In the first and only non-conference road series of the season, the Texas Longhorns dropped a winnable game in the series opener, blowing a 5-1 lead and losing 6-5 to the Cal State Fullerton Titans at Goodwin Field on Friday evening.
Tied at 5-5 in the eighth inning, Texas gave up the winning run on a wild pitch. Left-hander David Shaw, who escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the sixth inning and struck out three in the seventh, allowed a leadoff double in the eighth, giving way to left-hander Chris Stuart. But Stuart hit the first batter he faced before the wild pitch provided the final margin.
The Longhorns had 10 hits, coming from the same five players in the type of unbalanced effort that has been too common this season with large portions of the lineup struggling. And eight of those 10 hits came against the starter for the Titans — in the final five innings, Texas managed only two hits against the Cal State Fullerton bullpen, including two perfect innings by right-hander Fynn Chester, who struck out four and threw the horns down to the Texas dugout immediately after securing the win.
After a double play allowed the Cal State Fullerton starter to face the minimum in the first inning, Texas right-hander Lucas Gordon got into trouble quickly, allowing a leadoff double into the left-field corner. With one out, Gordon hit the batter before a two-out walk loaded the bases. But even though Gordon was struggling with his command, particularly his new changeup to right-handed hitters, he was able to induce a lineout to right field to escape any damage other than elevating his pitch count.
Gordon did pay for a double in the second, which came with one out, when the following batter singled up the middle to score the game’s first run. By the time that Gordon stranded two more runners, his pitch count sat at 53 in only two innings.
Starting for the second time this season, first baseman Peyton Powell put Texas on the board in the third with a mammoth blast over the advertising above the right-field wall to tie the game at 1-1. It was the third home run of Powell’s career and his first in nearly two years.
POWELL. POWER. @peytonpowell01 goes way back to tie it at 1-1 in the 3rd!#HookEm pic.twitter.com/da1byUL4wq— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 4, 2023
A one-out bloop double into right center put Kennedy on second base with right fielder Dylan Campbell at the plate, who drew a 3-2 walk. But despite some solid swings, Texas wasn’t able to come up with any more runs — left fielder Porter Brown hit a ball into the left-center gap, but it hung up long enough for the center fielder, while catcher Garret Guillemette drove a ball to right field that died at the warning track. Campbell, Brown, and Guillemette eventually combined to go 0-for-10.
Gordon finally turned in an efficient 1-2-3 inning and the Longhorns maintained pressure on the Titans with four straight one-out hits producing two runs. The fifth straight hit came from Kennedy, a two-run triple down the right-field line as the Texas center fielder remained the hottest hitter on the team.
Just when it looked like Gordon might be settling in with the lead, a passed ball and a double produced two runs and drove Gordon from the game with two outs and a runner on second. He finished with a line of four runs allowed, three earned, on five hits in 3.2 innings with four walks and three strikeouts — the worst performance of the young season for the Texas ace.
Right-hander DJ Burke promptly hit a batter after replacing Gordon, then gave up a double to the wall in left field that tied at game at 5-5. Despite a wild pitch that went several feet wide of the catcher, Burke got a strikeout to keep the game knotted.
Texas looked poised to score in the sixth on a fielder’s choice hit by Kennedy, but was called out to end the inning when first baseman Tanner Carlson was called for interference sliding into second base and subsequently ejected, a critical and extremely questionable call.
Burke’s rough outing continued in the bottom half of the frame when he hit a batter and issued a walk, departing in favor of left-hander David Shaw. On a questionable decision by the Titans, leading hitter Nathan Nankill was asked to put down a punt, but popped it out to the catcher for the first out. Shaw then made quick work of the inning with a 4-3 double play, but Texas was never able to get anything going at the plate over the final innings.
The Longhorns and Titans return to Goodwin Field on Saturday at 7 p.m. Central on ESPN+.