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AUSTIN — In game two against Stanford, the Texas Longhorns had another chance to prove they could match the strong arms the Cardinals sent to the mound. They even had their own ace, junior Nolan Kingham, on the hill against Kris Bubic.
As opposed to the previous outing, Texas couldn’t generate any consistent offense against Stanford’s crafty left-handed hurler. In addition, Texas surrendered seven runs they had few chances to match. Stanford’s total performance in a 7-1 victory tied the weekend series at a game apiece.
The difference in the game was starting pitching and Stanford made that difference apparent early. Kingham allowed a well-hit solo homer to Stanford’s Nico Hoerner on a full count to create an early deficit. Bubic surrendered two walks that his defense helped erase in the bottom half of the first.
Kingham struggled often on the night when he had chances to put away Cardinal hitters. Six of the 10 hits he surrendered on the evening came with two strikes against Cardinal batters.
“He left the ball up,” Texas head coach David Pierce said after the game. “With his best two pitches, he’s got to get the ball down.”
In addition to those 10 hits, Kingham allowed five earned runs including two hard hit home runs.
On the other side, Bubic controlled Texas hitters for almost the entire evening. Texas put together two credible threats including one in the third inning. However, when sophomore shortstop David Hamilton was called out for interference with the bases loaded, that threat began to evaporate.
With one out, Hamilton collided with the Cardinal second baseman while running to second. The play was called dead and Hamilton was out No. 2. The umpires told runners to return to their bases, and freshman Zach Zubia’s groundout the next at-bat left Texas empty handed despite originally loading the bases with nobody out.
“It’s a tough call because it’s kind of a quirky rule,” Pierce said. “It looked like he was kind of slightly past the ball. If he stops, they potentially have a double play. He’s just got to do everything he can to try to avoid it. Kind of the wrong place at the wrong time.”
After that one scare, Bubic cruised. He retired nine of the next 10 batters. Texas put together its second and final threat in the seventh. Bubic was pulled after giving up a walk and a double, and was charged with the run from a groundout RBI off the bat of sophomore Duke Ellis.
After that, the combination of Jacob Palisch and Zach Grech from the Stanford bullpen preserved the victory.
“I thought Bubic was as advertised,” Pierce said. “He was very good tonight. We had minimum opportunities and we knew that we weren’t going to have a ton of them. When we get those chances we’ve got to come up with a clutch hit. He dialed up some pitches.”
A quartet of Longhorn hurlers followed Kingham for the last three innings. All but freshman Matt Whelan, who gave up two earned runs in the eighth, tossed shutout innings.
Likely the best inning thrown by a player in burnt orange came from freshman reliever Bryce Verplank.
“Coach Haig and him have been working very hard and just getting him committed to throwing those two pitches,” Pierce said. “They were outstanding tonight. We have to build on that. That’s the reason why he got back out there.”
Overall, Texas struggled against a top-quality arm without putting up a difficult challenge at the plate. Pierce said after the game he wasn’t going to bash his hitters despite the bad night in the batter’s box, but rather credited Bubic on the performance that earned his third win.
Texas tries tomorrow to move ahead in the series with sophomore Blair Henley on the mound. After Friday’s game, they know what they have to bring each time they face teams like a top 10 Stanford.
“We know we have to perform against a quality team every single night this weekend,” Pierce said. “They outplayed us tonight. We’ve got an opportunity to go at it again tomorrow.”