The Texas Longhorns kicked off their 2007 postseason campaign with an 8-2 victory over the Brown Bears on Friday Night at the Dell Diamond. The score isn't quite indicative of how close this game was, as Brown held a 2-1 lead in the 6th inning.
I actually attended the game, my first UT baseball game in many many years. The Longhorn fan base turned out in droves--it took more than an hour to get to the stadium from my house just west of I-35 in North-Central Austin. Even though it was pretty certain the Horns would emerge victorious last night, the fans made the drive, enjoyed a pleasant evening, and cheered the Horns on to victory. The fans also gave Brown's starting pitcher a standing ovation when he was lifted in the 8th inning. He had pitched valiantly, bending but not breaking all night. He gave up only 4 earned runs despite yielding 14 hits and four walks. Pretty impressive actually, and also a sign that the Horns need to do a better job not stranding runners. Anyway, the ovation was a classy move by the 'Horns fans to applaud his efforts.
There were several critical plays that catapulted the Horns to victory. The first was in the top of the 4th with Brown at bat. After retiring the first two batters of the inning, starting pitcher James Russell surrendered 5 consecutive 2-out singles. The fifth and final single almost led to the third run of the inning for the Bears, but RF Kyle Russell, who got the scoring started for the Horns with his 28th HR, threw out a Brown player at home plate. The throw was very impressive for a young ballplayer, just barely arriving at home plate in time for catcher Brett Lewis to apply the tag. After the play, I thought to myself, "that's probably exactly the type of play Texas needs to get going."
It took a bit longer than expected though for the Horns to break out and were retired in the 4th and 5th frames without plating a run. Bradley Suttle led off the 6th with a 2B, but still found himself two bags from home plate with two outs and Chaise Fuller at the plate. Fuller then hit a 2-run HR to the power alley in left field that barely went over the wall. If Fuller is retired, things get interesting. Texas perhaps would have felt a bit of pressure and tensed up--the crowd was definitely starting to grumble by the 6th inning.
Kudos as well to the bullpen. Joseph Krebs and Randy Boone did fine work in relief of Russell, combining to strikeout 12 Bears in 5 scoreless innings. Krebb picked up the W, and his 7 Ks were a career high. Brown definitely looked uncomfortable against both pitchers.
So, onto the next game tonight against the Anteaters of UC-Irvine. Irvine walloped Wake Forest 13-0 in their opening game, and most certainly will pose a bigger threat to Texas tonight. The game starts at 6 pm at the Dell Diamond. Not sure if there's tickets still available, but I'm sure you can pick some up at the park provided you get there a bit early. You'll want to do that anyways, as the traffic is an absolute joke in Round Rock. Note to self: Don't every go out there unless you're going to the Dell Diamond.