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Possum joins late-inning 14-4 rout of Texas A&M Corpus-Christi by No. 4 Texas

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Four relievers and some wildlife management assist from the Longhorns bullpen combined with eight runs over the final two innings for a home win that got weird late.

Texas baseball

Go ahead and toss that wildlife management endorsement on Linkedin towards the bullpen of the No. 4 Texas Longhorns.

In the eighth inning of the 14-4 win by the Longhorns over the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders on Tuesday, a possum wandered onto the playing field at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, scurrying along the wall from the left-field fence before doubting its original intentions and confusedly rattling around the warning track for part of a long half inning.

Meanwhile, the Longhorns were in the midst of scoring five runs on four hits with three runners eventually left on base. Perhaps the possum was merely protesting the lengthy inning’s second pitching change by the visitors in a 14-4 ballgame.

When Tanner Witt, the 11th batter of the inning, struck out in a pinch-hit at bat, the Texas pitchers could finally get back to work. They weren’t heading for the mound, though, instead emptying a bucket and trying to usher the possum off the field. Eventually the possum ducked into the Texas bullpen, was corralled in the bucket, and then escorted from the premises.

Good work, fellas.

By the time that right-hander Drew Shifflet finished off the Islanders in the ninth inning, having struck out one and allowed one hit, the Longhorns bullpen had been busy on the mound, too, pitching 6.1 innings of relief after replacing No. 5 starter Justin Eckhardt, a right-hander making only his second start of the season thanks to Wednesday’s game against the Lumberjacks.

Led by 2.1 innings and 39 pitches from right-hander Palmer Wenzel, the four relievers allowed five hits and two earned runs over those six-plus innings. Right-hander Cole Quintanilla, who nows boasts an ERA of 0.56, pitched 2.0 innings and only allowed a single hit. The lone big swing for Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in the game came against left-lander Lucas Gordon in the sixth inning when Tyler Byrd hit a two-run home run to cut the Texas lead to 6-4, but that was the only blemish.

At that point, however, it wasn’t clear whether Texas would manage the feat it’s accomplished all season during midweek games against overmatched opponents — putting them away decisively.

In the seventh inning, the separation finally happened with three Texas runs on three hits when the TAMUCC bullpen ran out of effective arms. Third baseman Cam Williams walked to lead off and scored when designated hitter Ivan Melendez continued his remarkable tear at the plate with a double down the left-field line. A single by right fielder Douglas Hodo III put runners on the corners before center fielder Mike Antico popped out. When shortstop Trey Faltine was hit by a pitch, left fielder Eric Kennedy grounded into a fielder’s choice with Melendez out at the plate, but second baseman Mitchell Daly continued his own streak of impressive performances with a single up the middle off the pitcher’s foot to score two runs.

By that point, the Islanders bullpen was fully melting down, resulting in four hits and four walks producing five more runs for the Longhorns in the eighth inning.

The best performance at the plate came from Melendez, whose average is now up to .360 after a 4-for-5 day with a home run, two doubles, three RBI, and two runs scored. His home run ranks as one of the most prodigious clouts in recent years at the Disch, a blast into a strong wind blowing out of left field estimated at 471 feet.

Named the Big 12 Co-Newcomer of the Week after going 8-for-13 in the sweep against Kansas, Melendez now has 12 hits in his last 18 at bats (.666) as the team’s batting average climbs to .274.

Williams had a big swing, too, a no-doubt shot over the scoreboard in right-center field while hitting left-handed in the fifth inning. The eighth home run for Williams extended his team lead and featured a bat flip in midseason mode.

First pitch between Texas and Stephen F. Austin on Wednesday is at 6:30 p.m. on Longhorn Network. Left-hander Pete Hansen (2-1, 1.50) takes the mound for David Pierce.