A weather delay that lasted more than three and a half hours resulted in the latest start for a College World Series game since 1997, forcing the Texas Longhorns to pull out a 6-2 win against the Virginia Cavaliers at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha in the early hours of Friday morning.
First baseman Zach Zubia came through in the ninth inning, breaking a 3-for-30 slump since the opening game of the NCAA Tournament with a phenomenal at bat. Working a full count, Zubia got a fastball up in the zone and used a short swing to smash a two-out, three-run, double into the left-center gap. He knew it immediately.
It was Zubia’s first hit in this College World Series.
The big swing from Zubia gave the Longhorns a commanding lead and right-hander Aaron Nixon slammed the door with a 1-2-3 inning to earn his ninth save of the season.
Texas had taken the lead in the eighth when designated hitter Ivan Melendez singled up the middle following a full-count walk by Zubia to drive home center fielder Mike Antico. Melendez was 2-for-5, his first two-hit performance since the opening game of the Austin Regional.
Virginia starter Mike Vasil was excellent in holding Texas to four hits over 7.0 innings with only two runs allowed after giving up nine runs over his previous three postseason appearances.
But the Horns were able to score one run in the second when Melendez worked a 2-0 count to lead off the second and got a fastball, lacing a double down the left-field line. Right fielder Douglas Hodo III drove Melendez home with an 0-2 single.
Texas has now won 33 of 34 games this season when scoring first.
Left fielder Eric Kennedy added the second run of the game on a wild pitch, but Virginia’s Chris Newell tied it up with a moonshot two-run homer in the fifth against Texas starter Pete Hansen.
Hansen had his off-speed pitches working early in the game before struggling with his command in the third inning. Fortunately for the left-hander, catcher Silas Ardoin helped him out, throwing out Newell for only the second time in 15 stolen-base attempts this season. It marked the third time Ardoin has thrown out an attempted base stealer in the College World Series.
Ardoin came through again in the fourth, flashing his quickness on a bunt popped up behind the plate as Hansen once again escaped the leadoff batter reaching for the third time in four innings.
In the sixth, Hansen benefited from a strong play by Williams at third and a lucky deflection off his glove that resulted in Virginia standout Kyle Teel being thrown out at third before leaving the game after 5.2 innings, five hits and two earned runs allowed with six strikeouts and two walks. Just a classic 1-6-5 putout. On in relief, right-hander Cole Quintanilla induced a groundout to end the inning.
A double play in the eighth from Nixon after relieving Quintanilla provided the opportunity for Zubia to extend the lead.
The win earned Texas a rematch against Mississippi State at 6 p.m. Central on Friday, likely against Bulldogs ace Will Bednar, who mowed down the Horns on Sunday. Expect Ty Madden to make the start for Texas, even though head coach David Pierce wasn’t willing to confirm that after the game. To make the finals, Texas needs two more wins in elimination games.
“No, we’re not going away,” head coach David Pierce said.