In what was a closely contested game, the Texas Longhorns (13-9) were able to hold off the No. 25 Sam Houston State Bearkats (16-5), 3-2, on Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Longhorns got just enough offense in a game that saw Texas pitchers strike out 13 Bearkats.
Nico O’Donnell took the mound to start the game, and like we’ve seen at times this season, he struggled with consistency throughout his entire appearance. In the first inning he issued two walks, but was able to record a strikeout and get two ground outs to exit the inning without giving up a run. In the second inning, O’Donnell yielded two consecutive singles to lead off the inning, but then struck out the next three Bearkats swinging.
Sam Houston State finally got a run across in the third inning. After a SHSU runner reached first on an error from Masen Hibbeler, the Bearkats singled and drew two walks to load the bases. O’Donnell then walked in the first run of the game with two outs in the inning, but was able to strike out the next batter looking to end his night.
Nico O’Donnell: 3.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R (0 ER), 4 BB, 5 K
After another scoreless bottom inning from the ‘Horns, Matteo Bocchi replaced O’Donnell to start the the top of the fourth. Bocchi got through his half of the inning, and Texas finally put runs on the board in the bottom of the fourth.
Austin Todd led off the inning with a double to left center field. Ryan Reynolds immediately followed with a double of his own down the left field line, and Todd crossed home to tie the game at one.
And @r_reynolds5 doubles down the line! Tie ballgame! #HookEm pic.twitter.com/JiRqopFXXU— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 21, 2018
After a DJ Petrinsky single, Jake McKenzie laid down a bunt trying to advance Reynolds home from third. Unfortunately, a good heads up defensive play from the Bearkats caught Reynolds at the plate, and the Longhorns were left with two on at first and second but two outs in the inning.
Masen Hibbeler delivered in a clutch situation with a single up the middle that scored DJ Petrinsky, and gave the Longhorns the 2-1 lead. The Bearkats ended the inning after a pitcher was brought in from the bullpen to face Duke Ellis, who grounded out to the third baseman for the third out.
Texas added another run to the scoreboard in the next inning on a defensive miscue from a fielder’s choice play. With one out, Kody Clemens at second, and Austin Todd at first, Reynolds hit a grounder to the shortstop that likely should have ended the inning with a 6-3 double play. After recording the out at second, a muffed throw allowed Clemens to advance home to give Texas a 3-1 lead.
Bryce Elder, who came in to relieve Bocchi in the top of the fifth, was given all the insurance he would need with that score. Elder was great in this game, throwing 3.2 innings and, though he allowed a run across in the eighth inning, limited the Bearkats to just three hits and one walk while striking out four.
In the eighth inning, Sam Houston State was able to add a run to claw at the lead. However, the inning could have been worse. A great throw home off a double to left center from Tate Shaw saved what may have ended up as the game tying run.
With the lead at 3-2 entering the top of the ninth, David Pierce called on ace pitcher Nolan Kingham to close out the game. After forcing two ground outs, Kingham struck out the final batter to seal up his second save of the year and, more importantly, the victory for Texas. During his one inning of work, Kingham touched 98 miles per hour on the radar gun with his fastball.
.@LonghornNetwork highlights from last night's 3-2 win over the No. 25 Bearkats ⬇️. #HookEm pic.twitter.com/q14q74gFpo— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 21, 2018
This was a great competitive game from Texas that showcased excellent performances out of the bullpen. The Bearkats, who entered the contest on a nine-game win streak, were only able to record six total hits, with three of those coming in the first three innings. O’Donnell wasn’t sharp in this one, but unlike last week against Arkansas he was able to escape or limit the damage from his tight situations he got himself into at the end of innings.
After Bocchi took over for O’Donnell in the fourth, the Bearkats really struggled getting anything going. Bocchi, who notched his first career win, as well as Elder and Kingham, really shut the door on any potential Bearkat comeback once the Longhorns went up 2-1. The final line for the bullpen was an absolute beauty:
Texas Bullpen: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R (1 ER), 2 BB, 8 K, 1 W, 1 Save
Even if the offense wasn’t incredible, the showing from the Texas bullpen points out that when you’re able to slow down a team to an average of less than one base runner an inning, you won’t need a whole lot of production to win the game. The way this game played out was definitely a likely scenario many UT fans had for this team before the season started. If Texas can continue to provide relief pitching of this quality, the offense should be able to produce enough runs to win games consistently.
A 3-2 win may not seem that exciting, but it was great seeing this team play under the identity many see them in. Oh, and four wins in a row ain’t too bad either.
Texas looks to build on their current winning streak this weekend as the Longhorns welcome another Big 12 opponent to the Disch in a weekend series against Oklahoma State. The Cowboys sit at 10-8-1, but have yet to play a Big 12 game this season. Meanwhile, the Longhorns will look to build on their Big 12 record of 3-0.
More baseball is on the way this weekend, so stay tuned to Burnt Orange Nation for our Okie State preview. Until then, Hook ‘em Horns.