The fourth and final game of the weekend series against Brown started with a Bear groundout to third base and ended with a groundout to Texas pitcher Cole Green in the seventh inning, thanks to the 10-run mercy rule.
And in between, the Longhorns made sure to pay attention to the little details they sometimes overlook, coming out of Sunday’s game with a 11-1 win to give them a 3-1 series advantage.
“Same guys, same uniforms, same numbers. Now tell me how big a role attitude and mentality play in this game,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido, comparing his team’s win today to its 7-3 loss Saturday.
The loss yesterday was marred by poor pitching and lack of defensive focus, as well as an inability to string together consecutive quality at-bats against a Brown team (1-6) that surprised the the fifth-ranked Longhorns (11-5).
“Sometimes we think we’re going to kill opponents and take them lightly,” centerfielder Cohl Walla said. “That second game of the doubleheader that we lost, we were worried about individual stuff.”
The Longhorns would get the bad taste out of their mouths in a hurry. First baseman Tant Shepherd scored the first run of the game with a second-inning solo shot to leftfield, his second home run of the year.
Catcher Jacob Felts took a base on balls and the next batter, Jordan Etier, brought him home on a triple.
Just an inning later, Texas pushed three more runs across. After two more runs in the fourth, thanks to a two RBI-double by Walla, they held a 7-1 advantage.
Freshman Erich Weiss hit a two RBI-triple in the fifth inning to punch in a few more runs and by the end of the frame, the Longhorns had 11 runs on the scoreboard.
While the offense was doings its part, Green (1-2) was spinning together a masterpiece on the mound. The senior built upon his strong outing Tuesday against UTSA with a 10-strikeout performance against the Bears, allowing just one earned run and not giving up a single walk.
“I feel good. I’ve got pretty good command of my off-speed pitches and my fastball is there,” he said. “I was able to get ahead of batters, get groundouts, keep the ball down. The start on Tuesday did a ton for my confidence, it got me back to the basics.”
Garrido liked Green’s even-keeled approach even after Brown got a few hits off him.
“Cole did a good job. He looked like a professional pitcher,” he said. “He didn’t get rattled by their hits. He stayed focused and wasn’t worried about things.”
The loss went to Brown’s Lucas Whitehill, who managed just two innings of work and gave up four earned runs.
Double-header drop off
Games 2 and 3 were a little different for Texas. The Longhorns’ Saturday started better than it ended, as they fell 7-3 to Brown in the second game of a double header. Texas gave up 10 hits to the Bears and left nine runners stranded.
“We never really consistently put together at-bat by at-bat like we did the night before,” Texas head coach Augie Garrid said after Saturday's loss. “You come out the night before and have a great game, and it lowers your competitive spirits at times. You think you have it made.”
Texas struck first in the second inning, when Tant Shepherd scored on an RBI groundout by Jacob Felts. Paul Mantalbano laid a sac bunt to get Shepherd to third base, a formula the Longhorns used again in the third inning to score Brandon Loy.
Loy walked to lead off the inning, moved to third on a Cohl Wall sac bunt and scored on an Erich Weiss groundout. Loy led off four times in the game for Texas and reached base every time.
“We’ve got to focus more on when we have momentum, holding on to it, running with it, instead of giving it back in certain situations,” Texas starting pitcher Sam Stafford said.
The Bears took the lead in the third inning off a Ryan Zrenda homerun, a two-run shot that hit the left field foul pole. Brown added another run in the third as Stafford walked Graham Tyler with the bases loaded. Stafford finished the day with five walks, but also had seven strikeouts in six innings.
Garrido was tossed from the game in the fourth inning, when he came out to argue a call at first base. Texas had a chance to capitalize on the momentum of their coach fighting for them, but couldn’t.
“That’s a time in the game when we need to get his back,” Stafford said. “It’s disappointing we couldn’t take advantage of the momentum that that could of given us.”
Texas scored again in the fifth off a Walla RBI groundout to tie the score 3-3, but the Bears retook the lead in seventh. Keifer Nuncio came in for Stafford and surrendered a leadoff single to designated hitter Mike DiBiase. DiBiase would score later in the inning off a sac bunt, and Brown added two more in the inning to go ahead 6-3. Five Texas relievers gave up four earned runs over three innings.
“The pitching was just one element of disappointment,” Garrido said. “When you get your leadoff hitter on seven times in a row and only end up with three runs, it really taints the environment; I think everybody is affected in a negative way by that.”
The Longhorns did try to mount a rally in the eighth, after a Montalbano double and Felts single put runners at the corners, but were unable to score.
Texas did beat the Bears in the first game of the double header, after Erich Weiss hit a grand slam in the fifth inning to put Texas up 4-3. Sophomore Hoby Milner struck out five in five innings, and Corey Knebel picked up his third save of the season.