The No. 7 Texas Longhorns used a business-like approach to create early separation against the UTRGV Vaqueros, scoring six runs in the first inning, and were never threatened on Tuesday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in the 13-5 victory to start a five-game homestand.
Led by a 4-for-5 performance from third baseman Skyler Messinger, who scored two runs and had two RBI, the Longhorns pounded out 17 hits, including home runs from right fielder Murphy Stehly, second baseman Mitchell Daly, and center fielder Douglas Hodo III. First basemen Ivan Melendez recovered from a subpar series against Oklahoma to go 3-for-4 with two walks, two RBI, and one run scored.
Hodo drew a walk to start the game for the Longhorns and Stehly, hitting in the two hole on Tuesday, didn’t exactly set the table for Melendez — he cleared it, sending a 1-0 pitch just over the left-field wall for his ninth home run of the season and extending his hitting streak to 15 games.
Melendez followed with a hard-hit single into left field and shortstop Trey Faltine produced another two-out run for the Horns with a double into left-center field to score Melendez from second. Messinger continued his streak of strong work at the plate, hitting the first pitch he saw up the middle to score Faltine. Then Daly ended the scoring in the opening frame with his home run.
In the third, Texas added two unearned runs on RBI singles from Stehly and Melendez, one run in the fourth on a double by Messinger, one more in the fifth on a single by Melendez, and three in the sixth on the home run by Hodo.
Against a solid UTRGV offense, Texas right-hander Justin Eckhardt didn’t exactly dominate, allowing nine hits and five runs over 4.2 innings with three strikeouts and two walks, but he was able to chew up some innings and was never in real danger of letting the Vaqueros back in the game after the Longhorns took the early lead.
In third inning, Eckhardt got some help from Daly on a diving play up the middle to start an inning-ending double play.
More impressive — and important — was the clean effort from the much-maligned Texas bullpen. Right-hander Jared Southard got the win with 1.1 innings of work, allowing one hit and striking out one. Left-hander Luke Harrison, right-hander Lebarron Johnson Jr., and right-hander Travis Sthele pitched hitless innings apiece with Sthele recording a strikeout.
The strong appearances were particularly important for Southard, Harrison, and Sthele, a trio that would ideally make up the setup crew for right-hander Aaron Nixon, the struggling closer.
Texas returns to the Disch this weekend for an important Big 12 series against No. 23 TCU.