On a warm night in Austin, the second-largest crowd to see a college baseball game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field saw the No. 9 seed Texas Longhorns score early and often to punch their ticket to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Baseball Tournament in a 10-1 win over the Air Force Falcons.
Texas will await the winner of Monday’s Greenville Regional championship game between Coastal Carolina and the host East Carolina Pirates at noon Central time on ESPN. The Chanticleers forced a game 7 by defeating East Carolina 9-1 Sunday night. If Coastal Carolina wins game 7, they will travel to Austin to face the Longhorns. If East Carolina wins, the Longhorns will have travel to Greenville to face the higher-seeded Pirates.
Texas was the visiting team for the contest Sunday night, and the Longhorn offense wasted no time setting the tone for the evening in the top of the first inning. Texas center fielder Douglas Hodo III led off the game with an infield single down the third-base line. However, he was picked off trying to steal second base by the left-handed Falcon starter Stevan Fairburn, Jr. Left fielder Dylan Campbell drew a walk on the very next pitch that set the stage for some early fireworks from first baseman Ivan Melendez, who caught a 1-1 hanging breaking ball from Fairburn and drove over the left-center field wall for his 30th home run of the season to put the Longhorns up 2-0.
After right fielder Murphy Stehly popped up to the second baseman for the second out of the inning, designated hitter Austin Todd ripped a single into right-center field. Third baseman Skylar Messinger followed that with a walk. Catcher Silas Ardoin then rolled a ground ball deep and to the right of Air Force shortstop Aerik Joe, who couldn’t make the throw in time to get Ardoin at first base. With the bases loaded and two outs, and second baseman Mitchel Daly at the plate, Fairburn spiked a fastball into the ground that got by Falcon catcher Paul Skenes, allowing Todd to score from third base to make it 3-0 Longhorns. Daly then drew a walk to once again load the bases and bring up shortstop Trey Faltine. With an 0-2 count, Fairburn left a breaking ball over the outside half of the plate and Faltine drove into the right field corner for a two RBI ground-rule double.
BASES LOADED DOUBLE!— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) June 6, 2022
After @AustinTodd44 scores on a wild pitch and @mitchdaly19 walks to load the bases, @TFaltine doubles down the right field line and it’s 5-0 Horns!#HookEm pic.twitter.com/ebC9uvptSN
Hodo, the tenth batter of the inning for the Longhorns, struck out to end the inning.
Texas picked up another run in the top of the third inning on a sacrifice fly by Daly that scored Todd from third base.
Texas starting pitcher Travis Sthele was in command from the first pitch of the game. He faced only 13 batters over three shutout innings of work, throwing 50 pitches and allowing two hits with two walks and two strikeouts.
Hard-throwing right-hander Jared Southard entered the game in the bottom of the fourth inning. Southard gave the Longhorns a solid three innings of shutout work, facing 12 batters and striking out six with a masterful mix of mid-90’s fastballs and low-80’s breaking balls.
The Longhorns added another run in the fourth inning when Campbell blasted a hanging curveball off the back wall of the Air Force bullpen in left field to push the score to 7-0.
Texas tacked on another run in the fifth inning when Ardoin drove a ball deep into right-center field to score Messinger from first base. Messinger was 2-for-2 on the night at the plate. He walked twice, was hit by a pitch, and scored three runs.
Both teams put up goose eggs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Right-hander Andre Dupantier II pitched solidly in the seventh and eighth innings for Texas, giving up two hits with two strikeouts and no walks.
Faltine led off the eighth inning with a walk, but was erased when left fielder Eric Kennedy, who entered the game in place of Hodo, hit into a 4-6-3 double play. Campbell then came to the plate and found another belt-high breaking ball that he drove over the left-center field wall to make the score 9-0. It was Campbell’s third hit of the series, and all three were home runs.
Faltine closed out the scoring for the Longhorns in the ninth inning with a bloop double that landed just beyond the reach of a diving Air Force right fielder. Messinger scored from second base on the play, but Daly was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first, and that ended the inning.
Right-hander Lebarron Johnson came into the game in the ninth inning to try to preserve the shutout for the Longhorns, but he left a fastball over the middle of the plate, and Falcon designated hitter Braydon Altorfer, who led off the inning, crushed it off the scoreboard for the only Air Force run of the game. Johnson retired the next three batters on back-to-back strike outs, and a 5-3 ground ball.
Jared Southard got the win for Texas, and Stevan Fairburn, Jr. took the loss for Air Force.