Texas takes series from No. 2 LSU with 8-4 win

Blair Henley (Will Gallagher/IT)
Blair Henley (Will Gallagher/IT)

AUSTIN — With Saturday’s win over No. 2 LSU, the No. 22 Texas Longhorns proved their game one win was no fluke.

In addition to repeating the final result with an 8-4 win, a lot of facets from Friday’s game reappeared in the second game of the weekend series.

On the mound, junior Blair Henley pitched six innings, most of them with a lead, and allowed four runs on five hits, striking out six. LSU’s top four hitters found a rhythm in the third, punishing the Fort Worth junior for leaving several pitches up.

However, Saturday’s third inning has been the only bad inning for the Longhorns across the first 18 of the series. Even with those three against them, Texas still held a 6-3 lead and extended it to 8-3 in the bottom half of the third.

After that point, Texas’ starter was effective. Henley ran through the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings against the top team in multiple national polls. When he encountered trouble in his final inning of work, he was replaced by Cole Quintanilla.

On Friday, Texas’ starter was pulled by head coach David Pierce in the seventh inning, and second-year reliever Kamron Fields successfully closed out the game to earn the save.

On Saturday, Texas’ starter was pulled by Pierce in the seventh inning, and second-year reliever Cole Quintanilla successfully closed out the game to earn the save.

Quintanilla baffled Tiger hitters but kept a calm demeanor while on the mound in front of 7,601. Over his three innings of work, Quintanilla struck out seven and allowed one Tiger to reach base with a ninth-inning single.

“You’ve just got to like it,” Pierce said of the weekend relief efforts. “You may only get two from a Kam or a Cole or a close-only, but the last two days it called for that. They had leads they could sit on. As long as they dominated the strike zone, we’d be good. Their stuff played up today and yesterday.”

After missing 2018 recovering from Tommy John surgery, Quintanilla has gotten off to a blistering start in 2019. He has a minuscule WHIP of 0.54, an ERA of 0.77, an opposing batting average of .128, and 17 strikeouts over 11.2 innings.

“It’s all about confidence,” Quintanilla said. “Before I come in, every time, I believe in myself in the bullpen when I’m warming up. I just come out here and let my body do what it naturally knows how to do.”

So far this season, after having to get his body and arm right for 2019, he’s done just that.

“I’m extremely focused,” Quintanilla said. “Coach preaches do your job. I go in there and my job is to finish the game and make sure we get a win. I don’t really get caught up in the crowd. I know my stuff’s good and I know I’m prepared for that type of situation.”

His teammates have noticed as well, including one player who hasn’t been on campus for more than a year.

“He’s been dealing this whole season,” Kennedy said. “He shut down their lineup. What did he get, like six or seven strikeouts? To shut them down like that, it’s amazing. You don’t see very many people do that.”

Another feature from Friday’s game that made its way to Saturday’s contest was the big Texas inning. Texas sent 11 to the plate in the second, scoring six. Junior Duke Ellis, junior Austin Todd, and sophomore Zach Zubia all added RBIs in the inning, with freshman Nick Kennedy adding two.

Kennedy and Todd each added one more RBI in the third.

Texas’ bats were able to stay patient and score on singles, errors, and wild pitches as opposed to yesterday’s rally comprised of doubles and home runs.

Pierce doesn’t want his offense to be one dimensional, and he said his club has proven over these past couple of days they can score in various ways against the best competition.

“We had great approaches,” Pierce said. “We fought off some pitches. We took some borderline pitches, which sometimes you panic, and we took the walk. Then, when they’re pitching behind, they’re coming at us. Eric gets a big hit with 2 RBIs. Just the combination of one through nine doing their job and not trying to do too much is what was most impressive.”

After winning the first two, Texas has an opportunity to sweep the Tigers Sunday beginning at 1 p.m.

“We talk a lot about Sundays because Sunday has so many implications,” Pierce said. “You can survive, you can win a series, or you can sweep. If we have an opportunity to win a sweep on Sunday, you’re in a pretty good position. Now, you have to be able to overcome that you’re 2-0 and the other team is going to fight and claw to not get swept. We’ve got to want to sweep more than they don’t want to be swept.”

Freshman Coy Cobb will start for the Longhorns.