Corey Knebel

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

The day after a national champion was crowned in Omaha, Longhorns right-hander Nathan Thornhill talks about hoping that he’s a part of the dogpile there this time next year.

Thornhill was selected in the 24th round of the 2013 MLB Draft by the Houston Astros, who gave him the biggest offer they could but it wasn’t enough to sign the 6-footer from Cedar Park. Instead, Thornhill wants to right the Texas ship after the Longhorns missed out on the postseason each of the last two years.

“One day, I’d be leaning toward signing and the next day I’d be leaning toward coming back. I could never really get any clarity on what was best for me,” Thornhill said. “The University of Texas has done a lot for me. They took a chance on me coming out of high school and gave me shot to fulfill my dreams. This decision was a great decision for me and it was also a decision that was made for a bigger cause and that cause is our school.”

Thornhill went 3-6 with a 2.21 ERA, striking out 60 and walking 15 in 85 1/3 innings last season. Thornhill has made 54 career appearances, including 26 starts, going 10-11 with a 2.83 ERA over the last three years and holding opposing hitters to a .238 batting average.

Other than the win-loss record, Thornhill put up good numbers in 2013 yet slipped in the draft. He was the last of four Longhorns picked this year, the others being closer Corey Knebel (1st round, Tigers), third baseman Erich Weiss (11th round, Pirates), and right fielder Mark Payton (16th round, Angels).

“I was a little surprised. I thought I was going to be drafted earlier,” Thornhill said. “There’s anxiety. There’s being nervous and there’s a little frustration because you’re wondering when it’s going to happen. When it finally happened, it was just excitement and relief. It was a great feeling.”

After spending most of his freshman year in the Texas bullpen, Thornhill was named the team’s ace before his sophomore season. He was a middle reliever by the end of that 2012 season before becoming the team’s No. 3 starter, behind sophomores Parker French and Dillon Peters, last year.

“We are thrilled to have Nathan back for the 2014 season,” pitching coach Skip Johnson said. “Having him back is a huge boost to our pitching staff, and we are excited to get going again this fall. We feel like this pitching staff will have a great mix of leadership, experience talent and dedication.”

All three – Thornhill, French and Peters – will return for the 2014 season, along with sophomore John Curtiss, who missed all of last year after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. A spot in the Longhorns’ rotation isn’t guaranteed but, following a solid junior season, it’s hard to imagine Texas leaving Thornhill out.

“I’m not sure who is going to have what roles. I’ve been a starter and I’d like to continue on that path,” Thornhill said. “I’ve been pretty versatile as a pitcher. I’ve never thought that I can only do one thing.”

While the Longhorns return each of their three starting pitchers, they’ll have a new closer. While Weiss and Payton still mull the decision to sign or stay, Knebel has agreed to terms with the Tigers after saving 37 games in three years at Texas.

While Thornhill wants to be a starter, he wouldn’t mind being asked to be the team’s closer.

“I’d be honored that they would have that much faith in me,” Thornhill said. “That’d be a compliment to me, not so much to my ability but more to my mental toughness and the fact that I like to attack. I wouldn’t be mad about that. I’d be honored.”

Like Huston Street in 2002 and J. Brent Cox in 2005, David Berg closed out a national title-clinching win for UCLA on Tuesday night. The Bruins completed a sweep of Mississippi State to capture their first national championship in program history.

UCLA relied on its pitching and defense to win that title, hitting only .250 as a team in 2013 while posting a team ERA of 2.55. Texas, a team that is similarly built but was forced to watch the NCAA Tournament from home, hit .260 as a team this year while posting a 2.53 team ERA.

“It was cool to see a team with a similar style as us win it all because it shows we’re on the right track,” Thornhill said. “We’ve just got to get better at what we do.”

The Bruins won 49 games this season, 22 more than the Longhorns. Similar styles, different results. Thornhill is looking to change that next year.

“I can’t even say how great of a feeling that would be,” Thornhill said. “We have a tradition at Texas where winning it all is something that we want to do and something that’s kind of expected. Getting [to the College World Series] and you need to win when you get there. Doing that would be the icing on the cake.”

Game Breakdown:

Innings 1-3: Not much happened during the first three innings. The teams combined for three hits but neither scored a run. Junior Josh Urban started on the mound for the Longhorns, surrendering no runs off of two hits.

Innings 4-6: The middle three frames were much like the first three. No runs came from the four hits. Freshman Travis Duke came in as relief for Urban in the sixth inning and struck out three through two innings of work. Duke finished the game with the win to improve to 3-0 on the season.

Innings 7-9: Freshman catcher Jeremy Montalbano drove in the Longhorns’ only run of the ballgame in the bottom of the seventh inning. Montalbano plated junior Jacob Felts with an RBI single to left center. Junior Ty Marlow came in as relief in the eighth before Corey Knebel closed for the Longhorns in the ninth.

Stock Up:

The junior came in to close for the Longhorns on Tuesday night and faced the minimum in his one inning of work. Knebel has been rocky in his last few appearances, posting a 3-3 record with a 2.68 ERA and several blown saves. Though he once led the conference in saves, he was ranked third in the Big 12 with seven saves before this week. With the victory over the Panthers, Knebel earned the save to tie for first in the Big 12 with eight saves on the season.

By The Numbers:

8: The Longhorns surrendered eight hits to the Panthers, but the Texas defense prevented them from scoring. Prairie View A&M outhit the Longhorns 8-5. 

9: The number of one-run games that the Longhorns have won all year. Texas is currently 9-9 in one-run games on the season, 6-9 since the start of conference season in March. 

32: Mark Payton has successfully reached base in 32 consecutive games. The junior had a single in the fourth to go 1-for-4 on the night.

What's Next For The Horns?

The Longhorns will host Kansas State this week in a three-game series starting at 6:35 p.m. on Friday. Texas is still looking for its first conference series win of the season to try to qualify for the Big 12 Championship in May. The Wildcats (31-14, 9-6) defeated TCU 2-1 at home this past weekend and are No. 3 in the Big 12 behind Oklahoma and Baylor. 

Junior pitcher Nathan Thornhill throws towards the mound in the Longhorns’ loss to West Virginia. Thornhill retired the first nine batters he faced and lasted six innings before getting pulled. He gave up five hits and three runs while striking out five.

Photo Credit: Shweta Gulati | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns dropped the rubber match to West Virginia, 6-3, in 10 innings, dropping their eighth consecutive Big 12 series on Sunday afternoon. The game was tied at 3 going into the 10th inning before junior Corey Knebel gave up three runs to put the Longhorns in a hole going to the bottom of the frame. Texas was able to get two on but couldn’t push a run across to even the score.

“This was probably even more disappointing than usual,” junior Mark Payton said after the game. “We have had our ups and of course our downs, but we have got to be more consistent at the plate. I mean, our pitchers pitched lights out all weekend.”

Knebel, who pitched his longest stint this season at 3 1/3 innings, took the loss to fall to 3-3 on the season. Junior Nathan Thornhill started on the mound for Texas and pitched six innings, surrendering three runs on five hits.

The game was scoreless through the first three innings before West Virginia started the scoring off with a run in the top of the fourth. Texas and West Virginia then traded off runs through the next three innings to even the score at three before defense took control again for another three scoreless frames to send the game to the tenth.

In the top of the 10th, Knebel walked two with one out before West Virginia’s Billy Fleming hit an RBI single to put the Mountaineers up 4-3. Knebel walked another before giving up a two-run single to put the game further out of reach. Ty Marlow came in with one out in the 10th to relieve Knebel and got the final two outs.

In the bottom of the frame, West Virginia walked junior Erich Weiss and gave up a single to freshman C.J Hinojosa to bring the tying run to the plate with no outs. Payton came in to clean up but popped out to shortstop on a full count. Freshman Jeremy Montalbano followed by flying out center field.

Marlow came up as the last chance for the Longhorns but hit a soft grounder straight to the first baseman to end the game.

“We really did have our chances to win the game. In the eighth I think we could have won it there,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “I think we should have won in the ninth had we executed properly.”

On Friday night, sophomore Parker French pitched a solid game for the Longhorns, but a sacrifice fly off of Knebel in the eighth gave the Mountaineers the 1-0 series-opening victory. On offense, the Longhorns couldn’t get anything going and were blanked for the third time this season.

After dropping the first game of the three-game series, the Longhorns came back and dominated in Game 2 on Saturday afternoon. The Texas offense put up 12 runs off 14 hits against a struggling West Virginia pitching staff. Junior Jacob Felts and Marlow each contributed a career-high four RBIs in the win.

The Longhorns will face Houston on Tuesday before heading to Waco for a three-game series this weekend against Baylor.

Junior closer Corey Knebel has been reinstated to the Longhorn roster after being suspended for Texas’ three-game weekend series against Kansas due to a violation of team policies.

“The coaching staff feels that Corey responded in the correct way to the punishment and we hope this experience will prepare him for his future career in baseball,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “The players and coaches trust the fact that Corey will adhere to the rules of the team from this point forward.”

Knebel is 3-2 with seven saves this season and has recorded 2.00 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 27 innings. He has not pitched since April 7 against Oklahoma, when he gave up three runs in the eighth inning to the Sooners and picked up a blown save and the loss.

The right-hander will get his first chance to return to the hill on Tuesday when the Longhorns take on Texas-Pan American. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. CT at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Texas closer Corey Knebel reinstated after brief suspension for violation of team rules

Junior closer Corey Knebel has been reinstated to the Longhorns’ roster after being suspended for Texas’ three-game weekend series against Kansas due to a violation of team policies.

“The coaching staff feels that Corey responded in the correct way to the punishment and we hope this experience will prepare him for his future career in baseball,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “The players and coaches trust the fact that Corey will adhere to the rules of the team from this point forward.”

Knebel is 3-2 with seven saves this season and has recorded 2.00 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 27 innings. He has not pitched since April 7 against Oklahoma, when he gave up three runs in the eighth inning to the Sooners and picked up a blown save and the loss.

The right-hander will get his first chance to return to the hill on Tuesday when the Longhorns take on Texas-Pan American. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. CT at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Corey Knebel sent home early from Kansas for unspecified violation of team rules

Junior Corey Knebel was sent home on Saturday evening from Kansas in the middle of the Longhorns three-game series against the Jayhawks this weekend, according to sources at Texas.

Knebel, who acts as closer for the Longhorns, was sent home for unspecified violation of team rules. The situation is expected to be re-evaluated on Monday. Knebel (3-2) has posted a 2.00 ERA this season and is tied at first with Jacob Evans of Oklahoma with seven saves this season.

In his last outing, Knebel came to the mound against Oklahoma with the Longhorns up 2-1 in the eighth. Knebel allowed three runs in the eighth to lose the save. The Longhorns lost Game 3 to the Sooners 4-2 and the series 2-1.

Junior Nathan Thornhill throws to the plate in Sunday’s match up against Oklahoma. The Longhorns loss the series to their rival and Big 12 foe 2-1 despite strong starting pitching over the weekend. Thornhill recorded a career high seven strikeouts in his outing. 

Photo Credit: Guillermo Hernandez | Daily Texan Staff

The Texas locker room was quiet immediately following Sunday’s heartbreaking 4-2 loss to Oklahoma — the first series Texas has dropped to the Sooners in 14 years.  

“It kills us,” junior right fielder Mark Payton said. “It’s dead silent in there and it hurts us right now, but we’re going to learn from it and move forward.”

The Longhorns handed the ball over to closer Corey Knebel in the eighth inning with a one-run lead, but he was unable to nail down the win. Knebel allowed three runs on four hits in the eighth inning, with the big hits being a game-tying RBI single by Max White and a go-ahead two-run double by Hector Lorenzana with two outs.

Knebel, who had not allowed a run in his previous 11 outings, picked up the blown save and fell to 3-2 on the season.

“He’s human,” pitching coach Skip Johnson said. “Everyone is going to walk out there and fail. It happens. It’s baseball.”

Junior Nathan Thornhill delivered one of his strongest starts of the season, as he limited the Sooners to an unearned run on four hits in seven innings. The right-hander tied his career high with seven strikeouts and punched out five consecutive batters in the sixth and seventh innings.

Thornhill’s lone blemish came in the second inning when his throwing error on a two-out bunt attempt by Garrett Carey scored Kolbey Carpenter from third base. Although he retired the final eight batters he faced and had only thrown 85 pitches through seven innings, Thornhill did not second-guess the decision made by his coaches to bring in Knebel in the eighth.

“I have confidence in Corey,” Thornhill said. “The competitor in me [makes me] want to be out there, but I trust their judgment and they’ve been doing this a lot longer than I have.”

Junior Erich Weiss provided the offense for Texas with a two-run triple in the third inning to give the Longhorns a 2-1 advantage. Texas would only record two hits in the final six innings, however, and failed to push across another run.

With the loss, Texas falls to 3-6 in conference play and is yet to win a Big 12 series this season. The Sooners improved to 7-2 against Big 12 opponents and maintained their one-game lead in the conference standings.

Oklahoma took the first game of the series Friday night behind a dominating eight-strikeout performance by right-hander Jonathan Gray. Dillon Peters had an equally as impressive outing in the Longhorns’ 1-0 win Saturday, as the left-hander held the Sooners hitless through the first seven innings. Sunday’s loss in the rubber match marks the first time Texas has lost a series to Oklahoma in 14 years.

Texas will look to get back into the win column Tuesday when it hosts Texas State. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Sophomore Dillion Peters pitched 7 2/3 shutout innings and junior Corey Knebel earned his seventh save of the year as the Longhorns held Oklahoma to just two hits in a 1-0 Saturday afternoon. The victory tied the series 1-1 and forces a rubber match Sunday afternoon.

"There was lots of urgency. It was the best game we have played all season," Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. "We have had a hard time getting connected in our dugout. Everyone was in the game today from beginning to end."

Peters started off on the mound for the Longhorns (17-12, 3-5) and pitched seven no-hit innings. In the eighth, Peters gave up two hits in the eighth before Knebel came in with two outs for the save. In the top of the ninth, Knebel retired the side to clinch the game two victory.

The game started out as a pitching duel between the two rival schools. In the bottom of the fifth, freshman Matt Gottsacker, who scored the Longhorns' only run in Friday night's series opener, reached base on a single to center field. Freshman Ben Johnson then hit a single towards center to plate Gottsacker.

"I think the losing has put stress on the team," Garrido said. "One of the most valuable things that winning provides for a team that wins is an environment where it keeps it fun and keeps everybody in support of what is going on."

With the series tied, the Longhorns look to take their first Big 12 series when. The two teams meet for the series finale Sunday afternoon at 2 p.m.

The Longhorns needed a rally in the eighth, but defeated Oral Roberts 4-3 on Tuesday evening at Disch-Falk Field. With the score knotted at 3, Weston Hall plated second baseman Brooks Marlow for the go-head run in the eighth.

Marlow sparked the rally in the eighth with a single to center field. He then advanced to third off a single from Collin Shaw before Hall came up with the single to second base to put the Longhorns ahead.

“We had some clutch hits,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “All in all it was a good college baseball game.”

Marlow finished the night 1-for-3. Both freshman C.J Hinojosa and junior Mark Payton had two hits for the Longhorns.

With a 3-1 lead, closer Corey Knebel allowed a game-tying, two-run triple to Tyler Boss. But Texas responded in the bottom of the eighth as Brooks Marlow and Collin Shaw both singled with two out before Oral Roberts second baseman Matt Brandy couldn't handle Weston Hall's ground ball up the middle and Marlow scored what proved to be the game-winning run. Knebel came back out for the ninth inning and struck out the side to pick up his first win of the year.

“I guess [Corey] was finally tired of getting saves all of these years so he set himself up for a win,” Garrido said. “We had a lot of opportunities and I think we played a very good defensive game.”

Freshman Chad Hollingsworth started out on the mound for the Longhorns and pitched four innings while surrendering one run on two hits. Texas gave up seven hits on the night.

The Longhorns will begin their conference season this weekend with a home series against Texas Tech. The series opener will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Game 2 is slated for 2 p.m. on Saturday with game three at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Red Raiders are 11-7 on the season and will face Utah Valley on Wednesday night before coming to Austin on Friday.

Stock Up: 
Mark Payton: The right fielder did not let the offseason slow him down. Payton hit .583 on the weekend with three runs off seven hits and five RBI. He started off with an impressive 4-for-5 performance with two runs and three RBI in the Longhorns’ season opener Friday night. Payton slowed down a bit on Saturday in the Longhorns’ loss but came out with an RBI in the effort. On Sunday, Payton had two hits, one run and another RBI.

Stock Down: 
Corey Knebel: The Longhorns’ closer had a solid 2012 season but failed to impress against Sacramento State. Knebel came in as relief for Toller Boardman in game one but couldn’t clean up as he came out after giving up one run and one hit to just two batters. In game three, Knebel came in as relief again and gave up two hits with one run across two innings, including a solo homer in the ninth.

By the Numbers:  
2: Number of home runs given up by the Longhorn pitching staff in game three
5: RBIs by Payton over the weekend vs. Sacramento State
35: Hits by the Texas offense this weekend. The Longhorns looked good at the plate in their opening series with all but one starter hitting above .200.

Game Breakdown:  
Game 1: Starting pitcher Parker French dominated through seven innings of work. French only gave up three hits and no runs on the night. The Texas bullpen, however, couldn’t get it together in the eighth and gave up five runs in the inning. The Texas offense stayed solid posting a 6-0 lead before the eighth, finishing with 14 hits and six runs. Freshman C.J Hinojosa had three hits of his own and one RBI. The Longhorns won 6-5.
Game 2: Starter Nathan Thornhill struggled on the mound throwing for 3.2 innings with six hits and four runs. The Hornets put up a 4-1 lead that the Longhorn offense was not able to overcome. The Longhorns fell 3-5 with nine hits.
Game 3: A solid performance across the field. Dillon Peters threw seven innings with only two runs and five hits, though he gave up the first home run of the year, a solo shot over left field. The Texas offense was solid and steady throughout the game. Payton and Hinojosa each had strong at-bats and the Longhorns combined for 11 hits in the 6-3 win.

What’s Next: 
The Longhorns will face the University of Texas at Arlington for a mid-week game Tuesday at 6 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The Mavericks swept Louisiana Tech at home this past weekend.