Baseball: Horns pound Cougs to level series

It took till just the fourth Texas at-bat in the top of the first inning Saturday to accomplish what the entire UT team couldn't manage in 34 Friday night at-bats. <B>Jeff Ontiveros'</B> two-run blast to deep left Saturday evening put the Horns on the board for the first time in the series and the UT batters poured it on from there while long reliever <B>Ray Clark</B> efficiently quieted the Cougar bats in a 17-2 bashing of Houston.

Every UT starter registered at least one hit, highlighted by homers from Ontiveros (two) and Ryan Hubele, who totaled five hits and two RBI in six plate appearances, doubles from Tim Moss, J.D. Reininger, Hubele (two), Dustin Majewski (two) and Eric Sultemeier, and single shots from just about everyone else that stepped to the plate. Kalani Napoleon continued his hot swinging with two hits and two RBI in his four official at-bats.

Texas collected 21 total hits and scored in every inning but the third and the fifth, plating two in the first, one in the second, three in the fourth, three in the sixth, five in the seventh, one in the eighth and two in the ninth.

"What Texas did tonight, they took advantage of poor pitches in the zone," Houston coach Rayner Noble said postgame. "That's what good teams do. We didn't pitch and we didn't play defense and you see what happens."

Despite watching his hitters chase Texas starter Justin Simmons in the top of third, Noble claimed that when the scored reached a seemingly still-manageable 6-2, he essentially conceded the game and decided to play for Sunday.

"That's the luxury of being able to win the first game of the series," he said. "I knew going in we had leeway with our pitching. When we got behind 6-2, I decided I wasn't going to spend our arms and that's when it got out of hand."

Austin Faught, Matt Hooper, Taylor Gartz and Brian Henderson -- apparently the Cougs' B-team on the mound based on Noble's postgame comments -- pitched the final five innings, surrendering 11 of the Horns' 17 runs, after starter Danny Zell's poor performance (3 IP, five earned runs) and Ryan Wagner's single inning, one-run inning of work left Houston trailing 6-2.

UT's Simmons had his third sub-par performance in his last four outings, lasting just 2-2/3 and giving up six hits and two earned runs.

"With Justin, this was a very difficult team for him," Augie Garrido said. "Houston is difficult for left-handed pitching. Their power is right-handed, they are patient and they stay back. They did a good job against Justin."

"We'll see him come through in a huge moment in time," the coach added about his sophomore from Duncanville.

Clark did that Saturday, pitching 6-1/3 innings of three-hit, shutout ball to extend the Texas season by at least another day and also earn his third win of the post-season (and sixth of the year).

The Horns (52-15) and the Cougars (48-16) will square off Sunday at 1 p.m. in a winner-take-all contest to determine which of the two teams will snag a berth in the CWS.

"I think it will boil down to whose starting pitcher will establish himself as a starting pitcher," Noble said. "That's what's gonna set the tone tomorrow; who's gonna come out and pitch."

Alan Bomer (9-3, 3.84) is the probable starter for Texas while Keith Whatley (8-3, 3.96) will take the hill for Houston. UT will be the home team based on a Saturday night coin flip.

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