The Texas State baseball team wrapped up its inaugural Sun Belt season by losing to top-seeded Louisiana twice in the postseason tournament.
The team started the season expecting to lead the way with an experienced offense in Cody Lovejoy, junior outfielder, Austin O’Neal, senior first baseman, and Tyler Pearson, senior catcher. Lovejoy, named to the first team of the Western Athletic Conference, and O’Neal combined for 55 runs, 48 runs batted in and a .330 batting average last season.
The Bobcats showed promise this season, winning nine of the first 11 games and gaining victories over Michigan, Air Force and Baylor.
However, Texas State didn’t fare well against the better teams in Division I. The Bobcats were 1-8 against top 25 ranked teams and 1-6 against Big 12 and SEC teams.
Texas State’s pitching was one of the only consistent aspects of the team’s success. The team was second in earned run average at 3.61, only behind the Sun Belt champions, the Ragin’ Cajuns. Texas State led the Sun Belt in batters struck out with 431—five more than second place Louisiana.
Austen Williams, junior pitcher, had 96 strikeouts, ranking second in the conference. Williams scored a complete game shutout against South Alabama.
Taylor Black, junior pitcher, was a key cog in the pitching staff. He finished the season with a 2.85 earned run average, the best on the team and fifth in the Sun Belt. The Bobcats’ pitching staff had three pitchers ranked in the top 10 in innings pitched.
Offense was one of the downfalls for the Bobcats this season. They placed in the bottom half in every offensive category in the conference.
Texas State’s main offense came from Garrett Mattlage, junior shortstop, and Granger Studdard, freshman outfielder.
Mattlage, a second team all-conference shortstop, led the team in hits, doubles, runs batted in, runs scored and on base percentage.
Studdard led the team in home runs while ranking second behind Mattlage in every other offensive category. With the Bobcats’ pitching, they could have made a deeper run in the conference tournament if they had shown more offensive consistency.
The team struggled to find a capable mid-week starter for non-conference games. The team shuffled through starters until they found consistency in Dylan Bein, freshman pitcher.
Bein finished the season with a 1-5 record and a 2.60 earned run average. Bein became a reliable relief pitcher for Coach Harrington, as his .209 opponents’ batting average was second on the team.
The defense struggled throughout the year. The Bobcats committed multiple errors during several games when they had the lead or were within striking distance. Mattlage struggled on the field, relying too much on his arm instead of his footwork to set up the throw and committed a team-high 14 errors.
The young middle infielders struggled at the start of the season. Matt Smith, sophomore second baseman, looked overwhelmed, committing 11 errors. Along with his blemishes, Smith made some outstanding defensive plays and gained recognition on ESPN’s Top Ten Plays segment.
Overall, Texas State has a great mix of young players and veterans for next season. The younger players had time to grow this season, and the Bobcats are prepared to make the next leap in the 2015 season.
Follow Kirk Jones on Twitter: @kirk_jones11