The No. 19 Texas Longhorns took care of business with strong midweek performances in a 12-1 win over the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders on Tuesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field and a 10-3 win over the Texas State Bobcats on Wednesday in San Marcos.
Against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Texas scored four funs in the bottom of the first inning and seven runs total through the first three innings before adding three runs in the fifth and two runs in the eighth.
The big blow in the first came from first baseman Zach Zubia, who continued his streak of unlikely extra-base hits with a two-run triple.
You’re not gonna believe this, folks, but @zachzubia triples home a pair and it’s 3-0 Horns! pic.twitter.com/RhA6n2U4Ry— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 3, 2021
Zubia finished 3-for-4 on the day and also scored a run.
In the second, center fielder Mike Antico hit the first home run of his Texas career. In the fifth, second baseman Mitchell Daly hit an RBI double in his first appearance for the Longhorns, going 3-for-5 at the plate. Shortstop Trey Faltine and second baseman Dylan Campbell, on in relief of Daly, later had RBI doubles of their own.
On the mound, right-hander Kolby Kubichek got the start on a pitch count of 40-50 pitches ahead of his Sunday start against Houston. Kubichek went 3.0 innings, allowing zero runs on a single hit and striking out four.
“I thought he was as sharp as he could be,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “I mean he threw the fastball both sides, he hit with the slider, and his changeup was really good.”
The bullpen struggled with some control issues, with six walks in four innings from right-handers Justin Eckhardt and Dawson Merryman, but the overall results were positive. Right-hander Aaron Nixon made his debut with a perfect ninth and right-hander Parmer Wenzel was the only one of the four relief pitchers who made an appearance to give up a hit.
A two-run home run by Faltine keyed the second inning against Texas State, part of a three-run outburst that provided the early margin for Texas. The Bobcats scored one in the second and one in the third to cut the lead to 3-2, but Wenzel came on in a key situation and once again was able to get make the key pitches after left-hander Pete Hansen left the game with mild shoulder soreness.
Wenzel entered the game with one out and runners on first and second. His second pitch induced a flyout to center field, but Wenzel put himself in a precarious by walking two hitters in a row, the second with the bases loaded. Then Daly got the Horns out of the inning with a charging underhand flip to first base on a high, slow chopper. He’d already made another strong play to get the inning’s first out.
Wenzel, the graduate transfer from UTSA, went 3.2 innings without allowing a single hit, as his sidearm, sinking fastball drew groundout after groundout from the Texas State batters, ultimately accounting for nine of the 11 outs recorded by Wenzel.
Texas finally opened up the lead with five runs in the seventh inning. Two singles and a hit by pitch loaded the bases and catcher Silas Ardoin responded with a bases-clearing double into the right-center gap that he celebrated immediately. Zubia and left fielder Eric Kennedy added RBI singles in the inning.
After Wenzel left the game, Nixon, right-hander Jared Southard, and right-hander Tanner Witt all pitched an inning in relief. Witt gave up a run on two hits, but also flashed his improvisational ability in the bullpen early in the game, catching a foul ball with his hat.
Daly struggled at the plate against Texas State, going hitless in four at bats with three strikeouts, but his flashes defensively were even more impressive on Wednesday than on Tuesday.
“Mitch has been earning the right to play and he’s looked sharp, he’s got great actions, he’s very athletic. He went out made a nice play on the double play,” Pierce said of the freshman from Alabama’s Tuesday performance.
“He had three hits; I don’t know if he hit a ball really solid, but good at bats.”
Consistency at the plate may be more difficult for Daly to achieve than maintaining his early high standards in the field, but his ability to help out the Texas pitching staff looks like it will put him in the mix for playing time moving forward in the competition at second base with Campbell and junior college transfer Murphy Stehly.
At third base, the switch-hitting power of Cam Williams helped him earn Big 12 Player of the Week honors last week. While Williams struggled with his bat over the two games with only a single hit in nine at bats, his glove at the hot corner has impressed Pierce and solidified the left side of the infield.
“I’ll be honest with you, I think he has great hands,” Pierce said. “I hit him fungo every single day — that’s kind of my spot during batting practice — and I try to burn him, and his reactions and his hands are really, really good.”
The only question mark with Williams defensively was consistency with his throwing, but Pierce said that Williams has worked hard on that area of his game.
“He’s proven that he can be — he has a lot of pride, he puts a lot of time in,” Pierce said. “You know he’s gonna hit, but to have that luxury to have that defense and that security at third base is big.”
Texas has now scored double-digit runs during four of the last five games after combining for seven runs through the first four games. Despite the offensive outbursts, Pierce recognizes that the Longhorns are still a work in progress at the plate.
“Where we want to gain the confidence and the maturity is in the approach — I mean it’s so hard to dictate and determine the result of it and so if we can stay with the right approach, we’re going to get the right results,” Pierce said. “I think that’s what we’re seeing. I really felt like we had immature at bats on Saturday. We didn’t do anything after we blew the lead and we had four opportunities.
“So it’s just staying within yourself and not trying to do too much and if they do that, they’re going to have success.”
Texas continues its road trip with a three-game series against Houston. Friday’s first pitch is at 6:30 p.m. Central on ESPN+.