Thursday, April 12, 2007

Augie's Boys Continue Their Charge

Over the last month, Texas baseball has continued their rapid climb and torrid play. Texas is 15-3 over their last 18 games, improving to #6 in the national rankings. They have been firing on all cylinders, pitching and hitting their way to victory. The offense has scored 142 runs over the 18 games, almost an 8 run average, while only surrendering 79 runs, just over 4 a game.

Texas' pitching staff has been much improved over last year's staff led by Juniors Adrian Alaniz and James Russell. Alaniz is 8-2 with a 2.41 ERA and two complete games, while Russell has a 7-2 record with a 3.20 ERA. The consistency of their first two starters has made Texas formidable early in every series. Texas thought coming into the season they would have a powerful starting rotation featuring junior Kenn Kasparek as the game three starter. The 6'10 righty however has not thrown a pitch this season due to injury. The Longhorns then turned to sophomore Kyle Walker who pitched well in his freshman campaign. However, in five starts this season Walker is 1-0 with a 10.32 ERA. The inability of anyone to lock down the third starting position has forced Garrido to call on his bullpen to fill the void. Senior Joseph Krebs and sophomore Austin Wood have split time starting with solid results. Krebs is 4-0 with a 3.88 ERA while Wood is 4-0 with a 3.08 ERA. While the tandem of Krebs and Wood has been effective it has the bullpen to be depleted. Closer Randy Boone (1-5; 3.54) has thrown 40.2 innings, which may come back to haunt the Horns later in the season, as he is not, Huston Street. The rest of the bullpen has been filled out by sophomores Pat McCrory and Keith Shinaberry and freshman Hunter Harris. The results have been mixed. With the loss of Kasparek and the disappointing performance by Walker, Texas has gone most of the season with Alaniz, Russell, Wood, Krebs, and Boone carrying most of the load. This may come back to hurt Texas later in the season has injury or fatigue could derail the Longhorn postseason chances.

Where the pitching staff has shown a lack of depth, the lineup of the Longhorns has no such problems. Texas boasts a dangerous lineup one through nine that is capable of hitting for average and power. Texas teams will always play Augie ball as they feature three players with 10 or more stolen bases. But this year's team can hit, and has hit all season long. They are lead by sophomore Kyle Russell (.354; 20/45) who has tied the Longhorn Home Run record at 20 with 18 games still left to play in the season. Sophomore Bradley Suttle has had a breakthrough season hitting .406 with 9 home runs and 47 RBIs. All three Round Rock High School products, sophomore Jordan Danks (.350; 3/26), and seniors Chance Wheeless (.374; 2/21) and Nick Peoples (.316; 2/32) have had great years. The thing that has made this Texas lineup truly formidable has been the emergence of sophomore Travis Tucker (.313; 1/28) and freshman Josh Prince (.400; 0/12) and Russell Moldenhauer (.308; 2/8). With eight players hitting over .300, Texas has hit their way to the top of the Big XII.

While Texas has jumped to the top of the Big XII with a 9-3 mark, they are truly saving the best for last. After a series with Texas Tech and Nebraska, Texas will go to Stillwater to take on second place Oklahoma State (25-8; 6-3). They will then have to take on Missouri (24-9; 6-3) and Texas A&M (28-7; 6-5) in Austin to end the season. Texas will need to play more consistent as they have dropped one game in each of their last three series to teams in the bottom half of the division. Whether this is a sign of Texas cooling off, a lack of focus, or a hole in the pitching staff, Texas will face their toughest test this season in the final three series. If Texas can get contributions from other parts of their pitching staff, this Texas team could find itself in familiar territory as a force to be reckoned with in Omaha.

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