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During Texas’ 4-1 win over South Carolina, for the first time in a long time, UFCU Disch-Falk Field felt like the Disch.
1,716 fans were on hand to see the No. 19 Longhorns battle the undefeated No. 12 Gamecocks. Ahead of big pitches from Ty Madden or Aaron Nixon, the trademark three-clap cadence spread throughout the stands. When Eric Kennedy and Zach Zubia knocked important hits in the eighth inning, noise that hadn’t been heard across I-35 in over a year burst from the crowd.
South Carolina could not handle it.
Of course, there are capacity limitations still in place and not every season-ticket holder was in Austin on Friday night. Even for South Carolina, venturing into a road environment, and one that was actually hostile, was something they had not yet experienced this season.
The 1,716 fans was the largest crowd for a true road game for the Gamecocks in the young 2021 season. They were heard often in the final two half-innings.
With the game tied at one in the bottom of the eighth, Kennedy pulled a ball down the right field line into the corner. The junior with plus speed never once thought to stop at second. He was going to third all the way and slid in safely.
The leadoff triple was bad news for Gamecock reliever Will Sanders. After USC starter Thomas Farr performed well in his 6.0 innings and reliever Jack Mahoney recorded a scoreless seventh, Sanders entered for the eighth.
His first pitch resulted in Kennedy’s triple.
Kennedy’s base hit was Texas’ ninth of the evening. The Longhorns were able to hit the ball on Friday, but aside from Mitchell Daly’s game-tying single in the second, they were not able to string hits together to produce runs.
They needed something to shift. Enter Zubia. With two on and nobody out, the senior first baseman slapped a 2-0 pitch past the first baseman and just inside the right field line. Both runners on base scored, and the Disch celebrated Zubia’s timely hitting.
He wasn’t sure if he would be able to hear those same cheers after the events of one year ago. But for a team that has not strung together hits consistently, Texas faithful rewarded No. 52’s efforts.
Texas wasn’t quite finished scoring in the inning. Pinch hitter DJ Petrinsky looped a single into centerfield to score Zubia and make the score 4-1.
A unique play not often seen gave Texas fans another reason to cheer in the top of the ninth. Daly was pulled to his left to make a tough play on a grounder off the bat of Gamecock DH Wes Clarke. He reached the ball and tried to bounce the ball to Zubia at first.
It went past Zubia’s glove, and Clarke in turn went past the bag and made a move toward second base. Longhorn catcher Silas Ardoin followed the play, fielded the ball, and threw it to Zubia. Clarke was tagged before he could return to the bag, and the Disch-Falk Field crowd cheered the ninth inning’s first out.
Nixon, who has now carved out a role as one of Texas’ main late inning options, retired the next two hitters to deliver South Carolina its first loss of the season and earn the victory.
When he fanned the final hitter, the loudest cheer of the night rang out. It was good news for Texas, both a signal of their victory and a sign that the Disch remains a difficult place to win a baseball game. Even amid historical circumstances.
First pitch for Saturday’s game was moved up to 2:30 p.m. due to potential inclement weather. Tristan Stevens is slated to get the start for the Longhorns.