Texas Takes Regional Opener

There was little doubt that No. 3 seed Texas would take care of business at home against UT-Arlington, one of four teams with a losing record in the NCAA Tournament, in the opening round of the Austin Regional Friday. The only question, following the Longhorns' 9-1 thumping of the Mavericks, is what is it about the post-season that brings out the best in sophomore RHP Kenn Kasparek?

"It's because he's tall," Texas coach Augie Garrido quipped after the 6-10 Kasparek threw a career-best 7.1 innings to raise his record to 5-2. He also recorded a career-best seven strikeouts while walking two and scattering eight hits.

"The story of the game was Kenn Kasparek and how he performed in his role," Garrido said. "His teammates played well behind him. There were several situations where they had runners in scoring position and Kenn was able to get the out. That set us up on offense and we were pretty consistent with our rallies throughout the game. We had timely hitting."

The Horns, now 41-19 on the season, advance to face Stanford in the winners bracket, 3 p.m., Saturday. The Cardinal upended N.C. State, 7-2, in the early game Friday as RHP Greg Reynolds went the distance to pick up the win. RHP Kyle McCulloch will be on the mound for Texas for the first pitch.

"That's where the ace goes in this Tournament, whether you win or lose," Garrido said.

But Kasparek was an ace-in-hole during the 2005 post-season march to the program's sixth national title. He was 3-0 down the stretch with a 2.10 ERA during his final three appearances last year. He notched the opening day win in the Austin Regional last year and was solid on the mound in the critical Super Regional at Ole Miss.

"When the post-season comes, it's time to buckle down take care of business," Kasparek said. "There really is no room for error now. You have to try to improve with each star. I just try to get better with each inning I pitch."

Longhorn batters torched three UTA pitchers for 12 hits. Starting LHP Kyle Gainley (5.50 ERA), the winning pitcher when UTA upended Texas last April, shouldered the loss and saw his mark fall to 5-6.

Freshman Jordan Danks made his first appearance since fracturing his right ankle during at April 17 game against Baylor. Batting ninth as the DH, Danks struck out in his first at-bat, was hit by a pitch, walked and then singled up the middle in the bottom of the eighth.

Kasparek retired the first four batters he faced but had to work out of a jam in the top of the second. DH Ben Burum's ground-rule double and LF Danny Slinkman's single to left put Mavs on the corners with one out. Burum was tagged out at the plate on the 1-2 fielders choice before Kasparek's first walk of the contest loaded the bases. SS Kyle Rudy whiffed at a high fastball on the 2-2 count and the Horns emerged unscathed.

Texas took advantage of Gainley's throwing error to grab the early lead. LF Caron Kainer beat out a chopper to third in the home-half of the frame, giving Texas its first baserunner. Gainley tried to gun down Kainer at second following Bradley Suttle's sacrifice bunt but the errant toss bounded into center field. With two Horns in scoring position, Chais Fuller's sacrifice fly to left scored Texas' first run of the Tournament. The Horns weren't done. Chance Wheeless lined a hanging breaking ball down the right field line for an RBI-double before Preston Clark's single put runners on the corners. After Danks went down swinging, Wheeless was called out at the plate on the double-steal. That sent an absolutely furious Garrido storming from dugout for an extended nose-to-nose hollering session with HP umpire Harry Greer.

"The umpire and I got into a friendly discussion," Garrido deadpanned. "He was of the opinion that (Wheeless) was tagged, and I didn't really think that was the case. We talked our way through it, but the out still stood."

Texas led 2-0 with two in the book, but UTA jumped back in it with Daniel Reider's leadoff homer in the top of the third. The 2B carried the hot bat for the Mavericks, going 3-for-5 on the day.

Texas took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the fourth before getting some separation from the Mavs. Suttle reached on a fielder's choice before Fuller singled up the middle. Wheeless hit into a fielders choice but an E6 scored Suttle and Texas' second unearned run of the contest. That brought Clark to the plate who launched a high breaking ball over the left field wall. His fourth homer of the season made it a 5-1 ballgame.

UTA attempted a two-out rally in the top of fifth when 3B David Mcleod's single into right field followed Reider two-out standup double into left. That put runners on the corners, but Clark picked-off Mcleod at first to end the inning.

"Our defense played great," Kasparek said. "They helped me out in some clutch situations. It's really a confidence booster when you have those eight guys behind you playing their hearts out. It really makes you pitch better."

LHP Austin Bridges came on in relief for the Mavericks in the bottom of the fifth. RF Hunter Harris reached on leadoff single but was forced-out at second following Drew Stubbs' sacrifice attempt. Stubbs advanced 90 feet on a balk, which immediately proved costly for UTA. Kainer laced one up the middle as Stubbs trotted home for Texas' sixth run of the afternoon.

Texas would add a pair of runs on three hits in its next at-bat. Stubbs reached on a fielders choice before Suttle singled to center. Fuller recorded his second RBI of the day when he lined a fastball into right-center field. Wheeless then drove a fastball up the middle to plate Suttle for an 8-1 Longhorn lead.

1B Robby Winn lifted a one-out double deep into center field in the top of the eighth and Kasparek was done for the day. LHP Joseph Krebs came on in relief, plunking PH James Smith but recording the final two outs. Danks reached base for the third time with a lead-off single in the bottom of the eighth. RHP Nathan Long became UTA's third pitcher of the afternoon while pinch-runner Bryan Herrera subbed for Danks.

Nick Peoples drew a base on balls before Hunter Harris was credited with an RBI single, capping the scoring at 9-1.

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