HOUSTON—After mustering just five runs on 13 hits in their previous three games heading into Sunday, Texas' hitters decided something had to be done.
"We kind of struggled in the first two games (at the Houston College Classic this weekend)—we faced good pitching—so today we wanted to come out and prove ourselves to the people here," junior outfielder Kevin Keyes said. "We'd been struggling, so we had a little team talk last night, the hitters, and I think it really worked well. We found our confidence today, and hopefully it'll carry over to the rest of the year."
But it took until the sixth inning for the Longhorns to find their confidence against Missouri on Sunday. Trailing by two runs, Texas finally put together a big inning, erupting for six runs in the fifth en route to an 8-5 win. The big blows were Jordan Etier's two-run single and Tant Shepherd's two-run double off the left-field wall.
"We decided we want to be more like our pitching staff," said Shepherd, who busted out of a funk by going 3-for-5 Sunday. "They come out every day and know they're going to be good, know they're going to throw strikes. We tried to take that approach today—not take the fastballs, if you get a pitch you can hit, handle it and put your best swing on it."
Shepherd, Keyes and Etier—all three of whom had been struggling—combined for eight of Texas' season-high 12 hits against Missouri, which deployed six pitchers in a committee approach. None of the Tigers pitchers had the kind of stuff the Longhorns saw the last two days from Michael Goodnight and Taylor Wall, and Texas capitalized.
"I was really proud of them because this game today offered them an opportunity to get on track, and it worked for them," Texas coach Augie Garrido said.
"That had something to do with the pitching, but also it had something to do with the players backing off and trying to simplify and finding out that, 'Hey man, if I keep swinging at those balls down by my shoetops and above my head, it's going to be a long season.' But I was really proud of them. We were really playing for a higher goal than just winning a game—although that becomes important, but not more important than building confidence. We wanted to take every at-bat and everything we did during this game to build confidence.
"I think the team's going to be able to hit, I really do. We're going to have to spend more time working at it."
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