Baseball: No. 1 Horns Edge No. 15 Rice, 7-6

In a game of small ball, it was CF Drew Stubbs' long ball that led top-ranked Texas past No. 15 Rice at Reckling Park in Houston Wednesday. The sophomore homered in the top of the seventh to give UT the lead for good on the way to a 7-6 win.

It was the Horns' sixth straight 'W' over the Owls, including a 7-0 shutout on March 9. Despite giving up a three-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, LHP Buck Cody was credited with the win after working less than one inning. Closer J. Brent Cox notched his nation's leading 10th save of the season.

RHP Kenn Kasparek (the 6-10 freshman is Texas' version of the Big Unit) took the mound and one-hit the Owls through 5-2/3 innings. Four Rice errors in the first three frames led to two unearned Texas runs. Texas jumped to a 1-0 lead in the top of the first after sophomore LF Nick Peoples drew a walk, stole third and then scored on C Travis Reagan's throwing error.

The Owls were guilty of three miscues during a Keystone Cops of a third inning. 2B Robby Hudson reached second after 3B Clay Reichenbach misplayed his sharply hit ball before overthrowing first base. Hudson then reached third on a wild pitch. The Rice SS misplayed SS Seth Johnston's grounder to plate Hudson and push across another unearned run. Rice RHP Ryne Tacker (5.14 ERA) was pulled after pegging C Taylor Teagarden in the shoulder. LHP Cole St. Clair ended the frame, with runners on first and second, by fanning 1B Chance Wheeless.

The Horns came up with a couple more runs (this time earned) in the top of the fourth. The inning started when DH Clay Van Hook (boasting an on-base percentage of .441) reached first on a masterful bunt down the third base line. LF Carson Kainer became the second Longhorn hit batsman (there would be more) before Van Hook reached third on 3B David Maroul's bunt to load the bases. Hudson's single up the middle plated two runs as the Horns upped their advantage to 4-0.

RHP Adam Hale took the mound for the Owls in the top of sixth and retired the side after tossing all of three pitches, Rice's first one-two-three inning of the ballgame. But the Horns gave up four runs in the home half of the frame as the Owls mounted a two-out rally. Head coach Augie Garrido pulled Kasparek after he walked a batter and issued just his second hit of the game. With Cody on the mound, most of the damage was done with Hale's three-run round tripper to knot the affair at 4-4.

It only set the stage for Stubbs, the current Big 12 Player of the Week. The sophomore parked a 1-2 pitch over the left field wall for his third homer in four games. Johnston then laced a double down the left field line to continue the Longhorn uprising. RHP Lance Pendleton took the mound (after playing RF) for his ninth appearance of the season. The immediate result: Teagarden was hit by a Rice pitcher for the third time of the evening. Thomas Incaviglia's sacrifice plated Johnston after the senior stole third and the Horns upped their lead, 6-4.

RHP Clayton Stewart came on in relief in the bottom of the eighth to retire the side. Texas added what would prove to be an all-important insurance run in the top of the eighth, starting with Maroul's leadoff double. He advanced to third on Peoples' groundout and scored on a wild pitch

Stewart benefited from a double play but also issued three walks in the bottom of the eighth. Closer J. Brent Cox came on to walk Hale and load the bases. Rodriguez, working the count from 0-2, responded with a two run single to pull the Owls within one at 7-6.

RHP Bobby Bell, with his slow changeup, retired the Horns in order during their final at-bat. Cox pegged PH Derek Myers on his first pitch of the ninth inning before C Denny Lehmann's sacrifice bunt advanced pinch runner Brian Friday to second base. CF Tyler Henley's groundout moved the tying run to 90 feet away from home plate. It came down to a 3-2 pitch but 3B Greg Buchanan took a called strike as Cox sealed the deal for the Horns.

Rice fell to 26-14 on the season while Texas improved its mark to 33-6.

The Horns continue their road swing with a critical series at Oklahoma State Saturday. Although the Horns are ranked No. 1 in the current Baseball America poll, Texas has the fourth-best record in conference play at 9-5. The Cowboys are fifth at 8-7.


Horns Digest Top Stories