SAN ANTONIO — With one out in the ninth, Masen Hibbeler stepped to the plate with a runner on. He pulled a fastball from Incarnate Word’s Luke Taggart to deep left field.
Hibbeler thought it was gone off his bat. Most of the 2878 in attendance at Wolff Stadium did, too. The baseball’s final destination wasn’t on the hill beyond the fence. It was in Cardinal left fielder Eddy Gonzalez’ glove. One batter later, Tate Shaw struck out to end the game and seal UIW’s 3-2 win.
Texas had several chances to score throughout the game but the Cardinals’ defense and pitching made that a tough task. Texas scored one run in the second when Hibbeler hit a sac fly. The Longhorns added another when Michael McCann brought in Hibbeler with a sac fly of his own.
But like Hibbeler’s smash in the ninth, Texas had several hard hit balls find UIW gloves instead of the grass.
“We hit about five balls really, really hard,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “They didn’t make any mistakes and they threw a lot of strikes. The last ball was absolutely crushed by Hibbeler.”
In the sixth, Texas had a runner on second with Ryan Reynolds at the plate. Reynolds put good contact on the ball and pulled it toward the first base bag. The ball was well hit but right at Sean Arnold. He handled it to end the threat.
Lance Ford and Tate Shaw put together good at bats and made solid contact in the seventh. Both times, the ball found its way to a Cardinal fielder.
Then, Hibbeler’s shot that wasn’t culminated a night of offensive almosts for Texas.
“We played good defense,” Pierce said. “We didn’t get some timely hits. Masen absolutely crushed that last one to put us up and it just stayed in the park.”
Ty Madden received the start for Texas, his first in-game action since leaving the Sunday game of the Texas Tech series with a shoulder issue. Pierce planned for his freshman right-hander to throw three innings or 60 pitches, but he got into trouble early.
Madden was charged with two earned runs on 0.2 innings of work. UIW scored one run off a sacrifice fly from Antonio Valdez and another from a groundout by Ryan Flores. Madden was replaced by Bocchi, who despite giving up another run in the second was effective over his 4.1 innings.
Bocchi showcased a much lower release point, akin to the change Parker Joe Robinson made last year.
“He’s actually throwing slightly harder from there,” Pierce said. “It’s pretty natural for him. He’s managing the slider. I thought he threw some really good changeups today.”
Bocchi was followed by Matt Whelan, Jack Neely, and Kolby Kubichek. They combined for three hitless and scoreless innings.
However, that effort was topped by the UIW staff. John Shull was rewarded with his first win of the season after a 5.0 inning, three hit, two earned run performance. Cody Moos, Tyler Miller, Michael McElmeel, and Luke Taggart combined to allow one hit over three innings.
Miller and Taggart, normally weekend starters, saw action in the midweek to earn UIW’s first ever win over the Longhorns.
“Incarnate Word did a nice job,” Pierce said. “They fielded everything. They threw a lot of strikes with some quality guys.”
Texas ends its difficult 21-game March portion of the schedule with a non-conference series against Xavier in Austin this weekend.
Pierce mentioned he was pleased his team will have an opportunity to practice at home and catch its breath after the season’s toughest stretch. “We’ve played a lot of baseball, probably more than anybody in the country in the month of March,” Pierce said.
Texas’ series against Xavier will begin Friday at 7 p.m.