Texas and Northwestern were practically equals in the hitting department Friday night, and the Longhorns walked twice as often. But the Wildcats took advantage of runners on the bags — something the Longhorns failed to do — and that proved to be the difference in a 6-2 loss for Texas.
The Longhorns left 10 runners on the bases, while Northwestern left only four.
“We need to work better as a team together,” redshirt junior catcher Michael McCann said. “We got runners on base early and we pop out and roll early and we don’t get the runners in. We start out hot, but we don’t capitalize. It’s really frustrating and we have to grind out at bats early.”
Northwestern struck first. After getting through his first three batters unblemished, junior pitcher Chase Shugart walked a Wildcat to open the second. After Shugart gave up his first hit of the contest, Northwestern singled to score the game’s first run.
But like they’ve done at home all season, Texas was quick to rally back. In the bottom of the third, sophomore outfielder Duke Ellis hit a single to send McCann to second after McCann had walked. After a Northwestern error loaded the bases, McCann scored on a groundout to first from junior Kody Clemens.
But the wheels fell off for Shugart and the Longhorns in the fifth. The pitcher hit two batters in the frame and gave up a pair of hits. Northwestern capitalized on the junior’s control issues and jumped out to a 3-1 advantage.
The Longhorns added a run in the bottom of the fifth, but Shugart’s continued issues would keep the game out of reach. Against the first batter of the sixth, Shugart gave up a monster home run to left field. He then surrendered a single and, following an error and a wild pitch, the runner reached third. A batter latter, Northwestern recorded a sac-fly to extend its lead to 5-2.
“When (Shugart) got the ball down, he was really good,” head coach David Pierce said. “But when they had (runners on base), his peripheral couldn’t handle the running game and he got the ball up. Once he got the ball up, (Northwestern) took advantage of it.”
The Wildcats added another run in the ninth inning, and the Longhorns never threatened any further.
Texas finished with seven hits but struggled with strikeouts. The team struck out nine times compared to only five walks. Redshirt freshman infielder Zach Zubia paced the offense, finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI and also reached on a walk.
The starting pitching for the Longhorns was shakier than it has been for most of the season. Shugart surrendered five earned runs and gave up six hits. However, the relief put forth a solid outing, with freshman Bryce Elder and redshirt junior Josh Sawyer combining for three two-hit innings.
Texas will get multiple shots at redemption tomorrow, when they take on the Wildcats in a Saturday double-header. The first game is schedule for 1:30 p.m. at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.
“We’ve got three games in two days and they’ve got all the momentum,” Pierce said. “We need everybody to be ready and do their job when they’re called on. Tonight, we just didn’t get it done, and it’s that simple.”