On a picture perfect first day of Spring at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin, Texas, Lucas Gordon had a career long outing on the mound for the No. 2 Texas Longhorns and Murphy Stehly was 3-for-4, scored three runs ,and blasted three home runs to drive in four runs for the Longhorns in a 12-0 victory over the Incarnate Word Cardinals to complete the sweep and extend the current winning streak to four games.
Stehly became the first Longhorn to hit three home runs in a single game since J.D. Reininger accomplished that feat at Dell Diamond in Round Rock back in 2002. The Texas bats continued to stay hot, pounding out 16 hits in the game.
Gordon was absolutely dominant on the mound. He pounded the strike zone and used his changeup effectively to keep the Cardinals batters off balance all day. He scattered four hits over 7.0 shutout innings, a career high, while only throwing 80 pitches. Incarnate Word had only one runner reach second base all day, and he was erased on a Daly-Faltine-Melendez double play in the top of the third inning.
Right-hander Jared Southard came on in relief in the eighth inning and threw only 18 pitches to retire the four Cardinals batters that he faced. Right-hander Aaron Nixon didn’t have a chance at a save this weekend, but continued the Texas dominance on the mound, throwing only six pitches to induce back-to-back ground outs and a three-pitch strike out of the last Incarnate Word batter to seal the win.
Head coach David Pierce made a few slight changes to the top of the Texas lineup, and it paid off handsomely for the Longhorns. Left fielder Eric Kennedy and center fielder Douglas Hodo III switched places in the batting order with Kennedy leading off and Hodo dropping into the two hole. Kennedy responded by going 3-for-5 at the plate with a double and an RBI while scoring three runs. Hodo used the lineup switch to bust out of his recent slump with a 3-for-4 outing that included a double, two runs scored, and three RBI. Pierce’s other tweak to the offensive lineup was moving the hot-hitting Stehly into the cleanup spot to protect the powerful Ivan Melendez. This move also proved to be effective with Melendez going 1-for-4, with a walk, two runs scored and a two-run home run. Stehly, as previously mentioned, had a career game in the cleanup spot behind Melendez.
The scoring was all Texas and started in the first inning. Kennedy led off with a push-bunt single up the third base line on the first pitch of the ballgame. He then stole second on the first pitch to Hodo, who drove the next pitch off the first baseman’s glove into right-center field to score Kennedy to make the score 1-0.
The second inning saw the Longhorns put up their first crooked number of the game. After shortstop Trey Faltine grounded out to his Cardinals counterpart, third baseman Skyler Messinger continued his recent hot streak at the plate with a line drive over the shortstop’s head and into the left-center field gap for a double. Designated hitter Jack O’Dowd then grounded out to the second baseman and second baseman Mitchell Daly drew a walk to bring the leadoff batter Kennedy to the plate with two outs. Kennedy hit a high fly ball deep into the left field corner that Cardinals left fielder lost in the sun. On what should have been an inning ending flyout, the ball instead dropped into fair territory and bounced over the fence in the left field corner for a ground-rule double that scored Messinger from second, moved O’Dowd to third base and made it 2-0 Longhorns. Hodo then drove a single into left field to score O’Dowd and Kennedy, and push the score 4-0. This set the stage for Melendez, who saw a fastball over the outside half of the plate and drove it 419 feet over the left-center field wall, with a 109 mph bat exit speed to make it 6-0 Longhorns.
THE HISPANIC TITANIC IS AT IT AGAIN!@ivanmelendez17_'s 9th of the year makes it 6-0!#HookEm #TitanicTank pic.twitter.com/pbtvMvCFxV— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 20, 2022
Stehly began his offensive onslaught on the very next pitch — Cardinals starting pitcher Isaiah Zavala left a fastball up in the strike zone and Stehly drove it out of the yard for his first home run of the day.
BACK-TO-BACK JACKS!@MurphyStehly TAKES THE NEXT PITCH DEEP AND IT’S 7-0!#HookEm pic.twitter.com/gwa1BkJBwO— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 20, 2022
All six runs in the inning came with two outs as the Longhorns entered today’s game scoring an incredible 50 percent of their runs with two outs.
Texas went scoreless in the third inning, but sent nine batters to the plate, and hung another crooked number in the box score in the fourth inning. Kennedy started the offense for the Longhorns with a single into left field. Hodo was then hit by a pitch, and that chased Zavala from the mound. Otto Stacey came in from the bullpen, and proceeded to throw eight straight pitches out of the strike zone to walk in a run and make it 8-0.
The Cardinals went to the bullpen and brought in Seth Higdon to try to get out of the bases loaded, one out jam. Catcher Silas Ardoin greeted Higdon with a high chopper that traveled about 17 feet up the third-base line. Higdon pounced on the ball, but not before Hodo crossed the plate to make it 9-0 as Ardoin made it safely to first base without a throw from Higdon. Faltine struck out with the bases loaded for the second out and Messinger continued both his hot hitting steak, and the trend of two-out runs by driving a ground ball down the third base line for an RBI single that scored Melendez and made it 10-0.
The Longhorns went scoreless in the fifth inning, which brought Stehly to the plate to leadoff the sixth inning. Stehly got another fastball up in the zone on a 2-1 count, and dropped it just over the left field wall to make it 11-0. he ball actually hit the secondary wall just beyond the outfield fence, and bounced back onto the playing field.
MORE MURPH. @MurphyStehly goes deep again and it’s 11-0 Texas!#HookEm pic.twitter.com/VIJxMVTDo5— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 20, 2022
The Longhorns went quietly to end the sixth inning, and went scoreless in the seventh inning.
The red-hot Stehly led off the eighth inning, and this time turned on an inside, belt-high fastball that hit halfway up the back wall of the Incarnate Word bullpen. He hit that ball lopsided.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 20, 2022
A THREE-HOMER DAY FOR @MurphyStehly!
HE’S JUST A BALLPLAYER. pic.twitter.com/Ltok5R8KQs
The three-game series against Incarnate was just what the Longhorns needed in their last weekend tune-up before they start Big 12 play on Friday at Dan Law Field in Lubbock against the Texas Tech Red Raiders who are 17-3 and currently riding a seven-game winning streak. The offense got timely hits and two-out runs and Gordon has firmly established himself as the Sunday starter.