They say that good things come to those who wait. After a long off-season coming off the heels of a College World Series Appearance, and after beginning the year on a six day road trip, Texas Longhorns baseball rewarded their patient fans with a dominant 7-2 victory over the Purdue Boilermakers on Friday in the team’s return to UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
Sophomore pitcher Bryce Elder was tabbed by manager David Pierce to open the weekend series. Elder looked to repeat and build upon last week’s performance that garnered him Big 12 Pitcher of the Week honors after he pitching eight innings, allowing four hits and one walk, giving up just one run, and striking out nine. Perhaps more importantly, he looked to earn another win and start the year off 2-0.
Elder got help in that department immediately from the start of the game.
In the bottom of the first inning, Texas got the bases loaded with two outs for junior third baseman Ryan Reynolds. After watching the first pitch go by for a strike, Reynolds made just enough contact to push a grounder through the opposite left side and score two Horns. Senior second baseman Masen Hibbeler popped up to end the inning, but the Longhorns were able to establish an early 2-0 lead.
The game continued along, with no real noise being made from either team’s bats. It wasn’t until the fourth inning that Purdue finally got a run on the board. A single with one out put a runner on base, and Elder gave up a double to move the runner from first to third. An error charged to senior center fielder Duke Ellis allowed the runner at third to score, halving the Purdue deficit in half at 2-1. Elder worked his way out of the inning with a strikeout and a forced groundout.
Texas didn’t waste too much time getting the run back. In the bottom of the fifth, following a 1-2-3 inning from Elder, senior catcher Michael McCann singled through the left side to score Reynolds and push the lead back to two.
In the top of the sixth, Elder had to fight through some self-created jams to escape the inning with an intact 3-1 lead. He got some help behind him from a guy who was already responsible for all three of the Texas runs at this point.
After closing out the sixth inning with a swinging strikeout, Elder did not return to the game, ending his night with a stat line littered with hits and walks. But those numbers don’t tell the whole story — Elder, for the most part, looked in control of every situation he found himself in.
Bryce Elder — 6.0 IP, 1 R (0 ER), 6 H, 3 BB, 6 K, 97 P
In the bottom of the sixth, Texas extended the lead by another run. A sacrifice fly to center field by sophomore designed hitter Zach Zubia scored freshman left fielder Eric Kennedy from third, and some good ol’ fashioned Augie small ball pushed the score to 4-1, Texas.
Entering the game in the seventh inning for Elder was freshman right-hander Cole Quintanilla. Easily the best relief pitcher to begin the season, Quintanilla picked up right where left off with a 1-2-3 inning.
Texas struck and added to the lead in the bottom of the seventh. An erratic inning from Purdue’s pitcher and scrabble name champion Hayden Wynja resulted in three walks and two wild pitches, including one that allowed Hibbeler to score from third. A triple by junior right fielder Austin Todd to right center plated two, and when the dust had settled on inning seven, the Longhorns had seven runs of their own.
Purdue tacked on one more run in the ninth inning. The Boilermakers weren’t able to get anyone on base against Quintanilla, but were able to rough up senior right-handed reliever Beau Ridgeway to the tune of three hits and a run on the senior reliever.
However, Ridgeway was able to shut the door with a ground out to short stop to end the game, with a Longhorns victory of 7-2 in hand.
There aren’t many wire-to-wire victories in baseball, like there are in say basketball or football, where one team just visibly and clearly has control of the game from start to finish.
This was one of those games.
With two early runs, Texas set the tone early and never really let their foot of the gas, scoring a run in four different innings and putting a runner on base in seven innings. On the defensive side, another encouraging start from Elder was enough to give the Longhorns the comfortable win, but Quintanilla continues to impress me as a dominating force out of the pen.
Having already thrown 6.1 innings in relief this year, Quintanilla has allowed just two hits, while walking zero batters, giving up zero runs, and striking out five. You could seriously make the argument that tonight’s two-inning, no-hit, one-strikeout performance was his least impressive to date. It’s imperative to have reliable bullpen options on competing teams — here’s to hoping Quintanilla can continue to build upon his impressive start.
With huge out of conference games looming just around the corner (No. 1 LSU, No. 4 Stanford), every game leading up to then will be good experience and teaching for a young,but competitive team.
Of course, wins like this won’t hurt, either.
The series continues tomorrow with a Disch double header. The first game is set to start at 1:00 p.m. Central, and the second at 4:30. You can catch both of these games on Longhorn Network, on 104.9 The Horn, or experience the new gameday atmosphere (thank you CDC) in person at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.