Cantu returns home with a bang

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Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

Michael Cantu returned not only to the field Tuesday night, but to his hometown as well.

The Corpus Christi native returned to the lineup after Michael McCann received the majority of playing time as catcher. But Cantu made his presence felt on his return. The junior took advantage of every at-bat he had, including the swing that would eventually cut the night short.

Cantu stood at the plate with two outs in the top of the sixth with the score at 9-2 and a runner on third. The hometown boy connected with the 1-0 pitch and sent it flying over the left field wall to put the Longhorns up 12-2, cementing Texas’ second-straight run-rule victory over the Islanders, this time coming in Cantu’s hometown at Whataburger Field.

“It’s his hometown,” head coach David Pierce said. “He deserves it. He’s been playing well. I just felt really good about him playing tonight, and not only because he came home, but because he deserves it. It gave McCann a rest and he came up big for us and I was just really proud for him.”

Texas flexed its muscles offensively throughout the game, though the Longhorns trailed early. Sophomore Nick Kennedy earned the start, but the left hander didn’t get off to a great one.

Kennedy yielded two runs in the top of the first, putting Texas in a 2-0 deficit. But that two-run first inning was all he gave up.

Tate Shaw, redshirt sophomore left fielder, captained the Longhorns out of the hole almost immediately. Shaw approached the plate with bases loaded and capitalized on the opportunity. The left fielder sent a shot to left field. Although it looked playable off the bat, the powerful wind carried the ball until it cleared the fence.

The Islanders’ 2-0 lead was obliterated after Shaw’s grand slam, which was Texas’ first since 2012.

“It was a great resilient comeback, and it didn’t take long,” head coach David Pierce said. “The thing that’s been really productive in our offense is drawing the base on ball just as much, and then coming up with some clutch hits and we got a big one from Tate tonight.”

Kennedy turned his rough first inning into a career night on the mound en route to throwing his first complete game. The left hander finished with career-highs of 11 strikeouts on 101 pitches. The dominant performance by Kennedy improves his record to 4-0 on the mound this season.

Although the game occurred in Corpus Christi, a sea of burnt orange made up the majority of the crowd of 4,754. Texas proved that the 15-0 victory over the Islanders on March 8 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field was no fluke, and that changing the location of the game will not change the result.

Texas’ 12-2 route of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi marks the Longhorns’ fifth-straight win as they improve to 18-10 (3-3 Big 12). Texas returns to action on Friday as the Longhorns resume conference play with a three-game series against Kansas in Lawrence.