Texas took care of business tonight with a 7-2 victory over the visiting Lamar Cardinals.
The Horns got off to shaky start in the top half of the first inning. Freshman Nico O’Donnell’s feel for the strike zone was as cold as the temperature outside at first pitch, as he gave up a lead-off single, then promptly walked and hit the next two batters. O’Donnell then gave up a single through the right side that scored one, but the Horns caught a bit of a break with an Austin Todd throw to home from right field to tag out a runner at home.
O’Donnell would continue to struggle through the inning, as he walked the next better he faced to again load the bases for Lamar. However, the Horns were able to escape the 1st inning surrendering just one run after a ground-out double play.
After that, the game began to shift Texas’ way.
O’Donnell was able to get out of the second inning quickly despite an error on a muffed putout by first baseman DJ Petrinsky. In the bottom of the inning, Texas’ bats began to heat up, as Tate Shaw added a run on an RBI double.
Texas would add to their lead in the fourth, with a sac fly RBI from Zach Zubia and a Shaw score off an error from a David Hamilton dribbler to first, bumping the lead up to 3-1 Texas.
These runs would ultimately be enough for the Longhorns on the day, but Texas would score their final runs of the day in the next inning. Austin Todd walked with one out, and was then immediately driven in off a DJ Petrinsky double to left center. Next up was Zubia, who crushed a hit off the wall in deep left center for a triple that scored another for the Horns, putting them up 5-1.
Lamar continued to extend the inning with errors, as Shaw reached third on a bad throw to first that also scored Zubia. McCann would bring Shaw in with a sac fly, and the inning would end on a Duke Ellis groundout.
Texas’ bullpen was in control of the game, as UT’s relievers surrendered only 1 hit and 3 walks to 3 strikeouts in 5.2 innings of combined work. Bryce Elder looked especially impressive, as he threw 1.2 innings in relief giving up no hits over 20 pitches. He looked wild at times hitting two batters, but he showed promise to be a long reliever or future starting man that the Horns could throw in to what appears to be a solid group of starting pitchers.
Overall, Texas was able to get some help from Lamar’s end with some terrible defensive plays that helped UT add to their score, but credit has to be given to the Horns for being able to put hard hit balls in play and capitalizing on those mistakes by playing solid defense on a cold, damp day behind pitchers who collectively quieted Lamar’s bats.
The game wasn’t always pretty, but it provided a good glimpse from the second through fifth innings of what this team is capable of on both sides of the ball.
Looking ahead, Texas moves on to Baton Rogue this weekend in a much anticipated rematch of the 2009 CWS. And though Lamar is known as “Harvard on the Neches”, facing off against LSU should pose as a much bigger and telling test for this Texas team.
Stay tuned for the weekend preview.