The four-spot in the ninth provided insurance runs for freshman RHP Adrian Alaniz (2.99 ERA) who saved precious bullpen strength by going the distance for just the second time in his career. The win sent Texas into the 6 p.m. championship game against former Southwest Conference rival Arkansas. Alaniz finished with nine Ks, surrendered seven hits and issued just one walk to up his record to 5-3 while Redhawk ace John Ely shouldered the loss after giving up eight runs (five earned) in 7-1/3 innings to end his freshman campaign at 10-2. The MAC champion Redhawks finished their season at 45-18.
The Horns scored those 12 runs on 15 hits as senior DH Will Crouch enjoyed his best outing as a Longhorn when he went four-for-four at the plate, driving in three runs.
1B Chance Wheeless got things started in the top of the second when he lined a 1-0 pitch into left-center and then moved to second on LF Carson Kainer's sacrifice bunt. Crouch's shot into center field plated Wheeless for the first run of the ballgame. During the Horns' next at-bat, RF Nick Peoples drew a one-out walk before Ely beaned CF Drew Stubbs in the backside. Peoples came home when 3B Brian Canada misplayed SS Seth Johnston's grounder as Texas took a 2-0 lead.
Ely, who had hit just four batters all season, pegged his second Longhorn in as many innings when Crouch took one for the team. After Crouch moved to second off C Taylor Teagarden's sacrifice bunt, the senior scored when SS Eric Radely committed his team's second error when he clean fielded 3B David Maroul's grounder but overthrew third base. 2B Robby Hudson, the leadoff hitter in Saturday's loss but batting in the ninth spot Sunday, pushed the Longhorn lead to 4-0 with his RBI single into left field. Hudson was thrown out attempting to seal second before Peoples grounded out to end the inning.
After three consecutive perfect innings from Alaniz, LF Ryne Robinson laced a triple into the gap in right-center field to open the bottom of the fourth. CF Brandon Hillier's RBI sacrifice put the Redhawks on the scoreboard. C John Slone reached second on the heels of a bloop single and a Hudson error when he misplayed the ball in shallow center. 1B Paul Frietch popped-up to Johnston and Alaniz fanned 2B Geoff Orr on a 1-2 pitch to end the frame. Texas led 4-1.
In the Longhorn fifth, Stubbs lined a perfect shot down the left field line that reached the wall. But the sophomore was left stranded at third when the meat of the order could not come up with a clutch hit. DH Michael Moljewski's one-out single put a Redhawk on base in the bottom of the frame. But Alaniz forced three pop-outs to end the inning.
Texas got some breathing room in the top of the sixth, starting with Crouch's leadoff single to center field. Teagarden's bunt attempt resulted in a popup to the catcher but Crouch moved to second on a wild pitch. That's when Maroul took the 1-0 pitch and swatted it over the left field wall at the 375-foot marker for a two-run round-tripper. But the Horns weren't done. Hudson singled to center and advanced to second on Peoples' sacrifice bunt. Stubbs' stand-up triple plated Hudson as Texas took a 7-1 lead into the bottom of the inning.
Miami (Ohio) answered, thanks (in part) to a Longhorn infield defensive lapse. LF Ryne Robinson was granted a free pass to first after Alaniz pegged him with a breaking ball. C John Slone reached on an error (both Hudson and Johnston covered second on one of those 'I got it, you take it' situations in which neither fielded the ball). Instead of a double play that would have ended the inning, the Redhawks had runners on first and second with one out. 1B Paul Frietch became Alaniz's fourth strikeout victim of the game. But that's when 2B Geoff Orr launched a breaking ball over the left field wall for a three-run homer. 3B Brian Canada popped up to end the uprising but the Redhawks were back in it, 7-4.
Texas got back one of those runs in its next at-bat, as Wheeless blasted a leadoff triple into right field. Crouch's one-out infield single took a bad (good?) bounce at first base to plate Crouch. Teagarden hit into a 6-4 fielder's choice, and then got picked-off at first, but Texas led 8-4. Alaniz issued his first walk in the bottom of the seventh and surrendered a two-out single to LF Ryne Robinson. The Horns got out of the inning unscathed when CF Brandon Hillier lined-out to Maroul.
The Horns could have blown this one wide open in the top of the eighth when RHP Connor Graham took the mound for the Redhawks with one down. Hudson, eyeing a 1-1 pitch, sent a fastball into right field and then stole second. Peoples tallied his first hit of the game with another shot to right field. Graham then issued an intentional walk to Stubbs to load the bases. When slugger Seth Johnston came to the plate, it prompted the second pitching change of the inning for Miami (Ohio) as RHP Jeff Day took the hill. The partisan Longhorn crowd rose to their feet, anticipating a decisive moment in the contest. Instead, Johnston produced a shallow popup to center field and Hudson was thrown out at the plate to end the inning.
Johnston has now gone 0-for-10 at the plate in the post-Quinnipiac era.
The Redhawks jumped right back in this one, when 3B Brian Canada launched a shot over the left field wall to cut the margin to 8-5. It was the only time all afternoon that Garrido considered going with closer J. Brent Cox. Orangebloods in attendance heaved a collective sigh of relief when Texas turned a 6-4-3 double play to prevent further damage in the frame.
"The most serious part of the game was when they got within three in the eighth," Garrido said, "but we got that double play. That was a huge play. Cox would have come in had they gotten a base hit there."
Instead, Alaniz bore down after pitching coach Tom Holliday's conference on the mound, striking out the last four batters he faced.
What the Horns failed to do in the eighth, they accomplished in their last at-bat. Texas got the leadoff man aboard when Wheeless reached on an E4 (the fourth Redhawks error of the afternoon). Kainer's first hit of the day was a ground-rule double to put both runners in scoring position. Crouch's career-best fourth hit of the day pushed an insurance run across as Texas now led by four.
Other than Johnston, the one guy that Longhorn fans would most like to see do well at the plate is Teagarden (who, by his own admission, is approximately "80 percent well" and swinging with obvious pain). It was his three-run, round-tripper that put this game on ice.