Northwestern

After what seemed like a surprise loss on Friday night, Texas was not shaken. Instead, the Longhorns were energized to return on Saturday and inflict some damage to Northwestern.

In a doubleheader on Saturday that lasted from 1:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Texas controlled nearly every inning of play in the 18-inning affair.

From game one in which Texas pulled away 10-7 to a 13-1 game two where Texas absolutely poured it on the Wildcats in the rain, it seemed as if Texas had all eight hours in its grasp.

“We did what we were supposed to do today,” Texas head coach David Pierce said. “We came out and took charge of the game.”

Saturday’s first game was the more lackluster of the two by the pitching staff. Junior Nolan Kingham threw for 5.2 innings, allowing seven hits and three earned runs. He was followed by redshirt junior Andy McGuire and junior Beau Ridgeway, who finished the game and allowed five hits and three earned runs.

Texas’ offense was led by the long ball in the first outing. Home runs by junior Kody Clemens and sophomores Ryan Reynolds and Duke Ellis were the story of the game. Couple that with eight walks allowed by Northwestern, and it was too great a deficit to overcome for the Wildcats.

Game two showed more dominance from the pitching staff as starter sophomore Blair Henley threw six innings, allowed only two hits and shut out Northwestern. Through the rest of the game, junior Parker Joe Robinson and sophomore Bryce Verplank combined to allow only two hits and one earned run.

“I didn’t have many strikeouts,” Henley said. “But my defense, they do what they do, and the results are going to come.”

The offense in the second game was more or less stoked by inconsistent arms for Northwestern. The Wildcats’ pitching staff walked 11 Texas batters and hit multiple others. It seemed as if every inning at least one Longhorn would jog down to first for free.

The most devastating inning for Northwestern was the third, in which the Wildcats gave up seven runs to Texas.

“We had a lot of free passes,” Pierce said. “We got pitches to drive, and we were ready for them. And we had some success. That’s how you get the big innings.”

Fueling the fire

Northwestern gave Texas something to chew on after its loss Friday night. At the end of the game, the video board caught an image of Northwestern center fielder David Dunn giving a “horns down” hand gesture as he ran off of the field.

That did not sit well with Texas players. Starters from each game took their shot at Dunn, hitting him once.

“Any time someone throws a horns down, they’re going to have it coming back at them,” Henley said. “We don’t like that. Nobody likes that, especially as a Texan.”

Pierce said that the coaching staff understood the situation. He said that the team discussed the matter and did not take it lightly.

“We had a pretty good, extensive meeting about a lot of things and about who we are and our maturity,” Pierce said. “Being involved in the game, understanding situations learning from our opponents. We do that pretty frequently. But I think the kids understood what was going on there.”

Texas takes the field for its final game of the four-game series at 1 p.m. Sunday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

Texas and Northwestern were practically equals in the hitting department Friday night, and the Longhorns walked twice as often. But the Wildcats took advantage of runners on the bags — something the Longhorns failed to do — and that proved to be the difference in a 6-2 loss for Texas.

The Longhorns left 10 runners on the bases, while Northwestern left only four.

“We need to work better as a team together,” redshirt junior catcher Michael McCann said. “We got runners on base early and we pop out and roll early and we don’t get the runners in. We start out hot, but we don’t capitalize. It’s really frustrating and we have to grind out at bats early.”

Northwestern struck first. After getting through his first three batters unblemished, junior pitcher Chase Shugart walked a Wildcat to open the second. After Shugart gave up his first hit of the contest, Northwestern singled to score the game’s first run.

But like they’ve done at home all season, Texas was quick to rally back. In the bottom of the third, sophomore outfielder Duke Ellis hit a single to send McCann to second after McCann had walked. After a Northwestern error loaded the bases, McCann scored on a groundout to first from junior Kody Clemens.

But the wheels fell off for Shugart and the Longhorns in the fifth. The pitcher hit two batters in the frame and gave up a pair of hits. Northwestern capitalized on the junior’s control issues and jumped out to a 3-1 advantage.

The Longhorns added a run in the bottom of the fifth, but Shugart’s continued issues would keep the game out of reach. Against the first batter of the sixth, Shugart gave up a monster home run to left field. He then surrendered a single and, following an error and a wild pitch, the runner reached third. A batter latter, Northwestern recorded a sac-fly to extend its lead to 5-2.

“When (Shugart) got the ball down, he was really good,” head coach David Pierce said. “But when they had (runners on base), his peripheral couldn’t handle the running game and he got the ball up. Once he got the ball up, (Northwestern) took advantage of it.”

The Wildcats added another run in the ninth inning, and the Longhorns never threatened any further.

Texas finished with seven hits but struggled with strikeouts. The team struck out nine times compared to only five walks. Redshirt freshman infielder Zach Zubia paced the offense, finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI and also reached on a walk.

The starting pitching for the Longhorns was shakier than it has been for most of the season. Shugart surrendered five earned runs and gave up six hits. However, the relief put forth a solid outing, with freshman Bryce Elder and redshirt junior Josh Sawyer combining for three two-hit innings.

Texas will get multiple shots at redemption tomorrow, when they take on the Wildcats in a Saturday double-header. The first game is schedule for 1:30 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

“We’ve got three games in two days and they’ve got all the momentum,” Pierce said. “We need everybody to be ready and do their job when they’re called on. Tonight, we just didn’t get it done, and it’s that simple.”