The baseball gods believe in karma.
From horns down to photoshopped images suggesting that Texas Longhorns baseball is nothing more than Roger Clemens and his sons playing on the Forty Acres, the Arkansas Razorbacks paid the price on Wednesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in a 7-6 comeback victory for the Horns that featured five unanswered runs by the home team to end a five-game losing streak.
Perhaps the echoes of six national championships for Texas reverberated through the generous confines in Austin and spurred head coach David Pierce’s team to the win. Perhaps the aggressive grunts of the visiting swine simply echoed into the void that approximates the number of national championships in baseball for Arkansas.
Whatever the case, the recent narrative seemed unchanged in the early going, as the starting Longhorns pitcher once again struggled in the second inning, though it wasn’t a result of big swings this time. After picking up a save against Texas Tech this weekend, freshman right-hander Kolby Kubichek got the nod from Pierce, but got into trouble after a smooth first inning, allowing three earned runs and another unearned run on an error by senior shortstop Masen Hibbeler.
Pierce pulled the freshman in favor of another freshman, right-hander Mason Bryant, who limited the damage to those four runs. The five hits allowed by Kubichek in 1.2 innings eventually accounted for more than half of the Razorbacks total — Bryant and the five Longhorns relievers who came after him only allowed four hits and a single run the rest of the way.
That run came in a high-pressure situation as redshirt freshman right-hander Cole Quintanilla attempted to earn his save in his third inning of work. The Cedar Park product picked up two quick outs in the ninth, then hit a batter and gave up a double to cut the lead to 7-6 and bring the go-ahead run to the plate.
All season, however, the Texas bullpen has held and Quintanilla continued that trend, blowing a 94-mph fastball past pinch hitter Matt Goodheart to end the game and the losing streak.
The Longhorns got to that point in an but ugly but consistent fashion. In the third inning, sophomore designed hitter Zach Zubia was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring home a run before junior third baseman Ryan Reynolds walked home another run.
After the Razorbacks added a run to the lead on an RBI double, senior catcher Michael McCann scored on a rare type of error when the Arkansas catcher threw the ball over the pitcher’s head on the most routine play in baseball — throwing the ball back to the mound after a pitch. Credit McCann for the heads up play on a day when he was hit by two pitches and battled through another painful foul ball behind the plate. He followed up with a bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the fifth.
In the sixth inning, Zubia finally broke through with the first RBI base hit for the Horns. In came with two outs by waiting on a slider and fighting it off into right field to tie the game at 5-5. To that point, Texas had gone nine previous at bats with a runner in scoring position with a base hit and 2-14 with runners on base.
And then things went back to the strange type of normal in this game — senior first baseman Tate Shaw drew a walk with the bases loaded and McCann was hit by a pitch for the second time.
All told, Texas walked or was hit by a pitch 14 times and won despite only one extra-base hit and 16 runners left on base. This game was not a thing of beauty, but karma works on its own terms and the Longhorns once again did enough to pull out the victory.
Considering the losing streak against the Razorbacks, including four mostly lopsided defeats in the last year, it was another important win ahead of a weekend road trip to face off against the No. 22 Horned Frogs in Fort Worth.