Five Texas pitchers had a hand in the Longhorn’s 5-2 win against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Tuesday at Disch-Falk Field. Key to this season, however may be who coach Augie Garrido didn’t send to the mound against the Islanders.
Tuesday’s methodical win launched not only a five-game week for Texas but also an 11-game home-stand that brings league-leading and highly-ranked Oklahoma to Austin this weekend. On tap next week are a pair of nationally ranked visitors in Rice (April 21) and Kansas State (April 24-26). The month of May begins with a split series against highly-ranked Baylor. “This is like going to Six Flags,” Garrido said. “We’ve got an E-Ticket and we hope to get on all the rides before the park closes.” It begs the question: how long and hard do you ride each member of the bullpen? That’s why Garrido met — at length — with assistant Skip Johnson earlier in the day to establish the pitching rotation for the season-defining stretch. In essence, the coaches “worked backwards” with the bullpen. Freshman RHP Austin Dicharry (4-1) got the starting nod against the Islanders and set the tone with four strikeouts in three innings of work. He was credited with the win following his 10th appearance of the season. Dicharry threw 50 pitches, yielding one hit and walking one.
The Horns raised their mark to 25-8 following their sixth straight win. Texas has also won 11 of 13 since suffering the three-game sweep at Kansas and are ranked No. 9 in this week’s Baseball America poll.
RHP Chance Ruffin, who threw 16 balls in the top of the eighth, will get the Friday night start against the Sooners, Garrido said. Sophomore RHP Cole Green would likely get the Saturday start and not factor into Wednesday’s rotation when Texas completes the two-game home-stand against A&M-CC. RHP Brandon Workman will pitch Wednesday, Garrido added, and is expected to be available Sunday.
Eight Longhorns tallied nine hits Tuesday, with Kevin Keyes enjoying a 2-for-4 showing at the plate. Brandon Belt was charged with a very questionable error early in the ballgame on a night when the Texas defense was generally solid. Texas’ fielding was sloppy enough at Nebraska over the weekend that coaches addressed the issue with players.
“Our infield and outfield wasn’t very good,” Garrido said. “We had a team meeting. I’m proud of the players. They re-focused and they came out and played a quality game.”
The Horns jumped on top in their first at-bat with Russell Moldenhaur’s towering RBI double into right-center. The junior drove a 2-2 pitch into the deepest part of the ballpark (at the 405 mark), plating Brandon Belt who had reached on a two-out single to left. Keyes got things started with a lead-off single in the bottom of the second. Cameron Rupp took one for the team before Brandon Loy sacrificed both runners into scoring position. Travis Tucker laced an 0-2 breaking ball into right center for an RBI double, spotting Texas a 3-0 lead at the end of two.
The Horns pushed another run across in the home-half of the third. Tant Shepherd tagged a one-out fastball to left-center, setting up Keyes’ RBI single to left. It quickly ended the night for starting RHP Justin Grota, who entered the contest with a 9.12 ERA. Texas owned a 4-0 cushion with three complete.
RHP Kendal Carillo took the mound in the top of the fourth and surrendered a lead-off double to DH Stephen Flora. He would score on Brycen Bell’s ground-out to first.
Tucker hit into a 6-4-3 double-play to end the Longhorn sixth, stranding runners at the corners. Carillo was done after allowing one run on three hits in three innings. RHP Stayton Thomas put runners on the corners with a one-out walk and single. But he got of the jam when picked pinch-runner Ernie Olivarez off of first before forcing a ground-out to short.
It remained a 4-1 contest until Ruffin took the hill in the top of eighth. That’s when Flora struck again, launching a 2-2 pitch over the left field wall (Flora is an Austin Crockett grad who dreamed of being a Longhorn). Texas got the run back in the home half of the frame when Rupp earmarked a high breaking ball into the parking lot beyond the left field line. “Our focus died off after we scored the first four runs,” Garrido concluded, “but I was pleased to see us respond. When they got one, we got one.”
LHP Austin Wood surrendered a lead-off single in the Islander ninth but recorded back-to-back strike-outs. He forced a deep fly-out to notch his eighth save of the season.
Overall, Garrido applauded his team for generally maintaining its intensity against “a not-so-recognized opponent” — given the heavyweights on the immediate schedule.
“The team didn’t just write it off. They didn’t just come out and throw their gloves out there. They played,” said Garrido.
The Horns and the Islanders are set for a 6 p.m. first-pitch Wednesday at Disch-Falk Field.