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AUSTIN — If you closed your eyes Saturday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, the 46-year old ballpark might’ve sounded like 2005 – or even 1983 – as a festive crowd basked in the Texas Longhorns’ 10-3 shellacking of Arizona State, propelling David Pierce’s team into Sunday night’s championship round of the Austin Regional.
Granted, it’s a tad early to compare 2021 to a pair of years that resulted in national championships for Texas, but after more than a year of being muted or at least semi-muted, Texas fans – who came within four patrons from a sellout – certainly sounded like they are anxiously dreaming big after Texas recorded its second impressive win of the Regional.
“It was unbelievable,” Pierce said of the crowd afterward. “When you talk to these young players about filling up the Disch, they had a chance to see that tonight. They were electric. Can’t thank them enough and I hope they come back tomorrow.”
Texas will now face the winner of the Arizona State-Fairfield elimination game slated for 1 p.m. Sunday. Should Texas win later Sunday night at 7, the Longhorns will win their Regional in a tidy three games and will host next week’s Super Regionals.
The Longhorns used a typically ace-ish outing out of Ty Madden, who picked up the win after allowing 3 hits, walking four and striking out seven over six innings of work. In other words, Ty was Ty while moving his won-loss record to 7-4 and dropping his earned from average from the 2.66 number he brought into the ballgame, giving up just one run.
Madden put three zeroes on the board in each of the first three innings before the Texas offense scored three runs while not hitting the ball out of the infield in the bottom of the third. Mike Antico began the inning with a walk against the 6-6, 240-pound ace of the Arizona Staff, Justin Fall.
Neither the Longhorns nor Fall could’ve anticipated that the base on balls would be the first sign of the wheels coming completely off for the Sun Devils. Antico swiped second, and after a Mitchell Daly ground out, a Zach Zubia walk was followed by an Ivan Melendez base on balls. A discombobulated Fall then hit Cam Williams to score the first run of the game, and Doug Hodo drove in another run with yet another walk.
By now, the Arizona relief pitchers were scurrying to the bullpen, much to the delight of the Texas fans who cheered them as they scrambled away during Fall’s fall. Melendez then scored on a wild pitch, giving Texas a 3-0 lead that seemed even greater than that with Madden on the mound.
Zubia’s two-out, two-run home run in the fourth inning to dead centerfield pushed the Texas lead to 5-0. After the Sun Devils plated a run on a fielder’ choice in the fifth, Trey Faltine brought Williams home with a two-run single in the sixth, followed by a two-run single by Eric Kennedy that increased the Texas lead to 8-1.
Tanner Witt relieved Madden in the seventh, and allowed a two-run home run to slice the Texas lead to 8-3. Didn’t matter.
As good as Madden was, the Texas offense continued a stellar Regional at the plate. Antico, Pedroia-esque in his ability to annoy an opponent, was 2-for-4 in his leadoff role and scored a pair of runs. Williams had a pair of doubles and three hits in the game. Faltine, a .259 hitter, finished the game 2-for-3. Melendez and Hodo had a two walks apiece. Silas Ardoin knocked in a couple of runs late in the game, giving him four RBIs in two games.
Pete Hansen, who clearly would be the ace of most staffs, will get the ball Sunday in an attempt to close out the Regional. With an 8-1 record and a 1.88 earned run average, Hansen gives the Longhorns a great chance to advance against the winner of the Gainseville Regional.
How’s the Gainesville Regional look, you ask? Well the top team there, the Florida Gators, dropped its first two games and is now watching South Florida, South Alabama and Miami compete in their own ballpark.