It was a fitting way to end a close home-and-series — slugging first baseman Ivan Melendez stood at the plate for the No. 1 Texas Longhorns with runners on first and second and two outs in a 6-4 game, staring down Texas State Bobcats closer Tristan Stivors on the mound.
Melendez was hot during the Wednesday matchup at UFCU Disch-Falk Field with three hits in four at bats — his first three-hit game of the season — and Stivors has been lights out this season, entering the game with a 0.75 ERA.
On a 2-0 pitch, Melendez missed his best opportunity, watching a slider without much bite for a called strike. With the count full, Melendez was frozen on a much better slider and the Bobcats were able to pull out the victory after two intense, hard-fought games between the two programs.
TRISTON SIVORS Ks IVAN MELENDEZ.— 11Point7: The College Baseball Podcast (@11point7) March 10, 2022
Horns down. Texas State beats #1 Texas pic.twitter.com/aZ2IdSMcEV
Texas was unable to come up with key hits with runners in scoring position all game, leaving five on base and only scoring one run after the second inning as Texas State used its Saturday and Sunday starters to get the ball to Stivors. In some important spots in the order, the Longhorns couldn’t come up with base hits — catcher Silas Ardoin was 0-for-4 behind Melendez and shortstop Trey Faltine was also 0-for-4 behind third baseman Murphy Stehly, who had two hits. And in the first college start for Vanderbilt transfer Jack O’Dowd at designated hitter, he also went 0-for-4 and stranded three runners on the base paths.
Overall, only four of the 10 players to make plate appearances for the Horns on Wednesday got a base hit.
Despite the struggles at the plate, including nine strikeouts, Texas did enough to win with the exception of another disastrous third inning. After entering Tuesday’s game in San Marcos having allowed only 12 earned runs all season, the Longhorns allowed six runs in the third inning on Tuesday and five earned runs on Wednesday.
Right-hander Justin Eckhardt, who made four midweek starts last season, but struggled with his command, walking 10 batters in 13.1 innings, received his first start in 2022 as a result of the continued fallout from Tanner Witt missing his Sunday start. Eckhardt got off to a promising start, retiring the first seven batters he faced, but left the game in the top of the third with one out and runners on first and second.
In relief of Eckhardt, right-hander Daniel Blair gave up a three-run home run to John Wuthrich to tie the game on his first pitch, a double off the wall in right center on his fourth pitch, and a single on his eighth pitch. Although Jose Gonzalez wasn’t able to score from second base on the single, he did score on a wild pitch by Blair to give Texas State a 4-3 lead. Two passed balls allowed the runner on second to advance to third and then score as Blair struggled to find the strike zone and Ardoin made uncharacteristic mistakes behind the plate.
With a 2-0 count and a runner on second, Blair left the game without recording an out, giving way to right-hander Zane Morehouse, who was able to get out of the inning with a hard-hit flyout to center field and a grounder to third. Morehouse retired the first two batters in the fourth, then gave up a home run to left field on a fastball up and out over the plate as Texas State stretched its lead to 6-3.
Right-handed pitchers Jared Southard, Joshua Stewart, Marcus Olivarez, and Lebarron Johnson Jr. were able to stop the bleeding, with the four pitchers throwing an inning apiece without allowing a hit. Southard was impressive in his inning of work, striking out two, while Stewart needed some help from Ardoin to face the minimum, as Ardoin threw up Dylan Pena attempting to steal second after Stewart walked the Texas State first baseman on four pitches to start the inning.
FROM HIS KNEES!— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 10, 2022
Don’t run on @SilasArdoin4. #HookEm pic.twitter.com/XXUgQcRJPy
Olivarez also looked sharp with a fastball in the los 90s and a tight slider.
Texas took the lead in the bottom of the first. After center fielder Douglas Hodo III walked to start the game, left fielder Eric Kennedy hit a line-drive home run over the right-field wall on an elevated fastball.
EK TANK!@DouglasHodo walks and EK goes deep and the Horns lead, 2-0, in the 1st!#HookEm pic.twitter.com/B8DxEjGuwG— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 10, 2022
Melendez followed with his sixth double of the season, but was thrown out at third on a fielder’s choice to the shortstop, a poor base-running decision. And while Texas drove Texas State starter Peyton Zabel from the game with one out and runners on second and third, the Longhorns weren’t able to get to Matthew Nicholas and his low arm slot.
In the second, another double from Melendez scored Hodo, who had drawn a two-out walk, but head coach David Pierce was too aggressive sending Kennedy and he was caught in a rundown to end the inning with Texas leading 3-0.
Texas wasn’t able to score again until the fifth inning, when Kennedy walked, Melendez moved him to second with his third hit of a game, and two fly-ball outs scored Kennedy on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Murphy Stehly.
In a two-run loss, those mistakes on the base paths loomed large in a game during which Pierce was ejected in the ninth inning for arguing balls and strikes.
The Longhorns head to South Carolina this weekend for five games over the coming week, starting with a three-game series against the 7-5 Gamecocks, who are in the midst of a four-game losing streak.