Last year, Texas mastered the art of losing the one-run game, and it was 11-15 in two-run games.
So the team spent all of fall attacking entitlement and the mental aspect of the game, in hopes that it would help the young Longhorns (22-7, 3-3 Big 12) in close games.
And it has worked.
The Longhorns are 9-2 in games decided in extra innings or by two runs or fewer this season.
Sunday was just another example. Texas took the lead in the top of the 12th on senior utility man Madison Carter’s two-out, two-run single. Carter had only four at-bats on the year, going hitless, but the unlikely hero isn’t something new for the Longhorns this year.
In the team’s walk-off win against UTPA, it was senior catcher Jacob Felts’ RBI single that won the game. Felts had just one at-bat before that. Head coach Augie Garrido thinks that is a testament to the involvement of the bench.
“[The bench] has been on the rail rooting every inning of every game,” Garrido said after Texas’ walk-off win against UTPA. “They are committed.”
But, for the guys on the bench, winning is all that matters. They hope they can contribute, but a win is a win.
“It always feels good [to be the hero],” Felts said. “As long as we win, it doesn’t matter who gets us there.”
And winning is exactly what the Longhorns have done this year. They are 22-7, their best start since 2005 — a national championship year. They have climbed their way back from a disastrous 2013 and stand at No. 8.
“We have all the confidence in the world,” sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson said after a win against Dallas Baptist.
Unlike that of last season, Texas’ offense this season is starting to spark. In the series against Texas Tech, they had 44 hits — the most in over two years. And that was against a team that had the second-best ERA in the Big 12. Over the last eight games, Texas is averaging 6.75 runs per game and hitting .336.
“When you have the pitching staff we have, it’s nice only having to put up two or three runs to the win,” Johnson said.
The Longhorns lead the Big 12 in ERA with a 1.98 ERA, nearly a full run ahead of TCU’s second place 2.91. Senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill’s rests at .88, and, when the Longhorns score two or more, they are a blistering 22-3.
And, behind Tuesday’s junior starter Lukas Schiraldi (4-1), the Longhorns look to win a key game against No. 12 Rice, whom they’ve already beaten once this year, and Garrido is always confident with Schiraldi on the mound.