It’s hard to lose when you don’t let the other team score.
The Longhorns found this out in a 2-0 win over Houston Baptist Tuesday night, their first victory since opening day. Texas ended a five-game losing streak with the win despite not advancing a baserunner past second base through the first six innings. But a seventh-inning rally produced the only two runs scored by either team and propelled the Longhorns to their first triumph since sweeping Duke in a season-opening doubleheader Feb. 18.
“We’ve taken on some water but we haven’t sunk,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “What I asked the team to do today is come out and play this game like you’re at practice. Most of them did fine. They did much better than they have recently.”
Texas sent seven batters to the plate in the crucial seventh inning, four of whom reached base despite the Longhorns only reaching base five times in the previous six frames. Junior left fielder Jonathan Walsh led the inning off with a single and advanced to second base on freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow’s sacrifice bunt.
Sophomore designated hitter Alex Silver also singled to put runners on the corners with one out. Then, pinch hitter Kevin Lusson’s safety squeeze allowed Walsh to cross the plate and score the first run of the contest. After sophomore catcher Jacob Felts singled to load the bases, senior shortstop Jordan Etier drove Silver in with a sacrifice fly.
“I think they have a survivor’s instinct,” Garrido said. “They don’t want to lose. They try harder. They compete more. It’s instinctive at that point.”
Before the seventh inning, Texas was an abysmal 9-for-65 (.138) with runners in scoring position on the year. Felts notched a base hit with runners on first and second in the seventh frame, but before those pivotal runs were scored, the Longhorns had registered only three singles through the first six innings.
Texas got its leadoff batter on base in the third and sixth innings but couldn’t score either time, including when sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss lined out to the pitcher, who doubled off sophomore right fielder Mark Payton at second base to end the inning. Silver also grounded into a double play to end a fourth-inning threat.
Texas used six different pitchers — senior Austin Dicharry (two innings), sophomore Nathan Thornhill (one inning), freshman John Curtiss (one inning), junior Hoby Milner (two innings), freshman Parker French (two innings) and sophomore Corey Knebel (one inning) — to get the win. French earned the first win of his college career while Knebel picked up his third save of the season.
“When everyone’s pitching one or two innings, it’s hard on the pitchers. For them to give up no runs like that, it’s awesome,” said senior center fielder Tim Maitland.
Defensively, Texas had struggled coming into this week, making two errors in four consecutive contests — all losses — at one point. The Longhorns committed two more errors against Houston Baptist Tuesday, both by sophomore first baseman Kirby Bellow, but easily overcame them. Dicharry retired the next two batters after Bellow mishandled a pickoff attempt to end the second inning, and Milner ended the sixth inning following Bellow’s second error of the game.
It wasn’t pretty, but after losing five straight, including three in a row to Stanford (a team that Texas beat twice in three contests last season and swept the year before), the Longhorns will take a win any way they can.
Printed on Wednesday, February 29, 2012 as: Longhorns end losing streak with shutout