In the effort to provide Texas-centric content five days a week, you sometimes have to think outside the box. And in this case, we're trying to go out of the park.
Inspired by last night's MLB home run derby, I sent a text message out to some former Texas players, whose careers spanned from 2009 to this past season, asking, "Of all the guys you've played with, who wins a home run derby?"
"Kevin Lusson," one responded. "He always had power."
"I'd say Landon Steinhagen," said another.
"Jonathan Walsh or Lusson," one more said.
So two votes for Lusson, who makes our team of eight. A few rules:
1. Only players in the Augie Garrido (1997-) era qualify. This leaves out some great, great hitters, like Brooks Kieschnick, Charles Bigham (a school-record .771 slugging percentage in 1941) and Scott Bryant, but whole-season records, with each pertinent stat, only go so far back, and compartmentalizing this into 15 years is easier.
2. To qualify, a player has to have slugged better than .600 on the season. This would exclude Lusson, yes, but I'll take a teammates' word over a raw stat, just this once.
3. Slugging percentage, while serving as our watermark, isn't everything. Home runs, home runs per hit and records broken are all taken into consideration.
Also, a high number of strikeouts isn't considered a bad thing on this list. For this practice, we're glorifying the boom-or-bust, swing-from-the-heels whacker who aims for the fences, even if he sometimes whiffs.
4. Small sample size won't hurt anybody, and in some cases will help. You'll see.
One last thing: if we're choosing a team to win a derby, then the 2010 Longhorns are easily the top pick -- they smacked a school-record 81 homers. Those Longhorns also struck out a school-record 482 times. Kevin Keyes' 15 bombs that year are No. 8 in school history, but a lower slugging percentage prevents him from making the list.
On to our All-Augie Home Run Derby Team!
1. Kyle Russell, 2007 -- This isn't hard at all. Russell owns school records for career homers (57) and home runs in a season (28, '07). For good measure, his 19 homers a year later are third-most in Texas history.
As for his slugging percentage: the .807 mark in '07 is the second-highest in school history.
Stats from his best season, '07: 28 homers, .807 slugging percentage, 2.7 home runs for each hit, 64 strikeouts.
2. Brett Loeffler, 1997 -- Loeffler gets the second spot for hitting three home runs in one game and for maintaining a slugging percentage of .710 that is the seventh-highest single-season mark in Texas history.
Noteworthy Stats: 12 homers, .710 slugging percentage, 1 home run for each hit.
3. Jeff Ontiveros, 2002 -- His 20 homers this season are third-most by a Longhorn and he gets props for doing it on the team that won Garrido's first national title at Texas.
Noteworthy Stats: .621 slugging percentage, 20 homers, 3.75 home runs for each hit.
4. Matt Simpson, 1998 -- Simpson's .738 slugging percentage this season won't appear in Texas records, because he didn't have enough at-bats (42) to qualify. But, boy, did he make the most of them.
Noteworthy Stats: .738 slugging percentage, 13 hits, four homers, 13 RBIs (one per hit!!).
5. Mark Cridland, 1998 -- Seventeen home runs to go with a .684 slugging percentage. His sustained success compared to Simpson, his teammate, made this tough.
Noteworthy Stats: .684 slugging percentage, 17 home runs, one home run for 3.88 hits.
6. Dustin Majewski, 2002 -- If we're compiling a list of best hitters in Texas history, I can assure you Majewski is much higher than No. 6. While hitting for a .406 batting average, Majewski smacked 10 homers for a championship team.
Noteworthy Stats: .656 slugging percentage.
7. Todd Clark, 2000 -- This Todd Clark fellow played in one game in '00, and registered just one plate appearance. So you know what's next. Yard.
Sadly, his 4.000 slugging percentage doesn't qualify for any record lists, but there's no way we're leaving a literal one-hit wonder off this list.
Noteworthy Stats: One hit, one homer, one RBI, slugging percentage of 4.000.
8. Kevin Lusson, 2009-12 -- As mentioned, this is a write-in nomination. I was surprised to find Lusson had never slugged higher than .522, which he did in 2010, his best season. There's power in Lusson's bat. Only problem is, he had to hit half his career with a power-sapping, NCAA-mandated one, and saw his playing time cut in half.
Noteworthy stats ('10): .522 slugging percentage, 14 homers, one homer per 3.9 hits.
The Longhorns just finished up the Austin Regional, beating Kent State 5-0 in the elimination game to advance to the Super Regional, which will be held in Austin. Arizona State will be the upcoming opponent, but there’s all week to talk about how Texas matches up with the Sun Devils. For now, let’s close the book on a wild and crazy weekend of baseball.
Personally, I think the snub of Sam Stafford is the biggest complaint with the All-Tournament team. On my ballot, I had Stafford as the MOP. In two games, the junior left-hander started twice, pitching 10.2 combined innings of one-run ball. If it wasn’t for his gutsy effort Monday against Kent State, I’m not so sure the Longhorns would have won, as they really had nobody else who could have effectively started and lasted three or four innings.
Inside Augie’s Mind
I’ve transcribed head coach Augie Garrido’s comments from today’s post-game press conference, in which he explained how he worked all six pitchers in the game.
“The way that their lineup breaks down, they have more lefts than rights. We were trying to get Sam Stafford [a left-hander] through the top of the order twice, and that’s what we did. We felt if he did that, he had done his job. Then the numbers added up and we made switches from there. Depending on if it was a momentum-shifting moment or not, which it was when we brought him in, we were bringing in Milner. If we had had five or six runs, we would have put in Andrew McKirahan. Either way, we wanted to throw a lefty. When the lineup turns over to righties, we would have taken them out for Carrillo, if there were runners on base, or Nathan Thornhill, if it was a clean inning.
Cole Green and Taylor Jungmann committed to an inning, so we could work backwards from Corey Knebel. We thought he could throw two innings if we needed him to. He didn’t, because Sam went farther than we had thought he would. So what that did is put Knebel into one, so we were able to pitch Cole and Jungmann one inning each. Between Cole and Jungmann, Jungmann is more effective against left-handed hitters than Cole is. That’s how we staggered the pitching changes.”
Impressions of Kent State
Color me impressed with the quality of play that the three-seed Golden Flashes brought to this regional. They gave the Longhorns all they wanted and more. Head coach Scott Stricklin made it a point to acknowledge how well the Austin crowd treated his team.
“I want to say how much we enjoyed our week here in Austin. This is the fourth regional that we’ve been to in the last five years and I can say that it’s done right here. The fans were unbelievable. They got on us but they got on us the right way. They cheered for their team. They cheered for our players when they made good plays. That’s the first thing our kids were talking about last night how good the fans are here and how good the people are. That’s the first thing I want to say, how much we enjoyed our stay here in Austin.”
While his coach was a class act, I’m not sure Kent State pitcher Andrew Chafin made any friends this weekend. I’m not talking about the gem he twirled against the Longhorns on Saturday night.
On Sunday, Chafin and his teammates were walking across the field into the dugout a few hours before the game began, and Chafin looked up at the press box and dragged his pointer finger across his neck — the “throat slash.” Not sure what he’s got against a bunch of guys with laptops and tape recorders.
Lusson goes long
Kevin Lusson has got to be the story of the weekend. The junior designated hitter, who came into the regional hitting .190, had quite a series. Saturday night, he hit a ninth-inning, three-run home run against Kent State that brought the Longhorns within two. The momentum carried over Sunday when Lusson, with a runner on third, slapped the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth against the Bobcats. The ball hopped over the right field wall. In any other case, it would have been a ground-rule double, but in walk-off situations, nothing else counts once the winning run crosses the plate.
In the nightcap, he launched another bomb over the right-field wall to distance Texas’ lead against Kent State in a must-win game.
His approach this week?
For the second consecutive game, uncharacteristic defensive miscues kept Texas from winning.
The Longhorns committed errors in the third and fifth innings that each led to multiple runs as No. 12 Texas (2-2) lost to UT-Arlington (3-1), 7-5, Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The defeat also marks the first time since 2008 that the Longhorns have lost consecutive home games.
Sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss threw the ball past first baseman Kevin Lusson after fielding a slow ground ball in the third inning, which was followed by a sacrifice bunt. The next three Mavericks batters pounded out extra-base hits, including a two-run home run by right fielder Preston Beck, the first hitter freshman pitcher Dillon Peters faced Tuesday. The blast gave UTA a 5-3 lead that it would not give up.
“It was a poor performance,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “We gave them lots of extra outs within the framework of an inning. We gave them a lot of extra bases, which leads to runs. And we didn’t have any timely hitting at all.”
After a double steal by the Mavericks in the fifth inning, they extended their advantage when another Weiss throw went off Lusson’s glove, allowing both baserunners to score, giving UTA a commanding 7-3 lead. A furious ninth-inning rally cut that lead to 7-5 but had the Longhorns played better defense in the early stages of the contest, a comeback would not have been necessary.
In two wins this season, Texas hasn’t committed any errors, while it has racked up four errors in its two losses, a pair for each defeat.
“You’re going to make errors every now and then, but you’ve got to keep them to a minimum,” said sophomore right fielder Mark Payton, who went 2-for-2 and reached base in all five of his plate appearances. “We can’t give other teams free outs because they’ll capitalize, especially teams like [UT-Arlington] that came out and hit the ball really well.”
On Sunday, Texas suffered from a string of defensive mishaps in its 5-3 loss to Duke. Pitcher Kirby Bellow fielded a sacrifice bunt and fired it to third base despite the runner arriving well before the throw. Then, shortstop Christian Summers made a poor throw home and Lusson made a throwing error trying to gun a Blue Devils baserunner at third as Duke lengthened its lead to 5-2 an inning after Lusson hit a two-run home run.
“I think we played much poorer tonight than we did on Sunday,” Garrido said. “What is surprising to me is that we spent a lot of time knowing that there was a possibility of not being focused for this.”
Senior Austin Dicharry, who made his first start of the season, and freshman Peters each gave up multiple unearned runs. Dicharry struck out the side in the second inning while freshman John Curtiss repeated the feat in the sixth inning and Peters faced the minimum number of batters in the fifth inning after inducing a double play. But the innings in between those frames is what caused the Longhorns to lose.
Texas also fell in its first weekday game last season, dropping a 8-7 decision to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi following its season-opening series against Maryland but went on to triumph in the remainder of their mid-week games. Now the Longhorns set their sights on a three-game series in Palo Alto, Calif. against No. 2 Stanford, who swept No. 17 Vanderbilt in its first series of the year.
Freshman outfielder Collin Shaw made a sensational leaping grab during Sunday’s loss to Duke, which checked in at No. 8 in SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of this past weekend. But that catch was nowhere near to representative of how the Longhorns have played defense in their last two games, particularly in Tuesday’s loss to UT-Arlington.
Erich Weiss watches an errant throw roll past third base during UTs 5-2 loss to Duke Sunday. An error on the play allowed one run to score.
When the Longhorns fell behind Saturday night, they responded immediately and picked up their first comeback win of the season.
But when Duke put Texas in an early 3-0 hole on Sunday afternoon, the Longhorns fell just short of nabbing their second come-from-behind victory and No. 13 Texas lost to Duke, 5-2, as the Blue Devils avoided getting swept in the season-opening series.
Freshman John Curtiss took the loss in his first start and Longhorns debut. He allowed three runs in three innings. Curtiss surrendered an RBI single to Duke first baseman Andy Perez in the second inning and let the Blue Devils score twice in the third frame, once on a passed ball and once on a sacrifice fly that would have gone for extra bases had freshman left fielder Collin Shaw not made a full-length diving catch.
Duke didn't score again until the ninth inning, but Texas managed to get only five hits and went a full five innings without a base hit from the middle of the second through the seventh inning.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t back up a real quality performance — not only by Ricky [Jacquez], but I thought John pitched well too,” said Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido. “I think we have a chance to have a good offense, I think we have a chance to have a good pitching staff and I think we have a chance to have a good team. But I don’t think we have an overwhelming team. I think it has a solid team that has to play consistently and efficiently to be successful.”
Another freshman pitcher made his college debut Sunday as Ricky Jacquez took over for Curtiss and tossed five scoreless innings to keep Texas within striking distance. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound hurler from El Paso scattered four hits and struck out four. Garrido said that Jacquez performed better in his first game than he did in any practice leading up to the contest.
Senior Kevin Lusson made his first start at first base and made the most of it. Lusson doubled in his first at-bat of the season and launched a two-run home run in the eighth inning to pull UT within one run of Duke, 3-2. Sophomore Erich Weiss singled before Lusson’s blast, but the only two hits Texas notched were a Mark Payton single in the seventh inning and a Brooks Marlow infield single.
“It felt good since it was 3-0 at the time and it got us [within one run],” Lusson said. “It gave us a little momentum. It felt great. But I would have liked to have taken the win over the home run.”
Following Lusson's homer, however, the wheels fell off.
Pitcher Kirby Bellow fielded a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning, but threw it to third baserunner after a Duke baserunner had already arrived. Then, shortstop Christian Summers made a bad throw home, which was followed by another poor toss across the diamond by Lusson. The miscues in the final frame allowed two unearned runs to score.
“The truth of the matter is that we’ve been practicing for two and a half weeks. Today, it looked like it,” Garrido said. “We made some poor decisions in the ninth inning. There were lots of decisions to be made and we made the wrong ones and it resulted in us losing.”
Texas had the opportunity to sweep its season-opening series after winning both games of a doubleheader Saturday. Sophomore Nathan Thornhill made his first start at the front of the Longhorns rotation and threw five scoreless innings while allowing only three hits.
The majority of Thornhill's run support in Texas' opener came courtesy of freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow. In his Longhorns debut, Marlow knocked two home runs over the right field wall, driving in three runs and leading Texas to a 4-0 victory.
“Everybody's told me from day one that he's that kid that when the lights are on, he shines,” said sophomore right fielder Mark Payton. “Not many guys, with these new bats, could hit two home runs in one game.”
Payton helped Texas beat Duke in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, going 3-for-4 with a game-tying, two-run double in the second inning. Senior center fielder Tim Maitland added two hits and two runs.
“We made a joke the other day when we were at practice,” Payton said. “I was batting first, Timmy was batting second and Brooks was batting third. We said we had the smallest 1-2-3 in the country. But even if we're the smallest 1-2-3 in the country, we'll try to have the biggest impact.”
Like Thornhill earlier that afternoon, junior Hoby Milner started and went five innings. He gave up three runs and picked up his first win.
Printed on Monday, February 20, 2012 as: Texas takes two of three from Duke
After struggling for most of the season, Kevin Lusson heated up during regional play, hitting two homeruns.
Against a Florida team that averages almost 6.5 runs a game, Texas is going to need just about everybody to contribute offensively Saturday night. Here’s a look at some of the Longhorns that are on a roll, and some that aren’t.
Kevin Lusson: His batting average is still a pedestrian .211, but Lusson swung the bat the past two weeks with a conviction we haven’t seen all season. In regional play, the junior designated hitter drove in seven runs in five games — two three-run homers and a walk-off single. Lusson has registered a hit in the seven NCAA postseason games he’s played in, a positive sign for a guy who struggled to hit above .200 for the regular season.
Brandon Loy: The junior shortstop came up big in the third game against Arizona State, a 4-2 Texas win, with a 3-for-4 performance and a pair of RBI-doubles. The new three-hole hitter took some time to get adjusted to his new spot in the order — if this list was formulated a mere week ago, he wouldn’t have made it — but got hot at just the right time for the Longhorns.
Tant Shepherd: The Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Austin Regional, Shepherd had a big hand in helping Texas stave off elimination. The senior first baseman went 8-for-14 and drove in five runs out of the leadoff spot, his first time hitting first since last season.
Jacob Felts: Give Felts his due. The freshman may not be the most talented catcher in recent school history, but the past two weeks suggest he just might be the toughest. He had six hits in the eight regional games — impressive for a guy who hovered around the Mendoza Line during the regular season. Even given Felts’ good hitting, his biggest impact in these playoffs has been on defense. No play was bigger than when he held on tight as Arizona State’s Michael Benjamin crashed into him at home plate in game two, blocking the plate and applying a strong tag to prevent a tying run.
Paul Montalbano: After surging in the final half of the regular season, the senior outfielder notched just three hits in eight NCAA postseason games, and his batting average has dipped to .279. Once the five-hole hitter, Montalbano has given way to Jonathan Walsh and is now hitting near the bottom of the order.
Jordan Etier: His three-run long ball in game two against ASU was possibly the biggest at-bat of Texas’ season, widening the Longhorns’ lead from one to four in the ninth inning. It also covered up a disturbing fact. Excluding his 3-for-4, three-RBI game against the Sun Devils, Etier was stuck in Slump City during NCAA postseason play, registering five hits in 25 at-bats and striking out seven times in eight games.
Texas pitchers Nathan Thornhill (right) and Corey Knebel embrace after Knebel clinched the final out of Texas 4-2 win over Arizona State in the Austin Super Regional.
That’s more than simply your cue to start celebrating Texas’ 34th trip to the College World Series and its second in three years. Rather, it’s a tip of the cap to one of the reasons these Longhorns are headed to Omaha: The bottom of the order finally started hitting.
There was Lusson in the regional, hitting two home runs and a walk-off single. There was Felts, notching two hits in the super regional and holding his ground at home plate as ASU’s Mike Benjamin barreled into him on Saturday in a play that swung the momentum of the series. And then there was Etier who, after going 0-for-2 with two strikeouts Friday night, sent a three-run shot deep into the night on Saturday, a spark of momentum from a guy who has struggled through a tough junior season.
“I’m particularly pleased for him,” said head coach Augie Garrido after the game. “He had had a rough night. Everybody is thrilled with the way he handled adversity.”
They aren’t the most celebrated — though Etier was trending on Twitter for 24 hours — but the truth of the matter remains that, without them, this season is no more.
“Lusson was really huge in the regionals, put some good at-bats together. Etier was the hero after a night he struggled more than I had ever seen him. Felts is probably one of the toughest kids on the team,” said senior Tant Shepherd.
Sunday’s game didn’t require any heroics. It was a game won on the mound, and it was a game won thanks to timely two-out hitting. In fact, Lusson was the only one of the three to register a hit. Texas’ season may have ended last week without them, or last night.
In a losing effort, Lusson lifted a three-run shot to right field against Kent State. Clearly, it helped his confidence, as he registered the winning hit the next morning against Texas State. Later that night, he again provided the exclamation point, by way of another homer, in a win over Kent State.
Confident and full of momentum, Texas cruised to a 5-0 win the next day to take the regional.
But after losing 3-1 on Friday against Arizona State, it looked like that the dream of Omaha was all but dead. After all, staff ace Taylor Jungmann had been used in the loss, and the offense looked especially anemic — which has seemed like the word of choice when describing the offense — pushing across just one run and leaving a crucial seven runners on base.
So the shot in the arm that the seven, eight and nine hitters delivered Saturday came at the perfect time. Lusson went 1-for-3 and walked. Felts put the tag on what would have been the tying run. The cushion — and the confidence — that Etier’s blast presented is obvious.
“His home run loosened us up,” Shepherd said. “It gave us momentum.”
You can certainly pinpoint other causes for the Longhorns going 5-0 in elimination games the past two weekends. Starting pitching has been strong, the bullpen has been excellent, and the coaching staff pushed all the right buttons at the right time. Young stars Corey Knebel, Erich Weiss and Mark Payton continue to shine. Elder statesmen Shepherd and Brandon Loy have delivered the big hits. When I asked Knebel the biggest reason Texas is going to Omaha, the closer appropriately replied.
“I’d go with pitching,” he said, smiling.
Garrido made it a point to recognize a rabid crowd.
“I don’t know if we would have held up if it weren’t for our fans,” he said. “I think our fans did more to win the game than any other time during the year.”
But Shepherd knew the major story line.
“The guys in the bottom of the order have been the unexpected heroes for us the past few weeks,” he said. “When they’re hitting, it’s a bonus for us.”
Kevin Lusson (middle) is congratulated by teammates after his walk-off hit to beat Texas State 4-3.
The Longhorns woke up Sunday morning needing two wins to keep their season alive. Thanks to the unlikeliest hero of them all, they went to bed Sunday night needing just one more to advance.
Against Kent State, Kevin Lusson smoked his second home run in 24 hours over the right-field wall — an inch or so away from getting Texas fans free Frostys. In the earlier game against Texas State, Lusson drove in the game-winning run in the bottom of the ninth.
All more-than-welcome contributions from the guy who came into this Austin Regional hitting .190.
“I’m really happy for Kevin, I’m thrilled by his success,” said head coach Augie Garrido. “It’s been a tough season for him, and for him to find success is one of the things that brings joy to a coach.”
In the past three ballgames, Lusson has had seven RBIs.
“I’m feeling really comfortable,” said the junior catcher. “The last few weeks, I’ve changed my approach; I call it the Moldenhauer Approach.”
According to Lusson, the Moldenhauer Approach — a reference to last year’s designated hitter Russell Moldenhauer — is a simple one.
“Hit bombs,” he said.
His ninth-inning homer Saturday night against Kent State brought the Longhorns within two. The team ended up losing, but Lusson called his hit a “personal victory.”
He sure has needed some of those. As a sophomore last year, Lusson hit 14 home runs as the everyday starter at third base. But this year’s new, power-sapping bats and the emergence of Erich Weiss at third have put Lusson’s playing time on the Endangered Watch.
“You can’t play a lot of people in baseball, so he’s been caught in a difficult situation all year long,” Garrido said.
Lusson is just one of many underappreciated players who have played major roles for the Longhorns this weekend.
Freshman catcher Jacob Felts, who has struggled with the bat all season, is 4-for-12 in the regional. Jonathan Walsh, the boom-or-bust slugger, turned in a 4-for-8 day on Sunday. Even Tim Maitland — a .182 hitter — is finding ways to contribute, laying down a gorgeous drag bunt against Texas State in the ninth-inning rally.
“It’s definitely huge to have everybody hitting,” said freshman right-fielder Mark Payton. “It’s not even just the 1-9 guys in the lineup. We’ve had pinch-hitters come out and get home runs and base hits.”
With the Longhorns winning both games of Sunday’s twin bill, they’re one win away from advancing to the Super Regional. A loss would be considered a major disappointment for a team that has spent all year in the top 10 and earned one of eight national seeds.
“Being in this must-win situation, it’s a lot of pressure,” Weiss said. “But we live for that. We’re comfortable and we’re ready.”
Both Hoby Milner and Nathan Thornhill threw a high number of pitches Sunday against the Flashes, leaving Garrido no other choice than to tab junior Sam Stafford as Monday’s starter. Stafford, who threw 108 pitches in Texas’ 5-3 win over Princeton on Friday, will look to finish the regional the way he started.
“I gave [pitching coach] Skip Johnson a heads up that I’d be ready to go if they needed me,” Stafford said. “We’re in a tight situation, and my arm feels good.”
Stafford threw long toss before Sunday’s game, and says durability shouldn’t be a problem.
“My arm is stretched out, so I’ll go as long as they need me,” he said.
Ace Taylor Jungmann, who picked up his first loss of the season Saturday against Kent State, may even be of some assistance.
“We’ve talked some about using him,” Stafford said. “We’ll see how he feels.”
Said Garrido: “We’ll take roll in the morning.”
The more help the better.
Augie Garrido admits that it’s sometimes hard to get his squad motivated for weekday games. A small crowd, a not-so-big opponent and a full day of classes don’t exactly inspire his Longhorns to play with top-notch energy.
But the head coach also knows that as long as Texas remembers to keep pitching well, playing solid defense and delivering some timely hits, his team will be just fine.
Tuesday night was no different, as No. 6 Texas topped Dallas Baptist 3-1, its eighth win in nine games.
“We didn’t have that high level of energy or a high competitive focus,” Garrido said. “We weren’t flat, either, but we just kind of moved along.”
Dallas Baptist (21-12) jumped out to a quick one-run lead off Texas starter Sam Stafford in the first inning, but the Texas offense pulled it even in the bottom half of the frame, thanks to a two-out RBI single by Erich Weiss that scored Paul Montalbano.
In anticipation of his upcoming start on Sunday, Stafford only went 2.2 innings, giving up the one unearned run and striking out two Patriots on 61 pitches.
“There were times when I was kind of rushing things instead of just staying within myself and staying balanced,” said Stafford, who also walked four batters.
Texas (25-8) went with Nathan Thornhill (1-0) out of the bullpen in relief of Stafford, and the freshman went 2.1 innings, giving up just one hit and allowing two strikeouts, giving him the first win of his career.
With two outs in the fourth inning, Kevin Lusson delivered the go-ahead run for the Longhorns, knocking in Lucas Kephart with a double down the right-field line.
“I knew Dallas Baptist’s pitcher [Jared Stafford] wasn’t throwing fastballs and that he was just trying to get me with off-speed stuff, so I was looking for that,” Lusson said. “He threw me a slider, and I just turned on it.”
It was a big hit for the junior catcher, who has struggled through the season with a .171 batting average.
“Scoring runs with two outs made the difference tonight,” Garrido said. “It separated us from the other team.”
The Longhorns plated another run in the fifth inning, with Montalbano crossing home as Tant Shepherd grounded into a double play. Montalbano led Texas on Tuesday with a 2-4 performance and also contributed strong defense in center field, where he’s played while regular starter Cohl Walla rehabs a deep bone contusion he suffered two weeks ago.
“I felt good out there. I got some hits to drop,” Montalbano said. “When our team comes out here and gets things going early, it helps everybody else out. When we take good at-bats, it allows everybody else to ease up.”
Josh Urban took the mound in the sixth inning, pitching a perfect three innings before handing the ball to Corey Knebel, who picked up his ninth save of the season.
“The game was controlled by outstanding pitching, good defense and timely hitting,” Garrido said. “Those were the three elements that won us the game tonight.”
It took them extra innings, but the Longhorns were able to pick up their second conference win of the season, a 4-3 nail-biter over Kansas State at Disch-Falk Field.
With the game tied heading into the bottom of the 10th inning, freshman Erich Weiss hit a double to right field, then advanced to third on a Lucas Kephart ground out. The Wildcats then elected to intentionally walk both Cohl Walla and Jacob Felts, putting them in a position defensively to get an inning-ending double play with a force at any base. Tant Shepherd struck out for Texas’ next at-bat, and head coach Augie Garrido called upon senior Kevin Lusson to pinch-hit with two outs.
But Lusson wouldn’t have to do much hitting, or swinging for that matter.
He just watched and waited as Kansas State’s Gerardo Esquivel threw him three straight balls, took one strike for good measure, and then watched the fourth and decisive Esquivel ball go by him for the game ending walk-off walk.
“It’s the long walk home,” Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. “Our guys just had to stand there and watch the ball go by.”
An RBI walk was how the Longhorns scored the tying run in the ninth inning as well, when Tim Maitland drew a walk to score Walla. The Wildcat pitchers struggled with their control, collectively walking eight batters in the game, and Garrido has a guess as to why they were so rattled on the mound.
“This is a game where the fans play a huge part. The home field advantage was very evident because unlike football or basketball players, baseball players are not use to playing in this environment,” he said. “You take young players and put them in different environments it has a huge effect on them.”
The Longhorns pushed the first run of the game across in the second inning with Kephart scoring an unearned run after a Wildcat throwing error.
Kansas State would take the scoring advantage the next inning, touching up Texas starter Hoby Milner for three runs. Milner settled down though, going four more innings without allowing another run. The sophomore lefty finished his day after the seventh inning, allowing those three runs and just five hits to go with six strikeouts.
“I felt like I could have kept going,” Milner said. “I did throw 102 pitches and since it was my second start in a while they didn’t want to push me any farther. I felt fine, but that third inning killed my pitch count.”
After Kirby Bellow and Kendal Carrillo patched together two innings of relief after Milner, freshman Corey Knebel came on in the tenth and picked up win.
The Longhorns (14-5, 2-0 Big 12) will go for the series sweep tomorrow against the Wildcats (12-6, 0-2) at 1 p.m., with senior Cole Green expected to get the start on the mound.