In what was probably the least exciting and fulfilling game of the weekend, Texas failed to complete the series sweep of Louisiana-Lafayette on Sunday afternoon at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
The Longhorns fell to the Ragin’ Cajuns, 2-1, in a game that totaled 10 combined hits and featured dominant pitching performances and stellar defensive plays.
“It was a great series against a good team,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “We really faced some good pitching, and we grew up this weekend. That’s for sure.”
Texas’ starting pitcher, sophomore Blair Henley, threw five innings, allowing five hits and one earned run. His successors, redshirt juniors Josh Sawyer and Andy McGuire, were equally efficient, allowing one earned run on only one hit. Junior third baseman Kody Clemens believed that the pitching staff did more than enough to put the Longhorns in a position to win on Sunday.
“Nolan (Kingham), Chase (Shugart) and Blair (Henley) all threw really well,” Clemens said. “Unfortunately, we couldn’t get the run production we needed to win this last game. We learned a lot. I thought the pitchers threw well, but we just got to get better.”
The offense struggled to get anything going behind Texas’ pitching, particularly with bringing the runs in. Clemens collected two of Texas’ four hits with his two singles. The theme of the game seemed to be hard-hit balls in easy-to-reach places.
“Today was rough,” Pierce said. “We hit a lot of balls hard today. Had no luck today. Some quality at-bats, a couple mistake pitches and that was the difference.”
The weekend as whole showed plenty of promise for the Longhorns’ 2018 season. The first day exhibited a true top-of-the-rotation “ace” pitcher in junior Nolan Kingham. He started off the season with one of the best starts of his career, pitching eight shutout innings and a career-high 10 strikeouts while giving up only three hits.
“It was awesome. It was awesome going out there and going as long as I can, but with this group of guys, I think it’s expected,” Kingham said. “So we’re just going to keep moving forward and build off it.”
The second game of the series brought with it some drama and late-inning fireworks. After grabbing, losing, re-grabbing and re-losing the lead, Texas ended the day with a bang. Sophomore outfielder Austin Todd called ballgame in the bottom of the ninth with a moon shot to left field, giving the Longhorns a 5-3 win. The walk-off homerun sent fans into a frenzy and left Todd’s face covered in shaving cream and grinning from ear-to-ear.
“Personally, it was my first-time ever to hit a walk-off,” Todd said. “And it’s probably one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had playing baseball.”
The most eye-catching offensive revelation of the weekend may have been from Texas’ two and three-hole hitters — junior infielder Masen Hibbeler and Clemens, who are each batting at or above .500.
“I think (we) can go a long way,” Clemens said. “Masen’s the type of dude — he’s got the type of mindset (to be special). He’s going to be a stud all year. I know that if I keep this consistency, us two are going to produce.”
Pierce’s overall takeaways from the weekend were positive. He believes his team is right where it needs to be, even though it couldn’t close out the series with a sweep.
“You’ve got to build off of this,” Pierce said. “It’s a good, quality team. They’re picked to win the Sun Belt. Sure, we’d want the sweep. We’d like to finish. We just couldn’t get a clutch hit, and (we) made a couple of mistake pitches.”
The Longhorns will take to the diamond on Wednesday when they face Lamar at home before heading to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to play LSU in a weekend series. First pitch at Disch-Falk Field on Wednesday will be at 7:30 p.m.