Jacob Felts

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

There were high expectations for freshman catcher Tres Barrera coming in to the season. 

Head coach Augie Garrido slotted him into the four hole from the get-go. Barrera was behind the plate that first night while senior catcher Jacob Felts, who led the Longhorns to the College World Series in his freshman season, watched from the bench. 

“Augie had a lot of faith in me from the beginning,” Barrera said. 

But as the season began unfolding, expectations turned to frustration. The highly touted freshman was batting .128 just over a month ago. 

“I was [in the four hole] for a reason: RBIs and to bring guys in,” Barrera said. “At the beginning I was trying to do too much and that’s why I think I started slowly.” 

He had no multi-hit games in the first 15, and his average was the lowest on the team. Sophomore catcher Jeremy Montalbano and Felts began getting reps behind the plate, and all of a sudden, the catching job was up for grabs. 

“Of course it got into my head,” Barrera said. “But I took a step back and realized there were a lot of ball games left. Ever since then, things have been going my way.”

A three hit performance on March 11 against Texas State broke him out of that slump, and since that game, he has had nine multi-hit games while batting over .400. 

“Augie said he knew it was going to come,” Barrera said. 

Barrera’s power that Garrido talked about early on has also begun to rear its head. Barrera had just one extra-base hit in the first 15 games; in the next 21 games, he had 11.

But he is not just making a difference at the plate. He is making one behind it also. He is calling pitches for the a pitching staff that has a 2.12 ERA, which is fifth best in the country.

“It’s fun working with them,” Barrera said. “I study the hitters a lot before the games. They are all pretty confident in me.”

As Barrera’s bat started coming around, so did Texas (30-8, 9-3 Big 12), winning 17 of 21 games since March 11. The team has climbed all the way to No. 6 in the country.

“Winning: That’s all that matters to me,” Barrera said. 

Barrera heads into the TCU series this weekend with the team’s most doubles and its third best average and slugging percentage.

The opening game will be Thursday at 6 p.m. at home, as the weekend series was moved up a day for Easter Sunday. TCU (23-13, 7-5 Big 12) is third in the Big 12, two games back of Texas. It also sports a 2.69 ERA, second to Texas. 

Senior catcher Jacob Felts swings during an at-bat against Columbia. Felts, along with other Longhorns, has helped Texas off the bench this season as it has started 22-7, its best start since 2005. 

Photo Credit: Jenna VonHofe | Daily Texan Staff

Last year, Texas mastered the art of losing the one-run game, and it was 11-15 in two-run games.

So the team spent all of fall attacking entitlement and the mental aspect of the game, in hopes that it would help the young Longhorns (22-7, 3-3 Big 12) in close games.

And it has worked.

The Longhorns are 9-2 in games decided in extra innings or by two runs or fewer this season.

Sunday was just another example. Texas took the lead in the top of the 12th on senior utility man Madison Carter’s two-out, two-run single. Carter had only four at-bats on the year, going hitless, but the unlikely hero isn’t something new for the Longhorns this year.

In the team’s walk-off win against UTPA, it was senior catcher Jacob Felts’ RBI single that won the game. Felts had just one at-bat before that. Head coach Augie Garrido thinks that is a testament to the involvement of the bench.

“[The bench] has been on the rail rooting every inning of every game,” Garrido said after Texas’ walk-off win against UTPA. “They are committed.”

But, for the guys on the bench, winning is all that matters. They hope they can contribute, but a win is a win.

“It always feels good [to be the hero],” Felts said. “As long as we win, it doesn’t matter who gets us there.”

And winning is exactly what the Longhorns have done this year. They are 22-7, their best start since 2005 — a national championship year. They have climbed their way back from a disastrous 2013 and stand at No. 8.

“We have all the confidence in the world,” sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson said after a win against Dallas Baptist.

Unlike that of last season, Texas’ offense this season is starting to spark. In the series against Texas Tech, they had 44 hits — the most in over two years. And that was against a team that had the second-best ERA in the Big 12. Over the last eight games, Texas is averaging 6.75 runs per game and hitting .336.

“When you have the pitching staff we have, it’s nice only having to put up two or three runs to the win,” Johnson said.

The Longhorns lead the Big 12 in ERA with a 1.98 ERA, nearly a full run ahead of TCU’s second place 2.91. Senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill’s rests at .88, and, when the Longhorns score two or more, they are a blistering 22-3.

And, behind Tuesday’s junior starter Lukas Schiraldi (4-1), the Longhorns look to win a key game against No. 12 Rice, whom they’ve already beaten once this year, and Garrido is always confident with Schiraldi on the mound.

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

In front of a small crowd Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, No. 15 Texas walked off in 11 innings against UT-Pan American behind a two-out single from senior catcher Jacob Felts, who came in as a defensive replacement in the 10th.

“I was thankful to get the opportunity,” said Felts, who, after three years of starting, has found himself on the bench. “It’s been tough waiting. [A walk off] always feels good.”

The Longhorns (6-3) were behind the whole game, struggling to get the offense rolling. It appeared that UTPA (5-4) was on its way to beating Texas for the first time since 1971 behind the arm of junior pitcher Alex Henson. Henson shut down the Texas offense, limiting the Longhorns to just two hits in six innings, including stopping hot-hitting senior outfielder Mark Payton in three at-bats.

“Their pitcher kept us off balance,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “He did a really good job, and we got into a rut of lobbing fly balls and rolling over balls.”

Entering the bottom of the ninth, Texas had only mustered two hits and trailed 1-0. But they were finally able to scratch across a run in the bottom of the ninth on three walks and a sac fly from sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson.

While the Longhorns struggled at the plate, the pitching staff kept them in the game, putting eight different pitchers on the bump.

Sophomore pitcher John Curtiss got the start for the Longhorns — the plan was for him to go just two innings. It was the first time pitching for Curtiss since May 24, 2012 after Tommy John surgery and, later, thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Curtiss allowed just one hit in those two innings, keeping the Broncos off the board.

“It felt really good,” Curtiss said. “I feel great and the arm feels healthy.”

Freshman pitcher Josh Sawyer followed Curtiss but wasn’t quite as lucky. A single to the right and hard-luck blooper bunt single gave UTPA the first threat of the game. But, after a pop out and a caught stealing, it looked as though Sawyer may have found his way out of the inning. UTPA junior infielder Jesus Garcia had other plans, ripping a two-out pitch to center to give them the early 1-0 lead.

The six other pitchers for Texas combined for 10 shutout innings, including the final three from senior Nathan Thornhill who picked up his second win on the season.

So, despite being outhit 10-4, Texas was able to escape with the win.

“Runs determine the outcome, not hits,” Garrido said. “We played the last two innings differently than the first nine. It was about the end, and these guys got rewarded.”

Correction: This article has been corrected since its original posting. The original story mistated the type of surgery John Curtiss had. Curtiss had Tommy John surgery and later thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

Junior catcher Jacob Felts scores on freshman catcher Jeremy Montalbano’s single for Texas’ lone run and the only run scored by either team during the game.  Texas still sits last place in the Big 12 and holds a 23-20 overall record.     

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

Texas has not had much luck in one-run games of late, losing its last three contests coming into Tuesday night’s game.

The Longhorns were able to reverse this trend against Prairie View A&M on Tuesday, beating the Panthers 1-0 behind strong pitching and timely hitting late in the game.

Texas put together a two-out rally in the seventh inning to break a scoreless tie. Designated hitter Jacob Felts reached base on a fielding error by Andre Oliver to start the scoring threat, and second baseman Brooks Marlow followed with a single to left field.

With runners at first and second, catcher Jeremy Montalbano delivered a line-drive single to left field to drive in Felts and give Texas the 1-0 lead. The freshman is hopeful that his clutch hit will be the first of many for the Longhorns in their remaining games.

“It wasn’t pretty but it was something we needed because we’ve been lacking the two-out hits,” Montalbano said. “It was nice for myself to be able to get that two-out hit and it will hopefully lead to more at-bats like that for the whole team.”

Prairie View A&M threatened to tie the game in the eighth inning. After Greg Salcido doubled with two outs, Dominiq Harris flew out to center field to end the inning.  

Starting pitcher Josh Urban turned in another strong outing in his fourth-consecutive Tuesday start, pitching five scoreless innings while allowing just four hits. Following the game, head coach Augie Garrido said he was pleased with the right-hander’s start and will use him this weekend against Kansas State if needed.

“He’s been very effective every time he’s walked out there on Tuesdays,” Garrido said. “He’s been very consistent. The only reason we didn’t let him go farther was to be able to use him in the weekend series.”

Travis Duke struck out three in a pair of scoreless innings in relief to lower his ERA to 0.58 on the season. Ty Marlow would limit the Panthers to one hit in the eighth inning to preserve the lead, and Corey Knebel pitched a perfect ninth inning to pick up his eighth save and clinch the win for Texas.

Despite picking up the loss, Stephen Lunsford had a solid start for the Panthers. The right-hander pitched an eight-inning complete game and allowed just five hits while striking out two. The only run he allowed was unearned. 

With the win, Texas improves to 23-20 with the win and 19-8 at home. Despite this, the Longhorns’ struggles in conference play have them one game out of the last spot in the Big 12 Conference behind Texas Tech, who owns the tiebreaker. 

The Longhorns will have the chance to improve their place in conference standings this weekend when they host Kansas State for a three-game series. The first game is scheduled to begin Friday at 6:35 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Game Breakdown:

Innings 1-3: Not much happened during the first three innings. The teams combined for three hits but neither scored a run. Junior Josh Urban started on the mound for the Longhorns, surrendering no runs off of two hits.

Innings 4-6: The middle three frames were much like the first three. No runs came from the four hits. Freshman Travis Duke came in as relief for Urban in the sixth inning and struck out three through two innings of work. Duke finished the game with the win to improve to 3-0 on the season.

Innings 7-9: Freshman catcher Jeremy Montalbano drove in the Longhorns’ only run of the ballgame in the bottom of the seventh inning. Montalbano plated junior Jacob Felts with an RBI single to left center. Junior Ty Marlow came in as relief in the eighth before Corey Knebel closed for the Longhorns in the ninth.

Stock Up:

The junior came in to close for the Longhorns on Tuesday night and faced the minimum in his one inning of work. Knebel has been rocky in his last few appearances, posting a 3-3 record with a 2.68 ERA and several blown saves. Though he once led the conference in saves, he was ranked third in the Big 12 with seven saves before this week. With the victory over the Panthers, Knebel earned the save to tie for first in the Big 12 with eight saves on the season.

By The Numbers:

8: The Longhorns surrendered eight hits to the Panthers, but the Texas defense prevented them from scoring. Prairie View A&M outhit the Longhorns 8-5. 

9: The number of one-run games that the Longhorns have won all year. Texas is currently 9-9 in one-run games on the season, 6-9 since the start of conference season in March. 

32: Mark Payton has successfully reached base in 32 consecutive games. The junior had a single in the fourth to go 1-for-4 on the night.

What's Next For The Horns?

The Longhorns will host Kansas State this week in a three-game series starting at 6:35 p.m. on Friday. Texas is still looking for its first conference series win of the season to try to qualify for the Big 12 Championship in May. The Wildcats (31-14, 9-6) defeated TCU 2-1 at home this past weekend and are No. 3 in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Baylor. 

Game One: Starter Parker French set a career high with seven strikeouts and allowed just one run in more than seven innings. The Texas offense was unable to provide any run support, though, as Harrison Musgrave pitched a complete-game shutout while striking out nine to lead West Virginia to a 1-0 victory. 

Game Two: The Longhorns put together back-to-back five-run innings in the fourth and fifth en route to a 12-0 victory. Jacob Felts and Ty Marlow each recorded four RBIs, and left-hander Dillon Peters struck out six in eight scoreless innings to pick up his fourth win.

Game Three: Closer Corey Knebel pitched three scoreless innings before allowing three runs in the 10th to West Virginia in Texas’ 6-3 extra-innings loss. The Longhorns recorded just four hits in the game, with only two coming after the fifth inning. 

By The Numbers
5: Consecutive batters to reach base against Knebel in a three-run 10th inning Sunday
9: Number of batters starter Nathan Thornhill retired to begin Sunday’s game
4: Combined runs allowed by Texas starting pitchers in 21 1/3 innings in three games against West Virginia
1: Number of triples needed by Mark Payton to break into Texas’ all-time career top ten for triples. After his triple in Sunday’s game, the junior stands at 12 during his three seasons at Texas. 

Stock Up: 
Jacob Felts drove in a career-high four runs Saturday, with three of them coming on his first home run since 2011. The catcher added a double on Sunday and has reached base in four of his last six plate appearances.

Stock Down:  
Weston Hall struck out three times and grounded into a double play Sunday after an 0-for-5 effort on Saturday. Hall is hitless in his last nine at-bats and has just two hits in his last 16 at-bats.
The Longhorns take on Houston at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday night. Texas dropped the first match-up against the Cougars this season, 4-3, on March 19 in Houston.

Texas drills West Virginia for 12-0 Game 2 win Saturday afternoon

In a complete turnaround performance, the Longhornss blanked the Mountaineers, 12-0 in Game 2 to even the series and force a rubber match for Sunday afternoon. Juniors Ty Marlow and Jacob Felts led the offensive with four RBIss each.

The Longhorns celebrated the 30th anniversary of the 1983 championship team and were joined at Disch-Falk Field by former Longhorn greats,, including Roger Clemens and former Texas head coach Cliff Gustafson.

Felts hit his first home run of the season, and only his second as a Longhorn, a three-run shot into the visitors bullpen in left field. The four RBIs were career highs for both Marlow and Felts. The game was scoreless through the first three innings until Marlow double to center field to plate junior Mark Payton and freshman C.J Hinojosa.

“In the first three, they looked exactly the same as before. We were in the same run, Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “Then all of a sudden, the fourth inning took place and it looked like a Longhorn Baseball team – the one we’ve seen several times in practice. That’s why the journey has been difficult to understand and why I’ve said we’re so close.”

Even though the Longhorns (21-16, 5-9) were missing junior Erich Weiss at the plate due to an injury sustained Friday night, the Texas offense combined for 12 runs off 14 hits and no errors. Brooks Marlow, Collin Shaw, Payton and Hinojosa each contributed one RBI a piece in the performance.

Payton pushed his average above .400 to .402 with a 3-for-4 afternoon with three runs scored to complement his RBI. The junior also logged his sixth outfield assist with a bullet to third base from right field.

Sophomore Dillon Peters started on the mound for the Longhorns and pitched eight shutout innings. Peters allowed only four hits on the afternoon and has allowed only one run in his last three starts. His 1.80 ERA this season and 0.98 Big 12 ERA in Big 12 play lead the team. Freshman Travis Duke came in for the Longhorns and retired the side to finish the game.

“I am getting more and more confident with my routine,” Peters said. “I’ve been working out midweek and making sure I’m not missing bullpens or long toss. It’s carrying over and I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing to try and ride this as long as I can.”

The Longhorns will be looking for their first Big 12 series win in Game 3 Sunday afternoon at 12 PM

The Longhorns forced a rubber match against Texas Tech with a 2-1 win over the Red Raiders in game two Saturday afternoon. With the score tied at one, junior catcher Jacob Felts came up big with a walk-off double in the bottom of the ninth to plate junior Madison Carter for the victory.

“It was an exciting win after last night’s difficult defeat, especially to be on the other side,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “It makes everyone feel a whole lot better and more confident.”

In the bottom of the ninth, Carter was walked with one out to bring Felts to the plate. Felts, who had struck out in the bottom of the ninth on Friday night during a rally, hit a fly ball to center field. The Red Raiders were unable to get the out, allowing Carter to get the score.

Sophomore Dillon Peters started out on the mound for the Longhorns going eight innings with seven strikeouts and one run off of five hits. The seven strike-outs was a career high for Peters. Junior Corey Knebel came in to close for Peters in the ninth with one out and the bases loaded. Knebel struck out two straight batters to eliminate the threat from the Raiders and get the win to move to 2-1 on the season

On offense, the Longhorns outhit Texas Tech 7-5. Junior Erich Weiss went 3-for-4 with an RBI. Weiss plated Weston Hall who reached on a single to left field on the first pitch of the game by the Red Raiders. The Longhorns ended Trey Masek’s 32 1/3 scoreless inning streak with the run in the bottom of the first.

“It was awesome,” Peters said. “Both teams were into it, there was good defense on both sides. We stuck to our gameplan, we hit the balls hard and got a lucky one at the end. We all did what we were working for all week.”

With the series tied 1-1, the Longhorns will face Texas Tech Sunday afternoon at 1 pm to decide the outcome. 

Junior outfielder Mark Payton, who reached base in each of Texas’ first 34 games last year, was the team’s only player to walk more times he struck out (27) in 2012. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Lingnan Chen | Daily Texan Staff

Coming off a season in which they missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 14 years, the Longhorns are hopeful that an offensive resurgence will lead them back to prominence in 2013.

As a team, Texas hit .263 and scored 250 runs in 2012, good for seventh and eighth among Big 12 teams, respectively. They were among the worst marks the Longhorns have posted since Tommy Harmon was hired as hitting coach in 1989. Harmon was replaced by Tommy Nicholson, a former Texas second baseman who played under Garrido, during the offseason.

The Longhorns have the potential to improve at the plate this season, as several promising new players are expected to join returning key veterans in the everyday lineup.  

One of the players that will be counted on most heavily is catcher Jacob Felts. The junior is poised for a big season after starting every game behind the plate for last season, when he often batted in the cleanup slot and recorded a .282 batting average with eight doubles and 21 RBIs.

Another key player for the Longhorns will be freshman shortstop CJ Hinojosa, who could start immediately after being ranked as the nation’s No. 32 prospect by Perfect Game. Despite high expectations to produce early on, Hinojosa is confident that he will be up for the task.

“I don’t feel any pressure,” Hinojosa said. “It’s the same game that I have played since I was 3-and-a-half years old. So I’m just coming out here and having fun with it. You know, this has been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid to come and play at the University of Texas and now I get the chance. I’m going to take every advantage I get.”

Joining Hinojosa in the infield will be a number of holdovers from last year’s squad. Junior Erich Weiss, who will play third base, was the team’s leading hitter last season with a .350 batting average, and he recorded five home runs and 38 RBIs.

Also returning are sophomore second baseman Brooks Marlow, who hit a pair of home runs and drove in 29 base runners last season, and junior first baseman Alex Silver, who batted .267 with 19 RBIs in 2012. Converted shortstop Codey McElroy could also see time at first base in 2013.

Leadoff hitter Mark Payton will lead the outfield this season after a productive campaign last year. The junior was second among regulars with a .322 batting average, and he hit five home runs to go along with eight stolen bases.

Sophomore Taylor Stell could see a spike in playing time after batting .333 with six stolen bases in 25 games in 2012. Also expected to make an impact in the outfield will be junior Cohl Walla, who missed all of last season with an ACL tear. Walla will look to return to the level of production of his freshman year, when he hit .316 with eight home runs and 40 RBIs en route to earning Baseball America Freshman All-American second team honors.

While many of the Longhorns remember last season’s disappointments, the players are happy to turn the page and begin a new season.

“It’s always in the back of your mind how last year ended, and the bad taste in your mouth that you want to get rid of as soon as that first game starts,” Silver said. “I feel for the most of us, it’s in the back of our minds, but it’s not something that we dwell on or think about a lot. It’s a new season. It’s a new opportunity and we want to take advantage of it.”

The Longhorns are eager to show they have improved since last season’s shortcomings and a productive season from the batting order will go a long way in proving this.

Jonathan Walsh crosses home plate in the ninth inning to give Texas a 2-1 victory over Texas A&M on Sunday. The Longhorns avoided a sweep as senior Jordan Etier drove in the winning run.

Photo Credit: Rebecca Howeth | Daily Texan Staff

After more than 100 years of facing off on the diamond, the Longhorns weren’t about to go quietly to Texas A&M.

Down 1-0 and heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Longhorns worked a two-run comeback to avoid a sweep and to take what is quite possibly the final game for a long time in this historic series.

“It was incredible, I had chills running down my spine,” said Jordan Etier. “I couldn’t ask for a better feeling than the one I had right there.”

The rally started with a single into center field off the bat of Erich Weiss. Then Jonathan Walsh worked A&M closer Kyle Martin to a full count and singled into right field. Walsh was due in that situation, as he had come up all day with long, tough at bats and nothing to show for it.

The hit got the sellout Texas crowd on its feet for the first time all game, and the fight song echoed throughout the stadium.

Alex Silver, in typical Augie Garrido fashion, dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners to second and third.

Catcher Jacob Felts came up next, and he continued his hot day at the plate by sending the first pitch he saw up the middle for his third hit of the game. The single scored Weiss and moved Walsh to third.

In what could be considered a slightly poetic moment, Etier — the lone senior starter — was the one that sent A&M to the Southeastern Conference with a loss.

On the first pitch of the at bat, Etier chopped a ground ball right at the first baseman Tyler Naquin. He fielded it cleanly and came home with the ball attempting to throw Walsh, who was streaking home from third, out at the plate. The throw was on time, but Walsh hooked around the tag from A&M’s catcher for the game ending and rivalry-ending run.

“Jonathan [Walsh] running in and scoring was the best part of the game in my opinion,” Etier said. “He was hustling down the line and trying to win one for his boys. You have to tip your hat to him because he made an incredible slide and a great play.”

After Walsh slid in safely at home, the Texas bench exploded onto the field to celebrate. It ended up being a split dog pile between Walsh at home and Etier at first base.

This is not the way the Longhorns would normally celebrate after a regular season win, but it being the final game against rival A&M, the players decided they could make an exception.

“This means a lot with this being the last game against those guys,” Felts said. “This was great and is a huge confidence booster moving forward.”

The ninth inning continues to be a strength for this Texas team, as it seems that the Longhorns play their best baseball when they’re under pressure to close out a game or when their backs are against the wall, attempting a comeback.

“It’s just like a survival instinct knowing that your three outs away from the end of the game,” Felts said. “Everyone is just fighting to keep the game going.”

The will to not give up and fight back gave this team an incredible victory, but more importantly to the players it meant that the final game in the books between these two historic rivals will forever read: 2-1 Texas.

Printed on Monday, April 30, 2012 as: Texas slides past A&m in ninth inning