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