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Better Know an Opponent: Texas Longhorns

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We’ve got a man on the inside...

For this week’s Better Know an Opponent, I brought in someone who actually knows something about the team, Joseph Cook of Inside Texas Magazine. We appreciate the intel that we will then use to crush his Longhorns into a fine powder, and he will forever be known as a traitor to his school.

/checks notes

It turns out I wrote something for their site as well about LSU. So, never mind all that stuff about traitors and quislings. This is all in the name of good sportsmanship!

Texas Longhorns

Record: 3-1 (0-0)
RS/RA: 11/7
RPI/ISR/Rank: 140/-/19

It’s way too early to look at the RPI, so we can just stare at that huge number by Texas’ name and consider it a prank from the computers. It is literally meaningless. If you’re curious, LSU is #99 right now in the RPI. As for the national rank, that holds a little bit of meaning, but not much. The media thinks Texas is supposed to be good, and considered we just got our doors blown off by a team that wasn’t supposed to be any good, well, it doesn’t exactly inspire confidence.

Mascot Fight!

Could their mascot beat Mike the Tiger in a fight?

We get straight to the real issues, and you bet your ass I asked an actual serious journalist to answer this question. Take it away, Joe.

JOE: Both Texas and LSU had to part ways with a beloved mascot in recent years as well as celebrate the arrival of a new beloved animal. In 2015, Bevo XIV passed away right after the Longhorns beat the hated Oklahoma Sooners in football at the Cotton Bowl. Mike VI passed in 2016 after a bout with cancer. Both Bevo XIV and Mike VI experienced the joys of a BCS championship early in their careers and served distinguished careers as live representatives of the respective universities.

The current Bevo, Bevo XV, debuted in 2016 at Texas’ thrilling 2OT victory over Notre Dame in Austin. Just a young bull then, Bevo is now three years old, his horns span about 56 inches, and he checks in at just over 1700 pounds.

Part of me wants to believe that a Texas-bred steer would be able to keep up with a massive Bengal-Siberian tiger. The rest of me isn’t an idiot. Mike wins by TKO in round seven.

ATVS: That seems fair. I’d like to think Mike could take Bevo down like an antelope or something, but Bevo is huge and has gigantic horns attached to his skull. It’s going to be a challenge. I think our boy is up to it, but it’s going to take him some time. There’s a lot of meat on Bevo, so he probably walks away with a flank steak missing. Call it a win for Mike, but not an easy one.

Now, for the real insight from Joe:

HOT BAT:

Jr. Masen Hibbeler (8/17, 1 RBI): With Ryan Reynolds (Shreveport native and son of former Astro Shane Reynolds) moving from third to first and Kody Clemens (son of Roger Clemens) recovered enough from Tommy John surgery to play third, second base was up for grabs during the offseason. Hibbeler, one of the 21 new Longhorns on the 2018 team, received the Opening Day start at 2B and made the most of it, going 3-for-4 and scoring two runs. He followed it up the next day by going 3-for-5 with a RBI and was one of the hits in Texas’ ninth inning walk-off rally. He showed his versatility on Sunday against Louisiana by playing in left field. Hibbeler is a junior college transfer from Odessa College and helped the Wranglers to a conference championship in his sophomore season.

LIKELY ROTATION BREAKDOWN:

Jr. Nolan Kingham (1-0, 8 IP, 0.00 ERA, 10 K): Kingham was the best starter for the Longhorns most of last season and picked up right where he left off in the season opener against Louisiana. After a lethargic two innings, Kingham gave Cajun batters very little to work with. He worked eight shutout innings on his way to a season opening victory. Kingham has a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s off speed, but he also works in his sinker a lot. A Golden Spikes candidate, Texas is in a good position to win most Friday night games with Kingham starting. He needs to get off to a quicker start than he did against UL though against a much better team like LSU.

Jr. Chase Shugart (0-0, 6.2 IP, 0.00 ERA, 3 K): Shugart is transitioning from a back end of the bullpen role to that of Saturday starter for 2018. A two-way player coming out of high school, Shugart has fully transitioned into a starting pitcher. His first start of his career resulted in his longest career outing. Shugart performed well his second time through the lineup, retiring all nine Cajun batters in their second look at him. He was in line for a victory until a blown save in the ninth. Shugart also sits in the low-90s with his fastball and possesses a slurve in his repertoire.

So. Blair Henley (0-0, 5.0 IP, 1.80 ERA, 5 Ks): Henley is in year two as Texas’ Sunday starter, a role that he was 4-5 in last year with a 4.23 ERA. Henley is still a developing arm, but he has some special talent and a special edge. Henley threw three-straight no-hitters at Arlington Heights High School at the 5A level in Texas during his senior year.

TWO THINGS TO WATCH

Texas is very comfortable with its weekend rotation of Kingham-Shugart-Henley. The Longhorns are also comfortable with the back end of the bullpen with junior Josh Sawyer, who is healthy for the first time since early 2016, and junior Beau Ridgeway, who doesn’t have traditional closer stuff but has been effective in the role in his career. In between those two points is a crapshoot. Freshman Bryce Elder got the first crack at that role on Saturday, throwing 1.1 no-hit innings to hand the game over to Ridgeway. Junior Andy McGuire got the call on Sunday, and ended up taking the loss after giving up an earned run over 1.2 innings. With freshman Nico O’Donnell getting the mid-week start, any other arm on the roster has a chance to take the middle relief role.

The Longhorns have a guy I have labeled as the college version of Michael Bourn on the basepaths in sophomore shortstop David Hamilton. Hamilton has a vacuum for a glove at short and incredible range in the field that helped him earn Texas’ Spike Owen Defensive Player of the Year Award in 2017, but his speed is what keeps opposing coaches up at night. Hamilton stole 14 bases last season and has already swiped 3 this season, but as his head coach David Pierce says, you can’t steal first. If Hamilton can get his bat going from the lead-off spot, it will set the table up well for the top of Texas’ order.

DAVID PIERCE ON THE UPCOMING MATCHUP

On what he wants from the road trip to LSU: “We talked about this week, including today, it’s a week of adaptability. Today, we played under such terrible elements and we handled that. We passed that first test. We’re going to travel, early bus. We’re probably going to get on grass for the first time in pregame in-and-out because I’m sure they’ll have a tarp on the field. Now we’re playing our first series on the road, so we’ve got to overcome that. Now were playing in an environment that’s as good as any in college baseball and playing a really good team. There’s a lot of obstacles there, so it’s a great opportunity for us to see who we are at this early stage of the game. I want to see our guys go out and just play like they play at home and be confident, attack the zone, trust their stuff, and get quality pitches to hit.”

On playing at an environment like Alex Box Stadium: “We haven’t talked about it yet because we didn’t want to look past Lamar. The one thing I can recall if you peek up and you look at the LSU being chanted, you’re in trouble. They’ve got to keep their head down and stay concentrated. It’s just a great opportunity to play in front of potentially 12, 13,000 people three nights in a row and none of them really rooting for us. It’s going to be an experience for our guys.”

His thoughts on playing a tough team like LSU in weekend two: “Our non-conference schedule is that. You open the gates up with Lafayette, who I feel like is going to be a solid team in the Sun Belt. I think they’re going to be a regional team at the end of the year. I think the timing is fine for us. I hope the weather allows for us to go out and play three solid games. “

And now back to your neighborhood Poseur:

Wow. See what y’all have been missing? Thanks for that. This column is the most informative it has ever been. I should be nicer to people, so I could have people write for me more often.

Tiger Bait?

I’m worried. The Tiger rotation looked awful last weekend, and Mainieri will likely be missing two big bats in Smith and Watson. The big question for LSU is whether the pitching is that bad or was Notre Dame’s offense just that good? Texas is not known for putting up a bunch of runs, so we’ll get the answer this weekend. If the starters give up a bunch of crooked numbers again, then its not you, it’s us.

Still, it is good to play tough teams for the tourney resume and to generally prepare for the SEC season. I think the question marks in the pitching staff and the holes in the lineup might make it an unhappy weekend for LSU, though. Let’s say LSU takes one, but like last weekend, the bullpen gives out on Sunday from overuse and the good guys take a series loss.