Texas Passes First Road Test

SAN MARCOS - Texas' 6-5 victory over the Texas State Bobcats was far from pretty, but the Longhorns were able to keep their perfect record in-tact while recording their first road victory of the 2009 season. Burnt Orange Beat's Jason Cole reports from San Marcos.

Ever since Brandon Workman's no-hitter on Sunday, the focus around the Longhorn baseball program has shifted to this weekend's three-game tilt at Stanford. And following a light early-season schedule that featured a pair of overmatched northern teams and two Southland Conference clubs, most deemed it the season's first true test.

But, as Lee Corso says, ‘Not so fast, my friend.'

Texas' first real test of the 2009 campaign came on Tuesday night in San Marcos, and while it certainly wasn't pretty, the ‘Horns came away with a victory in their first road game of the season.

A raucous crowd of 2,593 – the largest in Texas State baseball history – was on-hand for the unveiling of the Bobcats' newly renovated baseball facility. Having the second-ranked Longhorns in town for the first time ever certainly didn't drive spectators away either.

Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido believes the hostile atmosphere contributed to the ugly play on the field, but he also thinks the experience will be beneficial in the long run.

"It was our fundamentally weakest game of the year offensively, defensively, baserunning and pitching," said Garrido of the ‘Horns 6-5 victory. "All around, I think the change in environment had its effects on us. Environment is a very powerful thing."

"We needed this game to get ready for the weekend in Stanford. We'll need the games at Stanford to get ready for the Big 12 on the road. Nobody has ever won a national championship at home, so you better know how to play in different environments."

The environment appeared to rattle freshman starter Austin Dicharry, who had entered the game with seven scoreless innings on the season. The Spring native was shaky on Tuesday, throwing just 48 of his 72 pitches for strikes. Dicharry surrendered three runs – two earned – in 3.1 innings.

Bobcats starting pitcher Michael Russo came out firing on all cylinders, and he established momentum from the outset. Russo opened the game by retiring the Longhorns in order. He yielded just one hit in the game's first three innings.

Texas didn't put a dent in the scoreboard until the fourth inning, when David Hernandez knocked a two-out, two-run single to centerfield. Despite going 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs, Hernandez committed a career-worst four errors. The shortstop says it can be difficult to keep struggles in the field from carrying over to the plate.

"I know the first time I made the error, I struck out and I kind of carried that over," Hernandez replied. "I tried to step outside, relax, and start over."

Sophomore centerfielder Connor Rowe followed Hernandez's big hit with another RBI single, knotting the game at three.

In his first appearance of the season, senior lefty Keith Shinaberry provided a spark by getting Bobcats first baseman Paul Goldschmidt to bounce into a 1-2-3 double play with the bases loaded, effectively ending the fourth-inning threat.

The contest remained tied until Bret Atwood – Texas State's leading hitter at .472 [17-for-36] – punched an RBI single into left-center field to give the ‘Cats a 4-3 lead. Shinaberry was eventually forced from the game after being hit with a line drive, causing Garrido to call on veteran closer Austin Wood.

Wood got out of the jam, but not after yielding a run-scoring single to the first hitter he faced.

Trailing 5-3 through six innings, the Longhorns got an immediate answer from slugging first baseman Brandon Belt. Last season's team RBI leader hammered a changeup over the left-center field fence to make it a one-run game.

After Wood did his job by recording Texas' only perfect inning of the night in the seventh, the offense went back to work.

Kevin Keyes opened the Longhorns' eighth with a four-pitch walk. Two batters later, Hernandez reached on an error. That set the stage for the team's leading hitter in 2008 – Russell Moldenhauer – to make just his second at-bat of the season.

Moldenhauer came through with a game-tying RBI single. Although he isn't accustomed to pinch hitting, Moldenhauer says his ability to stay focused while sitting on the bench helped him come through in the clutch.

"It's just all about how well you can stay mentally focused on the bench and stuff," he said. "Just keeping track of what the other pitcher is throwing. It's all about staying focused and not worrying about when you're going to get your playing time."

Second baseman Travis Tucker followed Moldenhauer and matched him by hitting another RBI single, which plated Hernandez and put the ‘Horns on top for good.

Wood finished the game by stranding one Texas State runner at first base in each of the final two innings. With the victory, Wood now has three wins and three saves in six appearances this season.

Now, with the season's first road test behind them, Brandon Belt believes the team will be more prepared for this weekend's annual match-up with the Cardinal.

"We needed something like this [game]," Belt said. "We need some setbacks. We need something to go wrong every now and then just to wake us up. When we go down to Stanford, it's going to be just like this."

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