Strong final frames propel Longhorns


Pu Ying Huang

Corey Knebel prepares to hurl a pitch against California last weekend. Corey Knebel fanned six of the seven batters he faced in two innings to earn his sixth save of the season and the 25th of his career.

Christian Corona

Coming into Thursday, it had been nearly a month between Nathan Thornhill’s last two wins — victories over Rice and California. But, thanks to an offense that went from nonexistent to lethargic in the fifth inning, the sophomore picked up victories in consecutive starts for the first time this season after beating the Golden Bears last week and the Red Raiders last night.

Each of the first 13 Longhorn hitters were retired by Texas Tech starting pitcher, sophomore Trey Masek, but the Texas lineup bounced back in a big way. After more than four innings of offensive futility, the Longhorns put 12 of their next 15 batters on base and held a 6-3 lead after the sixth inning, despite trailing 1-0 after the fifth inning. Thornhill gave up a three-run homerun in the fifth inning, but was good enough to improve to 4-2 on the year as No. 25 Texas (16-11, 6-1) took down Texas Tech (17-14, 2-8) 7-4 in Lubbock Thurdsay night.

Freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow’s one-out walk in the fifth inning broke up Masek’s perfect game campaign and freshman designated hitter Taylor Stell’s RBI single later in the frame broke up Masek’s no-hit and shutout bids. Later in the fifth inning, senior shortstop Jordan Etier drew a bases-loaded, four-pitch walk to give the Longhorns their first lead at 2-1.

The Red Raiders took that lead right back by capitalizing on a triple from junior second baseman and leadoff hitter Jamodrick McGruder and an intentional walk drawn by junior center fielder Barrett Barnes. Another junior, first baseman Scott LeJune, deposited a 1-2 changeup from Thornhill over the right-field wall for a three-run homerun, giving Texas Tech a 4-2 advantage.

Another lead change took place in the top of the sixth inning when sophomore right fielder Mark Payton led the frame off with a walk.

“When you walk leadoff guys, and when you walk guys, they usually score,” Red Raider associate head coach Tim Tadlock said. “Leadoff guys usually score. [Texas has] a history of being real good of getting guys over and getting guys in and that’s what they did today.”

Sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss followed with an infield single while freshman left fielder Collin Shaw laid down a sacrifice bunt that moved Weiss and Payton to second and third base. Freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow took advantage of the runners in scoring position, delivering a two-run single that tied the game at 4-4. Then, sophomore first baseman Alex Silver and Stell each hit RBI doubles that gave the Longhorns a 6-4 lead that they would not surrender.

Thornhill allowed five hits and four runs over six innings of work, with four of those five hits being of the extra-base variety. A pair of third-inning doubles allowed Texas Tech to score its first run before the three-run bomb in the fifth. After junior Hoby Milner tossed a scoreless seventh inning, Corey Knebel came in to seal the Longhorns victory.

Knebel gave up a two-out single in the ninth inning, but that was the only baserunner the Red Raiders had in the final two frames as the All-American sophomore closer lowered his ERA from 1.08 to 1.00.

Texas’ leading hitter, junior left fielder Jonathan Walsh was taken out of the game after running into the outfield wall, and replaced by Shaw, who Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido indicated would likely stay in the lineup Friday when Texas plays the second game of a three-game series against Texas Tech, also at 6:30 p.m.