The No,. 2 Texas Longhorns ended their Spring Break tour of South Carolina on a positive note as they handily defeated The Citadel Bulldogs at Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park in Charleston on Wednesday night.
First baseman Ivan Melendez was 3-for-4 with a home run, two RBI and three runs scored. Behind Melendez in the order, catcher Silas Ardoin went 3-for-4 with a home run, three RBI, and three runs scored. Making a second start at designated hitter for Texas, transfer Jack O’ Dowd was 2-for-3 — his first two hits for the Longhorns — and scored two runs. Fellow transfer Skylar Messinger, a standout at Kansas over the last several seasons, had a much-needed solid performance at the plate after struggling of late, as he went 3-for-5 with two RBI and two runs scored.
Texas went quietly in the top of the first inning without scoring a run. Longhorns starting pitcher Joshua Stewart struggled with control early on facing the top four batters in the Bulldog lineup who were all left-handed batters. After a leadoff fly out to Eric Kennedy in left field, Stewart got a strikeout, but gave up a double to left and an infield single that Faltine gloved, but didn’t have a chance to make a throw on. That set the stage for The Citadel’s first baseman Noah Mitchell. Stewart threw a 2-1 fastball to Mitchell who turned on it, and drove it just over the left field wall to make it 3-0 Bulldogs.
Stewart then got a strikeout to end the inning.
The Longhorns had a great opportunity to answer back in the top of the second inning. After loading the bases with nobody out, second baseman Mitchell Daly hit a sharp comebacker to the mound. Bulldog starting pitcher Tyler Dunn fielded the ball cleanly and threw home to get O’Dowd at the plate for out number one. Center fielder Douglas Hodo III then hit a high fly ball into center field that Wesley Lane lost in the high and hazy coastal sky, but right fielder Ryan McCarthy sprinted over to make the grab for out number two. Messinger, the runner at third base, apparently also lost the fly ball in the high twilight sky, because he trotted home on the play apparently thinking that the ball had hit the ground. McCarthy then threw to third base for the last out of the inning because Messinger clearly left the bag too early on the play.
Right-hander Travis Sthele came out of the bullpen to start the bottom of second inning and he was in command right away, striking out the three batters he faced on 11 pitches.
In the top of the third for Texas, Kennedy drew a full-count walk and Melendez ripped a fastball back up the middle for a base hit to advance Kennedy to second base. Ardoin was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and chase Bulldog starting pitcher Dunn, forcing lefty Simon Graf to enter with a bases-loaded jam with nobody out to face the leading Texas hitter Murphy Stehly, who ripped a two-RBI single past the shortstop. O’Dowd then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Ardoin to third and Stehly to second and Messinger broke out of his slump by hitting a high chopper over the shortstop’s glove to score Ardoin and Stehly. With Messinger at first base, shortstop Trey Faltine stepped in and took the first pitch for a ball. Graf’s next pitch was right in Faltine’s wheelhouse and it disappeared deep into the South Carolina night.
Graf managed to get out of the inning by striking out second baseman Mitchell Daly, and getting Hodo out on a groundout to the shortstop.
Sthele returned to the mound to face the top of the Bulldog order in the bottom of the third inning and remained in command. He induced a first-pitch fly ball to left field from the leadoff batter and struck out the next batter on four pitches. Sthele proceeded to hit left fielder Cole Simpson, who was crowding the plate on an 0-2 count, but bounced back to strike out the next batter on a ball tipped into Ardoin’s mitt. Sthele continued his dominance of Bulldog batters by throwing up zeros in the bottom of the fourth and fifth innings.
The Longhorns were also held scoreless in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.
Hard-throwing right hander Jared Southard came into the game for the Longhorns to start the bottom of the sixth inning. The first Bulldog batter of the inning, Ryan McCarthy, watched two 90 mph-plus fastballs go high and wide of the strike zone, but did a good job of tracking and timing Southard’s fastball. The next pitch came in at 96 mph over the middle of the plate, and left the yard over the right field wall to make the score 6-4 in favor of the Longhorns.
Texas answered back in the top of the seventh inning by batting a round and hanging another crooked number on the scoreboard. New Bulldog pitcher George Derrick Floyd gave up back-to-back singles to O’Dowd and Messinger. Trey Faltine successfully advanced them by means of a sacrifice bunt. Daly singled off the shortstop’s glove to score O’Dowd. Hodo struck out, but Kennedy then ripped and RBI single into right field to score Messinger from second base. With Kennedy at first, Melendez ripped a low and away fastball over the right center field wall for a laser beam two-run home run that left the bat of Melendez at 113 mph at a angle of only 16 degrees — a remarkable way to leave the ballpark.
With the top of the Bulldog order coming to the plate in the bottom of the seventh inning, Texas head coach David Pierce went to the bullpen to bring in lefty Sam Walbridge. Walbridge walked pinch-hitter Luke Montenery, but struck out the next batter looking, and Walbridge was done for the night. Fellow left-hander Cameron Dayton got the next Bulldog batter to fly out, bringing shortstop Tilo Skole to the plate. Montenery, at first base, decided to test Ardoin’s arm strength by attempting to steal second. He was summarily retired by Faltine who was awaiting Montenery at second base with Ardoin’s throw from the plate.
Both teams went scoreless in the eighth inning, as right-hander Coy Cobb came out of the bullpen for Texas.
The top of the ninth inning proved to be yet another nightmare inning for The Citadel. Pinch-hitter Peyton Powell got an infield hit to lead off the inning. He was replaced by pinch-runner Dylan Campbell. Hodo stepped to the plate and drove an RBI double off the base of the left center field scoring Campbell all the way from first. Back-to-back walks to Kennedy and Melendez lit the fuse for more fireworks from the Longhorns as Ardoin turned on a fastball on the inside half of the plate and sent it deep over the left field wall for a grand slam home run. He got all of it.
The inning then turned ugly for the Bulldog defense. With two outs and the bases loaded, Hodo hit a routine ground ball to the third baseman, who attempted to get the runner at second base. His throw was wide of the bag and went into right field, scoring Stehly and O’Dowd, and closed out the scoring for the Longhorns.
Right-hander Zane Morehouse was called from the bullpen to finish the game for Texas. A fly ball to left field started the inning, but a walk, and a hit batter created some traffic on the bases for Morehouse. After getting the next batter to strike out looking, Morehouse hit the ensuing batter and loaded the bases. An infield blooper into Messinger’s glove at third base ended the game.
After a long five-game road trip and 10 of the last 11 games away from the Forty Acres, the Longhorns return home to UFCU Disch-Falk Field for a weekend series with Incarnate Word. Friday’s first pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Central. All three games can be seen on the Longhorn Network.