Longhorns take care of Texas State, 6-2 (+full Pierce and Bocchi quotes)

David Hamilton (E. Lewallen/special to IT))

David Hamilton (Emily Lewallen/IT)

In order for the upcoming weekend to remain relevant to Texas’ hosting chances, the Longhorns needed to make sure they went undefeated in the midweek at home in 2018 and defeat the Texas State Bobcats Tuesday night. Despite an early 1-0 deficit and a two hour rain delay, Texas did what they needed to do in a 6-2 victory to set up for an important weekend series against TCU.

Pitching in front of his parents for the first time in his American baseball career, Matteo Bocchi got the start and ran into early trouble. Three singles in the first inning gave the Bobcats a 1-0 lead, but Bocchi would settle in following the opening frame and return to the mound with a lead in the second.

That one run first had to be matched, and it was thanks to David Hamilton’s continued success against his hometown team. Hamilton led off the Longhorn evening with his fifth homer of the year. Later in the inning, Duke Ellis scored on a wild pitch to give Texas the lead for the remainder of the game.

Texas added three runs in the second inning with RBIs from Hamilton and Jake McKenzie, with the third run coming as a result of a double play.

Bocchi then retired nine of the next 11 batters he faced to finish four innings of work. With one out in the bottom half of the fouth, lightning moved into the area, followed by rain, followed by thunderstorms. The game was delayed for two hours before Tate Shaw was able to finally head to the plate for his at bat.

Texas head coach David Pierce said after the game that Bocchi would have returned to the mound in the fifth had there not been a delay. The rain prevented that and a possible Bocchi win from happening, as Elder pitched innings five, six, and seven to earn the win in relief.

After a Texas State solo home run in the top of the seventh to cut the Longhorn lead to three, Zach Zubia brought in a run to make the game 6-2 and restore the four run advantage.

A strong crowd for a Tuesday game originally showed up to UFCU Disch-Falk Field, but most did not return for the bottom of the fourth save for some vocal diehards. Those diehards were able to see Friday starter Chase Shugart work a perfect eighth, and Andy McGuire work a perfect ninth for the Longhorns to complete an undefeated midweek slate at home in 2018.

The win against Texas State not only sweeps the season series from the I-35 rival, but also keeps Texas in the hosting conversation. A loss to a middling Sun Belt team would have been debilitating to the Longhorns pre-game RPI ranking of 21 and perception as a possible host. Instead, Texas has no debilitating home midweek losses, and several solid RPI wins against several top 100 teams like Houston, UTSA, and Sam Houston State.

Now, Texas can turn its attention directly to the TCU Horned Frogs. The series begins Thursday in order to give both teams rest on Sunday prior to the beginning of the Big 12 Tournament.

Matteo Bocchi

On if this is the first time his parents have seen him pitch in America: This was the first time. They had a chance to come to Odessa but they ended up not coming because I was like ‘if you really want to come, come next year at Texas because it’s a much better place.’

On the experience of them seeing him pitch live: Honestly they’ve been watching the games online. When you’re in the game locked in, you don’t really pay attention to the stands. I was happy they were here.

On if he looked over and saw them: I actually couldn’t see them for the first four inning. In the rain delay they texted me because they moved from the seats they were in.

On what worked tonight: After the first four guys, I think my tempo was quick, much quicker than what I used to do. I was attacking the zone better at the end, and the defense worked for me.

On which fastball he used: Tonight I was feeling good so I kept going with whatever was working, and the four seam was working earlier in the game so I kept using it.

On earning the win to start the week: It’s huge. We’re going to decide what to do in the playoffs basically. Maybe host or not. We’re focusing on winning game one and that’s it. We’re playing the series game by game.

On the rain delay: Honestly I was kind of upset. I don’t really like lightning because I’m kind of scared of it. I think I could have gone one or two more innings but with the rain delay, I got cold and probably started getting tired. I haven’t started in a long time so I didn’t have many pitches in my arm.

David Pierce

Opening statement: Great crowd early. I thought our guys had a lot of energy and they were ready to play against a team coming off of a great series against Lafayette. Just some solid, solid defense. Great pitches. Good to see no base on balls, make the other team earn it. Just consistent defense. We had some really nice performances offensively especially with David and Ryan (Reynolds) flipping over and hitting left handed again.

On Reynolds hitting left handed: In our extra period he had an opportunity to get some at bats. He’s continued to work in the cages. He just really felt like he hadn’t been seeing the slider well from the right side and I never wanted him to quit switch hitting. When you get into a confidence issue, you kind of have to allow the player to have that last say. I did, but it was great for him to come back to me and say I really see the ball better. I don’t have to deal with the slider working away from me so now he’s just got to understand how to handle the changeup. Really solid night. Great to have some instant success with it, too. David’s leadoff, the key to that was just such great discipline. (Cam) Baird was just sinking the ball away, now he gets 2-1 and he’s got to throw him a pitch he can handle. You have to have the ability to drive that pitch, but he had great discipline. I liked what we saw with him in the one hole tonight as well.

On winning tonight to set up for the weekend: It was a difficult week to not overlook this game for everybody. We know they’re a solid team. I just thought there was great maturation with that because we had plenty of time. We’ve been off and preparing for both teams as a coaching staff, but you don’t want your team to look ahead. They’re coming off of a very good series against Lafayette. I just thought we did an outstanding job of taking care of business tonight and now preparing for TCU.

On his message before TCU: For a lot of the season I pick them apart. I just pick them apart about every little thing that makes a difference. Today, I started flipping that. I told them how great they were today and I’m going to continue doing that because they’ve earned the right to have trust from the coaches to understand that we’re busting it, we’ve had a lot of success, now let’s go have some fun.

On the rain delay and the plan for Bocchi: He might have gone one more. He was at 69. I knew he wasn’t going to throw Thursday, probably not Friday, and have the ability to help us on Saturday. Had we not had the delay he would have gone out in the fifth and hopefully would have gotten the outright wind.

On his start: I just saw him really have good tempo and attack the strike zone. He wasn’t perfect. He left some balls up, but he threw a lot of quality pitches today. Early on we felt like we were one speed and one location and felt like we had to get into the mix a little bit better. He did a nice job of adjusting there. His tempo was awesome. We got him back into the windup where we feel like we can get him a bit more rhythm there. The same thing with Elder. Elder’s been very good for us early. Has gone through a tough couple of weeks. He still left some sliders up but you saw what we’ve seen with the four pitch mix from Bryce.

On if this was Shugart’s bullpen: I think if he would have gotten extended we would have pushed him back and flipped him and Blair. But it worked out perfect. He pounded the zone, had great stuff, and three quick outs. He’ll stay on Friday.

On Hamilton’s success against Texas State: I don’t know, man. It’s interesting because a lot of times that happens with certain pitchers and they’ve got good stuff but you see the ball well. Certain teams do the same thing and he’s definitely a thorn in their side right now.

On a successful home midweek slate: When I got here, we talked a lot about Sundays and Tuesdays. I think that’s the difference in a length of a season. You’re going to have matchups Friday and Saturday. You’re going to win your fair share of those, hopefully more than we lose. If you’ve got the ability to have the grit on Sunday and have the discipline to play teams in the midweek and especially Tuesday, to go out there and play the same way and understand it’s another game of competition, you’re going to reap the benefits. They have just really bought into that. I’ve just been really impressed in two years about how we just went about our business midweek, Sunday, Friday night, doesn’t really matter.