Left-hander Pete Hansen went eight innings with a season-high 12 strikeouts as the No. 8 Texas Longhorns controlled the proceedings from the third inning on in a 7-1 win over the Oklahoma Sooners on Friday at Globe Life Field in Arlington.
Hansen allowed a run in the first inning on two hits, but didn’t allow a single hit after that opening frame, using his trademark command to both sides of the plate to flummox Oklahoma hitters, who finished 2-of-28 for a .071 batting average. The Sooners only had one at bat with a runner in scoring position.
“We probably made a couple of bad calls for him, but I just loved the way he just commanded the fastball, utilized the slider when he needed to and get some big strikeouts,” Texas head coach David Pierce said on the post-game show. “I thought his changeup really worked well for him tonight as well but he was just in attack mode the entire night.”
With three runs in the third, the Horns took control and never looked back, batting .371 with 13 hits, including a 4-for-9 performance with runners in scoring position. With first baseman Ivan Melendez struggling with three strikeouts and designated hitter Murphy Stehly only managing a 1-for-5 outing, other players stepped up, including third baseman Skyler Messinger, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a 4-for-4 performance featuring a double, a run, and an RBI.
After a 1-2-3 inning from Oklahoma left-hander Jake Bennett to open the game, the Sooners quickly handed their ace the lead when a single, hit by pitch, and single spotted OU a 1-0 advantage. Texas managed to get base runners in the second — catcher Silas Ardoin via walk and Messinger via single — but second baseman Mitchell Daly wasn’t able to come through with two outs, grounding out to the shortstop to end the threat with Ardoin stranded on third base.
Hansen was more efficient in the second inning, striking out two batters, and the Longhorns finally pressured Bennett early in the third. Right fielder Dylan Campbell led off with a single into right field and left fielder Eric Kennedy followed with a bunt single. Pierce went with an aggressive approach, calling a double steal as center fielder Douglas Hodo III squared around to bunt. Hodo wasn’t able to get the bunt down, but Campbell and Kennedy advanced successfully and then scored on a single by Hodo up the middle.
“We like to stay a little bit unpredictable right there and we felt like we had opportunity with Bennett on the mound,” Pierce said. “So many times you brought them over and they pitch around Ivan, so I just thought it was a good chance for us to kind of create in a different way and you get the right guys on the bases with DC and EK there and it worked out for us.”
Texas added a third run after a single by Stehly, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games, and catcher Silas Ardoin drove in Hodo from third with a sacrifice fly to right field.
Hansen continued to find his rhythm, striking out the side in the third. The Longhorns added some more security for Hansen when Messinger hit a leadoff double that reached the wall in left center and Daly brought him home with a single up the middle.
In the fourth, Hansen allowed a leadoff walk that was nearly eliminated with an inning-ending double play eventually overturned after a lengthy review. Facing an Oklahoma team that is extremely aggressive on the base paths, Ardoin picked up his pitcher by throwing out Tanner Tredaway trying to steal second base.
In the sixth, the Longhorns added another run for Hansen when Ardoin singled and advanced to second on an error by the left fielder, then to third on an infield single by Messinger. Daly worked a full count and came through with a quality at bat with a sacrifice fly to right center to score Ardoin and make it 5-1, a run that knocked the Oklahoma ace from the game after 5.2 innings, cementing Bennett’s worst outing of the season.
Hansen remained on cruise control, working through the fifth, sixth, and seventh inning with only one runner reaching base, coming in the fifth on an error by shortstop Trey Faltine.
A blooper by Ardoin in the eighth turned into a triple when the Sooners couldn’t make a play on the ball, giving the Horns a runner on third with no outs. Faltine couldn’t bring Ardoin home, grounding out to first base, but it was the right approach, and Messinger came through with a single through a drawn-in infield, although Messinger was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double.
Oklahoma tried using infielder/outfielder Brett Squires as a pitcher in the ninth — the first appearance on the mound for Squires with the Sooners — and the experiment didn’t go particularly well. Campbell led off with his first home run of the season and Kennedy followed with a double, though that ended the scoring in the game.
Right-hander Coy Cobb continued a recent stretch of strong pitching from his new lowered arm slot with a 1-2-3 inning, putting himself in position to potentially receive some high-leverage work in coming games.
Texas returns to Globe Life Field on Saturday at noon Central with a chance to win the series. The game airs on ESPN2.
“It’s always fun to win ballgames, but we’ve got to win the one tomorrow and win on Sunday,” Hansen said. “At the end of the day, we want to win the series, so, I mean, this is a good start for us, but let’s do it again tomorrow.”