junior left fielder

Junior left fielder Ben Johnson walks off the field after being ejected from Sunday’s game against Texas Tech. The left fielder was ejected after arguing balls and strikes after he struck out. Johnson has been successful on offense, while the rest of the team has struggled.
Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

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.”

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.