The Longhorns staved off elimination yet again Saturday night with their 5-1 win over Arizona State in the Austin Super Regional. Mark Payton scored the winning run in the sixth inning for Texas and Jordan Etier slapped a three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning for insurance.
Cole Green (8-3) pitched five solid innings for Texas and picked up the win. The senior struck out four and gave up only one run.
“I had a lot of focus and intensity,” Green said. “I just tried to stick with what I know, which is to throw the ball down in the zone and be aggressive.”
Texas got on the board in the third inning when Payton hit a sacrifice fly to center left field that scored Tant Shepherd, who led the inning off with a walk. Payton didn’t record a hit during the game, but walked twice and scored a run to go along with the RBI.
The Longhorns added another run in the sixth inning that turned out to be the game-winner. Payton led off with a walk and moved to second base on a sacrifice bunt from Brandon Loy, who moved into a tie for fourth on the NCAA career list with 55 sac bunts. Erich Weiss then doubled to send Payton home.
The Sun Devils answered in the bottom of the sixth with a run of their own on a sacrifice fly from Joey DeMichele that scored Deven Marrero. Arizona State began the inning with two consecutive singles that forced Green to leave the game, but left-hander Hoby Milner came in and limited the damage for the Longhorns.
Texas got into more trouble in the seventh inning after Xorge Carrillo led off with a single and advanced to second base on a sacrifice bunt by Zack MacPhee. Kendal Carrillo came in for Texas and struck out pinch-hitter Andy Workman, and then Andrew McKirahan entered to record the final out. Johnny Ruettiger hit a single to Etier at second base, and Etier tried to throw him out at first but was late. As Etier threw to first, Carrillo rounded third base and was streaking toward home plate when Tant Shepherd fired home a throw that catcher Jacob Felts barely held onto as Carrillo crashed into him. Garrido said they hadn’t practiced that throw once the entire season.
“It was a great play,” he said. “There were some really outstanding defensive plays from both teams.”
Etier proved his worth again in the ninth inning by hitting a home run into the Longhorns’ bullpen. The junior finished the day 3-for-4, a vast improvement from his 0-for-2 performance on Friday.
“I had to reboot it and refocus,” Etier said. “I had to take it as another day and get out there and compete with the challenges.”
The home run was Etier’s second of the season. He hit his first on March 8 against UTSA, which was also the first for the team.
“I am particularly pleased with [Etier], he had a rough night last night,” Garrido said. “He was motivated by the problem and did a great job tonight.”
Corey Knebel came in the eighth inning and picked up his 18th save of the season, moving him within one of the Texas single-season record.