The No. 10 Texas Longhorns ripped off a fifth straight win with a 15-2 victory against the UTRGV Vaqueros by scoring two runs in the first inning, three runs in the third inning, six runs in the fifth inning, and four runs in the sixth inning at UFCU Dish-Falk Field on Tuesday.
Nine players had hits and seven players drove in at least one run as the Longhorns bench got some late action in the seven-inning game. Catcher Silas Ardoin let the way with three hits in five at bats and five RBI, highlighted by his first career home run, a two-run shot over the visitor’s bullpen in the third inning.
In three innings, Texas sent nine or more batters to the plate. With the margin at 11-2, Pierce was able to get some at bats for bench players in the sixth inning, an ideal development in a midweek game. Even more ideal were the results.
Freshman outfielder Dalton Porter responded with the first home run of his career and fellow freshman Dylan Campbell pulled a single through the left side of the infield after Murphy Stehly drew a walk. DJ Petrinsky also had a sacrifice fly.
On the mound, left-hander Pete Hansen continued his recovery from a preseason bout with COVID-19 that derailed his efforts to build arm strength before the season. Still without his typical fastball velocity, Hansen was efficient through the first three innings, pitching to contact and finding the strike zone in facing the minimum.
A two-out double in the fourth inning notched the first run for UTRGV and a subsequent single knocked in another run. Hansen finally ended the inning with a long flyout to center field. In five innings, Hansen threw 61 pitches, allowing two runs after scattering five hits and striking out four batters with one walk, another positive outing as questions remain as to when or if he will join the weekend rotation.
Right-hander Jared Southard and left-hander Sam Waldridge pitched two innings in relief, striking out two without allowing a hit.
The speed at the top of the Texas order and ability to command the strike zone was on full display in the first inning. Right fielder Douglas Hodo III nearly beat on an infield single on a hard-hit ball to shortstop before left fielder Eric Kennedy did reach first before the pitcher covering on a slow chopper field by the first baseman. Kennedy stole second and after center fielder Mike Antico walked, both players advanced on a double steal. Two more walks, taken by first baseman Zach Zubia and catcher Silas Ardoin scored Kennedy.
After facing five batters and only recording one out, the starting pitcher for UTRGV was replaced.
The first inning ended with two runs for the Horns when designated hitter Ivan Melendez singled to left field to score Antico, but Zubia was thrown out at the plate.
According to head coach David Pierce, the size of the Disch makes it hard to score at times, so manufacturing runs with walks, stolen bases, and sacrifice bunts can be the difference in ballgames, especially pitcher’s duels on Fridays and Saturdays. But even against teams like UTRGV, putting the pressure on opposing pitchers and opposing defenses is a recipe for success with steady, competitive at bats.
UTRGV’s first pitcher out of the bullpen, right-hander Zac De Leon, pitched much better, showing a sharp breaking ball and better overall command, retiring the side in the second with two strikeouts, although Hodo did hit another ball well, a screaming line drive that the Vaqueros left fielder was forced to catch above his head on a dead sprint.
Against a new pitcher, another left-hander, Kennedy’s speed impacted the game again — on a line drive slice into the left-field gap, the left fielder allowed Kennedy to reach third when he rushed himself trying to get the throw into second base and the ball got past him.
Kennedy scored on a sacrifice fly nearly to the warning track in center field and Antico advanced to second on a heads-up piece of baserunning, then stole third.
It didn’t matter, as Ardoin crushed a ball well over the bullpen in left field for his first career home run and a 5-0 lead.
At that point, all the Longhorns had to do was keep on pressing at the plate and keep on executing on the mound. Pierce’s team executed on both counts ahead of opening Big 12 play in Waco against Baylor.