Baseball: Horns Take Series From 'Cats

Baseball: Horns Take Series From 'Cats

It's probably a bit premature to be talking about turning points in a 50-plus game baseball season, but UT's weekend series win over Arizona at the Disch <I>could</I> be just that. With its 4-1 triumph Sunday, Texas won two of three weekend games for the first time since mid-February, largely because of consistently solid pitching, something that had been absent during the team's recent slide.

After the Horns dropped the series opener 5-1 on Friday night, the pivotal win of the series came on Saturday afternoon when Texas rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the bottom of the ninth to clinch a 3-2 victory. But Augie Garrido said Sunday's win was equally as, if not more, important.

"It is absolutely critical that we establish confidence and this was the first weekend that we came from behind and won a game," the head coach said. "Now, if you come out here today and are satisfied with that, you play flat or satisfied or lackadaisical. There was something to find out today. A lot of times when a team comes back in the bottom of the ninth and wins the game and shows up the next day they're kinda satisfied with what they've done and we scored early."

Dustin Majewski, who went two-of-four for the day, echoed Garrido's comments.

"It was a big win for us today," Majewski said, "because we could have easily come out today and lived off the emotion of yesterday and come out all relaxed and not ready but we came out focused and got ahead early and we stayed ahead."

Texas jumped on top in the bottom of the first when a Majewski single to left plated Tim Moss, who led off the game with a double.

The Horns added two runs in the third, almost solely due to consecutive mis-plays by Arizona center fielder Brian Anderson. After a Moss groundout to lead off the inning, Omar Quintanilla hit a deep fly to center that Anderson ranged under but lost in the sun just before the ball found his glove. Instead of his mitt, the ball hit the centerfielder's head and rolled to the wall as he collapsed to the turf. Quintanilla motored towards third as the left and right fielders converged and he headed home and scored easily before the ball even made it back to the infield. The inside-the-park homer was the first by a Longhorn since Mark Cridland turned the trick in 1997. After a couple of minutes attended to by the Wildcat trainer, Anderson stayed in the game. Majewski, the Horns' next batter, compounded his pain, though, by knocking a deep but catchable fly ball to the wall that Anderson let hit just to the right of his glove. The Texas senior notched a triple on the play and came around to score one batter later with Scott Dodge's RBI groundout to first.

The Wildcats trimmed the Texas lead in the top of the sixth with an unearned run off of starter J.P. Howell. Howell lasted 7-plus innings, allowing just five hits, two walks and the unearned run while striking out five to pick up his third win of the season.

UT threatened to stretch its advantage in the bottom of the seventh but Majewski grounded into a bases-loaded double play to send the game to the eighth still at 3-1.

The 'Cats threatened in the top of the eighth. Frank Anderson pulled Howell for closer Huston Street after the Longhorn starter went to 3-0 on leadoff batter Richard Mercado. Street walked Mercado (charged to Howell), who moved to third on a throwing error by the sophomore stopper, forced a pop out and then a strike out but hit the following batter to set up a two-out, first-and-third situation. Street, though, got Brad Boyer to fly out to center to end the inning. The Horns added a single insurance run in their half of the eighth and Street overpowered the 'Cats in the ninth, striking out the side to register his second save of the season.

Texas puts itself in position to take the series on Sunday with an exciting (and, frankly, crucial) bottom-of-the-ninth rally and win in game two of the weekend set. Trailing 2-zip, Majewski's one-out solo homer in the home half of the ninth sparked the Horns' comeback. After Majewski's shot, Texas put men on first and second with back-to-back walks, setting up Michael Hollimon's game-tying single. After the 'Cats issued an intentional walk to Curtis Thigpen to load the bases, Arizona pitcher Derek Rodriguez struck out Nathan Warrick to set up Joe Ferin for the game-winning, two-out RBI single. Street picked up the win with his scoreless top of the ninth work, but the Horns may have found themselves a starter in Sam LeCure. The freshman pitched 5-2/3 innings, surrendering two runs to one of the hottest hitting teams in the nation. Junior Josh Smith also contributed 2-1/3 innings of scoreless relief.

"I think overall the pitching really stepped forward," Garrido said of his staff's Saturday and Sunday performances. "It was a huge step forward."

The Horns dropped a 5-1 decision in the Friday opener. Danny Muegge got the start for Texas. The 'Cats touched the senior rightie for two in the first, all the visitors would need on the night. Muegge's final line: 5 IP, 4 hits, 5 runs (all earned) with 5 Ks and 2 BBs.

Texas moved to 15-6 on the season. The Horns travel to Houston to take on Rice Tuesday before returning to Austin for their conference opening series vs. Missouri this coming weekend.

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