On yet another gusty evening at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the No. 10 Texas Longhorns survived an offensive onslaught from the Air Force Fighting Falcons batters, as the pitching woes for the Longhorns continued, but shortstop Trey Faltine bailed the staff out with a walk-off, two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth to secure a much-needed 12-10 victory.
“I went to the bathroom between that inning and I kept telling myself — I remember my freshman year, Cam Williams hit a walk-off home run after we blew the lead just like that,” Faltine said after the game. “I kept telling myself, ‘I’m going to do exactly what Hammer did.’ Shoutout to Hammer for that.”
Air Force batters pounded out six home runs, a double, and 10 singles in the contest, led by third baseman Jay Thomason, who was 3-for-4 with two home runs, three RBI, and two runs scored. Left fielder Jake Greiving was 2-for-5 with two home runs, three RBI, and two runs scored. Designated hitter Paul Skenes was 3-for-5 with one home run, one RBI, and two runs scored.
The Texas offense was led by right fielder Murphy Stehly who was 3-for-4 with one home run, two RBI, and two runs scored. Faltine, the hero of the day, was 3-for-5 with three RBI, two runs scored, and the aforementioned walk-off home run to pull out the win.
Air Force opened the scoring in the top of the first inning when leadoff batter, first baseman Sam Kulasingam, crushed the fourth pitch of the game off Longhorn starting right-hander Travis Sthele over the center field fence and off the green monster. Unfortunately for Texas pitchers, this wasn’t the only dent put into the monster off of an Air Force bat, although after an infield single by center fielder Blake Covin, Sthele managed to settle in and retire the next three Falcon batters.
Center fielder Douglass Hodo III led off the bottom of the first with a single to center field. Designated hitter Austin Todd followed that with another single to put runners at first and second, but first baseman Ivan Melendez then grounded into an unassisted double play turned by Thomason that erased Hodo at third, leaving Todd at second base for cleanup batter Stehly. He turned on a first pitch fastball up in the zone and a little inside, and drove it 391 feet and over the Falcon bullpen to put the Longhorns up 2-1.
Sthele managed to get through the top of the second without any further damage and only faced four Falcon batters.
The Longhorns, however, exploded for six more runs in the bottom of the second inning. Left fielder Dylan Campbell led off the inning and was hit by a pitch before stealing second base when catcher Brayden Altorfer’s throw went into center field allowing Campbell to scamper over to third base.
Second baseman Mitchell Daly ripped a double down the third-base line, scoring Campbell from third. Faltine follewed Daly’s double with one of his own and scored Daly from second making it a 4-1 Texas lead. Hodo then walked to put runners at first and second and Todd lifted a deep fly ball to center field that advanced both runners. After Melendez blooped a ball into the shortstop’s glove for the second out, catcher Silas Ardoin stepped in and cleared the bases with a hard-hit double that bounced off the right field wall to put the Longhorns up 7-1.
Messinger then tacked on another run by ripping a single into left field that scored Ardoin. Texas led 8-1 after two complete innings.
After Sthele retired the first batter of the inning. leadoff batter Kulasinger, on a comebacker to the mound, he gave up five consecutive hits. Covin hit a single up the middle that left fielder Gabriel Garcia followed with a double to right center that scored Covin. Greiving followed that with a two-run home run. Skenes then singled to center field and Thomason dropped another Air Force bomb off the center-field monster. When the smoke cleared from the Air Force arial display, the Texas lead was cut to 8-6.
The scoring resumed for the Longhorns in the bottom of the fifth inning when Campbell led off the inning with a walk and stole second to put himself into scoring position. Faltine then lifted a deep fly ball to center field for the second out of the inning, and moved Campbell to third on the tag up. Hodo then doubled past the third baseman to score Campbell and push the Texas lead to 9-6.
Sthele ran into trouble again in the top of the sixth inning by putting two runners on base with only one out. Head coach David Pierce brought in right-hander Coy Cobb, who worked out of the jam by getting a fly ball out to center field and a ground ball to Daly at second.
After the Longhorns went quietly in the bottom of the sixth, Cobb started off the top of the seventh by surrendering back-to-back home runs to Skenes and Thomason making it a 10-8 Texas lead. That brought left-hander Luke Harrison into the game, and retired the next three Falcon hitters to get out of the inning without any further damage.
Right-hander Aaron Nixon came into the game in the top of the ninth inning to try to earn the save, but Greiving blasted Nixon’s second pitch of the game over the right center field wall to cut the Texas lead to 10-9. Skenes and Thomason then hit back-to-back singles to put runners at first and second. Altorfer then hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Skenes at second, but moved Thomason over to third. With runners at the corners, Falcon second baseman Trayden Tamiya laid a perfectly-executed suicide squeeze bunt down the third-base line to score Thomason and tie the ball game. Nixon managed to get out of the inning without any further damage.
After Campbell popped out to the shortstop, Daly drew a walk to set the stage for Faltine’s heroics. With a 2-2 count, Faltine found a fastball up in the zone that he turned on and crushed over the Air Force bullpen to win the game for Texas.
Aaron Nixon picked up the win for the Longhorns, while Air Force reliever Sawyer Hawks took the loss.
Texas will head back to conference play this weekend when they host Baylor this weekend at UFCU DIsch-Falk Field. The first pith Friday is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Central on the Longhorn Network.