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Texas’ bats slumbered through a 6-2 Friday loss to Northwestern. During the rest of weekend, they were very much awake. The Longhorns put up 38 runs over three games Saturday and Sunday including 12 in Texas’ series ending win that was called after seven innings. Freshman Bryce Elder earned the win in relief, while junior left fielder Masen Hibbeler’s 4-for-5 effort paced the Texas offense.
Head coach David Pierce’s team was held scoreless in just one inning, the fourth.
The first run was plated in the bottom of the opening frame when freshman designated hitter singled home a run. Sophomore third baseman Ryan Reynolds was the next batter and his at bat had the same result as Zubia’s.
Three runs were added in the second. Hibbeler brought home sophomore shortstop David Hamilton with a single, the first of his two RBIs. He was brought home in the next at bat on a triple by junior second baseman Kody Clemens. Keeping the streak going, Zubia singled to bring home Clemens for the second of his three RBIs.
The Wildcats answered back in the third with a bases loaded walk, but starter Matteo Bocchi was able to work his way out of the jam with a 4-6-3 double play. Bocchi performed well through the first four innings, but couldn’t get out of the fifth after allowing back-to-back walks following the first out.
While taking Bocchi out of the game, Pierce was ejected. He had received a warning earlier in the game, and while walking to the mound, his actions toward the umpires had him removed from the game.
“I just made eye contact with the third base umpire and just did a gesture as ‘I thought he went on the check swing,’” Pierce said. “He told me to slow down and the home plate umpire tossed me for it. The reason why he tossed me is because I was questioning balls and strikes. That’s a piece of balls and strikes.”
It didn’t make too much of a difference as Elder was able to shut down Northwestern over the last 2.2 innings. He allowed just one hit in his outing and struck out four.
Texas neutralized that third inning run by NU with one of their own off of a triple by Hamilton. The speedy shortstop continues to hit the ball hard in the early stages of the season, including on the RBI triple that brought home sophomore center fielder Duke Ellis. On the day, the Longhorns had more triples than doubles.
More runs came home in the fifth after junior catcher Michael McCann slapped an infield single the Northwestern pitcher fielded and threw past the first baseman. Ellis and junior outfielder Tate Shaw came around to score from scoring position. After McCann reached third on a wild pitch, Hibbeler brought him in for his first RBI and the ninth Longhorn run.
Texas left the yard for its only run of the sixth inning. On a 1-2 count, Reynolds hit a ball into the Northwestern bullpen, likely benefitting from the shorter fence.
“I’m just relaxed and staying within myself,” Reynolds said on his recent hitting approach. “I’m swinging at good pitches. I try not to chase. If I do, then oh well, it’s not that big of a deal. Just get back in the box and you’ve got two more.”
Elder retired all six Wildcats in order in the sixth and seventh. Pierce said he liked how the freshman has developed. “I liked Bryce Elder’s role, where he can come in when things unravel a little bit and can give a different look,” Pierce said.
Put even more simply, “he throws it where they can’t get to it.”
In the Longhorn seventh, Texas had runners on the corners following Hibbeler’s one-out triple and Clemens’ walk. Zubia rolled a ball to the third baseman, who fielded and threw it to first.
Zubia ran into the first baseman’s glove hand, causing the ball to roll to the fence. Hibbeler scored for his third run of the game. Texas’ last run came as a result of a groundout off the bat of Reynolds that scored Clemens.
After the last Texas at-bat, assistant coach and acting head coach Sean Allen met with the umpires and Northwestern head coach Spencer Allen. Up against a 4:30 p.m. deadline that any inning could not start after and with an 11 run margin, those involved decided to call the game after seven.
Pierce touched on about how after a disappointing loss on Friday, Texas was able to dominate the rest of the series.
“I think the best thing was the ability to flip the momentum,” Pierce said. “To be able to get a lead early in game one on Saturday was the key. Then just going out there and playing. We understood that one got away from us on Friday night but we couldn’t dwell on it because we had a lot of baseball in front of us. We did a nice job of that moving forward.”
One thing Texas needs to do better in order to beat teams like No. 8 Stanford is get going earlier in games and earlier in series. Pierce discussed that after the game, as well as what he sees coming with the Cardinal.
“We do want to try and get going with a better start,” he said. “We’re going to face some great arms this weekend in a very good team, and in my opinion, one of the best teams in the country right now.”
When the ball appears like it did today to batters like Hibbeler, those days will come more often.
“Huge, like a beach ball coming in there,” Hibbeler said. “It’s always good when you have days like that.”