Baseball: Howell Handcuffs Huskers In Opener

<B>J.P. Howell</B> fanned 10 batters over seven innings as the Horns' offense pounded out 18 hits to lead No. 1 Texas (40-5, 12-3 Big 12) to an 8-2 series-opening victory over No. 16 Nebraska (26-11, 7-6 Big 12) in front of 5,813 at Disch-Falk Field on Friday. It was a critical win for the Horns in a meeting of the previous two Big12 camps. The 'W' kept Texas a half-game behind league-leading Oklahoma (13-3), which beat Tech in Lubbock 10-4 Friday evening.

Howell notched his 100th strikeout of the season in the third inning to become the first Longhorns hurler to record 100 or more strikeouts in two consecutive seasons since Kirk Dressendorfer turned the trick from 1988-90. Additionally, while the Horns have now won three in a row, they have also won 13 of their last 14 contests and 23 of their 25 games at home this year.

A two-out single from Curtis Thigpen coupled with a wild pitch, a walk and an RBI base hit to right off the bat of freshman Carson Kainer in the bottom of the first staked the Longhorns to an early 1-0 lead. Nebraska would attempt to immediately answer by loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter with two down in the top of the second, but Howell escaped the jam when Joe Simokaitis' single to the right side hit the runner at first to end the inning with UT still in front by one. Texas then received consecutive one-out singles from Chance Wheeless and Michael Hollimon that were followed by a wild pitch and an RBI single by freshman Drew Stubbs to establish a 2-0 Horns' advantage.

Three more two-out scores in the bottom of the third gave Texas a 5-0 lead as Will Crouch singled in a run and Hollimon doubled in two more after Taylor Teagarden reached third via a leadoff double and a fly-ball out and Wheeless drew a walk between Crouch and Hollimon's at bats. After UT tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth off an RBI double from Kainer to make it a 6-0 ballgame, Nebraska countered with two runs of its own courtesy of back-to-back home runs from Daniel Bruce and Alex Gordon with one out in the sixth. Texas responded when Stubbs singled to begin the bottom of the sixth, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and then scored on a sacrifice fly from Teagarden to push the Texas lead to 7-2.

From there, the Horns added a run in the seventh when Robby Hudson extended his hitting streak to five games with his first career home run while Huston Street and J. Brent Cox collectively held the Huskers without a hit while striking out three over the final two frames to close out the game and the Longhorns victory by a final tally of 8-2. Earning the win on the evening was Howell, who has now fanned six or more batters in each of his last 10 starts and now holds a 9-1 overall record to go along with a 5-0 mark in conference play. Zach Kroenke, meanwhile, shouldered his first loss of the season for Nebraska after surrendering six runs in 3-1/3 innings of work.

Headlining the Horns' offense on an evening where each starter collected a hit was the duo of Stubbs, who tallied his first three-hit game of the season, and Kainer, who garnered his second three-hit effort in as many games while also plating two runs. Thigpen, who now leads the squad with 18 multi-hit contests, and Hollimon went 2-for-4 with two RBI.

The Longhorns and Huskers are scheduled to match up in Game 2 at Disch-Falk Field on Saturday, at 3 p.m. (CDT), although inclement weather in the Austin area is a concern. The game, if played as scheduled, will be televised regionally by Fox Sports Net.

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