For those in need of a heaping dose of sunshine and roses following the loss to ULaLa there's this: At least the Owls won't have to face Texas So. RHP Taylor Jungmann this weekend.
Shutout defeats, especially 1-0 losses, tend to inspire hand-wringing and second-guessing. The OG made a couple logical adjustments to his lineup yet the baseball gods refused to cooperate. Drop slumping So. DH Jeremy Rathjen down in the order and he still comes to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in the sixth (Rathjen failed to check his swing and was punched out by first base umpire Blake Jensen, the first of two times Jensen called Rathjen out in a critical spot). Elevate Sr. 1B Jimmy Comerota to the 2-hole where his skills are perfectly suited and Comerota hits into a 4-6-3 double play in the first, grounds out to second base for a second time with two runners on in the third, pops up a bunt attempt after Jr. RF Chad Mozingo reached to open the sixth, and grounds out to the mound with two teammates in scoring position to close the seventh. Comerota played defense like a wizard, but his 0-for-4 day at the plate was the kind of performance that leads to Ambien addiction.
Sr. RHP Jared Rogers pitched brilliantly in extending his scoreless innings streak to 21 2/3 innings, but two minor miscues in the eighth cost him dearly. First, he failed to properly execute a pickoff of ULaLa CF Kyle Olasin with one out, surrendering the ball too quickly to So. 3B Anthony Rendon instead of running directly at Olasin to send him back to second base. Because of that, Jordan Poirrier advanced into scoring position as Yakety Sax played in the background while the Owls chased Olasin to and fro. Mistake No. 2 came when Rogers failed to pitch around Cajuns cleanup hitter Chad Keefer, who promptly roped a single into right field that scored the lone run of the game. Rogers' magnificence was undermined by those two errors in judgement - well that and the fact that he got absolutely zero run support.
Nothing more needs to be said regarding the Owls' inconsistency; it is what it is. How a team can score 57 runs in 28 at-bats one week then follow that with 13 scoreless innings is a mystery, but that's what the Owls have done. They made ULaLa Sr. RHP Zach Osborne look like Southern Miss Sr. RHP Scott Copeland, their personal boogeyman, on Friday at The Disch. The Osborne line: 9 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 4 K, 2 HB and 135 manly pitches. It was the sort of dominance afforded Armando Galarraga against the Indians, not a 3-seed against a preseason top-5 team. It was surprising, but then again, it fit the tapestry of the '10 campaign.
And now the Owls have to win four games in three days to salvage their season. That means they'll need four starters in addition to Rogers. The OG said in the postgame presser that he was leaning toward starting So. LHP Taylor Wall against Rider, which would leave Jr. RHP Boogie Anagnostou and Sr. RHP Mike Ojala to start what everyone hopes are two contests on Sunday. Perhaps you start Boogie against the Cajuns because they feature so many righthanded batters, but shouldn't you be able to beat Rider with Boogie, or even Johnny Wholestaff? Firmly entrenched in the loser's bracket means the Owls have to play to beat the Broncs while also eyeing an espace route out of Austin. That's a difficult task to manage, but you get what you deserve when you go down so meekly in your NCAA Tournament opener.
But who's to say that the Owls won't go on an offensive tear against the Broncs' No. 2 starter and the Cajuns' No. 3 (assuming 1 Texas beats ULaLa on Saturday night)? That scenario sounds totally plausible, and if the Owls can get to Sunday night with Ojala in their back pocket ready to face the Longhorns, all bets are off. Doubt this team at your own peril, but if the past 60 games have taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected with these Owls.