Texas baseball drops critical game two at Stanford Super Regional

JT Bowen, General Sports Reporter

In the span of just over 24 hours, the elation of an improbable comeback has been replaced with the nerve-racking nature of the task at hand.

Texas entered the ninth inning in a familiar position, down two runs, but were unable to replicate game one’s heroics, falling 3-8 to Stanford in the Super Regionals to extend the series.

For his second straight start, redshirt sophomore Lebarron Johnson Jr. pulled himself out of early jams, giving up just one earned run while leaving six runners on base to keep Stanford from capitalizing on the Longhorns’ sluggish offense.

“All he’s done is just paid attention, he’s like a sponge,” Texas head coach David Pierce said in a mid-game interview of Johnson Jr.’s growth. “Just whatever you tell him, you better be right, because he’s gonna try to do it.” 

However, Texas wasn’t able to ride Johnson Jr. the whole way like last weekend, as he was pulled after an uneven 4.1 innings following an RBI-double that made it a 3-2 game in favor of the Cardinals. Travis Sthele took the mound, and despite giving up a two-run homer against his first batter, the redshirt sophomore ultimately proved to be the spark the Longhorns were looking for.

Sthele tossed three scoreless innings to give the Longhorns a chance after entering in the fifth, tallying four strikeouts, including a particularly nasty one in the bottom of the seventh with two outs and runners on first and second that left probable first-round pick Tommy Troy frozen. 

Aside from an RBI-triple in the third inning from freshman first baseman Jared Thomas the Longhorns were unable to muster much on offense, logging just eight hits in the contest and rendering Sthele’s outing in vain.

Stanford opted to save their ace, senior Quinn Mathews, for game two. The Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year was electric for the Cardinals in a full nine innings of work, throwing 156 pitches, racking up 16 strikeouts, one walk and a spot in the nightmares of Texas batters.

Junior shortstop Mitchell Daly scored a run in the bottom of the seventh for the Longhorns with two outs, pulverizing a solo homer into left field to cut the Cardinal lead to two, but it was too little, too late for Texas.

With two runners on base and one out in the top of the ninth, the Longhorns turned to redshirt sophomore Andre Duplantier II, presumably to salvage Sthele’s arm for Monday’s action. Any hopes of a miracle were dashed after a trio of insurance runs were tacked on to extend Stanford’s lead to 8-3, a score that would hold after Texas limped out of a runless ninth inning.

Texas enters Monday’s game three with their season on the line and their top two pitchers tapped, a less-than-optimal scenario given the shoddy bullpen depth the Longhorns have displayed to this point. 

The Longhorns will play for a trip to the College World Series on Monday, with first pitch set for 7 p.m. CST.