Elder, Texas bats unfazed by No. 2 LSU in 8-1 series opening win

Texas Baseball (Will Gallagher/IT)

Texas Baseball (Will Gallagher/IT)

AUSTIN — Sophomore starter Bryce Elder was instrumental helping LSU score its first run of the game in the top of the first. He allowed a single, recorded an error, and had two wild pitches to help LSU to an early 1-0 lead.

After that, Elder controlled the No. 2 team in the country into the seventh inning and prevented the Tigers from creating any sort of offensive rally. Junior Duke Ellis’ two-run homer in the fourth and a five-run bottom of the seventh helped Texas to a series-opening 8-1 win.

LSU’s lone unearned run on the night was the result of an anomaly compared to the rest of Elder’s performance. Elder cruised in the second through sixth innings and allowed one runner to reach third base after his average opening frame.

“In the first inning I tried to make a few pitches too good at times,” Elder said. “When I came out in the second, I reset, and said ‘make a pitch.’ I just went pitch by pitch, looked up, and it was the sixth.”

Prior to Friday’s game, the Tigers were undefeated and came to Austin sporting a .346 team batting average. Elder and sophomore reliever Kamron Fields held them to a .133 average in handing LSU its first loss. Elder improved to 2-0 on the young season while Fields recorded his first save of 2019.

“When Elder can get into the seventh and sometimes the eighth inning, it really preserves the bullpen for the rest of the weekend,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “Kam did his job. He was going to stay in the game no matter what the score was unless we got in some trouble. He wanted the ball, and he told me he wanted to finish the game. That’s what he did.”

Four players in the LSU starting lineup entered Friday’s game batting over .400. Those four were held to a 2-for-16 night, with leadoff hitter Josh Smith producing those two hits.

Texas tied the game at one in the third when senior Tate Shaw drew a two-out walk with the bases loaded. The Longhorns had a chance to break the game open early, but senior Michael McCann struck out to end the inning and keep the game tied at one.

Ellis’ big fly broke the tie one inning later. After senior Masen Hibbeler lead off with a double, Ellis came to the plate with one out. He worked the count to 2-2 before he made contact and sent the ball to the opposite field. This time, the slap-hitting lefty put a lot more than usual behind it.

“They always say if you hit a ball and you don’t feel it, more than likely its out,” Ellis said. “I hit it and I had no idea even that I hit it. It felt great. I knew it was gone off the bat.”

Texas took over in the seventh when it batted ten and plated five. Pierce stayed aggressive on the basepaths and got the rally going when sophomore Zach Zubia’s single on a hit-and-run put junior Austin Todd at third with nobody out. Junior Ryan Reynolds singled, and Texas would pour it on from there.

The Longhorns would add four more in the frame with two as a result of a single from Masen Hibbeler, who improved his 2019 batting average from .083 to .143 with a 2-for-4 evening.

Fields took care of the final 2.1 innings. Though he walked two, no Tiger would reach second base.

“For him to come out and close it out, it means a lot,” Elder said of Fields. “I appreciate him doing that, and hopefully there’s many more of them.”

The series-opening win over the nation’s No. 2 team is huge for Pierce’s program, but as he told reporters postgame, he has two more games to prepare for.

“Outstanding play and outstanding pitching,” Pierce said. “It’s game one. We’ve got to get ready for game two now.”

Blair Henley will start tomorrow to try and take the series for Texas. First pitch is set for 3:30 p.m.