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After a promising start from a promising arm on Thursday, Texas never came back with the same quality of play on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday against Stanford. In fact, they weren’t even close.
Sunday’s 11-1 loss was a missed opportunity for Texas to split a series with what is now the No. 3 team in the country. Head coach David Pierce knew the importance of the game and did something in order to emphasize it to the team; he held a postgame meeting with them on Saturday.
Is that usual? “It’s not usual,” Pierce said.
What was talked about?
Whatever the topic was, Stanford’s Brendan Beck Sunday outing made sure there was a new topic of conversation prior to the Longhorns’ trip to Arkansas. Beck held a perfect game until sophomore Duke Ellis singled with two outs in the sixth.
It didn’t matter much as Texas already trailed by three, and the deficit would only increase from there.
Texas was putting the ball in play, but there was an abundance of popups off of Longhorn bats. Those popups continually got caught in a stiff wind blowing toward home plate.
“Honestly, I thought their kid pitched well and we were very undisciplined at home plate,” Pierce said. “We had a really poor approach for the type of weather we were playing in. That was the bottom line.”
Pierce has touched many times on what the difficult pre-conference schedule does for a team. Texas has put itself in postseason environments against postseason caliber teams to find out just how well they stack up to the competition.
They passed the Louisiana test, lost two-of-three to LSU, and looked outmatched against Stanford. Arkansas is up next.
The bats in all of these series have been up and down. Hitting overall has not been a major issue, with four of the first five batters in the order hitting .280. The biggest issue has been timely hitting with runners on.
“I think the biggest thing I would like to see is our guys maintain their discipline and when things are going well for them, stay with it,” Pierce said. “When we struggle and we’re behind, get back to their discipline and doing the things that made them good. That’s my biggest message to them.”
Bullpen pitching was one of the glaring issues Texas had coming into the year. That issue reared its ugly head again Sunday after Chase Shugart left the game in the sixth after an awkward landing on his plant leg. He was replaced by freshman Bryce Elder, who couldn’t locate at all.
None of the remaining pitchers really were effective, save Kamron Fields in his collegiate pitching debut.
“First, I will credit Stanford for fighting off some tough pitches,” Pierce said. “I think you’ve got to be able to pitch them in late and we just didn’t get the ball in. When we were trying to go in, we were in the middle of the plate. When we were throwing the breaking ball down and away we were missing up just enough for them to have good contact.”
In short, “we didn’t repeat our best pitches.”
Pierce said the team was “embarrassed” and that they didn’t capitalize on anything all weekend. Conference play begins this upcoming weekend with Kansas, but before that they face the difficult test of playing two games against the No. 5 Razorbacks in Fayetteville.
Junior Beau Ridgeway will start Tuesday and freshman Nico O’Donnell will start on Wednesday. Ridgeway has struggled early in the year in his back-end-of-the-bullpen role, and Pierce is hoping a Tuesday change of scenery and role will jumpstart him before Big 12 play.
O’Donnell is coming off a fantastic start where he went pitch for pitch with possible high round pick Tristan Beck.
“Old Southwest Conference rival here,” Pierce said. “There’s probably going to be around 10,000 people there but it’s going to be really cold. I think the weather’s going to be a mess. We’re going to have to deal with the weather elements then we’re going to have to deal with the hostility. It may be the best thing for us right now.”
Before they travel on the day of the game due to Monday being an NCAA mandated off-day, Pierce had a simple message for the team.
“Regroup,” Pierce said. “Get back to trusting yourself and believing in yourself, and understand that we just played one of the better teams in the country. We’ve got to learn from them. Take it personal.”