San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

March 9th, 2010
Bobcats still putting together baseball puzzle

030910baseballaThe Texas State baseball team has the early lead in the Southland Conference after winning two of three during the weekend against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. Texas State sports information photo.

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The Texas State baseball team took the early lead in the Southland Conference with two wins in three games at Bobcat Field last weekend against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, but the team remains a puzzle for head coach Ty Harrington, who still is trying to fit the pieces together.

The Bobcats go to Texas Tuesday night for a test against the 2009 national runner-up. Entering the Corpus Christi series, Harrington was planning to use sophomore right hander Carson Smith, who has proved to be one of his best arms, to start the Texas game.

But a couple developments during the Corpus Christi series might have changed Harrington’s thinking. First, No. 2 starter Brian Borski didn’t produce very good results last Saturday, allowing six runs in four innings of a 10-8 loss. Second, Harrington needed to bring in Smith to close out Sunday’s series finale, a 13-8 win.

The Bobcats led, 13-5, entering the ninth before two Texas State relievers each gave up two hits without getting anyone out. Three runs scored and Harrington brought in Smith to end the bleeding. Smith retired three batters in order to finish the game.

“A conference game is what it is,” Harrington said. “Those three outs have been hard for us to get, and Carson got those three outs for us.”

Harrington said he wasn’t sure what the pitching plan would be against Texas, though he suggested that he might give several pitchers an inning or two as he tries working out a way to win in the end with this group of players.

Using Smith as the Tuesday starter, which appeared to be the plan before last weekend, would have given the Bobcats a good arm against the likes of Texas, Texas Christian, Texas A&M and Baylor, which will provide much of the Tuesday competition. It would also season the young right hander for the future.

However, Smith is clearly one of the better arms on the staff and it is all about winning in the conference. Starting ace Michael Russo pitched his third good start of the young season in a 5-3 win in the series opener against Corpus, then Sunday starter Lee Colon gave up but three hits and a run in his first five innings. As Colon stretches his arm and Smith, perhaps, joins Russo and Colon in the weekend rotation, the Bobcats could develop a formidable staff of starting pitchers to throw at conference opponents.

Harrington said after the Sunday game that “my guess that we’ll move (Smith) to the weekend (rotation).” The Bobcats play three at home this weekend against Penn State, giving Harrington more opportunity for experimentation.

“It’s still early,” he said.

The Bobcats woke up offensively against Corpus, banging out 39 hits in the three games to bat .345 for the series, upping their season batting average from .221 to .261. Entering the series, the Bobcats had only four batters hitting higher than .222. Andrew Stumph and Shaun Garcia actually raised their averages to .400 and .385, respectively, in the series. Kyle Livingstone, Kyle Kubitza and Bret Atwood all came alive against Corpus.

Livingstone went five-for-11 with four runs and five RBI in the series, improving to .275. Atwood went six-for-14 with three runs. Kubitza finished the series six-for-13 with three runs and five RBI. A left-handed hitter, Kubitza also put together some gamey at-bats against left-handed pitching, including a game-winning single Friday, a three-run homer Saturday and a two-out walk that later helped a run across Sunday.

“He did a good job staying in there,” Harrington said.

The Bobcats might have also come around in their hitting approach. In the first two games of the Corpus series, the Bobcats were mostly stagnant offensively until the late innings. Then, they scored four in the eighth to win Friday, followed by two in the eighth and two in the ninth in the Saturday loss.

The Bobcats came back hitting early Sunday with six runs in the first inning and a 10-0 lead through five innings.

“I told them we wanted tougher at-bats,” Harrington said. “We had two times (Saturday), where they scored three runs, then we came right back and were out one-two-three without making anyone work.”

After Corpus scored three in the first Saturday, the Bobcats went down in a total of eight pitches. Then, Corpus scored three in the third and the Bobcats went back down in nine pitches.

Sunday, the Bobcats either hit when they swung early in the count, or ran deeper counts.

The Bobcats are 5-5 overall.

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