Baseball: J.P. Howell's Gem Extends Horns' Streak

Junior pitcher J.P. Howell hurled his second career complete game and the first for the Longhorns this season to help No. 2 Texas (19-2) claim a 3-1 victory over No. 17 Cal St. Fullerton (9-10) in front a season-high crowd of 5,547 at Disch-Falk Field on Sunday, March 7. Notably, the two-run victory not only extended UT's current win streak to eight games and its home win string to 13 contests dating back to 2003, but also gave the Horns a two-game sweep of the Titans during the weekend.

Cal St. Fullerton jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Kurt Suzuki doubled to right center with two outs, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored following a single up-the-middle from P.J. Pilittere. Texas immediately countered in the bottom of the inning to knot the game at 1-1 as consecutive hits by Michael Hollimon (Dallas, Texas/Jesuit College Prep.) and Curtis Thigpen (Forney, Texas/Forney) set up a first and third scoring opportunity that was converted on a double-play groundout.

From there, both starting pitchers settled down and kept the score deadlocked at 1-1 through five innings as Howell fanned five over that stretch for UT, and Ricky Romero held the Horns in check for CSF despite allowing at least one UT hitter to reach base safely in each frame. Then, in the sixth, after the Titans threatened in the top half of the inning but were thwarted, Texas pulled ahead in the bottom of the frame as a one-out J.D. Reininger (Spring Branch, Texas/Smithson Valley) single up the middle brought home Taylor Teagarden (Carrollton, Texas/Creekview), who led off the inning with a double, to give the Horns a 2-1 advantage. Texas would then add another score in the bottom of the seventh to build a 3-1 lead when Ryan Russ (Comfort, Texas/Kerrville Tivy/Texas A&M/Navarro College) singled with one out, moved to third on a Robby Hudson (Redlands, Calif./Redlands/Riverside CC) base hit and scored on a Hollimon sacrifice fly to center field.

Now trailing, the Titans tried to get something going in both the seventh and eighth, but Howell managed to retire the side in order during both innings to send the game to the ninth with the Horns still leading 3-1. Down to their final three outs, Cal St. Fullerton tried to come up with a pair of runs to force extra innings, but, despite allowing only his third hit of the game, Howell was able to set down three of the four batters he faced and seal the two-run win for Texas. Upping his record to 3-1on the year and becoming the first UT pitcher to record a complete game since Justin Simmons turned the trick against Bucknell on May 30, 2003, Howell picked up the win for Texas after surrendering only one run on three hits while walking three and fanning nine over nine innings of work. Romero, meanwhile, incurred the loss for Fullerton despite working seven strong innings and throwing 100 pitches on the afternoon.

Highlighting the afternoon offensively for Texas were Reininger, who went 2-for-3 with a RBI, and Hollimon who went 1-for-2 with a RBI and one run scored. Additionally, Thigpen upped his hitting streak to a career-best nine games with his single in the first inning. On the other side of the ledger, Cal St. Fullerton had three different players collect one hit on the afternoon, including Pilittere, who also collected a RBI and Suzuki, who scored the Titans only run.

Up next, the Horns travel to Reckling Park in Houston, Texas, for their third of four regular-season encounters with the Rice Owls on Tuesday, March 9 at 7 p.m.

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