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Good Baseball Weekend

The Texas Longhorns finished up a weekend of fall scrimmages with a 9-0, 12-inning shutout of Texas State. With two scrimmages in the books there's been a lot to take away from what happened at the Disch.

Dillon Peters was part of a pitching staff that put together a dominant weekend.

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The infield looked sharp. On Saturday it was Bret Boswell and Andy McGuire. On Sunday it was C.J. Hinojosa and Brooks Marlow.

The middle infield combo turned double plays in four consecutive innings, including inning-ending double plays in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. Hinojosa showed range and quickness throughout the ballgame, enough so that Augie Garrido, went out of his way to compliment how well Hinojosa looked in the field in addition to the improved shape he is in.

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The Texas pitching staff will be good. Really good. Last season, the team earned run average was 2.53 and this team's staff will include six of the top seven leaders from that category last season.

If the young pitchers perform at the level that Morgan Cooper, Josh Sawyer and Blake Goins did over the weekend then Texas could have one of the deepest staffs in the nation. It already boasts maybe the best group of weekend starters in the country.

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You need your best players to be consistent every time out in order to have a chance at being great and today the Longhorns best pitchers showed up. Dillon Peters, Parker French, and Nathan Thornhill combined to pitch nine scoreless innings on Sunday, striking out eleven batters, allowing only six hits and two walks.

Peters (3.0 IP, H, BB, 3 K) located the ball well despite throwing more balls than you'd like to see. I thought Parker French (3.0 IP, 4 H, 5K) used his off-speed pitches really well, and it was good to see him leave every inning unscathed despite giving up more hits than innings pitched.

Nathan Thornhill told me after the game that the last thing Skip Johnson wants so see is a pitcher allowing a walk. After hearing that, I know French is getting some praise because he was the only pitcher out of the three to not allow a walk. Thornhill (3.0 IP, H, BB, 3 K) looked like his normally dominant self.

For the first time in his life he has developed a cutter, or what he called "sort-of a cutter", which looks similar to a sharp slider. This is the first time in his life that he is incorporating any slider-type pitch as he had always used just a curve, change-up and fastball in previous years.

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Augie preaches it. “Get on, advance the runner, score, and repeat". It sounds simple, and on Sunday Texas made it simple.

Everyone on the team contributed to this blow-out victory over a pretty good Texas State team. Seven different players combined for Texas' seven runs batted in, seven different Longhorns scored runs, and eight players combined for Texas' ten hits. The only player that didn't record a run, or an RBI, was Collin Shaw and he had two walks and was one-for-three from the plate.

Texas also stole three bases again on Sunday (Johnson, Stell, Gurwitz).

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Ben Johnson is going to have a really good year from the plate. On Sunday he went three-for-five with a run, an RBI and a steal. Last season he led the team in home runs, was third in slugging percentage, and fourth in OPS.

This year he may challenge for the lead in all of them. He's in great shape (was clocked running a 6.4 on the 60-yard dash this fall) and he told me that his total focus over the offseason was to improve in every aspect of the game, both mentally and physically. I think he started it off on the right track this weekend (5-for-7, .714 BA, .800 OBP, 1.243 SLG, 2.043 OPS, HR, 3 R, 2 RBI, SB, 2 BB, catcher's interference, K).

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How much did Augie learn about his team over the weekend?

“I think we have learned a lot more about the effectiveness of what we have been trying to develop in this month and that is attitude, mental toughness, discipline, commitment to team,” he said. “The things we've been doing require them to really work hard, not just talk about it, but really work hard, and it paid off.

“We haven't spent very much time on baseball skills, but they're performing baseball skills because they're discipline, they have the right attitude, they have confidence in themselves. I didn't sense any fatigue or any carelessness, mentally, in our players in the last two days. It didn't matter what the score was. They just kept grinding it out.”

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Overall did he like the way the batters approached their at-bats over the weekend?

“I think they followed what we're trying to teach, and what we're repeating over and over again in our practices, and that is, offensively it is about run scoring, and all of the elements of run scoring,” Garrido said. “And it is based on getting the lead off hitter on, advancing the lead-off hitter into scoring position somehow by either bunting or stealing or hitting and running or something. Then making productive outs along with getting hits to score runners. It sounds a lot easier than it is.

“We have scrimmaged every day in this period of time,” he added. “Nine innings or more and during that period of time we play three, three inning games and there is a winner and there is a loser and there is discipline for losing. But it's the same, repetitious thing. Get on, advance the runner, score the runner. And they're getting good at it.”

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Does Augie see some of the young players making an immediate impact on the team?

“Absolutely,” he said. “I don't know which ones it will be, but they are really good ball players.

“I think [Hinojosa] is getting in shape. How much better he looks physically, and you see the plays he's able to make now.

“It's a combination of things,” he added. “[Saturday] Jeremy Montalbano had a twelve-pitch at-bat. [Sunday] Collin Shaw had that and our dugout went crazy. I didn't tell them to have to much respect for that. That's where they are, that's where they are in their heart, that's where they are in their gut. That's the mental toughness. When you win, you have fun and they're winning some situations.”

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Has this fall been different than the past few years?

“Everything about it has been different. From the start date to what we do. It is all focused on attitude, mental toughness, teamwork and discipline,” Garrido said. “We're not worried at this point on teaching baseball skills. We haven't done that. We haven't had one session on bunting. How are they bunting? We don't take batting practice. We took it before the games. We don't even take batting practice in the practices. So what makes them better? Why are they better than before? Attitude, discipline, mental toughness, teamwork.”

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How big of a change in attitude has Augie noticed since this group stepped on campus?

“A tremendous change has taken place. The change is, they know now they don't have the right to coach, they get to play. And there is no crossing over,” he said. “There are no opinions, or thoughts, about what's good or what's bad about what we are doing, they just do it. We'll coach, you play. It's a lot more fun to be player than it is to be a coach. We're also developing leadership with discipline. That all fits together.”

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How are Mark Payton and Nathan Thornhill, taking on the role as senior leaders?

“Good. Real good,” Garrido said. “That's why we recruited them as much as we recruited the recruits. We knew that (leadership) would have an impact, and it does.

“To really have a championship team, your best players have to be your hardest workers,” he added. “They really do, and they are that. They can perform at the highest level on this team consistently against the best division one pitchers and against the best division one hitters. And that is why they were so important to bring back.

“I also think it is good for them,” Garrido said. “I don't think that they should have missed their senior year to go into minor league baseball because I don't think they were picked at a point that was going to protect them through the minor leagues to let them advance. They can get in better shape, they can get physically better as a baseball player and be drafted higher this next year. They just shouldn't miss this year. It's going to be too much fun.

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In previous years, has Augie been able to tell if a team has the cohesion to be successful in just a month of fall baseball?

“Yes, in many of them,” he said. “Sometimes, it took a lot longer. Sometimes it clicks in right at the end. You go through adversity and it kicks in.

“I consulted with the Army Seals, with the Army Rangers, the Special Forces R.O.T.C. here in school,” he added. “Of course we had to adapt (our teaching style), and of course we couldn't use those programs, but I didn't want somebody else doing it for us. They train leadership, they build. The principles of that, we adjusted to fit our environment so it is not nearly as severe and it is more baseball orientated.

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What did Augie learn about his young players over the weekend?

“That they're good baseball players and that they have a lot of work to do,” he said. “There is a tremendous journey. The journey from top recruit to player. You can be a five-star recruit and never be a player. And in this sport, talent isn't as important as teamwork. Talent has a place in it, but only when that talent fits into teamwork. And they're doing it.”

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