Baseball Regional: Late-Inning Heroics Lift Horns

UT's struggles with the bat this season have been well documented. But it was the Horns work at the plate in the eighth inning of a 7-5 come-from-behind win vs. Oral Roberts Saturday afternoon at the Disch that has the Horns preparing for a Sunday championship game rather than facing TCU in a Saturday evening elimination contest. <P><a href=http://texas.theinsiders.com/2/264882.html>Photo Gallery</a>

Not that the Longhorn batters necessarily stroked the ball all over the park in the decisive, four-run top of the eighth. Much of the damage was done with the bat squarely on a shoulder. With ORU up 5-3 and just four outs from sending Texas into the loser's bracket, three consecutive two-out walks by Golden Eagles pitcher Tim Robertson loaded the bases for the Horns, and, when ORU went to rightie Justin Ramsey out of the pen, Augie Garrido made a move of his own.

It paid off huge.

Lefty Dooley Prince, pinch hitting for 3B David Maroul, roped a 1-2 pitch back up the middle, scoring Carson Kainer from third and Hunter Harris from second to knot the score at five.

"The thought process was, we hadn't had a lot of luck with the breaking ball with our right-handed hitters," Garrido said of going with Prince. The head coach said he also had confidence in both Hollimon and Prince as pinch hitters because of their work ethic in practice and their support of the team in the dugout despite the fact that they weren't in the line-up. Plus, he added, "They had no negative baggage going into the at-bats. I wanted someone with a clean slate, confidence in themselves, and who had battled for the team."

With runners still on first and second, Drew Stubbs followed Prince's equalizer with a brilliant at-bat that extended the inning and set up Seth Johnston for the game-winning hit.

UT's freshman center fielder fell behind in the count 0-2, but he battled back to a full count, then fouled off three straight pitches to stay alive before being plunked in the back to send him to first, again loading the bases. Johnston came through with two strikes as well, rapping a two-RBI single to left to score Michael Hollimon and Prince to provide the final 7-5 margin.

In the inning, five straight Texas batters -- Harris, PH Hollimon, PH Prince, Stubbs and Johnston -- faced at least one two-strike, two-out pitch before reaching base. After the game, ORU head coach Rob Walton said he thought his pitchers had gotten both Hollimon and Prince on strikes. "When the catcher says the pitch was down the middle," Walton said. "Not on the corner, down the middle..."

"Take nothing away from Texas," he said. "They executed in that inning, but that's tough."

J. Brent Cox (5-1) picked up the win in relief of starter J.P. Howell. Huston Street earned his 11th save of the season with two innings of scoreless work.

Texas opened up an early two-zip lead in the top of the second on Stubbs' 0-2, two-out, two-run shot that easily cleared the left field fence.

Howell struck out six of the first 11 batters he faced, but ORU scratched for a run in the third when Grant Plumley singled to drive in Matt VanDerBosch, whose one-out triple in the inning was the first hit of the game for the Golden Eagles.

After Stubbs staked the Horns' another two run lead at 3-1 with his RBI single in the top of the fourth, scoring Maroul, Oral Roberts touched Howell for two more runs to tie the game in the bottom of the frame on a leadoff walk to Josh Lex and a single by Dennis Bigley followed by a two-RBI double to the right field gap by Jeff Tuttle.

Cox came on in relief of Howell in the bottom of the sixth with one on and no outs and the game tied at three. The inherited runner, charged to Howell, and intentionally walked pinch hitter Ryan Welborn came around to score when Jon Tackett blasted a two-out, two-run double over the head of UT left fielder Kainer to give the Golden Eagles their first lead of the game at 5-3.

The visitor's lead stood until the Horns' top of the eight outburst.

Texas (52-13) will face the winner of the Saturday evening elimination game between Oral Roberts (49-10) and TCU (39-25) on Sunday at 1 p.m. The Horns need one win to advance to the Super Regional round of the NCAA Tournament, while the survivor between the Golden Eagles and Horned Frogs will need two wins over UT to advance. Sophomore Sam LeCure is the likely starter for Texas.


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