Texas baseball hosted McNeese State in a rare Monday night midweek game on a nice night for baseball at The Disch and held on to a 5-4 victory.
The Longhorns really needed a bounce back game after dropping two of three at Kansas State this past weekend. Going into the game I was very interested to see how the team would respond against a decent, but beatable McNeese team.
David Pierce sent freshman Matthew Whelan to the mound for the first start of his career at Texas. Whelan looked about as good as you could ask for out of the gate as he was able to work efficiently and keep his pitch count down. Exactly what Pierce was looking for out of his starter with a full week of baseball ahead.
McNeese State starting pitcher Austin Briggs was able to hold the Longhorns offense in check until the 3rd inning despite struggling early to command his breaking ball. The two-pitch starter had to rely heavily on his fastball for most of his night.
In the bottom of the 3rd, Texas was able to capitalize on a handful of McNeese errors as Masen Hibbeler gave the ‘Horns their first run of the game after a pop-up to shallow right field ended up dropping in, scoring McKenzie tomake it 1-0 in favor of the good guys. The Longhorns weren’t done, as Ryan Reynolds deposited a 2-1 fastball deep into the Texas sky. The Longhorns third baseman extended the Texas lead 3-0.
Texas made it 5-0 in the 4th after a leadoff double from David Hamilton, who eventually scored on a Jake McKenzie ground out. The fifth run of the night would come on a McNeese miscue as Kody Clemens sent a ball out to shallow right, that dropped after a sliding attempt came up short. Masen Hibbeler was forced out at second base after some confusion on whether or not the ball was caught. D.J. Petrinsky was able to advance and score on the play.
In the 5th, Matthew Whalen ran into trouble for the first time as he allowed a two-run homer off the bat of Andrew Bryan put the Cowboys within three. Whalen then walked the next batter on only four pitches.
Whalen exited the game after the following batter hit a hard hit ball off the foot of the Texas starter, who could not recover in time to make the play to get an out. With two runners on, and nobody out and with his starter taking one off the foot, Pierce made a rather easy decision to go get Whalen as he would make the move to Parker Joe Robinson.
McNeese added another run after laying down a bunt that scored the runner from second after Robinson sailed the throw right over Clemens covering first base on the play.
After a two-out intentional walk loaded the bases, Robinson was able to get a big strikeout to end the inning for the ‘Horns.
Texas had a great chance to add to the lead in the 6th inning after Masen Hibbleler led the inning off by reaching base and stealing second to put himself in scoring position for Kody Clemens. Clemens then smoked a pitch back up the middle that ended up bouncing off the chest of the second base umpire and rolling into center field. Hibbeler appeared to score easily but after discussion amongst the umpiring crew, Hibbeler had to return to second due to the fact that the ball made contact with the umpire before getting past any infielders (other than the pitcher) and since it was not a force play Texas stranded two to end the inning and fail to push any insurance runs across.
McNeese continued to chip away at the Texas lead in the 7th after back-to-back doubles would put the Cowboys within one. Four unanswered runs had McNeese right back in the game and the ‘Horns found themselves on the brink of blowing a five-run lead.
Texas stranded three more base runners in the bottom half of the 7th after a David Hamilton one-out triple, and walks by pinch-hitter Duke Ellis and Tate Shaw. Texas has struggled for most of the season hitting with runners in scoring position and tonight was no exception. With big conference games approaching, this is something that must improve if the ‘Horns want to have success down the stretch.
Pierce once agained turn to Andy McGuire to close out the game. McGuire appears to be the trusted man for 9th inning of games as he has gotten the call in the last few save situations.
Even though it wasn’t the prettiest game, we’ll take the win. ‘Horns up.
The Longhorns are back in action tomorrow night down south as they take on Texas A&M - Corpus Christi at 6:35 p.m. CT.