Number 24 Texas opened the 2013 season by hosting Sacramento State at the Disch this past weekend. Texas’ newest assistant coach, Tommy Nicholson, spent two years at Sacramento State recruiting and grooming underrated players, and the Hornets came to town on a mission to show off their hard work. Parker French, Nathan Thornhill, and Dillon Peters made up the starting rotation for Texas, with French & Peters earning their first wins of 2013. The Longhorn bats provided 35 hits on the weekend, including stellar performances by team leader Mark Payton and star recruit C.J Hinojosa. Augie also put Texas’ much-discussed speed on display this weekend, as the Longhorns stole seven bases on eight attempts during the series.
Texas Convenes on First Base Before Starting Game 1
The temperature at first pitch was a windy 51 degrees and it only got colder as the evening progressed, but starter Parker French was as hot as ever on the mound. Over seven innings, French struck out five batters, allowing only three hits and no walks to the Hornet batters. The Longhorns started the offense early, roaring out of the gates with a trio of hits that scored the first run of 2013. C.J Hinojosa provided the lone hit of the second inning, turning the first pitch of his first collegiate at-bat into a double, but it wasn’t until the third inning that the offense started to pour it on, scoring three runs by way of three hits, three walks, and two stolen bases. Junior Mark Payton led off the fifth inning with a double, eventually scoring on a passed ball. Payton would again cross the plate in the seventh inning to move the score to 6-0. Parker French handed the ball off to redshirt freshman Toller Boardman, who missed 2012 due to back surgery. Boardman quickly got ahead of his first batter, Hornet shortstop Scotty Burcham with two strikes, but then gave up a single, followed by a double, a hit-by-pitch, and then a walk to give the Hornets their first run of the evening. With the bases loaded and no outs, pitching coach Skip Johnson turned to junior Corey Knebel after a surprisingly short warm up. Knebel was not his usually precise self, and was unable to record an out over 18 pitches, instead allowing a double, a single, two walks, and a wild pitch. All told, Knebel and Boardman allowed five runs on four hits without recording a single out, slashing the Texas lead to a lone run. Transfer junior Ty Marlow (primarily recruited as an infielder) was next out of the bullpen, taking the mound with the bases still loaded. Jacob Felts provided some quick support, launching a rocket to third base to catch Sacramento State center fielder David Del Grande off the bag and finally putting one out on the scoreboard. After allowing a single to his first batter to reload the bases, Marlow beared down on the Hornets, inducing a pop-up to short stop C.J Hinojosa and then striking out right fielder Nathan Lukes to end the eighth inning. Texas got two runners on base in the bottom of the eighth but the Longhorns were unable to add any insurance. Ty Marlow returned to the mound in the top of the 9th and recorded the final three outs for the first save of his collegiate career, allowing only one further Hornet hit and no runs, for a final score of 6-5.
Cameron Cox Shines in Relief
Game two was played under a brilliant blue sky and warmer weather; however, the Texas bats were cooled off by a stellar pitching performance from Sacramento State sophomore pitcher, Brennan Leitao. Scattering six hits over seven innings and striking out four Longhorns hitters, Leitao dominated the lower part of the strike zone and kept Texas guessing all afternoon. His counterpart, junior Nathan Thornhill, struggled to keep the ball down and his command wavered in the second inning, when he hit one batter and gave up a single. In the third inning Thornhill’s pitch location still suffered, and when the Longhorns committed an error, the savvy Sacramento State hitters made them pay to the tune of four hits, scoring three runs in the process. This provided a 4-1 cushion for the Hornets going into the middle part of the game and, according to Augie Garrido, took the Texas hitters out of their game plan, becoming more conservative by taking more first pitch strikes instead of swinging. JuCo transfer Cameron Cox relieved Thornhill in the fourth inning, and allowed only one run on three hits over the next 3.1 innings. Freshmen Travis Duke and Chad Hollingsworth completed the game for the Longhorns, combining for two innings of solid relief work. The Longhorns managed to put a run on the board in the fifth and eighth innings, using a combination of singles and speedy baserunning to accomplish the task. However, the Texas rally fell short, and the Longhorns dropped game two to the Hornets with a final score of 5-3.
Dillon Peters Deals
Sunday’s rubber match was set for a 1pm start, and those at the Disch found themselves under clear, sunny skies with a comfortable temperature in the low-70’s. Lefty Dillon Peters was given the start for Texas, and the sophomore did not disappoint. After mastering midweek starts as a freshman, the southpaw started his first Sunday game with a bit of a stutter, hitting a batter with the first pitch of the game. After giving up a walk to the second batter, Peters induced two groundouts and a flyout, limiting the damage to a lone run. Peters sailed through his remaining six innings working at a prompt pace, allowing only one additional run on a solo homer from Sacramento State DH Chris Lewis to lead off the fifth inning. The Longhorn bats came out firing in the first, ready to pick up their pitcher, and did not let up, scoring five runs on seven hits in the first four innings. Mark Payton continued to set the pace for the offense, going 2-for-3 in his trips to the plate, including a triple to right center in the third. Corey Knebel took the mound in relief of Dillon Peters to start the eighth, and returned to being the closer Texas fans have become familiar with over the past two seasons. Knebel allowed two hits, one of them a home run, but was much more comfortable pounding the strike zone than he had appeared on Friday evening. The final score of Sunday’s game was 6-3, in favor of the Longhorns, and Texas won its opening series for the third straight year.
The Eyes of Texas
We are confident that pitching and defense will settle down as the players ease back into the rigor of the season, and find great promise in the Longhorn bats, which were much maligned in 2012. C.J Hinojosa seems determined to live up to the hype that surrounded his commitment to the Longhorns, and every starter recorded multiple hits this weekend. DH Matt Moynihan made his Texas debut after missing the 2012 season due to NCAA Transfer Guidelines, and looks to be a key component for the Longhorns this season, collecting five hits in the series. Parker French appears to be a legitimate staff ace in his sophomore season, and with a stacked bullpen, this team has the potential for great success.
Your Longhorns return to action tomorrow evening as they host the UT Arlington Mavericks at Disch-Falk Field. First pitch is scheduled for 6:05pm, and game time temperatures should be in the mid-fifties. A special shout out goes to Sean, who alleviated our Friday trek to the Disch in cold weather by giving us a lift on his golf cart. Keep your eyes peeled for these shuttles, which run every home game from one hour before the gates open through the second inning. Stay with Texas Baseball Blog as we continue our coverage of the Longhorns in 2013.
Photos: Donald Boyles