Pitching, Defense, and ...

Stealing Home.

That's apparently Texas' offensive strategy this year. Or at least in the 15th inning of a road game in hostile territory.

By the time freshman Mark Payton made the break for home, many of the 1100 Oklahoma State fans in attendance for Friday night's game in Stillwater were already shirtless, shaking the cage link fences, mullets whipping in an Ozark wind. Augie had to do something and it was a brilliant call.

The problem is that stealing home isn't exactly replicable. And apparently neither is simply hitting the ball.

Texas scored five runs in 32 innings in Stillwater. 21 strikeouts in game one alone. Tim Maitland's 0-12 performance over the weekend only exceeds Brickhorn's batting average at life. With the series loss to a mediocre Cowboys squad, Texas has officially dropped one Threat Level early in the Big 12 race.

Augie will internalize these disappointing but ultimately meaningless stats, hit play on the Zen Koan Generator, and tell the kids that this experience was a necessary building block in the character building, rice harvesting road to Omaha. And we'll all smile and be glad that we have the best coach in baseball that refuses to hire a fucking hitting coach.

Something is rotten in UFCU Denmark.

By game 3 of a road series, it can wear down the collective confidence of a pitching staff if the offense isn't doing it's job. Or the defense after Greg Davis throws his 8th bubble screen for a loss in the same game. Same idea. It's not necessarily throwing in the towel, you just tend to lose focus. That's what we saw with the meltdown in game 3 - a key error would keep an inning alive and opponent makes you pay. Texas does it to other teams all the time.

So thaaaat's how it feels...

Pitching and defense has carried this team to two national titles in the last decade and nearly a third. But each of those teams had a few big clutchy bats, typically wielded by some red-assed upperclassmen that simply refused to lose.

Dustin Majewski. Chance Wheeless. Tim Moss. Omar Quintanilla.Taylor Teagarden. Drew Stubbs.

Or Seth Johnston.

The 2011 Longhorns are being carried by stellar pitching, average defense, and ... a freshman. The seniors have been invisible, from Montalbano and Tant Shephard to ... wait, those are the only seniors that wield a bat. And last year's promising freshman talent Cohl Walla is redefining the term sophomore slump.

So it's a young team and they'll still probably mow through the Big 12 once Augie establishes the right mood in the dugout. Jungmann is sporting a barely legal .52 ERA, the rotation is deep, and Skip Johnson can throw any of six guys out of the bullpen in middle relief or to close a game. Knebel definitely has some big knuts. And it's not just Texas struggling at the plate. With the new bats, team averages are down across the country.

But you look down the lineup and don't see a Majewski, a Stubbs, or a Teagarden. If you were told last year that Brandon Loy would be one of the team's top hitters -- behind an incoming freshman -- you would have been worried. And if it weren't for the hot bat of said freshman Erich Weiss this team would be in serious offensive trouble. Check out his stat line from a late February series:

9-11, 1 2b, 2 3b, 7 RBI, 6 Runs, 5 walks, 1 steal, .818 Avg, 1.273 Slg, 2.097 OPS.

Then toss in a game-winning grand slam against Brown. Maybe recruit more of these guys, Augie?

TCU and LSU exposed Texas' weak bats in Austin and Omaha the last two years in painful fashion. When every other piece is in place, it's hard to sputter through scoreless innings watching your season disappear while the other team rakes your unhittable fastballs and sliders into every available gap. Expect that trend to continue this year unless Erich Weiss was a quadruplet and has three brothers we don't know about.

Or until Texas replaces Tommy Harmon with an actual hitting coach. You can only have two paid assistants on staff -- Skip Johnson coaches pitching and Harmon coaching defense/catching and handles recruiting -- but none of our coaches really specialize in teaching hitting and the results bear that out.

It's not that we can't be a very good team without one. Two trophies in the last decade is right up there with the best. But those teams had natural born killers hitters. In 2011, Jungmann can't pitch every game and Weiss is only one of nine bats. To win in Omaha you have to be great at specific times (straight from Garrido's lips), and a good hitting coach can help with that kind of thing.

The Zen Master can't be all knowing all the time.

"Cohl, sometimes playing baseball is like humping a rock ..."

Maybe Augie and Harmon just need to spend more time in practice on hitting instead of bunting and defense.

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