A big two-run home run by Texas Longhorns junior center fielder Duke Ellis in the fourth inning and 6.2 innings of lights-out pitching from sophomore Bryce Elder keyed a resonant performance for the No. 22-ranked Horns against the No. 2 LSU Tigers in an 8-1 victory on Friday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
Against one of the top offenses in the country, Elder proved that his first two starts this season weren’t a fluke, as evidenced by his seven strikeouts, all on breaking balls. Elder had excellent movement on all of his pitches and only had brief bouts of command issues in avoiding any earned runs on four hits.
When David Pierced pulled Elder in the seventh inning, sophomore Kamron Fields was efficient finishing out the game — the former high school quarterback walked two batters, but didn’t give up a hit over 40 pitches.
Early on, the Texas offense struggled to get big hits even though LSU starter Zack Hess was hit in his right biceps on a first-inning swing. Whether it was a result of ensuing stiffness or general inconsistency, Hess struggled to locate his pitches as Longhorns hitters battled at the plate.
A bases-loaded walk to senior first baseman Tate Shaw scored the first run for Texas before Ellis finally connected with a high fastball in the fourth inning and began his celebration right out of the batter’s box. Talk about some confidence from a player with only one previous home run in his Longhorns career.
After driving Hess from the game after 95 pitches over four innings, Texas took advantage of more control issues from Chase Costello and Trent Vietmeier, with the major damage coming in a five-run seventh inning.
The Horns were able to put up the big crooked number thanks to patience at the plate and smart hitting. After junior right fielder Austin Todd walked to start the inning, redshirt sophomore designated hitter Zach Zubia singled through the right side on a hit and run. When LSU moved the infield in, redshirt sophomore Ryan Reynolds also singled through the right side to score a run.
Todd scored on a passed ball before Shaw reached with a bunt single and then stole second base, one of several times during the game when Pierce took advantage of first-and-third opportunities to avoid a potential double play.
A sharply-hit ball at a drawn-in shortstop by senior second baseman Masen Hibbeler scored two runs. Freshman right fielder Eric Kennedy then drove in Hibbeler when the LSU first baseman committed an error.
Overall, Texas cranked out 11 hits and drew nine walks, while the pitching staff only gave up four hits and five walks to the high-powered LSU offense. Consider it a sign of how well this team can compete against top opponents.
On Saturday, junior Blair Henley will take the mound for the Horns as he attempts to get himself fully on track this season. The first pitch is at 3:30 p.m. Central on Longhorn Network.