In honor of the two schools the late coaching legend Augie Garrido won national titles with, Friday night’s series opener featured Texas and California State Fullerton. The matchup saw both Longhorns and Titans arms hashing it out in a pitcher’s duel early.
The Longhorns’ Bryce Elder did a great job through the first 4 innings, allowing only 4 runners on base. Elder’s 5th inning was a bit more unstable, as he gave up 2 walks and 2 singles. Luckily for Elder, just one of those runs scored, as Fullerton left 3 runners on base. Holding Fullerton to just 1 run played a pivotal role in keeping Texas in the game at this point, as it could have opened up quickly. Even though Elder did not have his best stuff, he was able to battle and keep his team in the game. After the game Coach Pierce said, “He didn’t feel good, but gosh… he just does that (performs well). Every time he comes out he just battles…. I am just proud of him for going out there and doing what he does.”
Fullerton’s Tanner Bibee was equally if not more impressive the first 6 innings. Just a hit and a walk separated Bibee from a perfect 6 innings. His team did not provide much run support though, as the Titans were only up 1-0 after the 6th inning. Bibee’s strong suit was that he could located his pitches well. Texas was able to put good swings on some of them, such as the line-out from Trey Faltine. Despite Bibee’s success, Texas continued to press and apply pressure.
Each starter ran out of steam in the 7th inning, beginning with Elder, who was just shy of 7 complete innings. Instead he finished with 6 and 2/3rds, throwing 112 pitches in the process. His final line saw him accumulate 5 strikeouts while giving up 3 walks, 2 HBPs and 5 hits, all translating to just 1 earned run. Fullerton’s starter Tanner Bibee’s 7th inning started with a Zach Zubia single to center field. After a well placed sacrifice bunt by Cam Williams, Texas strung together 6 more consecutive quality at bats, including 5 more hits and one impressive walk (from Trey Faltine). This forced Bibee out and the first reliever Evan Adolphus out. Once the 7th inning was over, Texas had scored 6 runs to give themselves a commanding 6-1 lead.
This offensive surge in the 7th inning was impressive to see, as the team batted through the order for the second time this season (first time came against Arkansas last weekend). While batting around, Texas put together 8 consecutive quality at-bats, including 6 hits, 1 walk and 1 sacrifice bunt. This resulted in 6 runs for the Longhorns, and was a great sign of seeing the team feed off each other’s energy. The inning was highlighted by a full-count 2-run HR from DJ Petrinsky, who caught the ball really well.
— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 7, 2020
Eric Kennedy also contributed in the 7th with a 2-run double, continuing his hot streak and showing how much better he is seeing the baseball. Murphy Stehly may have been the most impressive hitter of the evening, as he broke up the no-hitter in the 6th inning with a single and hit an RBI double in the 7th inning to score Peyton Powell, who hit a double in his pinch at-bat.
— Texas Baseball (@TexasBaseball) March 7, 2020
The Longhorns were collectively seeing the ball better in the 7th. After Stehly broke up the no-hitter in the 6th inning, the pressure on the team was lifted. Petrinsky spoke on this after the game, stating that, “Whether you say there was pressure or not, it was a good feeling when he (Stehly) got that hit.”
Friday night’s 7th inning showed Coach Pierce what his team is capable of. “That entire inning was just impressive…. (Cam Williams was) very unselfish; (he) just went to work and got the bunt down. Then we just pieced it together from there. I thought Trey’s base-on ball was really big, (especially) as a freshman. (He) Got a line drive (in the at-bat) before; he is a kid that is not getting a lot to show for what he is doing offensively, but he is just hitting the ball hard. It reminds me a lot of (David) Hamilton his freshman year. And for him to just go up and stay patient in his at-bat was (great),” Said Pierce. Pierce thought it was especially important to focus on the bunt and the walk, showing how important the small pieces of rallies are. Small ball and intentional at-bats are important for the team, and will continue to be important moving forward.
Texas showcased their strength in this game through a strong pitching performance by Elder, a huge offensive showcase in the 7th inning, and solid relief and closing efforts by both Dawson Merryman and Donny Diaz, respectively. After this 6-1 win, the Longhorns will look to continue their success in Game 2 of the series.
The Longhorns’ second game of the series against Fullerton kicks off at 12 PM Saturday. You can watch the game on the Longhorn Network or listen on 104.9 FM The Horn. For play-by-play, follow along with @joeywa_44.
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