Baseball: Short-Handed Horns Scrap For Another Win

Does pitching depth matter? Ask Nebraska as it heads back to Lincoln. Texas, despite suspensions to one member of its three-man rotation and one of its top relievers, still had enough arms to overcome the struggles of starter <B>Kyle McCulloch</B> for a 6-5, come-from-behind win over the homeward-bound Huskers in an elimination game at Ameriquest Field in Arlington Friday.

The seventh inning proved decisive. Trailing 5-3, the Horns (50-12 overall) pushed across three runs with five straight hits, starting with Seth Johnston's one-out single to right. Curtis Thigpen followed with a single, as did Teagarden to load the bases for one of Thursday night's hitting stars Ryan Russ. The senior was hit-less with two Ks in three at-bats before the seventh, but his shot to first glanced off the glove of Husker 1B Curtis Ledbetter, allowing Johnston and Thigpen to score, tying the game at five. Carson Kainer, another A&M game hitting star, smashed the game-winning double down the left field line, scoring Russ from third for the 6-5 lead.

At that point, Huston Street (5-1) did what he has done so many times in his three-year Longhorn career: shut down a potent opponent. And on this night, he even earned a 'W' rather than a save. The junior closer had come on with one on and one out in the sixth and stymied that Husker threat before being given the lead with UT's seventh inning outburst. From there on, it was typical Street in what head coach Augie Garrido termed a "razor-edge" performance. He pitched a three-up, three-down seventh, a dramatic eighth (Chad Steele doubled to lead off the inning but was stranded at third when Street induced a ground out, a shallow fly out and then another ground out) and a one-two-three ninth punctuated with a game-ending strike out.

Also credit Kyle Yates and Buck Cody, who combined for 2-2/3 innings of scoreless relief after McCulloch gave up five runs, four earned, on four hits and five walks in just 2-2/3 innings of work.

Although No. 5 hitter Russ delivered two RBI, the top of the order paced the Texas offensive attack, with Nos. 1-4 -- Drew Stubbs, Johnston, Thigpen and Taylor Teagarden -- collecting 11 hits in 20 at-bats.

"It is very important to have the top of the line-up hitting," Johnston said. "Everyone is stepping up."

The win extends UT's stay in Arlington for at least another day, with first pitch vs. unbeaten Oklahoma State scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday. The depleted Texas staff faces a tall task: beat the rested Cowboys twice for a shot at a third-straight tournament title on Sunday.

"We are starting to get down to those who are not as rested," Garrido said. "We need heroes."

Early on, it appeared that the Huskers had the heroes in their dugout. Nebraska wasted no time in touching UT starter McCulloch. The true freshman walked two of the first three batters he faced in the game, setting up Alex Gordon with two on, one out, and the Husker clean up hitter blasted a homer to deep left center to open up a quick 3-zip lead.

Texas closed the gap with a blast from an unlikely source. Light hitting 3B David Maroul led off the Longhorn half of the second with a home run to get UT on the board. Stubbs followed with a triple over the head of right fielder Braden Keith and Johnston brought him home with an RBI single to center to cut the Nebraska lead to 3-2.

The Huskers quickly got the two back in the bottom of the second when McCulloch gave up a lead off single and, after a strikeout, an intentional "unintentional" walk to power hitting Gordon, an RBI situation that Curtis Ledbetter took full advantage of by driving home Joe Simokaitis and Gordon with a double.

Texas threatened in both the fourth and the fifth, but the Horns pushed across just one run while leaving four on base in the two frames. UT stranded two in scoring position in the fourth before plating a single run in the fifth on Thigpen's single that scored Johnston, who had doubled with one out. The Horns, though, again left two runners on when Russ stuck out and Kainer grounded out with runners on first and second. Russ and Kainer, though, would prove clutch in the seventh to help Texas advance.

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