Following up a disappointing weekend that saw the Texas Longhorns drop two of three games to the Kansas State Wildcats and out of D1Baseball’s Top 25 rankings, the Longhorns bounced back into the win column with a strong 7-2 victory over the Lamar Cardinals on Tuesday evening at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
The boosts came from some unusual places.
Starting pitcher Matteo Bocchi, who hails from Parma, Italy by way of Odessa College, threw five scoreless innings in his second start this season to pace the Horns to go with a refreshing collective team performance at the plate, sparked by a player who wasn’t on the roster two weeks ago.
The Longhorns scored all the runs they needed in a big third inning. Getting things started for the Horns was catcher Turner Gauntt, who made his collegiate debut with a liner to left field. Cut by Texas before the season, Gauntt needed a waiver to return to the team after Caston Peter suffered an injury following the shoulder surgery that ended DJ Petrinsky’s season, leaving Michael McCann as the roster’s only scholarship catcher.
Duke Ellis singled after Gauntt, and eventually a sacrifice groundout from Austin Todd scored Gauntt from third to break the stalemate and put the Longhorns up, 1-0.
With Ellis still on second, Lamar’s starting pitcher took a cautious approach in pitching to Zach Zubia. After a four-pitch walk, Ryan Reynolds followed up Zubia’s at bat with a hit-by-pitch on the first pitch he saw, loading the bases for Tate Shaw. The senior, who’s been hot for the Horns in bringing home runners runners in scoring position, continued that trend with a bases-clearing double that pushed the Longhorn lead to 4-0.
Gauntt was also involved in a stellar defensive play that prevented the Cardinals from scoring their first run of the game. In the top of the fifth inning with a Lamar runner on first, a triple was laced deep into left center field. An Eliis-Hibbeler relay to home plate got the ball in time for Gauntt to place a tag on the Lamar runner, saving a run at the plate in what was quickly becoming the “Turner Gauntt Game.”
Texas added another run to their score in the fifth inning to extend their lead to 5-0. With Todd on third base and Reynolds on first, Reynolds attempted to steal second to put two runners in scoring position for pinch hitter Lance Ford. Lamar caught Reynolds in a run-down, but before the Cardinals tagged him out Todd snuck home and gave the Longhorns their fifth run of the game.
The Cardinals were able to cut into the Longhorn lead in the sixth and seventh innings by scoring one run in each inning off reliever Donny Diaz. However, Texas got those runs back in dual one-run innings of their own.
A sacrifice fly in the bottom of the seventh inning from Zubia scored Ellis from third to make it 6-2. The seventh and final run of the game came off of the bat of McCann — a towering solo shot to give the senior his second home run of the season and the Longhorns a commanding 7-2 lead.
Kolby Kubichek came on in relief to close the game out, and after working himself into a two-on-and-one-out jam, Kubichek got two big swinging strikeouts to end the game with a Texas 7-2 victory in hand.
This game served as a nice, much needed positive note to take into this weekend’s daunting trip to Stillwater, where Texas will face off against Big 12-leading Oklahoma State . Last year, Texas took the series over the Cowboys two games to one, and bested the Cowboys by just one game in the race for the conference championship after each respective team won or lost their final three games to close out the year.
The two teams will get the series started on Thursday at 7 p.m. Central on FS1, with Friday’s game at 6:35 p.m. Central on FSSW+ and Saturday’s series finale on ESPNU at 3 p.m. Central.