Baseball: UT tops CCSU, takes on Baylor Saturday

Friday night at the Disch, the first inning set the tone.

Central Connecticut State, despite a .327 team batting average, went quite meekly in the top of the inning vs. Texas starter Brad Halsey. Leadoff batter Jay Landeen grounded weakly to third, Robert Hosgood followed with a four-pitch strikeout and Tim D'Aquila hit an easy one to short to end the inning. Nine Halsey pitches -- seven strikes and just two balls -- and no solid CCSU contact.

The Texas batters, on the other hand, immediately put bat squarely to ball, registering back-to-back-to-back singles to open the bottom half of the first frame. The Horns plated two runs in the inning to grab an early 2-zip lead on the Blue Devils, a lead that would grow to seven runs by the fourth, allowing UT (49-14) to cruise to a 7-2 regional-opening W.

"We grabbed the momentum from the offensive side by putting balls into play and finding holes," Augie Garrido said postgame. "The baseball gods were good to us. As the game went on, we lost the momentum from the offensive side but we maintained it from the mound."

"This being our first time in (the regionals), we stood around and watched for three or four innings," CCSU coach Charlie Hickey said. "We hung in there for the last four or five innings and competed and I'm convinced that we became a better baseball team at the end."

The Blue Devils held Texas scoreless after the fourth and pushed across two unearned runs in the top of the eighth, but Central Connecticut, despite its in-game improvement, simply did not have the weapons to match either the Horns' pitching or hitting prowess.

Hickey pointed to Halsey's ability to find the plate with his first pitch, something that CCSU starter Barry Hertzler seldom did, as one of the explanations to this team's offensive troubles and, consequently, one of the keys to the UT junior's 8-1/3 inning, three-hit performance. "He was ahead of every one of our batters and he got a lot of first pitch outs," the coach said.

"He kept all of our hitters off balance," Hosgood said of the lefty Halsey.

Neither Hertzler nor Justin Cerbone, who relieved Hertzler to start the fifth, unbalanced the Horns' still red hot right fielder Dustin Majewski. The junior continued his MVP-worthy post-season performance by collecting four hits in five at-bats from the three hole, including RBI singles in the first and the fourth. Leadoff man Tim Moss (3), Omar Quintanilla (2), Ryan Hubele (2) and Michael Hollimon (2) also managed multiple hits against the Central Connecticut staff. Texas totaled 15 hits to CCSU's three.

Coach Hickey summed it up rather succinctly: "I say with confidence that we were outclassed tonight."

Hickey's coaching counterpart also recognized the advantage the big ballpark and Astroturf field afforded the fleet-footed Horns over the more plodding visitors. "It takes speed to play on this field," Garrido said, "Our speed showed up both offensively and defensively."

The same can't be said of the Blue Devils, who collected just three hits, committed four errors and collectively played poor in the field, among other fielding, throwing and catching miscues allowing several bouncers through to the outfield that the UT infield would have gobbled up and turned into groundouts.

The Horns' Saturday opponent will almost assuredly not be as kind.

"It's Baylor," Majewski said. "It's a rivalry. They beat us two of three during the regular season. We need to come out ready to play. They've struggled lately but those are the most dangerous teams."

The Bears stopped a seven-game skid Friday afternoon at the Disch with a 4-2 win over Lamar to set up Saturday's showdown with Texas.

Jokingly asked if he knew anything about conference-mate Baylor, which has taken 20 of the last 28 from Texas, Garrido didn't hesitate: "We lose to 'em a lot."

The UT coach will call on 14-1 Justin Simmons, who notched the Horns' lone win over the Bears in three games back in early March, to reverse that trend. A Texas win over Baylor would move the Horns into Sunday's 1:00 p.m. championship game undefeated, then needing just one win in two Sunday games to gain a Regional championship and Super Regional berth. A Longhorn loss to the Bears would send Texas to the loser's bracket and a 7:00 p.m. Saturday night elimination match-up with the winner of Saturday morning's Lamar-Central Connecticut elimination contest.

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