Texas saved its best game of the series for last.
For eight innings, it seemed like it wouldn’t be good enough, but thanks to a pair of outstanding efforts on the mound, the Longhorns had just enough time to engineer some dramatic late-game heroics.
Freshman pitcher Dillon Peters turned in the best outing of his young career, and sophomore closer Corey Knebel followed it with five strong innings of his own as the No. 20 Longhorns (25-16, 12-6) avoided getting swept by Texas A&M (31-13, 11-7) with an unforgettable 2-1 win over the Aggies Sunday afternoon at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
Peters, who struggled last Sunday, was brilliant against the Aggies. A line drive that ricocheted off his glove in the second inning marked the only hit Peters surrendered as the right-hander had no problem keeping Texas A&M from scoring in four innings while striking out six.
“I knew it was important. I knew who we were playing. The team needed me to perform,” Peters said. “I was moving my fastball in and out. With first-pitch strikes, I was pretty efficient, and I was constantly pounding the zone.”
Last Sunday, Peters was pulled in the second inning against Kansas after walking three while allowing two hits and a pair of runs. Texas overcame Peters’ poor outing, taking down the Jayhawks, 7-2, in last week’s series finale. But Peters was much better this time around, helping the Longhorns win on Sunday for the fourth straight week and maintain their spot in second place in the Big 12 standings behind Baylor, who is currently 18-0 in conference play.
“Last weekend, I obviously didn’t have my stuff,” Peters said. “I just came out this week and didn’t hold anything back and pitched like it was my last inning.”
Knebel, on the other hand, did not get off to the smooth start that Peters did.
The first batter he faced lined a ball off his chest and while Knebel recovered to throw the runner out, he was not himself the rest of the inning. The All-American gave up a double and walked a batter before freshman third baseman Blake Allemand ripped a RBI single.
“He wanted to start the game,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said of his closer. “We talked at length about how he would do it. We finally agreed that Dillon would start ... it’s the last game [against A&M] and he didn’t want to lose.
He’s doing what he thinks is best for the team. I really respect that. I want to listen to leadership like that. It worked.”
Knebel was much sharper throughout the rest of the contest.
He allowed three hits but struck out five and didn’t let anyone cross the plate in his final four innings of work. Like Peters, he was the beneficiary of solid defensive play.
Sophomore catcher Jacob Felts threw out a runner trying to steal second base in the sixth inning and Texas turned a pair of double plays behind him, one in the fifth frame and another in the ninth.
“It’s good to have only two pitchers going in a game. That’s usually what you want all the time,” Knebel said. “It was good to have that with Dillon going four innings and me going five.”
Texas A&M starting pitcher, sophomore Rafael Pineda, tossed 7.2 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits. The Aggies’ rotation was outstanding this series while their bullpen was horrendous.
The Longhorns fell to the Aggies, 6-5, Friday in College Station, scoring all five of their runs in the ninth inning and lost again Saturday, 12-4, at home, committing more errors (5) than scoring runs.
But Texas just couldn’t send Texas A&M off to the SEC without one more agonizing defeat.
Printed on Monday, April 30, 2012 as: Pitchers combine to silence Aggies' offense