In a March-like atmosphere with the wind screaming out to left field at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the Texas Longhorns bounced back from the 0-3 start in Arlington with a convincing 12-2 victory over the Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders on Tuesday.
Right-hander Lebarron Johnson delivered an impressive start for the Longhorns with a career-high eight strikeouts and the offense found its groove with 15 hits, led by a 3-for-4 performance by second baseman Jack O’Dowd, who had a triple and three RBI, three hits from shortstop Mitchell Daly, and a big three-run triple by center fielder Eric Kennedy.
Johnson had six strikeouts on breaking balls through five innings, but he was also efficient, retiring 12 of the first 19 batters he faced with three pitches or less, a difficult balance to strike considering the swings and misses he was getting with his changeup and slider and historic issues with command.
Johnson’s biggest mistake came in the first inning when TAMUCC designated hitter Tre Jones homered to center field. It was ultimately the only blemish for the redshirt sophomore, who otherwise scattered two more hits and three total walks over five-plus innings before departing in the sixth after 70 pitches.
Catcher Garret Guillemette provided some defensive help for Johnson, gunning down an attempted base stealer to end the fourth inning.
Left-hander David Shaw pitched a scoreless sixth in relief of Johnson before giving way to right-hander Charlie Hurley, who gave up a double into the left-center gap to the leadoff batter on a grooved pitch up and out over the plate. Hurley traded two groundouts for a run before ending the frame. In the eighth, right-hander Heston Tole entered the game, working quickly through a 1-2-3 inning before right-hander Andre Duplantier closed it out.
The Texas offense showed signs of life early with a home run from designated hitter Jalin Flores, his first collegiate hit and one showing the power that intrigued MLB scouts last summer, reaching out and hooking a ball over the right-center fence with driving backspin.
In the third inning, the Longhorns added three more runs on a two-run single by O’Dowd and an RBI single by shortstop Daly that drove the Islanders starter, left-hander Zach Garcia, out of the game after allowing four runs on six hits through 2.2 innings. Garcia is the Friday starter for TAMUCC and a preseason All-Southland Conference first team selection.
The sixth inning broke the game open for Texas when O’Dowd knocked in another run, this time on a sacrifice fly, and Kennedy delivered the triple to right field on a hanging breaking ball that hit off the wall.
The Islanders provided some help for the Longhorns in the inning, too — right fielder Dylan Campbell reached on a fielding error by the shortstop, scoring Kennedy and allowing Campbell to advance to second base. Campbell then stole third off the TAMUCC pitcher and scored on a wild pitch to make it 10-1.
Bench players were able to record some late-game at bats with the big lead, always an important development for midweek games. In the seventh, Cam Constantine and Rylan Galvan didn’t have anything to show for those plate appearances in seeing a combined 16 pitches, but Long Beach State transfer third baseman Tanner Carlson recorded his first hit at Texas after receiving the start.
O’Dowd added another run in the eighth on a triple and a wild pitch.
Indiana visits the Disch this weekend for the first home series of the year for Texas.