Baseball: Horns Open Series in Norman With a 'W'

NORMAN, Okla. -- Solo home runs in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings as well as a nine-strikeout performance over six innings from junior J.P. Howell led No. 1 Texas (25-2, 1-0 Big 12) to a 3-1 victory over No. 23 Oklahoma (11-8, 0-1 Big 12) in front of a crowd of 2,081 at L. Dale Mitchell Park during the conference opener for both schools on Friday, Mar. 19.

While the victory upped Texas' mark in Big 12 openers to 6-2, it also increased the Horns winning streak to 14 games, which marks the most consecutive wins for the program since 1995 when UT won 15 in a row to begin the year.

After a 1-2-3 first inning by both sides, Oklahoma threatened in the bottom of the second by loading the bases on two singles and a walk with one out, but Howell fanned the next two batters he faced to up his strikeout total to six and keep the game scoreless. OU starter David Purcey, meanwhile, worked out of a two-on, no-out jam in the top of the fourth with three straight strikeouts to extend the deadlock. Then, in the top of the fifth, Ryan Russ (Comfort, Texas/Kerrville Tivy/Texas A&M/Navarro College) sent an 0-1 pitch over the left field wall for his first career home run to put Texas on top 1-0. One inning later, the Horns pushed in front 2-0 as Taylor Teagarden (Carrollton, Texas/Creekview) connected on his second home run of the season to open the sixth.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Sooners managed to cut their deficit in half after receiving back-to-back base hits from Ole Sheldon and Matt Bose before an Andrew McGuire two-out single off the first base bag broke up Texas' shutout bid, but freshman Carson Kainer (Tomball, Texas/Tomball) came through with his first collegiate home run with one out in the top of the seventh to give UT a 3-1 advantage. From there, J. Brent Cox (Bay City, Texas/Bay City) came on in relief for the Horns and retired nine of the 10 batters he faced to seal the victory and earn his second save. Picking up the win for Texas was Howell, who allowed one run on five hits over six frames while striking out nine, while Purcey incurred the loss despite tying his career-high with 10 strikeouts over seven innings of work. Of note, until allowing the Sooners' run in the sixth, Howell, who with his nine strikeouts on the evening has fanned 28 in his last 24 innings of work and tallied at least nine strikeouts in three consecutive starts, had tossed 23 consecutive scoreless frames.

Topping the Texas offense, which tallied its first three home run game since May 30, 2003, during the opening round of the Austin NCAA Regional against Bucknell, were Kainer, who went 2-for-3 with a double and a home run, Seth Johnston (Boerne, Texas/Boerne), who tallied his ninth multi-hit game of the year with a 2-for-4 outing, and Curtis Thigpen (Forney, Texas/Forney), who upped his current hitting streak to a career-best 15 games with his single in the fourth inning. OU, meanwhile, was paced by the trio of Sheldon, Bose and McGuire, who each registered two hits on the night.

The Horns and Sooners will continue their series at L. Dale Mitchell Park on Saturday, March 20 at 2 p.m.

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