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Texas Longhorns baseball begins season with 2-1 series win over UNLV Rebels

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After dropping the season opener in extras, the Longhorns rebounded in impressive fashion on the way to a convincing series win and head coach Augie Garrido's 800th victory at Texas.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Friday: Texas 3, UNLV 4 (12 innings)

The 2016 Texas Longhorns baseball campaign got off to a promising start. Following a 2015 run that saw the Texas offense sleep walk down the back stretch, the 'Horns got men on base early and brought them across. Designated hitter Michael Cantu, batting fifth behind catcher Tres Barrera, got the action started in the 2nd with a double. Two batters later, Kody Clemens (starting at 3rd base) reached on a walk, giving the Horns two base runners for sophomore second baseman Jake McKenzie, who plated Cantu on a single. At the bottom of the order, freshman Tyler Rand notched his first career hit and RBI to score Clemens.

After the 'Horns gave up a run in the top of the 3rd, Cantu responded with another big hit to bring home Tres Barrera from second and push the Texas lead to 3-1.

Sophomore righty Kyle Johnston, debuting as the Friday starter for Texas, showcased his strong arm while continuing to walk batters. In just four innings of work, Johnston's 82 pitches struck out four and walked five. He did hold the Rebels to just three hits, but the lone run he allowed came from a walked batter. Pitching coach Skip Johnson likes to let his starters go deep in games, so Johnston will need to get more efficient as he goes through the season.

After taking that early 3-1 lead, the Texas offense dried up and failed to score another run. But strong relief pitching made it seem like Texas would cruise to a win in their opener -- Josh Sawyer and freshman Blake Wellman combined for three scoreless innings before giving way to senior Travis Duke in the 8th. With a runner aboard on a Wellman walk, Duke walked another and give up both runners on a fly-ball triple that got past right fielder Patrick Mathis.

Freshman Chase Shugart (who reached 96-97 mph on the weekend, per scouts) provided two hitless innings to get the Horns through the 11th inning, where Parker Joe Robinson took over. Robinson worked through three batters in the 12th, but in the 13th a solo homer off of Robinson gave the Rebels the lead and the victory.

Saturday: Texas 11, UNLV 2

Friday's offensive struggles did not bleed through to the rest of the weekend. Led by big days from the top of the Texas order, the Horns scored 11 runs on 13 hits and capitalized on five UNLV errors, while managing to score every Texas starter. Leadoff hitter Zane Gurwitz and two-hole hitter Bret Boswell both put up 3-5 days with two runs scored apiece.

Tres Barrera posted a modest 1-3 as the DH, with a single to shortstop that led to a throwaway scoring Zane Gurwitz in the first (Barrera plated another run in the second, forcing a bases-loaded walk). Michael Cantu, catching for senior Ty Culbreth, went 1-3 with two RBIs, scoring Bret Boswell and Barrera in the first.

With the big offensive showing, Culbreth didn't need a strong outing but delivered it anyway. In five innings of work, Culbreth's 67 pitches resulted in just four hits and a walk with four strikesouts, and the only score allowed came on the Rebels' second solo homer of the weekend.

The Texas win was capped off by a deep home run off the bat of Patrick Mathis in the 8th.

Sunday: Texas 7, UNLV 0

And Mathis would also got the festivities started on Sunday. On a cloudy afternoon, Mathis took his first pitch right back over the fence for his second home run of the year, on the way to a 2-4 performance with two runs and an RBI.

Texas extended the lead in the second with a bit of Augie ball. To start the inning, Cantu earned a free base and moved over to second on a Kacy Clemens sacrifice bunt, then the younger Clemens knocked a single to bring Cantu home. Travis Jones brought in the second run of the inning on an RBI single to extend the Texas lead to 3-0.

In the fifth, Barrera and Kacy Clemens posted RBI singles to further the lead to 5-0 before two more runs in the seventh offered the final 7-0 score.

On the mound, starter Conner Mayes pitched four scoreless innings, needing 77 pitches for three strikeouts, three walks, and four hits. Travis Duke and Nick Kennedy pitched an inning of relief each before giving way to Morgan Cooper's return from Tommy John surgery for two innings of work. Freshman Chase Shugart came out and pitched an impressive final frame in only eight pitches.

****

Texas record: 2-1

This week: Hosts Stanford for four-game series starting Thursday