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Humbled early, Texas back on track after sweeping Gamecocks

By AP | Mar 15, 2021

By ERIC OLSON AP Sports Writer

Any consternation over how the Texas baseball team opened the season has been replaced by anticipation for what the Longhorns could accomplish as Big 12 play begins.

Texas enters the week as a top-10 team again after it won three games against nationally ranked South Carolina in Austin. The sweep marked a big step for a team outscored by a combined 20-3 in losses to powers Mississippi State, Arkansas and Mississippi at a season-opening event in Arlington, Texas, less than a month ago.

“Zero panic from the staff and zero panic from the team when we went 0-3,” Longhorns coach David Pierce said. “It was humbling, but we handled it the right way. We didn’t feel sorry for ourselves. We realized we weren’t as good as we thought we were. If we were playing that tournament this weekend, I think we would fare a lot better.”

Texas (11-5), as high as No. 10 in the polls Monday, will carry a five-game win streak into a Tuesday game against Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Conference play opens at Baylor on Friday.

The Longhorns were picked third in the Big 12 behind Texas Tech and TCU. Their last Big 12 regular-season title came in 2018, the year of their most recent College World Series appearance.

Last year, they looked ready to bounce back from a disappointing 2019 season in which they went 27-27 and finished ninth in the conference. When last season ended because of the pandemic, they were 14-3 and on a four-game win streak.

The positive vibes carrying over from 2020 were quashed with those three losses to Southeastern Conference teams. Pierce said his players adopted the rallying cry “Remember Arlington!”

“After that weekend we had a meeting in the tunnel and basically said we’re going to remember this meeting, we’re going to remember how we started,” Pierce said, “and every single day where we felt like we got it figured out, we’re going to think about that. It’s real important players mature and grow as we continue to go through this grind of a season we all love.”

Against South Carolina, the Longhorns got strong starts from Ty Madden and Tristan Stevens, the bullpen was solid all weekend and in Sunday’s 8-5 win the offense scored in each of the first four innings and every player in the lineup had a hit.

“We’re very, very resilient,” Pierce said, “and we’re not intimidated by anybody that we play.”

IN THE POLLS

Arkansas remains the consensus No. 1 team after taking two of three at Louisiana Tech. The Razorbacks were 12-0, the best start under Dave Van Horn, before losing 2-0 on Sunday.

Vanderbilt (12-2) took two of three at Oklahoma State and got outstanding starts from Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter, and are No. 2 by D1Baseball.com and Collegiate Baseball newspaper. The Commodores are No. 3 by Baseball America.

Mississippi State (13-3) is No. 2 by D1Baseball and No. 3 by Baseball America, and Florida (13-4) is No. 3 by Collegiate Baseball.

EASY AS 1-2-3

Northwestern hit grand slams in each of the first three innings of its 14-2 win over Michigan State in Greenville, South Carolina, on Friday.

Stephen Hrustich, Michael Trautwein and Vincent Bianchina each went deep with the bases loaded. It marked the first time a team hit three grand slams in a game against a fellow Division I team since May 6, 2001, when Youngstown State did it against Oakland.

IRISH ON ROLL

Notre Dame, which has finished higher than sixth in its division just once since it started playing baseball in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, has the best record in the league at 7-2 (.778) after sweeping three games from nationally ranked Virginia on the road.

ARMBRUESTER ARM

New Mexico’s Justin Armbruester turned in one of the top pitching performances of the weekend, striking out 17 and limiting Fresno State to two hits over nine innings in a 1-0, 10-inning win.

Armbruester carried a no-hitter through 7 2/3 innings before he allowed an infield single. He also gave up a base hit in the ninth. It was Armbruester’s longest outing since he went nine innings in 2018, when he pitched for Division III Pacific Lutheran.

AIR POWER

Air Force, which has had one winning season in 38 years, has knocked off two top-15 opponents in the same season for the first time since 2010.

The Falcons won 5-2 at then-No. 13 Arizona on Saturday, holding the top scoring offense in the nation to season lows for runs and hits (four). Air Force won 6-5 at then-No. 7 LSU on Feb. 21.