Baseball: Horns Hold Off Sam Houston

After scoring seven unanswered runs to overcome a 3-0 deficit, No. 2 Texas (18-2) held off a late Sam Houston State (4-8-1) rally to preserve an 11-8 victory in front of a crowd of a season-high crowd of 4,991 at Disch-Falk Field on Saturday, March 6.

Following a scoreless first inning for both sides, the Bearkats placed runners on first and third via a walk and a base hit to start the second frame before a Jeremy Aranda fielder‚s choice scored one run and a sacrifice fly and a base hit by Aaron Ruchti and Josh Warren brought home two more runs to build a 3-0 SHSU advantage. Quickly countering, the Longhorns plated two runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning to make it a one-run ballgame as Michael Hollimon (Dallas, Texas/Jesuit College Prep.) laced a single to right field with two down to score in J.D. Reininger (Spring Branch, Texas/Smithson Valley) and Ryan Russ (Comfort, Texas/Kerrville Tivy/Texas A&M/Navarro College), who had each reached base on walks.

Two innings later, again with two outs, the Horns tied the game at three apiece as Russ singled, stole two bases and came home on an error. The Longhorns then took their first lead of the game when, with runners on the corners, a balk was charged to push UT in front 4-3. Still threatening in the inning, Dooley Prince (Sulphur, La./Sulphur/McNeese State) and Hunter Harris (Tulsa, Okla./Metro Christian Academy/Connors St. College) walked to load the bases for Curtis Thigpen (Forney, Texas/Forney) who doubled in two runs to stake Texas to a 6-3 lead. A three run bottom of the fifth then gave Texas a 9-3 cushion as Seth Johnston (Boerne, Texas/Boerne), who was hit by a pitch to begin the inning and moved to third on a double by Reininger, came home on a groundout in front a throwing error that produced a score and a run-scoring single from Carson Kainer (Tomball, Texas/Tomball).

The game would remain at 9-3 until the top of the seventh when the Bearkats scored three runs with two walks sandwiched between a single loaded the bases before Warren singled through the right side to score in one run, and a sacrifice fly as well as a groundout by Ryan Trevino and Jonathan Stone, respectively, yielded a 9-6 contest. Notably, Sam Houston State made a bid to tie the game in the seventh frame, as a sinking fly ball off the bat of Andrew Kasparek with two runners on was stabbed by Kainer with a shoestring sliding catch in left field.

Maintaining the offensive momentum, the Bearkats again threatened to deadlock the game or regain the lead, as they placed runners on second and third with no outs. Now with the tying run at the plate, UT reliever Kyle McCulloch (Houston, Texas/Bellaire) rolled a double-play ground ball that gave SHSU a run to pull within two, at 9-7, but, after retiring the next batter on a fly ball to center field, quelled the rally and kept the Horns in front. Texas then had two singles, including a run-scoring base hit from Thigpen, a walk and a sacrifice fly from Robby Hudson (Redlands, Calif./Redlands/Riverside CC) in the bottom of the eighth up its advantage to 11-7 heading into the ninth. Continuing to battle back, the Bearkats placed runners on the corners with no outs in the final frame courtesy of a leadoff double from Trevino and a single off the bat of Roy Merritt to bring the tying run to the plate for the third time in as many innings. While an RBI-single from Stone would make it an 11-9 game, McCulloch then received a foul fly-out and a fly ball double-play to end the rally and preserve the UT win. Texas starter Justin Simmons (DeSoto, Texas/Duncanville), who fanned a pair over six innings, picked up his third victory of the year, while SHSU starter Casey Springer shouldered the loss and McCulloch notched his first career save.

Pacing the Longhorns‚ offense on the afternoon, which scored eight runs with two outs, was the trio of Kainer, who went 2-for-2 with an RBI and one run scored, Thigpen, who went 2-for-5 with three RBI, and Hollimon, who scored twice and also drove in a pair. Of note, both Thigpen and Johnston extended their current hitting streaks to eight and seven games, respectively, which ties each of their career-bests. Meanwhile, the Bearkats were headlined by Merritt, who went 3-for-5 at the plate, and three players in Trevino, Stone and Warren, who collected two hits apiece while combining for five RBI.

Up next, the Horns wrap up their two-game set with No. 17 Cal St. Fullerton at Disch-Falk Field with a 1 p.m. game on Sunday, March 7.


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