Editor’s Note: This is the sixth article in a series previewing the 2014 Big 12 baseball season and examining what each of the nine conference teams brings to the diamond this season.
4. Texas Longhorns
2013 season record: 27-24 in all games; 7-17 in the Big 12, 9th place
Texas has won 71 conference championships in baseball, and seven of those have come during the 17 seasons of the Big 12. The only other school with multiple conference championships in baseball among the current Big 12 members is Baylor with three.
Entering the 2014 season, Texas has won 287 games against Big 12 opponents, the most in the Big 12. Baylor is next with 259 conference wins, followed by Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, both with 257.
As good as the Longhorns have been historically, last season was one of the worst in Texas baseball history, however. Texas finished with an overall winning record in 2013, but the Horns were winners in just seven of 24 conference games and finished in the cellar in the league standings, their worst finish in the Big 12 era.
“It isn’t acceptable, and we know that,” said veteran Texas head coach Augue Garrido in an interview prior to the start of the season with the Austin American-Stateman. “We spent all fall attacking what I feel was out No. 1problem from last year, and that was ‘entitlement.’”
The Longhorns’ pitching staff was superb last season, with the conference’s top staff ERA at 2.53, but when you only produce 3.8 runs per game, you’re not going to win many games, and the Horns didn’t when it came to teams in the conference.
Texas returns six position starters, including the Big 12′s best hitter in senior outfielder Mark Payton, who ended the year with a .393 batting average.
Garrido, in his 18th season in Austin, is optimistic his team can make a big turnaround in 2014, and he feels the the country’s sixth best recruiting class will give some of the returning regulars a good run for their job. With its top three pitchers in the starting rotation – lefty Dillon Peters (6-3, 1.97 ERA) and right-handers Nathan Thornhill (3-6, 2.21 ERA) and Parker French (4-6, 2.68 ERA) – back for another season, there is good reason why Texas was ranked in the top 25 in several preseason national polls.
Through the first six games of the 2014 season, the Longhorns are off to a 4-2 start.
Next up: No. 3 TCU