Texas Bullpen Holds Off UT-Pan Am, 8-6

Texas scored all eight runs in the first two innings and held on to beat UT-Pan American, 8-6, Tuesday at Disch-Falk Field. The real story is that there is some evidence the Longhorn bullpen is starting to flex its muscle.

Freshman LHP Keith Shinaberry recorded his first win of the season after Texas sent five pitchers to the mound. Starter RHP Kenn Kasparek was pelted in the top of the second and fifth inning and was pulled after giving up six runs on eight hits in 4-1/3 frames. But the Texas bullpen allowed just one hit and retired 13 Broncos in a row before 1B Chance Wheeless' three-base fielding error put a runner on third base and allowed the tying run to the plate with two down in the top of the ninth. A groundout to Peoples ended the contest, giving LHP Austin Wood a team-best fifth save of the season.

LHP Joseph Krebs pitched the seventh inning, issuing no hits or walks while fanning one. RHP Randy Boone came on in the eighth for a three-up, three-down frame. Wood fanned the two batters he faced in the top of the ninth.

Should we put an asterisk next to the bullpen's performance, considering it came against an outmatched foe? Not necessarily, Texas coach Augie Garrido. It's easier to discern the gradual emergence of his bullpen in the less-intensive Tuesday nighters, he commented during the post-game.

From a Burnt Orange perspective, that's what these Tuesday affairs (against schools with hyphens in their names) are for. They give the youngest arms in the bullpen the opportunity to log some actual game-night work on the mound. Yet, with one month remaining in the regular season, Garrido may have finally found his closer in Wood as well as a reliable middle-reliever other than Boone. (Ace Kyle McCulloch has been money lately, winning five straight including Friday's decision against Nebraska. Wood has staked his claim as Texas' closer, although his hold is still somewhat shaky. The freshman made a team-best 25th appearance Tuesday. He has a 4-1 mark, including the 13-inning marathon at Baylor, but could not get out of the ninth inning Friday against the Cornhuskers.)

Yet, for the Horns to make-up that half-game deficit against Nebraska, Garrido needs RHP Adrian Alaniz (who shouldered Sunday's loss to Nebraska) to locate his breaking ball while Kasparek must build on the form he had during his freshman campaign when he emerged as Texas' No. 4 hurler. Too often this season, Kasparek has gotten behind in the count and has given up the long ball. He shouldered Saturday's loss against Nebraska when he was on the mound during that decisive six-run inning in the top of the fifth. On Tuesday, Kasparek did not issue a walk but was all over the strike zone. The sophomore surrendered a two-run homer in the bottom of the second (to Abraham Garcia, who had not notched a shot all year) followed by an RBI triple. He later yielded four hits and three runs in the top of the fifth as the visitors jumped right back in it.

1B Chance Wheeless got things started in the bottom of the first with an RBI double as the Horns jumped to a 2-0 lead. After Kasparek gave up the three-spot in the top of the second, the Horns would score all the runs they would need in the home half of the frame. CF Drew Stubbs did half the damage in that six-run inning with his three-run homer over the right field wall, his tenth round-tripper of the season. The Horns tallied five consecutive hits in the inning.

Kasparek appeared to settle-in during the third and fourth innings but surrendered two singles, a double and a triple in the top of the fifth. But that's when the bullpen restored order, giving up just one base hit during the final 4-2/3 innings.

Nick Peoples was back at 3B following a one-week stint in the outfield. The junior had struggled at the hot corner this season, committing 14 errors after freshman Jordan Danks took his spot in RF. But Danks' April 15 ankle injury will sideline him until at least early June. Freshman Kyle Russell -- the Tomball product was rated one of the state's top 10 high school players in 2005 -- logged the Tuesday night start at RF, a spot that Peoples held for 47 games last year.

UT-Pan American sent six pitchers to the mound in the losing effort. The Horns upped their overall record to 29-14 and return to Big 12 play this weekend with a three-game series against in-state rival Texas A&M.

Friday's game is set for 6:15 p.m. at Disch-Falk Field before the series shifts to College Station. The once-proud Aggie program is dead last in league standings (4-14 in the Big 12 and 20-23 overall). Texas enters Friday's contest at 13-4 in league play, percentage points behind Nebraska (12-3) for the top spot in the standings.

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