Cooper strikes out 11 Wildcats in second straight shutout win

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The Wildcats returned to UFCU Disch-Falk Field Saturday afternoon with lingering wounds from sophomore pitcher Nolan Kingham’s complete game shutout during the Longhorns’ 2-0 Friday night win.

But redshirt junior pitcher Morgan Cooper showed them no mercy as he opened the second game of the series by striking out all three Kansas State batters during the first inning.

Cooper threw a career-high eight scoreless innings to keep up the Longhorns’ hot pitching-streak in the team’s second straight shutout victory against the Wildcats, 5-0. The right-hander said his game was fueled by his friendly competition with Kingham.

“Yesterday after the game, I was joking with him,” Cooper said. “I said, ‘You’re going to make me back that up?’ I tried my best, I guess, but did a little too many pitches. But yeah, there’s definitely some fun competition between all the pitchers.”

Cooper — who came into the game with 38 strikeouts at third place in the Big 12 — punched out 11 Wildcats to set a new career record in strikeouts thrown in a game. He said finding rhythm during his performance comes with tracking how long he can stay on the mound.

“I think when I know that I’m probably almost done, I’ve got to give a little more,” Cooper said. “I think there’s still just a little bit more in there, where coach (Phil) Haag likes to call it ‘emptying the tank.’ So when I hear that from him, I give everything I’ve got and see how far I can get with it.’”

Cooper left the game after “emptying the tank” with 111 pitches throughout eight innings, but sophomore reliever Beau Ridgeway picked up where Cooper left off and pitched a scoreless ninth to complete the Longhorn shutout win.

Tracing back to Wednesday’s 9-7 comeback win over UT-Rio Grande Valley, Texas pitchers have now combined to throw 26.2 scoreless innings in the past three games played.

“I thought Morgan was as good as Nolan was last night,” head coach David Pierce said. “He was dominating today. … They both went out there and did their job and rested the bullpen.”

Senior first baseman Kacy Clemens picked up his ninth double of the season to drive home a runner and make it a 4-0 ballgame in the sixth inning. Before the game, Clemens tied two players for the conference lead in doubles this season.

Although they scored five runs, the Longhorns stranded 16 runners on base throughout the game. Texas batters couldn’t find clutch hits when they had runners at the bags and gave up many of their scoring opportunities as a result.

“It’s kind of chasing us right now,” Pierce said. “We left 16 runners on base and the entire day felt like it was a big deficient, but it was actually a four-run game. We’ve just got to keep getting pitches, build confidence and keep battling at home plate.”

Moving forward, the Longhorns hope to convert more runners on base into runs on the board as they return to UFCU Disch-Falk Field for their final game against Kansas State on Sunday at 1 p.m.