HOUSTON, Texas — After falling in extra innings Saturday, the Texas baseball team rebounded with an 8-2 series-clinching victory over Houston Sunday afternoon at Schroeder Park.
The No. 19 Longhorns improved their season record to 7-5, while the Cougars fell to 7-4
"Tough walk-off [loss] last night, great test for us on the road today," Texas head coach David Pierce said after the game. "We talk a lot about winning on Sundays. It was great to see us in a situation where we had to come in and win this series. It was frustrating last night, and we came back and put the ball in play and made things happen."
Texas starter Kolby Kubichek (2-1) struck out a career-high nine batters in six innings of work. In the longest outing of his collegiate career, he kept Houston's lethal offense at bay, and allowed just five hits and one earned run.
"For him to go out and extend a little bit more is very encouraging as we head into another weekend series and move closer to conference [games]," Pierce said.
The Longhorns found traction on offense early, using four walks from Houston starter Cameron Prayer (0-1) in the top of the first to score four runs.
After right fielder Austin Todd grounded out to open the game, left fielder Eric Kennedy worked the count to 3-1 before walking. Kennedy scored the Horns' first run of the game, on shortstop Trey Faltine's bases-loaded walk.
UH second baseman Brad Burckel misplayed a hard-hit ball off the bat of designated hitter Ivan Melendez that allowed both first baseman Zach Zubia and catcher Silas Ardoin to cross the plate later in the first.
Trailing, 4-0, before even getting a chance to bat, Houston played catch-up for the entire contest. The Cougars showed flashes of firepower at the plate, and pushed one run across in both the second on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Ian McMillan, and in the third inning on a groundout by center fielder Brandon Uhse, cutting the Longhorns' lead to two runs, at 4-2, as Texas stepped to the plate in the fourth.
The margin soon widened, as the Longhorns posted a three-run fourth that featured eight batters and three Houston pitchers.
Melendez reached base with no outs in the inning after he was hit by a pitch, and came around to score on Todd's RBI single three batters later. Houston reliever Matt Lazzaro was summoned from the bullpen following Todd's infield base-hit, though he did not fare much better against UT's bats, walking the first two batters he faced. The second of those walks was to center fielder Mike Antico with the bases loaded, driving in third baseman Cam Williams. Todd came around to score with one out on a sacrifice fly by Zubia, and sealed the win for the Horns, as Texas went up 7-2.
As if to add some extra icing on the cake in the series finale, Faltine homered to left with one out in the ninth, putting the nail in the coffin and giving Texas a tournament résumé-building series victory.
"We didn't have a lot of hits, but had 10 walks and five strikeouts (compared to six walks and 13 strikeouts in Saturday's loss)," Pierce said. "I like that ratio much better. It's not always going to be that, but we've got to be in the zone and trust ourselves and see the ball better when it's outside the zone."
Pierce said that with UT's offense inconsistent at times in the early part of the season, the Horns have to rely on pitching and defense to win games. He pointed out a key putout to end the seventh by Williams, who fielded a hard-hit grounder and got it to second baseman Mitchell Daly in time for the forceout.
"Pitching and defense has to be the constant," Pierce said. "I though Cam had a real big play with the potential rally in the seventh. We're not going to drive the ball into the gaps everyday, but we can be constant with our pitching and defense."
Texas hosts Sam Houston State at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in a game that can be seen on Longhorn Network before South Carolina comes to Austin for a three-game weekend series that will be the first meeting between the Longhorns and Gamecocks since the programs battled at the 2002 College World Series.