The Texas Longhorns baseball team opens a critical three-game series with the West Virginia Mountaineers tonight.
Winning the Big 12 regular season title may be an unrealistic goal at this point, so a strong finish will help the Longhorns position themselves in the top half of the postseason bracket. Texas’ best shot at hosting a regional is to win the Big 12 postseason title.
But first, the team needs to take care of business this weekend in Morgantown. Texas (34-13, 10-8 Big 12) has lost five of six conference games since completing a sweep of Oklahoma on April 13.
West Virginia (24-16, 7-7 Big 12) is one game behind Texas in the Big 12 standings. The Mountaineers are 9-3 at home and have a pretty formidable pitching staff. Friday’s starter Harrison Musgrave (4-3, 1.95) has given up just 17 earned runs in 11 starts (78.1 innings). Ross Vance (3-0, 2.57) will be making just his fourth start, but has 33 strikeouts in 28 innings. Sunday’s starter John Means (5-1, 2.10) has allowed 12 earned runs in 51.1 innings.
Texas has had a hard time scoring runs against tough pitching lately. The Longhorns scored one run in three games against TCU, and seven runs total versus Oklahoma State.
The Mountaineers boast four players hitting .299 or better. Texas will need to keep Bobby Boyd off the bases. The junior outfielder leads the team with a .379 average, runs scored (39) and stolen bases (15). First baseman Ryan McBroom is second with a .348 average, and leads the team with seven home runs and 40 RBIs.
For Texas, Mark Payton will look to keep his 85 game reached-base streak going. The Big 12 record is 93 games. Ben Johnson, Zane Gurwitz and Tres Barrera have improved steadily over the season with the bat. Johnson’s average is up to .294 and he is perfect in stolen base attempts (16-16).
Probable Pitching Match ups
Harrison Musgrave (4-3, 1.95) vs. Parker French (5-3, 2.08)
Ross Vance (3-0, 2.57) vs. Dillon Peters (5-3, 2.50)
John Means (5-1, 2.10) vs. Nathan Thornhill (6-2, 1.85)