The Texas Longhorns got back to their winning ways in dramatic fashion late Saturday night at the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic at Minute Maid Park — after scoring eight runs in the first two innings of play, Texas endured a late comeback by the Arkansas Razorbacks for an 8-7 win.
If you’re a Texas fan (and you most likely are, considering what site you’re on) who’s only interested in scoring, then this game was your lucky game. The Longhorns got to work putting runs on the board right from the get go, scoring two runs in the first inning before adding six more in the second.
Both runs in the first inning were unearned. After Austin Todd opened up the game with a single, Eric Kennedy reached on an error, and Zach Zubia drove in the first run of the game with a single to left field. Cam Williams followed up with a double-play groundout, but that was enough to score Kennedy from third and give the Longhorns their two-run lead.
Things really got going for the Horns in the second inning, scoring the most runs in a single inning (6) this season. DJ Petrinsky led off with a single, and Silas Ardoin followed with another single that put runners on the corners. Douglas Hodo III singled up the middle, scoring one and putting two on, before Brenden Dixon walked to load the bases with no one out. This forced Arkansas to pull their day two starter Patrick Wicklander after notching just three outs in the game.
With a new pitcher on the mound to face the Longhorns, Texas got two more runs via sacrifice balls in play — one from an RBI fielder’s choice by Todd, and the other on a Kennedy sacrifice fly. This brought up Zubia, the team leader in RBIs to start the season. With one on and two out, Zubia worked a 2-2 count before absolutely demolishing a pitch he liked over the Crawford Boxes in left field to push the Longhorns lead to 7-0.
Texas got one more run, their final run of the game, in this inning courtesy of a couple singles and a throwing error. Williams singled to right center, and Trey Faltine singled to put runners on the corner. A throwing error to second base from the Arkansas catcher in an attempt to nab Faltine ended up in the outfield, and Williams was able to get home for the score and the eighth and deciding run of the game.
The bats were relatively quiet after that, with Texas only able to produce four more base runners across six more innings of action. Instead, highlights from the Longhorns came on the defensive side, with good pitching performances from starter Ty Madden and reliever Pete Hansen leading the way.
Madden cruised in the beginning of this game, getting Razorback after Razorback swinging and chasing pitches that showed excellent movement and speed. Madden struck out four Arkansas batters to open the game in the first two innings, and looked like he was headed for another dominant day on the mound.
Madden continued to work through the Arkansas order, but after the first two innings a good Hogs lineup started chipping away at the sophomore, producing hits and more balls in play. Arkansas got their first run of the game in the fifth inning with a sharp-hit RBI single that brought in a baserunner Madden had previously walked. The Razorbacks added two more runs in the sixth inning, with a solo home run and RBI double bringing in a pair of runners.
Once Madden finished off the sixth inning, head coach David Pierce told him his day was done. Considering the competition and the massive lead he was gifted, it was a promising outing from the young right-hander that flashed what his ceiling is if he’s able to put it all together. In all, Madden ended his day throwing 6.0 IP, allowed three runs off of six hits and one walk while striking out seven.
In his place came Cole Quintanilla to start the seventh inning. For all the good that Madden showed at the beginning of last night’s game, Quintanilla quickly showed that he didn’t have his normal stuff. After walking the first batter on just four pitches, Cole Q got a flyout before allowing a double that brought a runner in to make the game 8-4, Texas. Pierce quickly yanked Quintanilla, and as he’s done frequently throughout the beginning of this season, he’s turned to freshmen and newcomers over veterans in spots of trouble.
Pierce called for Hansen to take the mound, and was inserted into a one-out, one-on situation with the heart of the Arkansas coming to the plate. After allowing a single that scored the runner on second, Hansen induced a fielder’s choice out and a fly out to escape the inning with the Texas lead still very intact at 8-5.
Hansen re-took the mound in the eighth inning, and overpowered the Hogs in his last inning of work. The true freshman, pitching in his biggest game of his career so far, got a lead off strike out and ground out to open the inning with two quick outs. Though he did hit the next batter, Hansen got a huge strike out on the third batter that fired up the Longhorn crowd that remained in Minute Maid Park.
With the Longhorns adding nothing in the eighth, Texas entered the ninth inning up three and looking for three more outs to close out the number six ranked team in the nation. Pierce called on freshman Andre Duplantier to pitch for the save, but the dynamic righty had to work for it as things got dramatic real fast.
After getting a ground out to open the ninth, it took almost 20 minutes before Duplantier recorded another out. Duplantier walked the next batter up, then a single put runners on the corners and the tying run at the plate for the Hogs. Again, the heart of the order was up and taking swings at the young Texas pitching staff.
Matt Goodheart didn’t waste much time to make noise, ripping the second pitch he saw to right field that was only just a few feet from tying this game. But instead of a home run, he settled for a two-run double that cut the Texas lead down to just one.
But, like that two-RBI double, the comeback bid came up just short of victory — Duplantier rebounded from the hit and struck out the next two batters he faced swinging, earning the save and nabbing Texas the 8-7 nailbiter of a victory.
After Friday’s performance against LSU and yesterday’s win over Arkansas, it’s becoming more clear that Texas can play with anyone on any given weekend. It’s worth noting that Arkansas played an uncharacteristically sloppy game, committing four errors and that these mistakes can easily be pointed out as the difference in the game. But still, you have to credit the Longhorns for putting the ball in play, capitalizing on those miscues by the Hogs, and then not committing any errors of their own — a huge testament to the skill and poise of a mixed defense of young and veteran players.
Another point that this game brought light onto was the Texas reliance on new players to perform well to win ball games. One of the biggest keys to victory, as predicted here on Burnt Orange Nation before the season started, was that the freshmen and incoming transfers needed to provide a consistent level of production in order for Texas to win weekend series and big games such as this.
Can Texas consistently rely upon its young bats and arms to win in big games?
Performances from Pete Hansen and Andre Duplantier to close things out, as well as production from Hodo, Cam Williams, Ardoin, and Dixon to provide runs and move runners on the bases showed that, at least in yesterday’s game, the freshmen are ready to play now and be the difference in a close game.
Texas caps off the Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic at Minute Maid Park today with a 3:00 p.m. Central contest against Missouri. The Tigers sit at just 5-5 on the season, and on paper is the weakest team in this tournament, but Missouri is coming off of a thrilling 8-7 victory of their own, having just beaten the No. 22 Oklahoma Sooners in 10 innings.
Both teams will be going for their second win of the tournament and a winning weekend record.