Texas found itself battling another Californian opponent for the second straight weekend. Last week, the Longhorns dropped three straight contests to Stanford in disappointing fashion.
They found themselves in another tight battle, but the Longhorns managed to come out on top in game one against UCLA Friday night, 5-4 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
Sophomore Kody Clemens watched ball four cross the plate as the game-winning run trotted to home plate in the eighth inning to cap Texas’ late comeback.
The Bruins finished with two home runs on the night, but Texas had an answer for each of them in the shootout.
“That’s what you got to do,” head coach David Pierce said. “You got to play the game to its entirety and that’s what we’re preaching. It was a big blow. They hit a three run home run late in the game. It affected them for a second and they had the ability to overcome that. That’s a huge win for us.”
Sophomore Nolan Kingham got the start on the mound. The right hander went into the game with an era of 0.00. That all changed with one swing.
A solo shot from UCLA shortstop Nick Valaika soared over the left field fence, giving the Bruins an early lead. The home run ended Texas’ 20 inning stretch without allowing a run. But that was all Kingham allowed in his time on the mound.
“It was resiliency with Nolan Kingham,” Pierce said. “He really didn’t have his best stuff and he battled to give us six innings.”
While Kingham held the Bruins to one run, Patrick Mathis got the Longhorns on the board. The junior outfielder entered Friday night with a .179 batting average.
But Mathis now has home runs in back-to-back games, including a solo blast over the rightfield fence that tied the game in the third inning.
With Kingham dealing on the mound, senior Kacy Clemens sent another pitch over the rightfield fence in the sixth inning, giving Texas the 2-1 lead.
“[We had an] outstanding approach at home plate against one of the best arms in the country,” Pierce said. “The two big blows really helped to keep us in it.”
Sophomore Beau Ridgeway took over pitching duties in the seventh, and that’s when UCLA responded. The Bruins took advantage of the pitching change with a three-run jack to give them a late 4-2 lead.
But Texas answered, again.
Kody Clemens got credit for an RBI groundout in the seventh, cutting the lead to 4-3. Texas wasn’t done.
Freshman Ryan Reynolds kept it going in the bottom of the eighth with a two-out base hit, followed by junior Travis Jones’ shot down the right field line that brought in the game-tying run.
“I wasn’t trying to hit a double, honestly,” Jones said. “I was just trying to square the ball up. I competed throughout the at bat, got a good pitch, swung, hit the ball well and it just happened to be a double.”
Texas followed Travis’ game-tying RBI by displaying its patience at the plate, which ultimately decided the game. The Longhorns loaded the bases after back-to-back walks before Kody Clemens drew a walk to give Texas the lead in the bottom of the eighth.
Texas’ late comeback gave UCLA just three outs to try and extend the game, but junior Kyle Johnston ended those hopes right away. The righthander delivered three strikeouts to retire the UCLA side in order to polish the 5-4 comeback.
“We’ve been digging for this kind of comeback win, given stanford, we lost a lot of one-run ball games,” Jones said. “Especially now, coming back from something like this with two outs, it’s great for our camaraderie in the locker room and our confidence on the field.”