Longhorn batters come up big late, defeat Virginia 6-2 to stay alive

Amsal Madhani

Needing a win to stay alive in the College World Series, Texas staved off elimination with a 6-2 win over Virginia Thursday night at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska.

With the bases loaded and Texas nursing a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning, redshirt junior infielder Zach Zubia stepped up to the plate. Virginia junior pitcher Zach Messinger needed to retire Zubia to keep Virginia within striking distance.

After laying off an enticing breaking ball from Messinger, Zubia struck the next fastball with viscous intent down left-center field, hitting a double and bringing home three runs to break the game wide open.

“I was just trying to go up there, react (and) put a good swing on whatever pitch was coming,” Zubia said. “I wasn’t looking for anything specific.”

Texas didn’t score another run in the inning, but the four-run cushion proved impossible for Virginia to come back from.

Zubia, who has struggled in the College World Series and was 0-for-3 prior to his final at bat, never lost confidence heading into his pivotal at bat in the ninth inning.

“It’s important to every hitter, just trusting yourself, trusting your work, and I think I showed that in my last at-bat,” Zubia said. “Obviously the first three were not the results that any of us wanted, but just still grinding away and just keeping your head down and taking every at bat new and you’re going to come up and put up a good swing and be big for your team.”

Texas freshman pitcher Aaron Nixon was then faced with immense pressure to retire the Cavaliers in the bottom of the ninth to secure the win. He allowed just one hit and forced three quick outs in the bottom of the ninth.

Along with Zubia’s clutch at bat, redshirt sophomore infielder Ivan Melendez had a big night at the plate. His RBI single in the eighth inning brought home the go-ahead run to give the Longhorns a 3-2 advantage.

Despite a three hour rain delay before the game started, the Longhorns were unfazed and ready to play.

“Well, the weather delay, it’s just kind of something we deal with,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “No matter what the conditions are, if we have adverse calls, it’s just the way we like it. So we just try to change the mindset in a positive way and in our favor.”

The Longhorns have a rematch with Mississippi State Friday and must beat the Bulldogs twice in a row if they hope to advance to the College World Series final. The Longhorns are 0-2 against the Bulldogs following losses in the regular season and on Sunday.

“I’d say we have the momentum right now,” Melendez said. “Mississippi State beat us twice. Now we have to go beat them twice. We’re hungry for more.”