Last Tuesday, six different Texas pitchers combined to throw a three-hit shutout in one of the Longhorns’ most dominating pitching performances of the season.
A week later, they nearly topped it. Once again, Texas sent out half a dozen hurlers and thanks to their efforts, two runs were enough to pick up a win. This time, the Longhorns (5-7) beat Dallas Baptist, 2-1, in a 12-inning pitcher’s duel at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Tuesday evening.
Freshman Dillon Peters allowed a leadoff double in the first frame, going two innings and surrendering one run in his first career start. Then, sophomore Nathan Thornhill, junior Hoby Milner, freshman John Curtiss, freshman Parker French and sophomore Corey Knebel combined to throw 10 consecutive scoreless innings. While the Texas offense, which had 16 consecutive batters retired at one point, struggled to put runners on base, much less push them across the plate, the pitching staff was superb.
“The pitchers got back within themselves,” said Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido. “They learned something from the weekend that was really valuable about how to pitch to the mitt and getting back into a groove and not worrying about the hitter.”
After struggling to stifle opposing offenses in last weekend’s Houston College Classic, where Texas allowed 20 runs in three games, the Longhorns returned to their stingy selves.
After RJ Talamantes’ leadoff double to start the game, Texas allowed only two hits in the next 39 plate appearances by Dallas Baptist batters. In their last two Tuesday contests, the Longhorns have allowed only eight hits, half of them infield singles, and one run in 21 innings.
All three of the pitchers that began the season as weekend starters — Thornhill, Milner and Curtiss — set foot on the mound. Even Corey Knebel, the All-American closer who suffered from stiffness in his throwing arm last week, picked up his first win of the year by throwing a scoreless 12th inning.
“These Tuesday games when we throw the whole staff, I don’t think anybody can beat us,” said sophomore designated hitter Alex Silver, whose bloop single to begin the 12th inning sparked the game-winning rally. “We have six or seven pitchers that are all on their ‘A’ game because they’re only throwing one or two innings. They’re one of the best pitching staffs in the country. I wouldn’t want anybody else out there.”
With four scoreless frames between the eighth and 11th innings, French lowered his ERA from 5.11 to 3.86 and kept Texas in the game during the most crucial stages of the contest. He only allowed two hits and didn’t issue a walk on the night, churning out what might have been his best outing of the young season.
“Being in the back of the bullpen, I see all those zeros being put up by guys like Nathan, [Dillon Peters], Hoby and John, it makes you motivated to want to put up a zero, too,” French said. “Coach [Garrido] is always telling us to live in every pitch and live in every moment. I think I took that philosophy to heart.”
French’s performance was a much-needed considering the troubles the Texas lineup was having producing runs. The Longhorns were walked twice before Tim Maitland was hit by a pitch — for the second time of the game and sixth time this year — with the bases loaded, forcing home their first run. Patriots starting pitcher Jordan Staples struggled getting the ball over the plate but Andrew Elkins threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings while Michael Smith tossed five perfect frames before allowing the game-winning run. All five of Texas’ hits were singles, with Jordan Etier, who was intentionally walked in the decisive 12th inning, leading the way with two base hits.
“That might have been the first time he’s ever been walked intentionally,” Garrido said. “The left-handed kid [Elkins] was good. He was throwing strikes, he was getting his breaking ball over. He made it tough on us. Only Etier figured him out.”
And it only took 12 innings for the Longhorns to figure out how to push enough runs across the plate.
Printed on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 as: Defensive effort leads team to low scoring win at home