The air immediately dissipated out of UFCU Disch-Falk Field as No. 25 Rice’s game-tying run rounded third base and headed home.
Junior left fielder Travis Jones cleanly fielded the shot that was blasted to him and delivered a perfectly thrown ball aimed toward home plate.
It soared right into junior catcher Michael Cantu’s mitt just in time to tag the runner out, ending the first game of Saturday’s double-header in a dramatic 5-4 Longhorn victory.
”I’m just happy I made a good throw and got him out more than anything,” Jones said. “Halfway through I kind of saw where he was at, saw where the ball was at, and I kind of felt like I already had him out.”
The Longhorns stormed the field as the crowd erupted in “The Eyes of Texas” following the first victory of the David Pierce era. Texas followed it up with a 6-1 thrashing of the Owls later that evening.
“It means everything, really. I mean, today was a tough day,” Jones said. “Winning two games in one day is a tough thing to do … (and) we’re just happy to get it for him.”
Texas headed to the top of the last inning of game one with a 5-1 lead. But Rice attempted a late comeback.
Despite having only three outs to work with, Rice responded with a solo shot over the left field fence. But it didn’t stop there. Texas faced a bases-loaded two-out jam when Rice’s designated hitter Darryn Sheppard hit an RBI single that brought in two more runs for the Owls.
But that’s when Jones worked some of his late game magic to end Rice’s comeback one run short.
“He made a play, and that’s what we talk a lot about: ‘Don’t be afraid to make that play,’” Pierce said. “He came in, and there was no doubt in his mind he was going for it — and he did it.”
Both teams only had 30 minutes to head to their respective locker rooms and prepare for the second game of the doubleheader.
Freshman pitcher Blair Henley was given the starting role following the dramatic conclusion to the first game.
“We had so much momentum going into the next game,” Henley said. “Even though that last inning wasn’t exactly what we wanted, we ended on a high note. Going into the next game, I knew we had the momentum here at home, so it was a lot of fun.”
The right-handed pitcher only allowed one run and tossed eight strikeouts through five innings, after a rocky first inning.
Texas had a big fourth inning offensively to relieve any remaining pressure on Henley.
Much of Texas’ success came from its patience at the plate. Texas drew several walks and even had a hit batter while bases were loaded. However, the Longhorns also left several runners on base.
“We drew some walks, we showed some pretty good plate discipline,” Pierce said. “I’d like to have gotten more runs with bases loaded, nobody out, twice. We only got one run out of that, but we continued to play.”
Although bases weren’t loaded for junior pitcher Kacy Clemens, he ended the night with a bang when he blasted a solo homerun over the left field fence.
Rice had no response in store this time as Texas cruised to a five-run victory, which capped off the doubleheader sweep on Saturday.
“I thought we were outstanding all day,” Pierce said “We stayed locked in all day. It’s tough to do — it’s tough to sweep a doubleheader in college baseball. Especially against a great opponent like Rice.”