tuesday night.
“You always have an opportunity [to fix things] when you have another game to play; that’s the beauty of baseball,” head coach Augie Garrido said following the loss on Sunday. “We’ll try again in a different way between now and Tuesday. That is our job.”
Texas has a Big 12 worst .256 team batting average and ranks third to last with a .349 team on-base percentage.
And even when runners are on base, Longhorn batters have failed to drive in runs. Against Texas Tech this past weekend, Texas got 31 runners on base but scored only five runs.
“We do it over and over,” Garrido said.
The struggles at the plate came after a blistering start to the season for the offense. The Longhorns opened up their home schedule with a 14- run effort against UTSA and followed that with 31 runs in a four-game series against Minnesota.
But since starting 5–1 in Big 12 play, the bats have gone silent. Texas has scored under four runs per game in the last five conference series, and the five runs they scored this weekend is a team low since tallying just three runs at Nebraska in late March.
Johnson, who will be suspended for Tuesday night’s game for his ejection from Sunday’s game, said after Saturday’s game that it’s been frustrating not being able to get the runs in.
“You just got to stick with it and stick with the process,” Johnson said.
Facing the Bobcats, however, might just be what the Longhorns need to get going again on offense. Texas has scored 13 runs in the two wins against Texas State this season, including five home runs.
But even if they suddenly find the answer on offense and win their four remaining regular season games, the Longhorns will need nothing short of a miracle to have another long postseason run.
Still, Barrera said they don’t plan on going down without a fight.
“We have a bunch of fighters in this locker room,” Barrera said. “There is still a chance; we’re not giving up.”