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No. 19 Texas holds off Sam Houston State in 15-9 win

The Longhorns nearly blew a 10-2 lead, but responded with five runs in the sixth and seventh innings.

Texas players celebrate on Thursday
Texas baseball

First baseman Zach Zubia went 3-3 at the plate with two walks and five RBI to lead the No. 19 Texas Longhorns over the Sam Houston State Bearkats in a 15-9 win on Tuesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

The Longhorns will now enter a big weekend series against the undefeated, No. 13 Gamecocks with eight wins in the last 10 games.

Texas scored in six of the eight innings it saw at bats, cranking out 15 hits, including five doubles, walking eight times, and stealing six bases. Seven players drove in at least one run with designated hitter Ivan Melendez supporting Zubia in the lineup with three hits and three RBI in five plate appearances.

Left-handed starter Pete Hansen bounced back after leaving last Wednesday’s game against Texas State early due to shoulder soreness for his longest outing this season — 4.0 innings and 73 pitches during which Hansen allowed two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and a walk. After the sensational start to Hansen’s career last year, the California product is still working his way back to that level of rhythm and velocity, but after the scare with Hansen’s shoulder last week, Tuesday’s outing represented positive progress for Hansen.

The bullpen’s effort illustrated continued difficulties finding reliable arms — especially for midweek games — as the Longhorns allowed seven runs in the sixth inning after entering the frame with a 10-2 and in complete command of the game. Those sixth-inning struggles weren’t even a result of a Tristan Stevens start.

Right-hander Drew Shifflet made it through his first inning without too much trouble before departing the game thanks to a single and two walks allowed to open the sixth inning.

Trying to make a difficult play ranging to his left, second baseman Mitchell Daly was credited for an error when he couldn’t come up with the ball; a second run scored after Daly failed to secure it. Right-hander Dawson Merryman entered the game for Shifflet and got punished for a mistake with a three-run home run by Mason Schulz.

Five runs scored against two pitchers without the Longhorns even recording an out in the sixth inning.

A subsequent pinch-hit single forced right-hander Tanner Witt into the game as the third pitcher of the inning. But Witt struggled to get outs, too, leaving his pitches up in the zone and allowing a single and a double to cut the Texas lead to 10-8. When the Longhorns finally got an out, it was in exchange for allowing another run with a ground ball to shortstop. Witt eventually escaped without any further damage thanks to a strikeout and a difficult pop up in the infield impacted by the wind and taken by third baseman Cam Williams.

It wasn’t all negative for the bullpen, though, with left-hander Lucas Gordon closing the door on Sam Houston State with three strikeouts and a single hit allowed over two innings. Since the Horns lack a reliable left-handed arm out of the bullpen, any signs of improvement from Gordon could help him land that key role.

Sam Houston State right-hander Cole Wesneski made the first start of his career and while his sinker was effectively in the first inning, his breaking pitches were not. Right fielder Austin Todd led off with a single up the middle, but it looked like the inning might not amount to much after left fielder Eric Kennedy struck out and center fielder Mike Antico hit into a fielder’s choice.

Then the Longhorns started putting pressure on the Bearkats starter and showing a mix of opportunism and patience at the plate. Antico stole second, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored on another wild pitch.

Walks drawn by Zubia and shortstop Trey Faltine sandwiched around a single from catcher Silas Ardoin set up a big swing by Melendez, who singled up the middle to score two runs. Williams drove in the fourth run of the first inning for Texas with a double down the right-field line.

It was second consecutive first inning during which the Longhorns sent all nine hitters to the plate.

The two-out production continued in the second when Antico was hit by a pitch, stole second and scored on a double by Zubia botched by the Sam Houston State second baseman, first baseman, and right fielder, who let the high fly into shallow right field hit the ground.

After Todd left the game due to a shoulder injury after two hits, Douglas Hodo III came on with a two-out single to score Melendez from third for a 9-2 lead. Kennedy then drove in Hodo with another single as Texas started 7-10 hitting six RBI in two-out at bats.

More two-out success plated the 11th run for Texas when Faltine walked and eventually scored on an infield single by Daly after advancing from second to third on a wild pitch.

The threats from the top of the order became apparent in the seventh. Kennedy reached on a swinging strikeout and stole second base. Antico singled and stole second when Kennedy had to pause to see if the second baseman could make the play on Antico’s single. Both scored when Zubia one-hopped the center field fence with a bases-clearing double. Pinch-hitter DJ Petrinsky scored Zubia with a line-drive double smashed into the left-center gap. Texas continued to hit the ball hard — Melendez drove a pitch left up in the zone off the right-field wall for a run-scoring double and a 15-9 lead.

The bad news is that Todd will require an MRI on his right shoulder after battling through an oblique injury earlier this year and a previous injury to that shoulder back in 2018. Texas head coach David Pierce was described as “deflated” when asked about Todd following the game.

First pitch against South Carolina in Austin on Friday is at 6:30 p.m. Central on Longhorn Network as Pierce’s team tries to exorcise some of the lingering painful moments from the season-opening sweep at the hands of three top-tier SEC teams.