The No. 9 seed Texas Longhorns failed to record an extra-base hit for the first time this season as the offense struggled in a 7-3 loss to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at the College World Series in Omaha on Friday night.
The Longhorns only managed six hits and struggled to seriously threaten the Irish, who took a 1-0 lead in the first inning and never relinquished it behind 11 hits, including two home runs. The pitching for Notre Dame was superior with left-hander John Michael Bertrand, who went 5.1 innings, allowing only six hits and three runs with eight strikeouts, and left-hander Jack Findlay went 2.1 innings without allowing a hit and two strikeouts, dominating Texas.
The Horns will now face the Aggies on Sunday in an elimination game at 1 p.m. Central on ESPN.
Texas is one of the favorites in the College World Series, but to have a strong shot of making the finals, head coach David Pierce’s team needs to open up their time in Omaha with a win over Notre Dame on Friday at Charles Schwab Field at 6:15 p.m. Central on ESPN.
Texas sends left-hander Pete Hansen (11-2, 3.40) to the mound hoping their ace can locate his fastball on both sides of the plate to turn in a quality start and preserve the bullpen. Notre Dame counters with veteran left-hander John Michael Bertrand (9-3, 2.67), who struggled in his last outing, allowing six runs on eight hits in 4.2 innings in last Friday’s loss to Tennessee.
The winner of Friday’s game will face Oklahoma, which beat No. 5 seed Texas A&M 13-8 in the first game on Friday. The loser will face the Aggies in a Sunday elimination game.
Notre Dame got on the board first. With Hansen working at the top end of his velocity range with his fastball, he left a 3-1 pitch up and right down the middle of the plate. Fighting Irish second baseman Jared Miller took advantage, driving it just over the right-field wall for a 1-0 lead.
Hansen retired the next two batters to get out of the inning.
Texas went down in order against Bertrand in the first as center fielder Douglas Hodo III struck out on a high fastball, left fielder Eric Kennedy grounded out to first base, and first baseman Ivan Melendez grounded out to third.
Hansen gave up a sharply-hit leadoff single just past shortstop Trey Faltine in the hole, but struck out the next batter with a nasty 1-2 breaking ball. After falling behind shortstop Zach Prajzner 2-1, Hansen gave up a single to center to put runners on first and second with one out. Another strikeout and a groundout to shortstop got Hansen out of the second.
The Longhorns struggled to get anything going against Bertrand in the second either as second baseman Murphy Stehly flied out to center field and designated hitter Austin Todd grounded out to second. Third baseman Skyler Messinger hit a ball into the hole at second and the Notre Dame second baseman made a nice play to make it close at first. After Messinger was initially ruled out, replay overturned the call, but the Longhorns couldn’t take advantage as catcher Silas Ardoin grounded out to shortstop.
Hansen was quickly in trouble again in the third inning, hitting the first batter, allowing his first stolen base of the season when Ardoin couldn’t handle the exchange behind the plate, and then putting runners on first and third with a single through the left side of the infield. Notre Dame then narrowly missed an opposite-field home run by first baseman Carter Putz, who eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice to make it 2-0 Fighting Irish. Two more strikeouts helped Hansen avoid any further damage.
Right fielder Dylan Campbell narrowly missed a home run of his own to lead off the bottom of the third before drawing a walk. In another strong at bat, Faltine worked a full count before hitting a single to center field that advanced Campbell to third, prompting a mound visit by Notre Dame. Hodo couldn’t bring home Campbell, striking out on three pitches, but Kennedy did on a sacrifice bunt that resulted in an out at second base. Melendez kept the inning going with a single to center that moved Kennedy to third, but Stehly struck out to strand both runners.
Once again, Hansen put himself under quick pressure, giving up an infield single to leadoff batter, but worked ahead in the count against Prajzner before inducing a popup to Faltine by pounding a fastball in on his hands. Another single put runners on first and third with one out. As Notre Dame tried a bunt to score the runner from third, Hansen made a spectacular play, getting off the mound quickly, barehanding the ball, and tossing it to Ardoin to make the play at the plate. Initially at least — the call was overturned on review. A fly ball to deep right field was deep enough for the runner to try to advance. Initially ruled safe, Texas challenged the call and it appeared the runner’s foot was off the bag as Messinger applied the tag, but the review was unsuccessful. Hansen loaded the bases on a spiked pitch that hit the batter, putting the Texas pitcher in the most dangerous position of the game, but a line drive to Stehly at second base marked the hard-earned third out with the Irish leading 3-1.
Bertrand only needed four pitches to secure two groundouts in the bottom of the inning and three more to get Ardoin out on a popup to short right field.
Hansen was able to win a long at bat to open the inning with a strikeout, then gave up two singles, the seventh and eighth hits for Notre Dame in the game as his pitch count crept up into the 80s. A third single, this time up the middle, scored another run for the Fighting Irish as Hansen battled a tight strike zone and ended the evening for the Texas ace. Right-hander Tristan Stevens entered the game and was called for a balk when he faked a throw to third, resulting in a run scored by Notre Dame before he even threw a pitch. A single on a 1-2 pitch from Stevens extended the lead to 6-1 with two outs before a caught stealing ended the frame and put pressure on the Longhorns offense to finally show some life.
It was Campbell once again who provided some, singling up the middle to lead off the inning, but Faltine struck out before a strong at bat by Hodo resulted in a single to left field to score Campbell and cut the deficit to 6-2. Texas couldn’t mount a sustained rally, though, as Kennedy popped out in foul territory and Melendez hit into a fielder’s choice.’
Stevens recorded the first out on a groundout to first base before walking the next batter on a 10-pitch on at bat and then recovering with a 5-4-3 double play.
Stehly singled to left field to put a leadoff runner on base for the Longhorns in the sixth, only the third hit by the 1-through-5 batters for Texas in 13 at bats, and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Todd moved Stehly to third, Notre Dame made its first call to the bullpen, removing Bertrand in favor of right-hander Alex Rao. Ahead 0-2 on Messinger, Rao sent a high fastball to the backstop, allowing Stehly to score. With a high-90s fastball and a devastating changeup, Rao was able to strike out Messinger and Ardoin to set down the Longhorns.
Appearing to settle in further, Stevens quickly recorded outs on a fly ball to center field and two strikeouts to get through the seventh with ease.
Texas hit the ball hard twice to open the seventh, but both went right at the Notre Dame third baseman off the bats of Campbell and Faltine. A four-pitch walk drawn by Hodo resulted in a bullpen call by the Irish, opting for left-hander Jack Findlay to face Kennedy. Working inside and out with his fastball, Findlay struck Kennedy out swinging.
Stevens maintained his rhythm with two flyouts and a groundout for another easy inning, bringing Melendez to the plate against Findlay, who continued his sensational run of pitching by striking out Melendez and narrowly avoiding a home run by Stehly on a towering fly ball just missed by the Texas second baseman.
With two outs in the ninth, Stevens gave up a home run as Notre Dame stretched the lead to 7-3 before Stevens retired the side. The Longhorns were unable to get to Findlay in the ninth as the Fighting Irish reliever set Texas down in order.