No. 5 Texas Knocks Off No. 1 Rice, 6-3

In a matchup pitting the last two teams to win the College World Series, No. 5 Texas upended top-ranked Rice, 6-3, front of 21,724 at the Minute Maid College Classic in Houston Saturday. The second largest regular-season crowd in college baseball history saw 2B <B>Seth Johnston</B> follow his sixth inning two-run homer with his game-winning RBI in the eighth to help push Texas' record to 8-0. The Owls fell to 1-1 during their opening weekend.

LHP J.P. Howell picked up his first win of the season after relieving starter Sam LeCure in the bottom of the fifth. Texas batters touched Rice starting pitcher Jeff Niemann (17-0 last year and generally considered college baseball's top hurler) for seven hits on 92 pitches in 5.2 innings. All told, the Horns collected 10 hits off four Rice pitchers and committed three fielding errors. Meanwhile, LeCure tied his career-high with five strikeouts over four innings of work.

Texas got on the scoreboard in the top of the second when 3B J.D. Reininger's RBI single plated DH Michael Holliman. Holliman reached on a walk before he was sacrificed over to second. Rice answered in the bottom of the third when first baseman Matt Uekert's two-run single with two outs spotted the Owls a 2-1 lead.

Two scoreless innings later, Holliman again reached on a walk when Johnston came to the plate. His two-out, two-run homer covered more than 375 feet and landed safely in the jubilant Texas bullpen to reclaim the Texas lead, 3-2. Freshman LHP Joshua Forrester, who would be saddled with the loss, came on in relief and retired the side.

After retiring in order the first six hitters he faced, Howell gave up consecutive base hits to start the bottom of seventh. The runners advanced after C Taylor Teagarden's pickoff attempt hit Adam Rodgers in the back before the ball rolled into the outfield. Following a clutch strikeout, Howell intentionally walked the next batter to load the bases. A sharply hit grounder to third base knotted the affair at 3-3 before Adam Morris hit into a double play to avert what could have been a disastrous inning for Texas.

The Horns immediately responded in the top of the eighth with a two-out run. First baseman Curtis Thigpen began the inning with a walk and then moved to second on a sacrifice. Johnston's right field single scored Thigpen to give Texas the lead for good. Johnston matched a career-best with three hits and set a career-high with three RBI while also scoring two runs. Texas continued its two-out rally as Reininger walked and freshman Drew Stubbs delivered a two-run double following a double steal to make it a 6-3 ballgame.

When Howell walked lead off batter Austin Davis in the bottom of the eighth, Street (.90 ERA) took the mound and retired the next six batters. The junior All-American picked up his first save of the season (his 30th overall) to complement his three wins on the young season.

Rice turned to LHP Colin Matheny in Texas' last at-bat. Thigpen's two-out single (it could just have easily been ruled an error by the third baseman) kept alive his eight-game hitting streak. The streak matches his career long set last season.

The Longhorns wrap up their stint at the Minute Maid College Classic with a 6 p.m. game against the University of Houston on Sunday.


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