Longhorns overpower No. 7 Stanford in series opener, 8-6

Travis Hlavinka

On a chilly Thursday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, Texas opened its series against No. 7 Stanford with a testy 8-6 win.

The No. 23 Longhorns (9–4) displayed consistent plate battles, had an unlikely star on the mound and had a surprise pinch hitter, who helped secure the victory in what Texas head coach David Pierce called a “complete game” by his team.

The Texas offense featured a complete showing by the lineup, with eight of 10 players who held a bat for Texas registering a hit. Pierce was as impressed as anybody by the performance his offense put up against Stanford starting pitcher Tristan Beck, who Pierce regards as one of the best pitchers in the country. But Texas was able to wear Beck down on Thursday night.

“Offensively, we had some guys really clutch up tonight,” Pierce said. “(We) played a complete game, and I think the thing I enjoyed the most about tonight (was that) we popped early — they popped us, then we countered — and that’s a sign of our maturation right there.”

The unlikely star of the night for Texas was freshman starting pitcher Nico O’Donnell. Though he performed well entering the game, few expected the freshman to out-duel Beck. O’Donnell finished the night with four innings pitched, allowing three hits and two runs.

“I think (starting a game like tonight’s) means that (Pierce) trusts me,” O’Donnell said. “To me, that feels good. It means that he has confidence in me, and that gives me confidence in return. So I felt pretty confident coming into today.”

Thursday marked another impressive outing for O’Donnell, who has pitched at a far more mature level than his age would let on. Pierce said what O’Donnell showed on Thursday further confirms what he believes about the freshman’s growth.

“(O’Donnell) threw some quality pitches,” Pierce said. “Just watching the kid grow up, it’s happening right in front of us.”

Sophomore outfielder Austin Todd made a surprising return for the Longhorns on Thursday. Pierce previously stated that Todd would be unavailable this weekend due to a thumb injury.

In a tough situation, however, Todd’s number was called to pinch-hit. He drove in two runs on a single to right field, which  proved to be the difference in the game. Todd said after the game that he had been itching to get back onto the field.

“You can’t take the game for granted because you know the game could just end for you in one swing of the bat or one play,” Todd said. “You just gotta keep playing hard every chance you get.”

Winning the first game of the series was a big relief for the Longhorns, considering they have dropped the series opener in their last two weekends. But Texas still has a long three games ahead of it this weekend against the seventh-ranked Cardinal.

Although Stanford’s ace will not take the mound against Texas again this series, the other members of the Cardinal staff have enough talent to do some serious damage. First pitch for Friday night’s game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.