Texas outfielders make huge moves to secure series over LSU

Daniela Perez

The last winter winds blew through UFCU Disch-Falk Field early Sunday afternoon, dropping Austin’s temperature into the 30s. Tailgaters huddled around the warmth of their barbecues while Texas players put on their thermal face masks.

But outfielder Austin Todd ditched the face mask, unlike others, and opted for long sleeves instead — a difference that may have allowed Todd to record Texas’ final hit.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, Texas came back from a 6-4 deficit and took down the LSU Tigers, 7-6, to sweep the No. 1 team in the country.

“Coming back from behind like that, we could’ve easily laid over,” Todd said. “Every single guy ahead of us was just grinding out at-bats, trying to get on. Who knows, even if I had gotten a walk who knows, (designated hitter Zach) Zubia may have gotten that hit, so you never know. Be always ready.”

Todd, who suffered thumb and shoulder injuries in his sophomore campaign, returned this year ready to make up for lost time. Without skipping a beat, Todd has become a rock in the outfield and leads the team with 17 RBIs.

However, Todd’s biggest accomplishment came Sunday afternoon. His fellow outfielders Duke Ellis and Eric Kennedy already set him up with an opportunity to win the game. Kennedy tallied an RBI and waited at first while Ellis stood in between second and third with the game tied at six runs apiece.

All that stood between Todd and a third-straight Longhorn win was the 90 feet to first base.

Two pitches later, Todd singled up the middle, which was enough to bring Ellis all the way home from second after the Longhorns trailed by three runs just moments earlier.

“I’m so happy for (Todd) because we stuck with him last year and took him to Omaha with us just so he could continue to be a part of this experience because he’s been such a big part of our team,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “For him to come through again, it just says what type of hitter he is and he’s a great hitter and he’s determined to be the best.”

While Todd’s shining moment will be remembered most by fans at the Disch, it was the 1-2-3 batting order of the outfield trio that set up the Longhorns for the potential sweep.

“(The outfield) played great, I mean Eric Kennedy is growing right in front of us and Duke played an incredible series,” Pierce said. “Austin Todd with another big hit for us, so solid defense all the way around and great at-bats.”

On Friday, Ellis’ home run laid the foundation for Texas’ 8-1 win with a two-run shot over the outfield wall that gave the Longhorns the lead for good. Then, Kennedy — the youngest of the group — tallied two RBIs on a base hit early in the second inning during the second game. The two RBIs were part of a six-run inning that separated the Longhorns from the Tigers for the rest of the game.

In Kennedy’s first season at Texas, veteran players like Ellis and Todd have used their experience to help guide the freshman toward what has been a successful start to his college career.

“If I’m ever down or if I struggle in any way, they help me because they’ve been through it and they know what to do so they tell me how to improve and what to do,” Kennedy said.

As Texas carried its postgame celebration into the locker room, one reporter looked at Todd and mentioned that the Longhorns were seemingly underrated ahead of the weekend series.

“We never thought we were underrated,” Todd said. “Maybe you guys did, I don’t know.”