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HOUSTON – The Longhorn lineup’s lapses far outnumbered those of the pitching staff over the course of Saturday’s 11-inning matchup with the Houston Cougars. UH put runners on base in each of the last six innings, but freshmen Tanner Witt and Aaron Nixon escaped every frame unscathed.
But over a similar period, Longhorn bats were silenced. No. 19 Texas managed a lone single over the final five innings. Seven UT batters struck out, including five over 3.0 innings versus Houston’s Jaycob Deese. After a certain point, the freshmen pitching could not hold up. Nixon left an 0-1 breaking pitch up to Tyler Bielamowicz, who pulled it over the left field fence for a walk-off home run, sealing a 3-2. 11-inning UH victory.
Deese took the mound in the seventh inning. Aside from a two-out walk, he worked ahead in counts and recorded his first two strikeouts. The middle of the order suffered a similar fate in the eighth, as Deese struck out the side. In his last inning of work, he allowed the only Texas hit over the final few innings, a two-out knock off the bat of Douglas Hodo III.
Hodo was retired via a fielder’s choice the next hitter.
In extras, Blake Schultz continued to make life difficult for Texas hitters. The middle of the order, with players of varying levels of experience, failed to reach base in the tenth. Eric Kennedy walked in the 11th, but he was stranded at second base.
Nixon recorded his fifth strikeout of a Cougar hitter to open the bottom of the 11th, but the young freshmen could not continue to make up for the Longhorns’ issues at the plate. Bielamowicz, an experienced fifth-year senior, jumped on the errant slider and sent it over the left field fence. Once he made his 360-foot journey around the bases, he was mobbed by his teammates at home plate.
Texas’ offensive problems could be rationalized when they occurred against three of the top four teams in the country, but they’ve stuck with the team since the opening weekend. The team average is .245, and though that can be a stat that doesn’t tell the whole story, it is backed up by a lowly .350 on-base percentage.
Not every aspect of the hitting is catastrophic. Hodo III is hitting .370 and Zubia has a .333 mark. But regular players Mike Antico, Austin Todd, Cam Williams, Trey Faltine, Mitchell Daly, and Silas Ardoin all have a batting average below .250.
It’s something they will have to rectify ahead of Sunday’s rubber match. And not just for Sunday, but moving forward. A solid Sam Houston State program visits Austin on Tuesday ahead of a weekend series with No. 14 South Carolina.
The Gamecocks represent the final weekend before the beginning of Big 12 play. Should the bats not come around by then, more issues will pile up for David Pierce’s team.
The lack of timely hits squandered several solid pitching performances. Not just the ones from Witt and Nixon, but also Tristan Stevens’ start. After allowing a run in the second inning, Stevens settled in and retired 11 straight before surrendering a two out double in the sixth to Samuel Benjamin.
Pierce pulled Stevens for Palmer Wenzel, who gave up a game-tying triple on his first pitch.
Texas manufactured runs in the fifth and sixth. Kennedy doubled to lead off the fifth inning and scored on a two-out single off the bat of Austin Todd. UT took the lead in the sixth when Kennedy brought home Trey Faltine with a safety squeeze.
The Longhorns would go hitless for the next 3.2 innings before Hodo’s ninth-inning knock.
The series-deciding game is Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Right-hander Kolby Kubichek takes the mound for the Longhorns, while the Houston starter remains TBA.