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Success in mid-week games is critical for any contending college baseball team. Save for one-offs against ranked squads in the region from other conferences, most opponents a power program faces on Tuesdays and Wednesdays enter as underdogs.
Losses to those teams can be stains on postseason resumes. Wins, on the other hand, are evidence of playing to a high standard and doing what is necessary for victory.
Most mid-week games for Texas won’t look like Tuesday’s victory over UT-Rio Grande Valley, but the Longhorns’ 15-2 run-rule win in seven innings was a sign Texas played up to its “Own The Disch” mantra.
The Longhorns improved to 4-0 in mid-week games on a night where six teams, including No. 1 Arkansas, No. 4 Ole Miss, No. 5 Florida, and No. 8 Louisville, dropped matchups with unranked opponents.
Maintaining success in the mid-week allows the Longhorns to maintain momentum coming off a sweep of then No. 10 South Carolina. Texas has won nine of its last ten games and have taken each weekend series against individual teams.
Maintaining that momentum will be important as Texas embarks on Big 12 play beginning this weekend at Baylor.
Tuesday’s game started with two Longhorn runs in the first. Then three in the fourth. Texas’ offense hit a crescendo with a six-run fifth, and followed it up with a four-run sixth.
By the time the seventh inning rolled around, the two teams decided to implement a run rule. Sam Walbridge pitched a perfect inning to end the drubbing following a perfect sixth from Jared Southard.
Pete Hansen earned the victory in 5.0 innings of work. He allowed two earned runs, five hits, walked one, and struck out four. He was efficient to begin the game as he completed the first, second, and third innings with seven pitches in each.
Hansen still lacks velocity and continues to build back arm strength, but his command and pace were impressive against the Vaqueros.
The bats, however, did most of the work against UT-RGV. Silas Ardoin drew a bases loaded walk in the first for the game’s first run. Ivan Melendez followed it up with a RBI single that scored one, but the chance at more was lost when Zach Zubia was thrown out at the plate to end the frame.
Zubia made up for it later with a third-inning sacrifice fly. Ardoin came to the plate the next at bat and smashed a ball over the left field fence to give Texas 5-2 lead. The Vaqueros added two in the top of the fourth, but Texas would respond in the bottom of the fifth and blow the game open.
Douglas Hodo drove in two with a single off of the shortstop’s glove. Mike Antico followed him up two batters later with a two RBI double off the top of the wall in deep right center. Zubia brought home a runner from third on a ground out.
Ardoin once again came to the plate. The victim of awful luck on batted balls this year, he finally had a bounce go his way. The RGV right fielder misplayed a ball near the foul line and allowed it to drop to the ground. Ardoin reached second base and drove in Texas’ 11th run.
The fireworks weren’t done there. Texas head coach David Pierce emptied the bench ahead of the sixth inning, and the first pitch to pinch-hitter Dalton Porter was crushed to Comal St.
Texas added three more runs and the run-rule was put into effect ahead of Walbridge’s seventh.
“I thought Pete did his job, went out there, and gave us five complete. Good to see Jared back out there and command the ball, and nice to get Sam in the mix. Sam has been working. He’s been a little bit injured in the early spring, been a little frustrated, and made some adjustments on his delivery. Get him in there, he’s got good stuff, and hopefully he’s a shot in the arm from the left side. Offensively, what a night. A lot of guys had big nights. Hodo was awesome. Of course, the top of the order was good. I think we continued to show some patience, which is also a part of our offense, and they did a nice job of not really getting out of the zone, not playing the score, but to continue to have good at bats. And Silas was great tonight as well. With that being said it’s nice to see some guys continue to come off the bench and contribute.”
On ‘Own The Disch’ and if this was about playing the game more so than the opponent
“We talk about it every day, it’s always about us. It doesn’t matter if we’re playing South Carolina, or if we’re playing Rio Grande Valley, or Baylor, or whomever. It’s about us, and we want to try to get better in every aspect. There’s some things going on in our baserunning we need to continue to clean up and to be in a really good spot to advance and read the ball well. I think the kids are locked in on doing that.”
On there being no signs of a mental hangover from South Carolina
“I’ve said it from day one, this team likes to compete. They like to be at the ballpark. We had early work today. They’re just right. I said early in the year, I have no idea how many games we’re going to win but I know that we’re going to get better every day. When we struggle, we’re not going to feel sorry for ourselves. We’re just going to go back to work. That’s what they continue to do. We continue to take information from the weekend and try to portray that to our team and say what we’ve done well and where we can improve. It’s really fun. It’s just fun to take the games, dissect it, bring it back to the lab, and then go back to work. And that’s what’s been happening.
On Sam Walbridge
“He could be big for us because we haven’t had a whole lot of help in the bullpen from the left side. But he, (Lucas) Gordon, (Tanner) Witt, (Austin) Wallace is still in that mix. The thing with Sam is he had a real long stride and it was just kind of out of sync for a big 6-foot-6 kid, and so we shortened him up a little bit, sped up his arm, kind of takes some pressure off of his shoulder which has been the problem. Really, in the big picture, he’s healthy. His deliver was really clean, and that’s what we’re looking for. Little inconsistency with his curveball, but really like what we saw out of the ‘pen.”
On Silas Ardoin
“It’s just like Hodo tonight. Hodo hit a lot of balls hard tonight. In his first start I think he had two or three hits that didn’t get out of the infield. Big for Silas. What I was impressed with, when you look at hitting the breaking ball that was probably middle in and keeping it fair tells you that the kid is hitting right. He’s hitting in the middle of the field. He was just in a good spot to drive that ball out of the park. His next at bat he hits a double down the right field line after he fought off a couple of tough pitches. He’s a worker. He’s a kid that is demanding of himself. He’s a kid that has always been offensive and just hasn’t completely come out here yet in a short sample. I like him in that five-hole and I like what he’s doing for us. He’ll continue because he’s built right. We’ve got so many kids that are just built right. It’s a lot of fun to come to the park every day with them.”
On bench players playing aggressively
“It tells starters you had better not relax because somebody is going to take your job. That is healthy competition right now.”