Longhorns rout Aggies

HOUSTON - - An unbiased eye would have seen that there was a fair mixture of burnt orange and maroon among the stadium-record 6,603 in Reckling Park for Texas' first round NCAA Tournament game against Texas A&M.

But that's not how Longhorns second baseman Brooks Marlow saw it.

"What I saw was all orange in the stands," he said.

If, by that, he meant the only ones that had something to cheer about, then he would be correct.

Paced by seven strong innings by starter Nathan Thornhill and some timely, extended rallies by UT's bats, the No. 2 seeded Longhorns throttled the No. 3 Aggies 8-1 on Friday. They'll play the winner of top-seeded Rice and No. 4 George Mason on Saturday at 7 p.m.

"Well we got off to a good start in the early innings and had one of our best rallies in the third inning," Texas coach Augie Garrido said. "It took a little bit of the pressure off our pressure. But Nate was really spectacular. He got into a couple of situations and got out of them, the team got out of them. All in all it was a good performance for us."

Thornhill allowed one run on six hits, three walks and a career-high seven strikeouts on 117 pitches. Morgan Cooper struck out two and allowed one hit in his two innings of work.

He was able to attack the zone and pitch as relaxed as one could considering the circumstances after Texas' offense gave him a 7-1 lead to work with in the third inning.

"I felt pretty good during my warm-ups," said Thornhill, who entered with a 6-2 record and a miniscule 1.51 ERA. "I felt pretty relaxed. When Brooks [Marlow] came in and hit that [lead-off] home run it sets the tone for the game."

That homerun by Marlow, only his third of the season, came on the final pitch of a 10-pitch at-bat. It was a no-doubter over the right field fence.

"I just wanted to get the rally going, set the tone," he said. "It was just a deep count and I battled it out."

That at-bat was one of the differences in the game, according to Texas A&M coach Rob Childress.

"I think the at bat of the game was Marlow's leadoff home run, probably a 10-pitch at-bat," he said.

Added Aggies starter Daniel Menedgen:

"Home runs are a part of the game. Full count, I was just trying to get him out. He got the best of me. It was just a bad start. It's hard to come back after you fall behind 7-1 after three."

Texas would get another in the frame on an RBI single by Mark Payton. He extended his Big 12 record for most consecutive games reaching base to 96 with a first-pitch single to right field that scored Ben Johnson from second. Johnson reached on an infield single and advanced to second on an errant throw by Texas A&M's shortstop.

Thornhill was one strike away from getting out of harm's way in the second but couldn't get that last strike by Jace Statum, who singled to centerfield to score Logan Nottebrok. He'd walked to start the inning, advanced to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a ground out.

Texas got that run right back in its part of the second on a wild pitch from Menegden, which allowed C.J. Hinojosa to scurry home from third.

He'd led off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt and then to third on a wild pitch. Then, with Kacy Clemens at bat, Menegden threw his second wild pitch of the inning that allowed Hinojosa to score.

It actually looked on replay that he never stepped on the plate and the home plate umpire never appeared to signal him safe. But Texas A&M never noticed and it was a lost cause on the next pitch.

The Longhorns opened up the floodgates in the third with a four-run frame. Madison Carter got the scoring started with an RBI infield single up the middle to second baseman Patrick McLendon, who couldn't twirl himself around well enough to make a solid throw to first.

That got Johnson around, who singled and moved to third on a double off the centerfield wall by Tres Barrera. C.J. Hinojosa followed with a double of his own to get Carter and Barrera home to make it 6-1.

Collin Shaw ended the scoring for both teams in the third with a signal to right field off of reliever Matt Kent.

"They extended the rallies," Garrido said. "That's what they did. Brook's homerun to get the game going as a leadoff hitter is really motivating. The four-run inning separated the two teams. Those are the types of rallies you need."

The rest of the way was all about Thornhill, who got better as the day grew long and managed to skate around some trouble in a couple of innings.

The most notable of those escapes came in the fifth when A&M used two singles to put runners on the corners with one out. But Thornhill struck out both on 1-2 counts to the applause of the burnt orange faithful, which had a lot to cheer about in the face of their SEC rivals.

"The difference in the day to me was starting pitching," Childress said. "Theirs got off to a really good start and ours, for whatever reason, wasn't able to do that.

"Thornhill, give him all the credit. He did a nice job when it mattered most."

His ability to go deep into the game, which allowed Texas to save its bullpen for the most part is huge for Texas going forward. Especially since it lost Dillon Peters for the season due to injury. He was tied for the team lead with seven wins and sported a 2.13 ERA.

"If you can stay in the winners bracket that's the right ride," Garrido said. "You can win in three games. But if you lose the second you are extending the pitching staff. I think we can absorb that.

"I think we have depth in our pitching staff. You never want to lose one of our best pitchers, especially a left-hander, but we can get around that."

The Longhorns will go with Parker French in Game 2. French is 5-5 with a 2.61 ERA this season.

Notes

Texas improves to 241-123-5 all-time against Texas A&M.

The Longhorns have won two straight against the Aggies. The streak started with a 2-1 win on April 29, 2012, the last time either school has faced each other in one of the big three sports.


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