The No. 2 national seed Texas Longhorns earned a 37th College World Series appearance as the top remaining seed following a comfortable 12-4 win over the South Florida Bulls in front of a sold-out crowd at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Sunday.
With Arkansas falling to NC State in the Fayetteville Super Regional, Texas is the highest seed left in the field after securing five wins in the five games since the NCAA Tournament started. The run differential? The Horns are now plus-37 (49-12) over those contests.
The left side of the Texas infield led the way — shortstop Trey Faltine and third baseman Cam Williams combined to go 3-for-5 with two doubles, a home run, five RBI, and six runs, along with four walks and two hit by pitches.
Sunday’s game featured some early adversity, though.
As Longhorns starter Tristan Stevens struggled with his control to open the game, the Bulls took advantage. Dangerous designated hitter Drew Brutcher, who hit the game-tying home run in the ninth on Saturday, walked to lead off the frame. After retiring the second hitter, Stevens put another runner on base with a 1-2 hit by pitch. Stevens lost control of the strike zone again with two outs, issuing a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Against postseason standout Jarrett Eaton with two outs, Stevens left a pitch in the middle of the plate and Eaton took advantage with a two-run single to center.
The response by Texas didn’t waste any time. Williams drew a leadoff walk on 10 pitches, right fielder Douglas Hodo III reached first on a bunt single, and Faltine came through with a 2-2 double to score one run. Catcher Silas Ardoin added two more runs on a double to short right fielder that was misplayed by the right fielder and the second baseman. Antico added a third with a groundout to second base as Texas took a 4-2 lead.
With the bases cleared, a two-out, five-pitch walk to Daly prompted the removal of South Florida starter Collin Sullivan after 1.2 innings and 47 pitches as Texas got into the opposing bullpen early.
Faltine came through at the plate again in the third inning, lacing a double into the left-field corner, scoring Williams and Hodo after both drew walks.
In the fourth, Stevens needed some help from his defense. Two singles led off the inning before Faltine made a sliding play deep in the hole and threw out the runner at third from the ground. A single cut the lead to 6-3, but Stevens helped himself out with a sensational play to get the runner at home on a bunt. Striking out Brutcher on a running 3-2 fastball that caught the inside corner, Stevens flashed his intensity coming off the mound.
Like Ty Madden on Saturday, Stevens left to a standing ovation from the burnt orange faithful in what was almost certainly his final appearance at the Disch as well. Stevens gave up four runs on eight hits with two walks and three strikeouts — not en elite performance given the high standards the Missouri native set this season, but good enough to exit with the lead and a chance to earn the win.
Texas picked up two more runs in the fifth with bases-loaded walks, then added three runs in the seventh on a pinch-hit single from Peyton Powell and a two-run home run by Williams, who had walked and scored in his previous four plate appearances. It was the ninth pitch he saw in the at bat.
In the ninth, right-hander Aaron Nixon struck out two of the three batters he faced as the stadium erupted for the final time in a season the Longhorns can define as truly special in the only place that meets that standard for this program.
On to Omaha.