Texas bullpen blows three-run lead in extra-inning loss to UTA

Jacob Martella

ARLINGTON — Texas had the win in sight.

With the game tied at two going into the top of the ninth, the Longhorns struck for three runs in the inning, including a two-run triple by sophomore catcher Tres Barrera to take a 5-2 lead.

But for the first time all season, the Texas bullpen faltered with the game on the line.

Senior relief pitcher Ty Marlow gave up back-to-back hits to start the bottom of the ninth. Fellow senior relief pitcher Kirby Bellow gave up another hit to load the bases. Then freshman closer Kyle Johnston then came in, walked in a run and then gave up a two-run single to left, allowing UTA to tie the game at five-all.

And in the top of the tenth, junior relief pitcher Ty Culbreth gave up a leadoff triple and then threw a wild pitch, allowing UTA to take a 6-5 win at Globe Life Park on Tuesday night.

“It’s very difficult [to lose a game like that],” head coach Augie Garrido said. “We take pride in our pitching.”

Texas had a number chances early on in the game. The Longhorns drew three walks to load the bases in the top of the second with one out. But junior left fielder Ben Johnson flied out on the first pitch he saw, and senior right fielder Collin Shaw struck out looking to end the inning.

But it wasn’t until the sixth that the Longhorns finally capitalized on their opportunities.

Barrera singled to left to lead off the inning and scored a couple of batters later on a single by freshman first baseman Michael Cantu.

After UTA retook the lead a half inning prior, sophomore center fielder Zane Gurwitz led off the top of the seventh by reaching on an error by shortstop Travis Sibley and advanced to second as the ball sailed into the stands. After Gurwitz took third on a sacrifice fly, junior shortstop C.J Hinojosa managed to leg out an infield single to third, allowing Gurwitz to score to tie the game at 2-2.

Then in the ninth, with two on and two outs, Hinojosa singled to left to score Gurwitz to give Texas its first lead of the game. Barrera then followed that up with a two-run triple to right-center field to up the Longhorns’ advantage to 5-2.

“It was our only inning of being aggressive, I think, because it was the last inning and it was tied,” Garrido said. “So they played the game up to their ability level.”

But the lead wouldn’t last long. UTA quickly loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth and finally broke through with a single by pinch hitter Will Olson to force the game into extra innings. Mavericks second baseman Christian Hollie led off with a triple and then scored the winning run five batters later when Culbreth missed his mark and the ball bounced to the backstop.

The bullpen’s failure to maintain the lead in the ninth went against the norm for the Longhorns. Prior to the game, Texas relievers combined for a 1.56 ERA with only 14 earned runs given up.

“I think tonight was more of a let down than trying too hard,” Garrido said.

The Longhorns return to Austin for a three-game series against Kansas State beginning Friday at 6 p.m.