UT Baseball in the Sports Capital of Texas

Round Rock? Sports Capital of Texas?

UT ballplayer Jonathan Walsh lays down a bunt
UT ballplayer Jonathan Walsh lays down a bunt (Photo courtesy of UT)

The kids of Texas Baseball probably savored the idea – rather, the honor – of playing a de facto home series in the “Sports Capital of Texas.” How irksome and flabbergasting, then, was the anti-climax of learning that Round Rock (of all places) brands itself this way. Round Rock? Sports Capital of Texas? Or deep-fried Lone Star hell hole No. 76?

The Longhorns last rented-out Round Rock’s Dell Diamond – home to the Texas Rangers' AAA affiliate, the Round Rock Express – in 2008 for a 5-3 victory over Texas State. The program also used the facility for their first eight home games in 2007 when UFCU Disch-Falk Field was under renovation beneath a giant alabaster tarp.

Overall, Texas entered their weekend series against the California Golden Bears sporting an 8-5 record in the 7866-fo’.

The Bears and No. 18 Longhorns recently have in common last year’s College World Series: Texas, remember, was swept 0-2 by Florida and North Carolina, while the Bears shone a little more golden – hosing Texas A&M in the first round, but incurring both their CWS losses to the Virginia Cavaliers.

Texas and Cal took turns flogging each other on Friday and Saturday; with the Longhorns netting a season-high 13 runs on 15 hits for a 13-3 series-opening win, in which Texas’ Mark Payton, Jonathan Walsh, Landon Steinhagen, and Erich Weiss each had multiple hits.

Both Walsh and Steinhagen hit the pill over some fencing they had set up in the outfield, but only Walsh – who extended his streak of multiple-hit games to eight – rounded the bases with beastly exuberance, veins popping through neck, bellowing, “Your puny ballparks are too small to contain my gargantuan blasts! Let there be an abundant clubhouse feast! Bring me the finest meats and cheeses!”

Nate Thornhill (3-2) earned the win for Texas; the sophomore right-hander admitted only two earned runs on five hits, while striking out five Golden Bears across seven innings.

Cal built an early 6-0 lead on Saturday afternoon from manufacturing a spate of bunt singles, dying quails, and gorps – each aided by assists from two of UT’s three errors on the day. A slap-by-tap of Cal’s top-half of the first inning went: base hit, error, bunt single, single, bunt single, double play, infield single, final out. In a rather candid moment, Longhorns’ play-by-play announcer Craig Way remarked on the air, “The way this inning is going for Texas, Momma better bring home some of that moist cake.”

Longhorn starter Parker French, a freshman right-hander, survived the inning, but was sprinkled with two more Cal “seeing-eye” singles and another UT error in the third inning. The Bears held an insurmountable 7-0 advantage by the time French was yanked after 4.1 innings; Augie Garrido and Associate Head Coach Tommy Harmon conferred that French’s psyche would mend best with a helping of stale keg beer and coeds at Jester Hall.

Right-fielder Mark Payton’s 20-game hitting streak died with his 0-3 day, but he did reach base for the 25th consecutive game with a walk in the first inning.

Sunday’s rubber game lacked the fine touch of the previous 10- and nine-run sack beatings, but the contest once again featured three Longhorn errors in Cal’s 6-5 victory. Though UT scrapped to nullify a pair of two-run deficits, the Longhorns nonetheless stranded 10 men on base and left the tying run on third with one out in the eighth. Payton again reached base with a walk to prolong his streak, and four Longhorns produced multiple hits on the day – including center fielder Tim Maitland’s 3-4 performance – but the rest of lineup took the collar. With that, the all-time series between Texas and Cal is now deadlocked at 6-6.

The Longhorns (15-11, 5-1 Big 12) will next play a three-game series at Texas Tech beginning on Thursday night.

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Texas Baseball, Mark Payton, Augie Garrido, Tim Maitland, Jonathan Walsh, Dell Diamond, Sports Capital of Texas

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