In a weather-delayed opening to the Coral Gables Regional, the No. 2-seed Texas Longhorns secured a key 4-2 victory over the No. 3-seed Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns at Mark Light Field on Friday behind a strong start from ace Lucas Gordon and some big defensive plays.
With two runs in the sixth and seventh innings, the Longhorns did just enough offensively while recording eight hits, including two with runners in scoring position. Shortstop Mitchell Daly hit a home run to start the scoring for Texas in the sixth and right fielder Dylan Campbell followed with the other extra-base hit, a two-out, two-RBI double off the wall in the seventh.
Gordon was excellent through the first three innings with strong command of all three pitches before encountering trouble in the fourth. A leadoff single set up a sacrifice bunt before another single put runners on first and second with one out when Louisiana declined to test Campbell’s arm, a prudent decision given his seven outfield assists this season. Gordon struck out the next batter and ultimately escaped the inning thanks to a sensational play by center fielder Eric Kennedy, who reached over the wall to rob Ragin’ Cajuns second basement John Taylor of a three-run home run.
For Louisiana, a handful of their own strong defensive plays helped keep Texas from threatening innings — the right fielder gunning Kennedy out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double in the second, the third baseman throwing out designated hitter Jalin Flores on a bunt attempt in the third, and a running catch by the center fielder on a well-hit ball into the right-center gap by third baseman Peyton Powell in the fourth.
The Longhorns were able to put runners on first and third with two outs in the fourth after two singles, but left fielder Porter Brown grounded out to third to end the inning. Right-hander Jackson Nezuh went on to strike out the side in the following frame.
The outstanding defense continued in the sixth inning when Campbell made a diving catch in right field at full extension, an important play when Louisiana followed with a two-out double to the wall in left field.
A single scored the game’s first run when Brown couldn’t make an accurate throw to the plate.
Texas responded quickly thanks to Daly hitting an 0-2 fastball out over the scoreboard in left field.
MITCHELL DALY.— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) June 2, 2023
TIE BALLGAME. pic.twitter.com/FfNA7QPle2
A subsequent walk drove Nezuh from the game after 74 pitches in favor of left-hander Blake Marshall. With a single through the left side of the infield, Campbell set the Big 12 record by extending his hitting streak to 36 games, putting runners on first and second with one out. Brown singled home a run with two outs to give the Longhorns their first lead of the game, 2-1.
Gordon helped consolidate the momentum with a 1-2-3 inning in the seventh featuring two strikeouts before Texas extended the lead with a two-out rally. Two walks sandwiched around a single loaded the bases for Campbell, who narrowly missed a grand slam by smashing a ball off the left-center wall for a two-run double.
Gordon left the game after allowing five hits and one run over seven innings with eight strikeouts in favor of right-hander Zane Morehouse, who recorded the first two outs of the eighth easily enough before falling behind in the count and allowing a home run to Louisiana center fielder Carson Roccaforte. In the ninth, the Ragin’ Cajuns hit the ball hard twice, but the Longhorns were able to record those outs and Morehouse recorded his sixth save of the season with a strikeout.
Texas will face the winner of No. 1-seed Miami and No. 4-seed Maine on Saturday at 5 p.m. Central on ESPN+.