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AUSTIN — Following an 11-1 Sunday win over LSU during which the bats exploded, Texas needed to find a different way to win Tuesday against UTSA. Thanks to a combined one-hitter from the Longhorn pitching staff, Texas was able to top the Roadrunners 2-0. Freshman Nico O’Donnell earned the win with a 5.1 inning, one hit outing, while the Texas bullpen’s 3.2 innings closed out the first of five games this week for the Longhorns.
In the top of the first, a walk and a groundout put a Roadrunner on second, but O’Donnell escaped the inning with no damage. He wouldn’t allow another runner to reach scoring position until a stolen base during the last batter he faced in the sixth.
“Once he established the bottom of the zone and was able to hit with his slider, he was really good,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “He’s just got to pitch ahead and utilize a three to four pitch mix, and did a good job with the slider.”
O’Donnell allowed the only UTSA hit of the game in the fifth inning with two outs and nobody on to Joshua Lamb. During the very next at-bat, Lamb was thrown out trying to steal second.
“He’s very smart, but the key for him is to be able to get ahead in the counts,” Pierce said about O’Donnell. “Sometimes he struggles with that. We challenged him on getting the ball down and challenged him on getting strike one. He was able to do that a lot of the game, and I think that was why he was able to get into the sixth.”
The conditions for O’Donnell’s first start against Lamar were much worse than the conditions Tuesday. Cold, rain and wind made for awful baseball conditions. On Tuesday, O’Donnell’s performance improved just like the weather.
“I felt really good going into this game just with warming up and throwing out in right field,” O’Donnell said. “Like you said, the weather was a lot better. It was supposed to be rainy today so I was not too excited about that, but when it turned out to be this nice everything cleared up in my mind and I just focused on pitching.”
O’Donnell’s final line after a 5.1 inning shutout outing was one hit, two walks and four strikeouts. The freshman made sure all 84 pitches helped to make sure the bullpen could stay fresh heading into a four-game weekend.
“I’m pretty glad that I think I helped the bullpen out in saving arms on that side,” O’Donnell said. “I think this win was pretty strong just because we threw a zero and we only got two. It could have gone a lot differently if I had done something differently.”
Following O’Donnell, sophomore Bryce Verplank and junior Beau Ridgeway combined to throw 2.2 perfect innings, each with a strikeout.
The Longhorns’ normal Friday starter, junior Nolan Kingham, earned the save in one inning of work allowing a walk and a strikeout. Pierce explained the move after the game.
“On Tuesdays, we usually throw the Friday night starter in the ninth (for a bullpen),” Pierce said. “If the game calls for it, we’ll go with it. Most likely we’ll just flip him and Chase [Shugart] on Friday and Saturday.”
Texas’ two runs came as a result of a first inning RBI single by junior left fielder Masen Hibbeler to score sophomore shortstop David Hamilton. Hibbeler scored the game’s second run in the fifth when he scored on an error by the UTSA shortstop.
Junior second baseman Kody Clemens lined a ball to left field, allowing Hibbeler to take third. The UTSA shortstop cutoff the throw from left field to third, and Clemens looked like he didn’t expect that play to happen. With a chance to end the inning at second, the Roadrunner SS sailed the throw to second base, allowing Hibbeler to trot home.
Though Texas put up enough to win, tonight was far from perfect at the plate. The Longhorns failed to record a hit in just one inning, but the strikeout total matched the Longhorns’ hit total.
“I thought we hit some balls hard that didn’t holes,” Pierce said. “I was disappointed in the strikeouts tonight. We had been doing a better job with that. It was one of those games. I thought their arms were solid. They’re lefty pitched really well. [Karan] Patel, the last kid, pitched well.
“They did what they were supposed to do to try and stay in the game and we scored enough to win it.”