AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas baseball team, playing in front of a 50 percent capacity crowd at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, beat the previously undefeated South Carolina Gamecocks, 4-1.
"Great Friday night ballgame," Texas head coach David Pierce said postgame. "Just to hear the crowd — 50 percent sounded awesome compared to what we've been playing in."
The Gamecocks were ranked No. 12 in the nation by D1Baseball heading into the matchup and suffered their first loss of the season, falling to 10-1, while No. 19 Texas improved to 10-5.
As is the case in the majority of Friday night matchups, each team started its ace, with Texas' Ty Madden dueling against South Carolina's Thomas Farr.
Madden, who entered the contest having allowed three hits and zero earned runs in 16 innings of work over his last two starts, excelled against a powerful South Carolina lineup, allowing just three hits, three walks and one earned run in seven innings.
That lone run was all the Gamecocks did offensively. When they loaded the bases with one out in the top of the second inning, second baseman Braylen Wimmer flied out to right field, allowing left fielder Josiah Sightler to tag and score from third.
"The thing with Ty tonight is that he really didn't have command and feel for his slider and he was basically pitching off of one pitch, so that tells you what kind of competitor he is," Pierce said. "He didn't have his best, but he gave us seven (innings)."
But Madden was not the "pitcher of the night" according to Pierce. That honor belonged to UT freshman Aaron Nixon, who threw two scoreless innings of relief and allowed just one hit in perhaps the biggest outing of his brief collegiate career, picking up the victory to even his record at 1-1. He rebounded from a tough relief appearance last Saturday against Houston in which he gave up a walk-off homer in the 11th inning.
"I think the lesson he learned from Houston was critical," Pierce said. "Just knowing that he's got good stuff — he has a plus slider — but he's pitching against veteran hitters. He said (after the win Friday), 'My goal was just to keep my slider down' and he committed to it. That is the ability of pitching to the next pitch."
UT's offense came alive in the early innings, as the Longhorns countered South Carolina's run in the second with a run of their own in the same frame. Second baseman Mitchell Daly singled up the middle with runners on the corners and one out, scoring shortstop Trey Faltine.
The matchup was a pitchers' duel for the first seven innings, though Texas did manage to tally seven hits off Farr in six innings.
The floodgates opened in the eighth inning and there was nothing the Gamecocks could do to stop it. A triple from left fielder Eric Kennedy set the inning off on the right foot, as center fielder Mike Antico followed with a walk and his second stolen base of the night. First baseman Zach Zubia followed with a hard-hit double down the right field line that scored both Kennedy and Antico, putting Texas in front, 3-1. Three batters later, pinch hitter DJ Petrinksy's base hit scored Zubia from third, sealing the victory for the Horns.
"We just had a great eighth inning. I thought it was a great ballgame," Pierce said. "Eric laced a triple and it was really odd on that play because I had some type of epihany: I was looking at the right fielder and literally said to myself, 'EK is going to hit a ball down that right field line and I'm going to make a decision right now to send him or not.' You always question that for the first out of the inning on third, but that's Eric Kennedy running too.
"We had a great start (in that eighth inning) and just fed off of it."
Texas returns to Disch-Falk Field Saturday to face the Gamecocks at 2:30 p.m. contest against the Gamecocks. The first pitch was moved up due to possible inclement weather in the central Texas area later on in the day.