AUSTIN, Texas -- Corey Knebel wants to step up.
On the field he has done just that. The Texas sophomore has gone from the team’s top closer to the team’s top starter. But it’s off the field where he feels he must make more of an impact. Knebel wants to be a leader on a team that is void of such a presence on its roster.
“I have tried,” he said. “I kind of look at myself as a leader on the field. I’ve tried to put it together off the field but it is little different for me because I’m a really happy guy and it’s hard for people to take me seriously and it is hard for me to get angry.”
But the temperature is rising. Not just in Knebal but for the whole Texas team. The Longhorns, considering the standards set by previous UT teams, are underachieving. They are 30-20, on the bubble of the NCAA tournament and could realistically exit the Big 12 Tournament very early. That is unless someone steps up, closes the doors and has the necessary meeting Knebel thinks they need.
“That is definitely going to have to happen,” he said. “[Coach Augie Garrido] is there to help us out but we need to work together as a team for that.”
And there is no time like the present for that work to begin. Texas starts its climb toward respectability and the NCAA Tournament with a game against sixth-seeded Missouri Wednesday at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City.
Normally the first round game would be slightly ho-hum especially when considering Missouri (28-26, 10-14) only has 10 Big 12 wins. But two of those came against Texas. That was back when Texas had starting pitcher Parker French as well. Now Texas just has Knebel and a patchwork staff.
Knebel, who has the arm and talent to go seven innings comfortably, is scheduled to get the start.
“If you are looking for a Friday night guy there he is,” Garrido said. “But then you have to have somebody to close is the problem.”
Make that one of the problems. There is still the matter of coming up with a second day starter. Right now Texas is still working that out.
The winner of the Texas-Missouri game will play the winner of Kansas-Texas A&M in the winner’s bracket. The loser will be in an elimination game against either the Jayhawks or Aggies.
The conventional thinking is Texas needs at least one more win to cement its place in the NCAA Tournament. The 2-1 win over Baylor Saturday probably got the Longhorns in the postseason door. But one more win certainly wouldn’t hurt. That’s why Knebel is so concerned about this team putting all aspects of the game together at the right time.
“I feel if we can come together more we can do it,” he said. “Right now we are still working on coming together and we definitely need to.”