Longhorns come alive to beat Dallas Baptist; Lusson delivers for UT

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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.”