Walk-off homer lifts Horns

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Clean-up duty turned into a triage situation for Texas reliever Corey Knebel on Tuesday night at Disch-Falk Field.

Knebel (1-1) came on in the eighth with UTSA rallying, but gave up just one hit in 3.2 innings for his first collegiate win as fifth-ranked Texas triumphed 8-5.

“It feels great,” the right-handed pitcher said. “I was just expecting to get a save there.”

The Longhorns (8-4) got out to an early lead, gaining a five-run advantage by the end of the third inning. They didn’t score again until the 11th, but it came on a walk-off, three-run homer by Tant Shepherd that delivered the victory.

It was Shepherd’s first hit of the night, a blast over the left-field wall and into the UTSA bullpen. He went 1-for-5 but saved his best performance for late.

“That’s a ball player,” said Texas coach Augie Garrido. “In his last at-bat he was more determined by his failures.”

The Roadrunners (6-9) tied the game with a five-run eighth inning. Texas set-up man Stayton Thomas allowed two runners on, both of whom later scored on fielding errors. Then Kendal Carrillo allowed two more to reach base.

Finally, Knebel showed up with a ground-rule double against his first batter tied the score at 5-5 but the inning ended on the next batter.

Afterward, starting in the ninth, Knebel struck out six of the remaining nine batters.

“It kind of hurt, but I just came out the next inning with the same mindset, throwing strikes,” he said about recovering from the two runs scored on him in the eighth.

Starting Texas pitcher Cole Green did his part, bouncing back from a two-inning performance versus Stanford on Saturday to pitch four scoreless innings against UTSA. He struck out nine, including consecutive hitless innings in the third and fourth.

“I had fun today, it was an awesome game,” Green said. “I definitely felt more comfortable. I was able to throw it where I wanted and was able to get ahead of hitters.”

Texas left 12 runners stranded but continued to get into scoring position by stealing eight bases. It was up to Knebel to keep the game manageable for Texas in the extra innings. He struck out two in the 10th and then retired all three Roadrunners in order in the 11th. Garrido planned to replace Knebel in the 12th with Holby Milner but never got the chance.

“Corey was outstanding,” Garrido said. “He brought the game back under control for our side.”

UTSA cycled through five pitchers as the Longhorns got ahead early. D.D. Towler started but was pulled after giving up five runs. Reliever Kevin Clarke kept the Roadrunners in it with nearly four scoreless innings and five strikeouts but picked up the loss when Shepherd homered off him in the final inning.