When a team reels off three straight hits, it’s almost impossible to keep them from scoring.
But sophomore catcher Jacob Felts helped Texas do just that in the third inning of last night’s game against Texas State. Garrett Mattlage led off the frame with a base hit but was picked off at first base by Felts. Then, leadoff hitter Tyler Sibley also singled but was caught stealing at second base, gunned down by Felts. The next Bobcats hitter also singled but was stranded at first base after senior Austin Dicharry got Jeff McVaney to pop out and end the inning.
“Our catcher saved the game,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “Dicharry gave him an opportunity to be a star. He put three runners on first base — one [Felts] picked off, one he threw out going to second.”
Felts went on to break up Texas State starter Taylor Black’s no-hit bid with a two-out single in the fifth. Sophomore right fielder Mark Payton drove in the first run of the game in the following frame and Felts provided an insurance run with an RBI double in the seventh inning as No. 23 Texas (20-13, 8-3) beat Texas State for the second time this year, 2-0, at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Tuesday evening.
“My main thing is defense. Anything that I can do on offense is just bonus,” Felts said. “I feel more relaxed at the plate. As a freshman, I got put in a big role catching all those guys. I was kind of overwhelmed by the atmosphere but I’ve settled in a little bit more.”
Black, a 6-foot-2, 170-pound redshirt freshman from Allen, held the Longhorns hitless through 4 2/3 innings, racking up seven strikeouts before allowing his first hit. Felts’ single in the fourth advanced junior designated hitter to second base — Texas’ first runner in scoring position — but didn’t lead to any runs. It did, however, take the pressure off a Longhorns lineup that had seen Black retire 13 hitters in a row at one point.
“If you talk too much about what we didn’t do offensively, you start taking away from the quality of the pitching,” Garrido said. “We would like to play better offensively, of course, but what you have to do against that quality of pitching is lay off the pitches outside the strike zone and you have to hit line drives because that’s the only thing that intimidates the pitcher.”
Felts’ base hit, along with his double in the seventh inning that allowed sophomore first baseman Alex Silver to cross the plate and give Texas a 2-0 cushion, certainly did the trick. But the Longhorns would not have been able to draw first blood if it hadn’t been for Felts’ game-saving putouts in the third inning, starting with the pickoff of Mattlage at first base.
“He’s unbelievable behind the plate,” said Payton, who extended his streak of consecutive games reaching base to 34 with a leadoff walk in the first inning. “Even with his hitting, the outs that he’s had this year have been pretty hard outs. He’s probably the hardest worker we have on this team. We respect him the most.”
As great as Black was, the pitching staff that Felts caught was even better. Like they do every midweek game, the Longhorns used a long string of hurlers to get past Texas State, starting with freshman Dillon Peters, who threw two scoreless innings to begin the contest. Texas starting pitchers have a 1.16 ERA in the team’s last five games.
Texas State did not get anyone past first base until a Bobcats baserunner trotted from first to second base uncontested in the ninth inning. The Longhorns also did not surrender a hit in the game’s last six innings, thanks to freshman John Curtiss, junior Hoby Milner and sophomore closer Corey Knebel.
“They did a really good job of getting ahead of hitters,” said Felts. “They threw all of their pitches for strikes. They did a good job of holding us there so we could get a rally.”
It may be difficult to keep a team from scoring when they get three straight hits. But it’s even harder to keep a team from losing if you don’t let them score. Thanks to Felts, Texas was able to accomplish both of those feats.
Printed on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 as: Felts helps Horns at plate, provides insurance RBI