Texas took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning and, aside from one freakish inning, never really looked back against the Houston Cougars this afternoon in Game One of their Super Regional. Nathan Thornhill was excellent as usual, Mark Payton reached base for the 100th straight game in style, and Texas walked away with a 4-2 win.
Brooks Marlow led off the game with a single, bringing up Ben Johnson. Somewhat shockingly, Augie Garrido opted not to have Johnson bunt Marlow over. I was a big fan of the decision, as I normally don't like taking the bat out the hands of the top half of the lineup and particularly don't like it in the early innings, when I'd rather see teams go for the crooked number than attempt to manufacture a single run.
In any event, Johnson showed why Augie normally bunts by hitting a ground ball to short. Luckily, it wasn't hit sharply enough for Houston to turn a double play, and there was a man on first for Mark Payton. Riding a 99-game on-base streak, Payton hammered a ball over the right field fence for a two-run homer, giving Texas a lead it would never relinquish.
Another run in the fourth from a Cougar throwing error, followed by an RBI single by Tres Barrera in the fifth, extended the advantage to 4-0. Houston fought back in the bottom of the frame with a strange pair of runs. Justin Montemayor led off with a sharp single. Freshman Connor Hollis took a borderline 1-2 pitch and got the ball called; on the next pitch, he lifted a flair into shallow right field. Marlow went back on it but appeared to lose the ball in the sun, and it dropped in for a hit. The next hitter was Josh Vidales, whose possible double-play ground ball hit the first base bag and bounced over Kacy Clemens' head.
That scored Montemayor and put runners at the corners with none out. Thornhill induced a 1-6-3 double play, allowing Hollis to score but cutting off the Cougars' momentum. Landon Appling struck out to end the inning, and Houston didn't get another runner past second base. John Curtiss got the two-inning save, and the score held up.
For the third time in as many weekend, Texas now must win just once in two games while their opponent has no margin for error in the quest to advance to the next round. Two weeks ago, they lost a pair of close ones to Oklahoma State. Last week, they lost the first and won the second against Texas A&M. Here's hoping the positive pattern continues, and the Longhorns put Houston away tomorrow--ending their season, and beginning The University of Texas at Omaha's 35th season of baseball.