Texas holds off late Cowboys charge, 5-4

Shane Lewis

After a hot start Monday night, the Longhorns appeared ready to cruise to an easy home victory over McNeese State. But after nearly blowing a five-run lead, Texas was just able to hold on to a narrow 5-4 win over the Cowboys.

“Well that was two games in one,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “We had a pretty good first three innings, and we kind of just pieced things together after that.”

The Longhorns struck first in the bottom of the third inning, thanks in part to a series of errors from McNeese State. Senior infielder Jake McKenzie opened the frame with a single and eventually found his way to third base after an errant pickoff throw from the Cowboy’s pitcher.

Junior infielder Masen Hibbeler then sent a routine fly ball to shallow center field, only to have the ball dropped by the Cowboys’ second baseman. The error led to McKenzie easily crossing home plate for the game’s first run.

With Hibbeler on base, sophomore infielder Ryan Reynolds flexed his muscles as the team’s clean-up hitter. The sophomore sent a whopping home run over left field wall to give Texas a 3-0 advantage. The homer, which measured 442 feet, marked Reynold’s third of the season.

“I got myself into a hitters count and just looked that fastball in,” Reynolds said. “It felt pretty good (coming off the bat). The bats came out hot and got us out to a big lead.”

After Texas added two more runs in the fourth inning, the contest began to look like a runaway. But McNeese State fought back.

The Cowboys pulled within 5-2 in the top of the fifth inning after following a leadoff double with a homerun. McNeese State kept things rolling, tacking on another run in the inning.

The Cowboys eventually secured runners on second and third with no outs, and the Longhorns appeared to be on the verge of surrendering a five-run lead.

But redshirt junior Parker Joe Robinson closed the door. The reliever recorded the final three outs of the inning without allowing any runs and threw a strikeout with the bases loaded to end the frame.

McNeese State made it a one-run contest in the top of the seventh, scoring on a sacrifice fly off junior pitcher Matteo Bocchi. But that would be as close as the Cowboys would get. Redshirt junior pitchers Josh Sawyer and Andy McGuire tightened the clamps down the stretch for the Longhorns, pitching two scoreless innings to help preserve the Texas victory.

“We have great stuff in the pen,” McGuire said. “I think when everything is working out, it’s really scary for opponents. There’s a lot (of pitchers) that can go in there and get the job done.”

Freshman pitcher Matthew Whelan went four innings in his first career start, surrendering five hits and a pair of runs. Whelan’s night came to an abrupt end in the fifth inning when the freshman left the game after getting nicked on the leg by a line drive.

“(Whelan’s) competitiveness is outstanding” Pierce said. “He wants the ball, and he’s very comfortable on the mound. I’m really proud of his effort tonight. I would have loved for him to go five (innings) and get his first win tonight.”

The Longhorns will now head down to Corpus Christi, Texas, where they’ll take on Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Tuesday night at 6:35 p.m.