Following a bizarre catcher’s interference call by the home plate umpire, Ricky Jacquez found himself mired in a fifth-inning bases-loaded, two-out jam.
But the freshman pitcher, with a 2-2 count on junior shortstop Joey Boney, calmly reared back and painted the outside corner with his fastball to strike Boney out looking and end the threat. Jacquez, who hadn’t allowed a hit in the four previous innings, threw five scoreless innings while striking out seven and walking just one to pick up his first career victory as Texas (6-8) took down Loyola Marymount (6-8), 3-1, in the second game of Sunday afternoon’s doubleheader at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
“Ricky got into trouble in the fifth and pitched his way out of it and I thought that was really outstanding,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “It was huge – the difference between the game being tied or them being ahead with runners on second and third with one out.”
After going the entire first game of the doubleheader without pushing a run across the plate – or advancing a baserunner past second base – the Longhorns once again struggled offensively. After not scoring in either of the first two innings of Game 2, Texas had scored only one run and batted .129 (9-for-70) over a 21-inning stretch dating back to Tuesday’s 2-1, 12-inning triumph over Dallas Baptist.
But the third inning against Loyola Marymount temporarily broke that funk as junior designated hitter Kyle Lusson began the frame with a leadoff single, which was followed by a sacrifice bunt from sophomore catcher Jacob Felts. Senior shortstop Jordan Etier struck out swinging but leadoff hitter and sophomore right fielder Mark Payton walked on four pitches, which brought senior center fielder Tim Maitland to the plate.
Maitland, who leads the team with a .293 batting average and a .420 on-base percentage, tripled down the right-field line to bring Payton and Lusson home and provide the Longhorns pitching staff all the run support they would need. Sophomore closer Corey Knebel allowed a run in the sixth inning but picked up a six-out save, his fourth of the season. For the fourth straight time Texas scored three runs or fewer.
“I don’t think anyone would say we have any kind of rhythm on offense,” Garrido admitted. “They do a great job in the batting practices and the scrimmages so there’s still the mental factor when the game starts – is it about a fear of failure? A lack of experience, or lack thereof? What is the issue? It’s a complicated game and a lot of it is right between your ears.”
Thanks to a pitching staff that allowed only two runs in two games Sunday afternoon, none of which were surrendered in the 12.1 collective innings thrown by Longhorns starting pitchers (Nathan Thornhill and Jacquez), Texas may not need a whole lot from its offense.