"We know its now or never, if we aren't locked in then our next game is next spring," rightfielder Kyle Russell said post game. "It's do or die time."
For today at least, the Horns chose "do." Texas hammered out twelve runs and ten hits in the first two innings.
The Longhorns got an early three-run jump on the Bearkats thanks to a leadoff single followed by consecutive homers from centerfielder Jordan Danks and Russell. Freshman starter Chance Ruffin faced the minimum in the bottom half thanks to a double play to quickly give Texas their bats back before they had a chance to cool down.
Another shot over the fence from Russell combined with triples from junior DH Michael Torres and Travis Tucker and a two-RBI single by Preston Clark paced the Horns to nine runs in the second inning, extending their lead out of the Bearkats' reach.
"It was a tough day for the Bearkats…we didn't match-up well early and it's hard to come back. The bottom line is Texas played really well and hit really well," Sam Houston State head Coach Mark Johnson said. "We left some balls over the plate and didn't control the off-speed pitch…when the batters are ripping them, you can't get the pitchers established."
Bearkat shortstop Ryan Weber drove his leadoff pitch to centerfield to get on base and rode a double around the bags to finally get Sam Houston State on the board in the third. A sac fly in the seventh and a two-out single in the ninth rounded out the scoring for the Bearkats.
Russell's second home run marked his 17th round tripper of the season and tied Russell with Jeff Ontiveros for the UT career record of 55. Coincidentally, Russell tied the season homerun record last year in the same stadium.
Russell also joined with Torres to lead the team with four RBI each. Torres and Tucker both went 4-for-5 and ended up a home run short of completing a cycle.
Starting Sam Houston State pitcher Ryan Tepera (3-3) got the loss for giving up seven hits and six runs in his one and one-third innings. Ruffin(8-3) gave up seven hits in six innings of work despite the early, large lead.
"As soon as we had twelve runs we talked about (pulling him)…we thought of his past and how he felt and what he wanted but… he just sailed along and it wasn't much effort for him," head Coach Augie Garrido said before laughing and alluding to an earlier example of taking a large lead for granted that is bound to still give fans heartburn: "Did you see the Missouri score?"
"I was ready to go out after six (innings). I wanted to pitch at least half the game to make sure it was under control," Ruffin said. Overall, he struck out ten batters and walked none.
The Longhorns look to continue their season at 2 p.m. Sunday at Reckling Park vs. St. John's in another elimination game. The Red Storm fell to Rice Saturday night, 11-2. To advance out of the regionals, Texas will have beat St. John's and Rice on Sunday, and then best the Owls again on Monday.
"We've had our backs against the wall all season…and we're going to come out fighting," Russell said. "We don't want to go home."