In their final game before kicking off Big 12 play, the No. 2 Texas Longhorns took care of business at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday night against the Central Arkansas Bears in a 7-2 win as right-hander Justin Eckhardt threw a career-high six shutout innings while the bats provided plenty of support in the contest.
A redshirt sophomore, Eckhardt was selected by Texas head coach David Pierce to make his second start of the season. That move paid dividends for the Longhorns, as Eckhardt tossed the best pitching performance of his young career on the Forty Acres. Coming into tonight’s game, Eckhardt had thrown just 6.1 innings and struck out just five batters while allowing six hits and four earned runs. Against Central Arkansas on Tuesday night, however, Eckhardt limited the Bears bats to just two hits and no runs allowed while striking out seven over six full innings of work. This excellent level of play earned him his first win of the season.
While Eckhardt was busy silencing Bears bats, the Longhorns were busy lighting up the scoreboard. Texas constantly put runners on base throughout the game, totaling 17 different base runners (12 hits and five walks).
The Longhorns got to work scoring early, with shortstop Trey Faltine getting the first runner across home courtesy of an RBI sacrifice fly. Third baseman Skyler Messinger followed that up with a poke-through single past the second baseman to score catcher Silas Ardoin from second.
Though the scoring in the second inning stopped following that RBI single, it wasn’t long before the Horns added more runs to their total.
In the bottom of the third inning, first baseman Ivan Mendelez continued his scorching-hot start to the season with a blistering opposite-field home run to right field. The Titanic’s home run is already his 10th of the season.
Texas picked up three more runs in the fourth inning. With the bases loaded, designated hitter Cam Constantine hit a sacrifice fly to center field to score Faltine. The next batter, center fielder Douglas Hodo III, followed up with a double to score Messinger from second base. The last run of the inning came also by sacrifice fly, this time off the bat of left fielder Eric Kennedy, scoring second baseman Mitchell Daly and pushing the Longhorn lead to 6-0.
The final run of the game for the boys in orange and white came in the fifth inning. After an Ardoin double, two wild pitches allowed him to score and give the Longhorns their final run of the game, pushing the lead to 7-0, Texas.
Central Arkansas clawed back for two runs of their own late in the game in the final three innings. As Pierce has done most of this season, he went with a hodge-podge of relievers to close out the midweek game, throwing four different pitchers (right-hander Travis Sthele, left-hander Luke Harrison, right-hander Coy Cobb and right-handerAaron Nixon) to close out the last three innings. Those four combined for a stat line of 3.0 innings pitched, surrendering two runs off three hits and three walks while striking out two.
In what essentially amounted to a final tuneup before the start of conference play, Texas will take their modest five-game winning streak and head to Lubbock to take on Texas Tech. The Red Raiders and the Longhorns have been the cream of the Big 12 Baseball crop for the last half-decade, and this season is no exception, with Texas Tech currently ranked No. 16, according to D1 Baseball. Unlike basketball, however, Lubbock has been a sort of friendly confines to Texas over the years, as Texas hasn’t lost a weekend series in Lubbock since 2000. Anticipating a good first weekend in conference play, Texas hopes to keep that streak going this weekend.