Bunts, Homers Push Horns to Game One Victory

The Texas Longhorns used an NCAA-record seven sacrifice bunts and two home runs from leadoff hitter Michael Torres to earn a 10-4 victory over TCU in game one of the Austin Super Regional on Saturday. Burnt Orange Beat takes a look back at the contest.

The Longhorns shattered a number of NCAA records during last weekend's Austin Regional.

On Saturday, they broke yet another. Texas set the NCAA single-game record with seven sacrifice bunts. They even had three in one inning.

"By the way, if UT was any kind of host, they'd be serving bunt cake tonight," joked Texas coach Augie Garrido as he exited the postgame press conference.

But it was the long ball just as much as the bunts that helped carry the ‘Horns to a 10-4 victory over TCU, putting Texas one win away from their first College World Series appearance since 2005.

Texas handed the ball to sophomore ace Chance Ruffin, and as usual, he pitched with toughness. The right-hander battled through three home runs to toss his third complete game of the season. In all, he gave up four runs on seven hits in nine innings, walking one and striking out seven.

TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle was impressed with the performance.

"As a pitching guy at heart myself," he said, "you've got to look across the field and admire that. And that's what we try to do. He just did a better job of it than we did today.

"He threw his breaking ball a bunch and just kept pounding the zone. Solo homers don't beat you. They just don't. And he did a good job of shaking those things off and coming right back at us."

The Frogs actually got on top early, as freshman shortstop Taylor Featherston—the second batter of the game—lifted a solo home run over the left-center field wall.

The ‘Horns came right back in the bottom of the frame, plating a pair of runs on a Kevin Keyes two-RBI double.

Texas extended its lead to 3-1 in the second when senior third baseman Michael Torres belted a solo home run to right-center field.

"I thought it was a pretty good pitch," said TCU starter Kyle Winkler. "It was in and usually that's pretty good to left-hand hitters—down and in. But I must have gotten it up a little bit and he might have been sitting on it."

The solo home run struck again for the Frogs in the fourth, when third baseman Matt Carpenter led off the frame with a rocket over the right field fence.

Texas answered again, pushing across a run with three sacrifice bunts in their half of the fourth.

Preston Clark began the frame with a single, then Cameron Rupp moved him over with a sac bunt and reached on an error. Those two were pushed to second and third, respectively, with a Connor Rowe bunt. Then David Hernandez brought Clark home on a safety squeeze.

"The safety squeezes—that's a play that is indefensible," said Schlossnagle.

The Longhorns got the leadoff hitter on base in four of their eight at-bats. They scored in all four of those innings.

"Our gameplan going into playing Texas was to get the leadoff hitter out," Schlossnagle said. "You have to do that. And we didn't do that."

TCU mounted yet another comeback attempt in the top of the sixth when they scored on—you guessed it—another home run. Carpenter knocked a two-out single into right field, giving the Frogs their first hit of the day that didn't leave the park.

Slugging first baseman Matt Vern then hammered a ball out of the park, tying the game at four apiece.

And yet again, the Longhorns answered.

Texas re-took the lead in the bottom of the sixth when Connor Rowe singled to center off former high school teammate Erik Miller.

Rowe says he has a close relationship with Miller.

"He actually dated my sister," Rowe said with a smile.

But he also knew a little something about Miller's game on the mound.

"Earlier in the year when we played them on Tuesday night, he just fed me curveball after curveball," he said. "After he threw me that first one above my head, I knew he was going to come back with it. I just sat on that."

Texas plated another run on a Travis Tucker double to left-center, giving them a 6-4 lead.

TCU scored in three different innings. Each time, the Longhorns answered, either matching or topping the Horned Frogs' run output. Garrido believes that's a mark of a great team.

"We responded instinctively," he said. "It shows the character that we like to talk about, and the spirit of the team. We responded when they got one—we got two.

"Those kinds of responses only belong to quality teams. Only quality teams respond instinctively like that."

The ‘Horns put the game away with four runs in the bottom of the seventh, capped off by Michael Torres' second round-tripper of the game. The homer brought in three runs and gave the Longhorns a 10-4 lead.

Torres entered the game with just two home runs on the season. He doubled that on Saturday.

Garrido isn't completely surprised by Torres' power display.

"He hit it good," he said. "He hit balls out of the upper part of the strike zone. He hits it out of the park in batting practice out of that same zone that they pitched to him today. That isn't out of nowhere."

Of course, five home runs in one game at UFCU Disch-Falk Field is a rarity. The wind was blowing straight out to centerfield, something that rarely happens for the ‘Horns.

"Tonight was a power night," Garrido explained. "This was the best weather for hitting we've had in this ballpark all year. The wind was blowing straight out. Normally it blows across, one way or another. It doesn't blow like this very often."

When Chance Ruffin finished off the Horned Frogs in the ninth, he put the Texas one victory closer to Omaha and TCU one loss closer to elimination.

Still, Horned Frogs third baseman Matt Carpenter is confident in his team's ability to bounce back and win two games.

"We're going to completely forget about today because we've still got two games to play and we're in the same position as when we came in here," he said. "We've got to win two games and we still have two games to play."

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