It wasn’t the most perfect game, but the No. 13 Texas Longhorns (19-10) defeated the Xavier Musketeers (9-17) in a 6-5 victory at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, despite some late-inning drama. The win gives the Horns the series victory with the possibility of a sweep tomorrow.
Right out of the gate, the Musketeers got off to a one-run lead in the top of the first inning. Following a double to right field from Ryan Altenberger, a wild pitch from Blair Henley moved the base runner 90 feet to third base. A well-executed ground ball to second base from Conor Grammes scored Altenberger from third and put the Horns behind early.
Texas had a chance to even things up in the bottom of the third. However, Tate Shaw was thrown out at home on a fielder’s choice from Duke Ellis. The inning ended with a rare Ellis pickoff, and with that Texas still trailed by one.
After Xavier added one to their lead in the top of the fourth, Texas did what they do best when falling behind in a game. With their backs against the wall, the Longhorns scored five runs in the bottom of the fifth and never looked back. Henley, needing the offense to give him some run support, got exactly what he needed.
Following two singles from Hibbeler and Bertelson, Tate Shaw singled up the middle of the infield to score both base runners and bring the game to a deadlock. During that play, Shaw ended up at third thanks to a throwing error by the pitcher. Duke Ellis got the job done by bringing Shaw in thanks to an RBI fly out to center field, giving Texas their first lead of the game. Following an Eric Kennedy single, Ryan Reynolds laced an RBI double down the right field line to score both McCann and Kennedy, giving the Longhorns a 5-2 advantage.
After six complete, head coach David Pierce turned to Matt Whelan out of the bullpen to relieve Henley. Far from perfect, Henley’s day started off shaky, but was just good enough to put his team in a good situation heading into the latter innings. Henley managed to pitch out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth and two runners in scoring position in the sixth, and therefore giving the Texas bullpen some room to work with. Henley’s stat line is listed below:
Blair Henley — 6.0IP, 2R, 1ER, 7H, 5BB, 3SO, 113 pitches
Just before heading to the ninth to close out the game, the Horns added an insurance run that would prove to be essential to winning the game — you’ll read why.
With one out, the Longhorns had walked the bases loaded. David Pierce turned to Austin Todd to pinch hit for Sam Bertelson, but Todd was unsuccessful as Xavier pitcher Nick Zwack sent him down on strikes. Fortunately, later in the inning a passed ball scored Lance Ford from third, bringing it to a 6-2 ball game. With two runners in scoring position, Tate Shaw couldn’t do any more damage as a flyout to center field ended the inning. Nevertheless, the Horns held a comfortable lead heading to the ninth. Or so we thought.
Looking to close it out for the Horns, Whelan started off the inning with a four-pitch walk — a big mistake. After relinquishing a single to center field, Whelan’s day was done when Matteo Bocchi came in for relief. Folks around the ballpark really started to sweat this one out as three straight singles from the Musketeers brought it to a two-run game with no outs. With the bases loaded, Bocchi managed to get a ground ball in the infield that resulted in a massive double play for the Horns, but another run for Xavier. With the tying run on third, Bocchi shut the door on a potential comeback with a forced ground ball to Masen Hibbeler, who finished the job by putting away the last batter for Xavier.
Xavier certainly made it interesting late, but one of the things to take away from this game is the growing concern for the Texas bullpen. While it wasn’t terrible, the fact that teams recently have been able to come back on the Horns at the hands of the bullpen is concerning for David Pierce and Phil Haig.
Blair Henley continues to grind out impressive starts despite starting off slow this season. Henley’s talent has never been the question; it’s been the mental makeup to which he goes into game with. When he’s on, he’s on. You can see that with the arsenal he has at his disposal. It’s good to see the junior put that slow start behind him and going forward have that attack mentality.
Another piece of good news was that head coach David Pierce got his 100thvictory in burnt orange tonight. Congratulation, Coach! Looking forward to 100 more victories.
Texas will look to sweep Xavier on Sunday with freshman Coy Cobb getting the ball on the mound. First pitch is scheduled to be at noon Central and you can watch the game on the Longhorn Network or listen in on 104.9 The Horn.