Texas Longhorns infielder Jalin Flores (1) lines up to bat against West Virginia during the game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Saturday, May 20, 2023 in Austin. Photo: Aaron E. Martinez/American-Statesman / USA TODAY NETWORK.
Texas was able to sweep the West Virginia Mountaineers last weekend and with help from their rivals North of the Red River, win their 80th conference title in baseball. The Longhorns had their most complete performance of the year at just the right time.
Starting Pitching Continued Success
Over the course of the three game series, Texas outscored West Virginia 29-9. The Longhorns dominated with hitting and starting pitching. Staff ace and Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Lucas Gordon had arguably his best start of the year, going 7 innings with 8 strikeouts and just a single walk. Rising starter Lebarron Johnson threw a gem on Friday as well, with 11 strikeouts over 5.1 innings to help secure the series win.
Tanner Witt had his best start since returning from Tommy John Surgery last year. Witt threw a season-high 44 pitches over three innings with three strikeouts and just one walk. That is a great sign he is starting to get his control and command back. David Pierce said prior to Saturday’s game Witt was in the 40-60 pitch limit which has been on a steady increase since his first start vs TCU. It will be interesting to see how Witt looks in the Big 12 Tournament and moving forward. He can be the ultimate X-factor for the Longhorns in the post season.
Offense Firepower Not Slowing Down
Dylan Campbell is currently on a school record 33-game hit streak. Campbell delivered against the Mountaineers, going 7-13 with 2 HR and 4 RBI. It didn’t stop with Campbell. Freshman Jared Thomas continued on his tear as well. Thomas is the perfect leadoff man for David Pierce and company. Against the Mountaineers, Thomas went 7-13 with 1 HR and 2 RBI. Those stats may not sound earth-shattering but he has proven to be a tough out and the series vs West Virginia was no different.
Freshman shortstop Jalin Flores got the start all weekend over veteran Mitchell Daly. That was an eye-opening move for Pierce to make, as it takes guts to bench your veteran for a freshman at the end of the year. We all know the potential Flores has in the field and at the plate. The move paid off, especially on Saturday where Flores hit a home run and came through with 3 RBIs. Flores provides real power and makes one less hole in the lineup which was there with Daly. If Flores can be a real threat, this lineup is not one opposing pitchers will be look forward to seeing. Those early season offensive woes for Texas appear to in the rear view mirror.
What Texas Needs Out of the Big 12 Tournament
Texas opens the Big 12 tournament Wednesday at 12:30 PM CST against Kansas. The Longhorns are in good shape to host a regional following a Big 12 championship. A regional hosting opportunity may not be locked in, therefore a few wins in Arlington will help cement the Longhorns' resume. This will be the last time to see which pitchers can provide good innings in the postseason beyond Johnson and Gordon and it will be worth watching what Witt’s role is in the this week. The bullpen has been rocky at best but hopefully they will get some much-needed confidence as the team heads into regionals.
BIG 12 CONFERENCE TOURNAMENT
What: #1 Seed Texas Longhorns vs. #8 Seed Kansas Jayhawks
Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2023
Venue: Globe Life Field - Arlington, TX
Time: 12:30 p.m.