Sixth-inning meltdown pushes game out of reach for Texas

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Photo Credit: Anthony Mireles | Daily Texan Staff

Texas stood toe-to-toe with national powerhouse No. 5 Arkansas for five innings. Then the sixth inning started.

The Longhorns and Razorbacks found themselves in a back-and-forth affair in the front half of their opening game of the 2018 College World Series. But after a sixth-inning collapse, Texas was run out of TD Ameritrade Park in an 11-5 blowout loss.

This is Arkansas’ third straight win of the season against the Longhorns, which will push Texas into the loser’s bracket for the rest of the tournament, forcing Texas into a survive-and-advance situation for every game moving forward to keep their season afloat.

“I’m not shell-shocked,” head coach David Pierce said. “It’s just part of it. It’s not the way we wished it had gone. Unfortunately, it got away from us, and we just couldn’t overcome the deficit.”

At the close of the top of the sixth inning, Texas had found itself in the heat of a close 3-2 ball game. Kingham began to find his rhythm, but then the Razorbacks’ offense came to life.

Arkansas ripped off back-to-back singles to start off the bottom half of the sixth, and head coach David Pierce decided that was all he needed to see out of his starter. Kingham's afternoon ended after allowing five runs on nine hits.

After this move, the floodgates opened, as Arkansas plated seven runs after Kingham’s departure.

“We just got there in the sixth and he kind of unraveled, went back-to-back singles, and at that point, I feel like he just started pitching behind,” Pierce said. "Hindsight’s a beautiful thing. You look back at that and you really say, 'We should’ve stuck with Nolan.'"

Redshirt junior Parker Joe Robinson was the first to replace Kingham and would walk the only two batters he faced. Robinson, the usual rock of the bullpen, struggled with his command and was replaced by the bullpen’s other reliable veteran, redshirt junior Josh Sawyer. Sawyer would also walk the first batter he faced. Shortly after, though, lightning was spotted near TD Ameritrade Park, and the game was put into delay.

The unusually long delay lasted two hours and 49 minutes before the teams took the field to resume play. And when Texas finally did retake the field, the floodgates opened once again.

Junior reliever and predicted second-game starter Chase Shugart was next on the mound after the delay, but he was quickly removed after just 11 pitches.

The combination of Kingham, Robinson, Sawyer and Shugart would fail to record an out in the inning. The foursome would also allow four walks and a combined eight earned runs.

It wasn’t until freshman Kamron Fields came into the game in relief that Texas would record an out, and he would record two before being replaced by redshirt junior Andy McGuire, who would finally finish the inning.

Despite allowing three more runs, the Razorbacks never entertained the idea of a Longhorn comeback, soundly defeating Texas, 11-5.

“Everyone’s down right now,” junior outfielder Tate Shaw said. “It’s baseball, you gotta forget.”

Texas now finds itself in the loser’s bracket and one game away from elimination. The Longhorns will have one day of rest before returning to the field to play the loser of the Florida-Texas Tech game. First pitch is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Tuesday.