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Good and Bad from Horns vs. Alumni

Two weeks before their season officially kicks off against Sacramento State, the Longhorns faced off against former UT stars Saturday afternoon at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Cohl Walla had the moment of the day when the junior returning from an ACL tear hit a double to left field.

The outcome - a 5-5 tie - was down the list of priorities of what Texas fans came out to see as World Series champ Brandon Belt and recent standouts Drew Stubbs, Cameron Rupp, Jordan Danks and Brandon Workman to name just a few were huge attractions, as was getting a first glimpse at the team tasked with getting Texas back to the NCAA Tournament after a rare miss in 2012.

For those wanting to see drastic improvement from the team that finished the year with an uncharacteristic 70 errors, the wait will have to be a little longer.

The 2013 Longhorns committed five errors on Saturday, all from players who were not on the roster in 2012 - Mark Gottsacker, Madison Carter, C.J Hinojosa, Ty Marllow and Weston Hall.

"I think the nerves were largely responsible for [the errors]," Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. "The players that have been here before weren't effected. It was mainly the new guys who had never been in front of a crowd like this."

About 2,500 fans gave the exhibition a regular-season feel, but the performance from the current Horns on the field wasn't quite up to that level.

"This team has only been together for six days, and that doesn't exactly give you enough time to create a masterpiece," Garrido said.

For the alumni, it's always fun to come back and play on the field where so many memories and friends were made.

Many of them are starting to get back into form with spring training coming around the corner, and they get to use Texas' annual exhibition as a chance to get back on the diamond and get their head in the game.

"It's nice to come out here and kind of get loose and get back on the playing field," 2008 first baseman Brandon Belt said. "It's a good gauge to see where you are and see how much you need to improve."

It's also a time for them to hang around the 40 Acres and think about the time spent on the field at The Disch and everything that comes with being a Texas baseball player.

"I had some of the best memories of my baseball career here," Belt said. "It's always nice to come back here and get that nostalgic feeling."

The Longhorns currently making memories in burnt orange proved some work still needs to be done.

The infield - responsible for four of the five 2013 Longhorn errors - continues to be a giant question mark, and Garrido is going to be giving the group a lot of attention over the next two weeks to try to get his starting four ironed out before the Feb. 15 regular-season opener.

"I'll keep looking at it," Garrido said of his staring infield lineup. "We've looked at a lot of different combinations. We're not trying to establish a first string or a second string as much as what is the versatility of this team."

One big piece (literally) Garrido has to work with is 6-foot-6 sophomore transfer Cody McElroy, who started at first base on Saturday. With junior Alex Silver returning after starting 43 of 45 games at first a year ago, it was assumed the job would be his in 2013, but the size and range of McElroy, a high school and junior college shortstop, has Garrido toying with the possibility of switching things up at first.

There were a few moments when it looked like this year's Texas squad could be much improved from a year ago.

No. 1 is Texas' team speed looks impressive. Garrido has put together a squad that should be able to thrive in his small-ball style on the base paths.

No. 2 is the pitching. While it's still not quite to the level of some of Garrido's best squads, led by Parker French as the opening-day starter, it's a rotation along with Nathan Thornhill, Josh Urban and Dillon Peters that should be able to do what Skip Johnson always wants from his pitchers - pitch to the mitt.

One moment that stuck out the most may not effect how far this team can go this year, but the standing ovation junior Cohl Walla got after a hard-hit double to left was the highlight of the day. The outfielder is returning from tearing his ACL and having to miss the entire 2012 season.

Saturday was a fun day to see what the 2013 Horns could look like, but the next two weeks will likely change a lot from what was on display against the Texas alumni.

And it will be an important two weeks as Garrido looks to put the major disappointment of 2012 behind him for good.

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