John Curtiss

Longhorn players reflect on their season as they sit in the dugout after losing, 4-3, to Vanderbilt Saturday, ending their College World Series run.

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

OMAHA, Neb. - Sophomore shortstop C.J Hinojosa nearly came up with the big hit in the top of the 10th inning and was unable to make the play in the bottom of the 10th, as Vanderbilt defeated the Longhorns in the 4-3 in extra innings Saturday.

Hinojosa crushed a ball to deep right-center field to lead off the top of 10th that appeared to be an extra base hit, but Vanderbilt’s Rhett Wiseman had other ideas, sliding to snag the ball with a web-gem caliber catch for the out.

"Probably the best swing I had all day," Hinojosa said. "And off the bat I did think it was over his head. He's a good outfielder, he tracked it well and made a great play on it."

In the bottom of the inning, Vanderbilt rallied with two outs. Wiseman singled off of sophomore pitcher John Curtiss and stole second base, which led to Curtiss walking Vandy’s Ro Coleman. Curtiss then beaned Karl Eddison to load the bases for Tyler Campbell, who was making only his third start of the season in place of suspended Xavier Turner.

Campbell hit Curtiss’ 1-1 pitch toward the left side of the infield and legged out Hinojosa’s throw to first, allowing Wiseman to score the game-winning run.

"I got the first [two] guys out," Curtiss said matter of factly after the game. "But then they got a hit, then I walked a guy, then I hit the guy. And then I gave up the game losing infield single. That's the way baseball goes."

The hit batter, who was only hitting .203 for the season, to load the bases was yet another error in an imperfectly played game by the Longhorns and it ultimately cost them.

Texas got into trouble early against the Commodores, who took a 1-0 lead in a first inning that could’ve resulted in a lot more damage as they twice loaded the bases, but only came away with one run.

The Longhorn bats were dormant in the first three innings, going a combined 1-for-8 while stranding three.

Vanderbilt extended its lead to 2-0 with the help of two Texas errors in the bottom half of the third inning.

But the Longhorns weren’t going to go down without displaying the signature grit that helped them go from fifth place in the Big 12 to one of the final four standing in Omaha.

Hinojosa led off the fourth inning with a double and was advanced to third base after junior right fielder Collin Shaw reached on a bunt hit.  Sophomore leftfielder Ben Johnson proceeded to walk, which loaded the bases. After Tres Barrera struck out, freshman first baseman Kacy Clemens delivered with a single that scored two and evened the ball game.

The Longhorns had another opportunity in the fifth inning and appeared to be getting to Vanderbilt’s Carson Fulmer. Senior centerfielder Mark Payton walked with one out then advanced to second on a failed pick off and then third on a wild pitch. Hinojosa walked on four pitches and Shaw forced an eight-pitch walk to load the bases, spelling the end of Fulmer’s night.

However, Vanderbilt replaced him with freshman Hayden Stone, who induced an inning ending double play on his first offering to Johnson.

The Commodores took the 3-2 lead in the bottom of the frame when Wiseman crushed the ball deep towards the very top of the wall in right field, driving in the go ahead run. 

Barrera led off the sixth inning with a triple to center field and, after a strike out by Clemens, Gurwitz delivered a one-out single to tie the game at three.  Gurwitz managed to advance to second on a failed pick off, but senior designated hitter Madison Carter struck out to end the threat.

And with that went Texas’ final threat to take the lead. The Longhorns never lead in this one and fatally stranded 10 runners on base. 

Photo Credit: Caleb Kuntz | Daily Texan Staff

In front of a small crowd Tuesday night at UFCU Disch-Falk Field, No. 15 Texas walked off in 11 innings against UT-Pan American behind a two-out single from senior catcher Jacob Felts, who came in as a defensive replacement in the 10th.

“I was thankful to get the opportunity,” said Felts, who, after three years of starting, has found himself on the bench. “It’s been tough waiting. [A walk off] always feels good.”

The Longhorns (6-3) were behind the whole game, struggling to get the offense rolling. It appeared that UTPA (5-4) was on its way to beating Texas for the first time since 1971 behind the arm of junior pitcher Alex Henson. Henson shut down the Texas offense, limiting the Longhorns to just two hits in six innings, including stopping hot-hitting senior outfielder Mark Payton in three at-bats.

“Their pitcher kept us off balance,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “He did a really good job, and we got into a rut of lobbing fly balls and rolling over balls.”

Entering the bottom of the ninth, Texas had only mustered two hits and trailed 1-0. But they were finally able to scratch across a run in the bottom of the ninth on three walks and a sac fly from sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson.

While the Longhorns struggled at the plate, the pitching staff kept them in the game, putting eight different pitchers on the bump.

Sophomore pitcher John Curtiss got the start for the Longhorns — the plan was for him to go just two innings. It was the first time pitching for Curtiss since May 24, 2012 after Tommy John surgery and, later, thoracic outlet syndrome surgery. Curtiss allowed just one hit in those two innings, keeping the Broncos off the board.

“It felt really good,” Curtiss said. “I feel great and the arm feels healthy.”

Freshman pitcher Josh Sawyer followed Curtiss but wasn’t quite as lucky. A single to the right and hard-luck blooper bunt single gave UTPA the first threat of the game. But, after a pop out and a caught stealing, it looked as though Sawyer may have found his way out of the inning. UTPA junior infielder Jesus Garcia had other plans, ripping a two-out pitch to center to give them the early 1-0 lead.

The six other pitchers for Texas combined for 10 shutout innings, including the final three from senior Nathan Thornhill who picked up his second win on the season.

So, despite being outhit 10-4, Texas was able to escape with the win.

“Runs determine the outcome, not hits,” Garrido said. “We played the last two innings differently than the first nine. It was about the end, and these guys got rewarded.”

Correction: This article has been corrected since its original posting. The original story mistated the type of surgery John Curtiss had. Curtiss had Tommy John surgery and later thoracic outlet syndrome surgery.

Junior Nathan Thornhill began last season as Texas' ace but may or may not be in the Longhorns' rotation when their season starts on Feb. 15. He was 4-5 with a 3.87 ERA in 2012. (Daily Texan file photo)

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns will rely on a few returning pitchers along with a multitude of new faces to try to erase the unacceptable finish to 2012, in which the Longhorns earned a collective 3.43 ERA, fifth-best in the conference.

Sophomore Parker French has been tapped as the Friday starter and will lead a healthy Texas pitching staff into 2013. As a freshman in 2012, French made nine starts while appearing in 21 games. He posted a 6-2 record and two saves with a season ERA of 2.84, third-best on the team behind current junior Corey Knebel and former Longhorn Hoby Milner.

Thanks to several unfortunate and untimely injuries, including one to the projected ace Sam Stafford, along with the dismissal of freshman Ricky Jacquez, French found himself as the No. 1 starter. However, French sustained an elbow injury against Missouri, ending his season. This year, he is back to 100 percent. His experience on the mound from 2012 will help him lead a young pitching staff.

“Everything is looking really well,” French said. “We have a great mentality, we throw to the mitt, let our defense work. We are not going to beat ourselves, you are going to see a really steady pitching staff.”

Although French has been given the nod by head coach Augie Garrido and pitching coach Skip Johnson to start on Fridays, the rest of the starting rotation is still unknown. The list of possibilities is endless.  

Sophomore John Curtiss is listed as out for the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past fall. In 2012, Curtiss posted a 3.50 ERA with a 2-3 record in 28 appearances. He started a few games on the mound but spent most of his time in relief. 

Junior Nathan Thornhill is looking to fill the role of one of four main middle relievers this season, despite a few starts in 2012. After Stafford was ruled out for the season, Thornhill got the chance to start until French took over the Friday spot. He went 4-5 as a starter in 11 games last season with a 3.87 season ERA. Although nothing is concrete yet, Thornhill is expected to pitch from the bullpen as a middle reliever.

Sophomore Dillon Peters also has a chance as a starting pitcher. Last season, Peters went 4.1 and had a 3.18 ERA season. Peters was primarily seen on Tuesday nights and racked up 43 strikeouts.

After a brief stint in the starting rotation in 2012, Knebel, a junior right-hander from Georgetown, is back to doing what he does best. When Texas opens up its season, Knebel will act as closer for the Longhorns.

“The starter is obviously a valuable person, but you can’t win the game,” Garrido said. “The games are going to be close … and you need the pitcher to throw a strike. You’ve got to have the right personality and Corey has that.”

Thanks to the mounting number of injuries, Knebel started three games late in the season. He posted a 2.08 ERA, the lowest on the team. Despite this, Knebel has already been named as the team’s closer, leaving open three spots in the starting rotation.

Other returners include juniors Kirby Bellow, Josh Urban and Justin Peters, who each saw limited action scattered throughout the 2012 season. The Longhorns welcome freshmen Chad Hollingsworth, Holden Helmink and Travis Duke to the roster for 2013.

Hollingsworth is the most anticipated of the freshmen. As a starter for Robinson High School, Hollingsworth posted a 0.50 ERA and compiled a 13-2 record with 139 strikeouts. He also has a fastball of more than 90 miles per hour.

“It is still too early to tell,” Garrido said. “We have many guys that could step up over the next two weeks.”

Nathan Thornhill has moved around the rotation while at Texas. But he is willing to go werever he is needed in the lineup. His flexibility gives the Longhorns a reliable option in the pitching rotation.

Photo Credit: Pearce Murphy | Daily Texan Staff

A day after his 21st birthday, Nathan Thornhill is the one helping pitching coach Skip Johnson unload a circular orange tarp from a golf car onto the Disch-Falk Field mound after Thursday’s practice.

It’s Thornhill’s arms that are full of sticky, clay-colored spots — not the arms of any of Texas’ 10 freshmen, five of them pitchers.

“He just grabbed me,” the junior right-hander said. “It’s whatever. I don’t care.”

When the team lost staff ace Sam Stafford last season after having shoulder surgery, it was Thornhill that stepped in as the Longhorns’ Friday starting pitcher. By season’s end, he was a middle reliever, giving way to freshman Parker French, who took over as the team’s No. 1 starter.

“There were a lot of ups and downs,” Thornhill said. “Last year toward the end of the year, I got moved. The coaches felt like that was best for the team, and I performed wherever they needed me to. My freshman year I was a reliever, also. That’s the character of this team.”

It’s time for Thornhill to return to the Longhorns’ rotation.

His numbers won’t blow you away. He went 4-5 with a 3.87 ERA last season. Texas went 5-6 in his 11 starts.

But when you dig a little deeper, you find out Thornhill was much better than those numbers indicate. The Longhorns scored 12 runs in the six games they lost when Thornhill started, scoring two or less in all but one of them.

Four of the starting pitchers Texas faced when Thornhill started were among the first 22 selections in this year’s MLB Draft: Stanford’s Mark Appel (No. 8), Oklahoma State’s Andrew Heaney (No. 9), Texas A&M’s Michael Wacha (No. 19) and Duke’s Marcus Stroman (No. 22). In those four starts, Thornhill went 1-3 with a 2.38 ERA.

“It’s going to be a clean slate for everyone,” Thornhill said. “There’s a lot of things I need to get more consistent on.

I need to be able to throw any of my pitches at any time. I’ve got to get better. I’m not going to worry about what I did last year or what I’ve earned.”

Thornhill doesn’t have to be — and very well may not deserve to be — the team’s ace like he was for two months last season. French returned, now recovered from an elbow injury that caused him to miss the final two weeks of last season. The Dripping Springs product threw 33 1/3 consecutive scoreless innings at one point last season and could prove to be the Longhorns’ best pitcher.

“It is way too early to tell,” head coach Augie Garrido said. “The end result comes as a result of a lot of experiences that we haven’t had, a lot of different environments that we haven’t been in yet ... Our pitching staff is going to depend on the recruited players making major contributions. Who’s going to do that? I honestly don’t know.”

What we do know is that sophomore right-hander John Curtiss won’t be one of those guys. After a promising freshman campaign, Curtiss underwent Tommy John surgery last month, leaving Texas with a gaping hole in its rotation.

“It’s sad to see John go down, because he’s a great kid and he works his butt off,” Thornhill said. “Our trainer has us doing more band work to get our arms in better shape to withstand a whole season. John’s injury seems like kind of a freak thing. Parker’s injury was definitely a freak thing. But we’re just doing more to keep our arms in shape and prevent something like that from happening again.”

Curtiss went 2-3 with a 3.50 ERA last season, coming out of the bullpen for 24 of his 28 appearances, the second most on the team behind only Hoby Milner, who is currently in the Philadelphia Phillies farm system. Like Thornhill, Curtiss started last season in the Longhorns’ rotation before serving primarily as a reliever.

The Longhorns are no strangers to such offseason injuries. Stafford, along with outfielder Cohl Walla, who tore his ACL last February, were both lost for the season before it began. This time around, though, the Longhorns seem better equipped to overcome such a loss.

“John’s [injury] happened at a time where we had time to replace that slot,” Garrido said. “Sam’s happened unexpectedly at a crucial time where we just had to scratch him with no replacement
in sight.”

Dillon Peters, who went 4-1 with a 3.18 ERA last season, tied Thornhill with a team high of 11 starts as a freshman and has a chance to crack the three-man weekend rotation. As does junior Corey Knebel, who tied a school record with 19 saves as a freshman but expressed his desire to start as a sophomore.

With a deeper staff, Knebel could better serve as the team’s full-time closer again. Texas should score more than 4.8 runs per game this upcoming season, giving the quirky flamethrower more save opportunities than he had as a sophomore.

As for the Longhorns’ bullpen, that’s completely up for grabs.

“Some players play better in a competitive environment, and some players practice better,” Garrido said. “So until we start competing for real and for playing time, we won’t know that part of the equation.

Without that as part of the recipe, we can’t really bake the cake.”

That cake will be a lot sweeter if Thornhill is part of the recipe that is the Longhorns’ rotation. He’s earned it.

Printed on Friday, September 28, 2012 as: Thornhill deserves to be in rotation

Longhorns sophomore right-hander John Curtiss could miss the beginning of this upcoming season with an elbow injury, a source close to the situation told the Daily Texan on Thursday. Curtiss was 2-3 with a 3.50 ERA in 22 appearances, including four starts, during his freshman campaign. He started the season in the starting rotation, losing to Duke and Stanford before being sent to the bullpen. He returned to the rotation for the Longhorns' regular season finale against Baylor, giving up one run in 4 2/3 innings of a 2-1 win over No. 7 Baylor May 19 and allowing four runs in six innings of what eventually became a season-ending, 4-2 loss to Kansas in the Big 12 tournament May 24. His status for a potential NCAA tournament alpearqnce was up in the air as he reportedly suffered a mild strain in his right elbow. But Texas missed out on the postseason for the first time since 1998. Now, there is a chance he will not be available for the beginning of next season as he has not yet recovered from his elbow injury. [UPDATE]'s Dustin McComas is reporting that Curtiss has undergone successful Tommy John surgery, meaning he will likely miss all of next season.

Sophomore pitcher John Curtiss is out for the entire 2013 season after he had Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow. Curtiss went 2-3 with a 3.50 ERA last season over 64 1/3 innings last year.

Photo Credit: Zachary Strain | Daily Texan Staff

Coming off of an impressive freshman season in 2012, sophomore right-handed pitcher John Curtiss will miss the entire 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Curtiss likely sustained the injury in the Longhorns’ season ending loss to Kansas in the 2012 Big 12 tournament, as he was forced to leave the game with two outs in the seventh inning with what at the time was being called a sprain. The injury proved to be more significant than originally thought during the offseason, however, requiring the righty to undergo surgery.

The surgery on Curtiss’ right elbow was successful, and he is on track to return to the Longhorns’ pitching staff in 2014. It typically takes a year for pitchers to recover completely from Tommy John surgery.

In his senior year at Southlake Carroll High School, Curtiss pitched 72 2/3 innings for the Dragons, which was 8 1/3 more innings than he pitched in his freshman season with the Longhorns. Following the news that he would miss the upcoming season, Curtiss remained confident in his teammates and pledged to make a strong effort to be ready for 2014.

“I’m looking forward to contribute in any way I can to the program this season,” Curtiss said. “I think the team is going to be pretty good this year. I know I will work hard to get back.”

Curtiss appeared in 28 games, four starts, for the Longhorns last season, sporting a 2-3 record and a 3.50 ERA. He allowed just 55 hits in 64 1/3 innings and struck out 48 while holding opposing batters to a .237 average.

He began the 2012 campaign in the starting rotation, but was sent to the bullpen after suffering losses in his first two starts against Duke and Stanford. He rejoined the rotation on May 19 against No. 7 Baylor, pitching 4 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a Longhorns win against the Bears, before starting what turned out to be Texas’ final game of the season against Kansas on May 24.

Both of Curtiss’ wins came in relief last season, and he also picked up a pair of saves out of the bullpen. Each of the three losses he suffered came as a member of the starting rotation.

The Longhorns were hopeful that Curtiss would emerge as a full-time starter in 2013, but they will now be forced to look into other rotation options. Texas should have a deep pitching staff in 2013, as many of last season’s top performers on the mound were underclassmen.

John Curtiss retired the first 10 batters he faced on Sunday to help UT beat Kansas, 7-2.

Photo Credit: Andreina Velazquez | Daily Texan Staff

John Curtiss and Hoby Milner both began the season as starting pitchers.

But after going a combined 1-4 in five starts, Curtiss and Milner moved to the bullpen, where they have been stellar this year. Freshman Dillon Peters, making his sixth career start and first during the weekend, struggled as he allowed two runs while giving up a pair of hits and issuing three hits. But Curtiss and Milner each turned in great relief outings to help No. 23 Texas (23-14, 11-4) take down Kansas (16-25, 4-11) 7-2 Sunday afternoon at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

“[Peters] found the air to be a little bit thinner on game day in a Big 12 conference game that you must win versus a Tuesday game,” said Augie Garrido, Texas head coach. “I think [pitching coach] Skip [Johnson] did an outstanding job of positioning the pitchers and made very timely changes with the pitching staff as he brought them in against the top of the order.”

Curtiss replaced Peters in the second after the fellow freshman pitcher walked the leadoff man. Curtiss went on to retire the first 10 batters he faced before allowing a one-out single in the fifth inning and making way for Milner, who sat down the first six hitters he faced. Sophomore closer Corey Knebel finished the game with his eighth save of the year.

“You don’t know how the game’s going to develop,” Curtiss said. “You just have to sit out there and be ready. Today, they went to us a little earlier and we knew that we could go more innings than they usually need us to.”

Like Milner, Curtiss has put up much better numbers as a reliever than as a starting pitcher.

Milner picked up his team-leading sixth win of the season after Texas scored four runs in the fifth inning, despite not even registering a single hit in the first four frames. Senior shortstop Jordan Etier broke up Kansas junior pitcher Thomas Taylor’s no-hit bid with an RBI double before sophomore right fielder Mark Payton walked to load the bases.

Despite Texas not previously producing in most bases-loaded situations, freshman center fielder Taylor Stell singled and sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss doubled with the bases full of Longhorns in that pivotal fifth frame, when the Longhorns got three of their six hits. All of a sudden, a 2-0 Jayhawks advantage had turned into a 4-2 Texas lead.

“It’s very encouraging,” Weiss said. “We had been down that whole game. Once Jordan broke up that no-hitter and we had a walk, everything started going our way.”

The Longhorns also made an impressive comeback after losing the series opener Friday.

Kansas sophomore pitcher Frank Duncan retired 11 straight Texas hitters in a 7-2 Jayhawks win Friday night. But freshman pitcher Parker French helped Texas respond with a 3-0 victory Saturday evening by tossing seven scoreless innings, extending his number of consecutive scoreless innings at home to 32.1. He hasn’t allowed a run in 15 innings during his last two starts. The Longhorns are also 6-1 in their last seven games after a loss.

“I’ve just kind of simplified things,” French said. “The command and control of the pitches has been good lately. The defense has been awesome, especially tonight.”

This weekend marked the fifth straight series that Texas went into its Sunday contest having split the games played Friday and Sunday. After beating the Jayhawks, the Longhorns improved to 4-1 in those rubber matches. The victory also clinched Texas’ fifth straight Big 12 series win, a mark that will be tested when the Longhorns face No. 2 Texas A&M this week.

Printed on Monday, April 23, 2012 as: Texas pitches its way to series win

Senior designated hitter Kevin Lusson is congratulated by his teammates after scoring in the fifth inning.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

A game against Texas State – who owned the nation’s best ERA coming into this week and who strung a 57 2/3 consecutive scoreless inning streak together earlier this season – did not seem like the best way to revive a struggling Texas offense.

The Longhorns entered the game with a .212 team batting average, good for 278th out of 291 Division I baseball teams and last among Big 12 squads. But Texas (7-8) scored in five of the first six innings en route to handing Texas State (11-5) a 6-0 loss at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Tuesday night in front of 7,748 fans, a record attendance for weekday home game for Texas.

“What the team did was make the adjustment in their attitude offensively,” said Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido. “They’ve been out of character a lot. But you can’t say that if they don’t have any character.”

Despite only pushing five runs across in their last 31 innings and having only three of their previous 28 leadoff hitters reach base, the Longhorns offense turned things around Tuesday. Texas scored in five of the first six innings, saw six of its first seven leadoff batters reach base, and pounded out 11 hits. Meanwhile, Texas State tied a season-high by surrendering six runs and Louis Head turned in the shortest outing (3 1/3 innings) by a Bobcats starting pitcher in 16 games this season.

“This is the first time they’ve showed it – where my confidence in them was demonstrated on the field,” Garrido said. “I’ve seen them play like that a lot. That was an average game for them. That’s not something that’s spectacular.”

The first eight batters in the Longhorns lineup each notched at least one base hit with sophomore third baseman Erich Weiss, sophomore first baseman Alex Silver and senior designated hitter Kevin Lusson each picking up two hits. Senior shortstop Jordan Etier was the only one to go hitless but contributed on offense by laying down a pair of sacrifice bunts.

“I’m not asking them to do something that I haven’t seen them do,” said Garrido. “I’ve seen them play just like this in scrimmages. We don’t have to be somebody spectacular. We don’t have to be somebody different. We don’t have to be somebody new. We just need to come out here and scrimmage.”

Once again, the Longhorns implemented a pitcher-by-committee approach to its to staff for a midweek game. After using six pitchers in each of its last two Tuesday evening contests, Texas only used four hurlers to take care of the Bobcats as freshman Parker French, junior Hoby Milner, freshman John Curtiss and sophomore Corey Knebel combined to limit Texas State to four hits and one run.

French threw four scoreless innings in his first career start but didn’t begin the game on the right foot. A leadoff triple in the first inning by Tyler Sibley was how French got out of the gate but the Dripping Springs product calmly navigated through the rest of the frame without allowing Sibley to score. Garrido said after the game that French would start Sunday in Texas’ series finale against its first Big 12 foe, Oklahoma.

“I think at first there were a little bit of nerves with it being my first start,” French said. “I was trying to settle in and minimize the damage at that point. It wasn’t even about not letting them score. They were only going to hit mistakes and if I made my pitches, we were going to be good.”

French got the next batter to ground out to first, which was followed by freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow fielding another ground ball and throwing Sibley out at the plate. It would be another six innings before Texas State mounted a scoring threat, when Curtiss balked home a Bobcats run with two outs in the seventh.

Milner, who began the season as the Longhorns’ No. 2 starter, pitched a perfect fifth and sixth inning while striking out three of the six batters he faced. He will return permanently to a relief role.

Freshman left handed pitcher Parker French pitched four shutout innings and allowed two hits and had one strike out.

Photo Credit: Pu Ying Huang | Daily Texan Staff

Last Tuesday, six different Texas pitchers combined to throw a three-hit shutout in one of the Longhorns’ most dominating pitching performances of the season.

A week later, they nearly topped it. Once again, Texas sent out half a dozen hurlers and thanks to their efforts, two runs were enough to pick up a win. This time, the Longhorns (5-7) beat Dallas Baptist, 2-1, in a 12-inning pitcher’s duel at UFCU Disch-Falk Field Tuesday evening.

Freshman Dillon Peters allowed a leadoff double in the first frame, going two innings and surrendering one run in his first career start. Then, sophomore Nathan Thornhill, junior Hoby Milner, freshman John Curtiss, freshman Parker French and sophomore Corey Knebel combined to throw 10 consecutive scoreless innings. While the Texas offense, which had 16 consecutive batters retired at one point, struggled to put runners on base, much less push them across the plate, the pitching staff was superb.

“The pitchers got back within themselves,” said Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido. “They learned something from the weekend that was really valuable about how to pitch to the mitt and getting back into a groove and not worrying about the hitter.”

After struggling to stifle opposing offenses in last weekend’s Houston College Classic, where Texas allowed 20 runs in three games, the Longhorns returned to their stingy selves.

After RJ Talamantes’ leadoff double to start the game, Texas allowed only two hits in the next 39 plate appearances by Dallas Baptist batters. In their last two Tuesday contests, the Longhorns have allowed only eight hits, half of them infield singles, and one run in 21 innings.

All three of the pitchers that began the season as weekend starters — Thornhill, Milner and Curtiss — set foot on the mound. Even Corey Knebel, the All-American closer who suffered from stiffness in his throwing arm last week, picked up his first win of the year by throwing a scoreless 12th inning.

“These Tuesday games when we throw the whole staff, I don’t think anybody can beat us,” said sophomore designated hitter Alex Silver, whose bloop single to begin the 12th inning sparked the game-winning rally. “We have six or seven pitchers that are all on their ‘A’ game because they’re only throwing one or two innings. They’re one of the best pitching staffs in the country. I wouldn’t want anybody else out there.”

With four scoreless frames between the eighth and 11th innings, French lowered his ERA from 5.11 to 3.86 and kept Texas in the game during the most crucial stages of the contest. He only allowed two hits and didn’t issue a walk on the night, churning out what might have been his best outing of the young season.

“Being in the back of the bullpen, I see all those zeros being put up by guys like Nathan, [Dillon Peters], Hoby and John, it makes you motivated to want to put up a zero, too,” French said. “Coach [Garrido] is always telling us to live in every pitch and live in every moment. I think I took that philosophy to heart.”

French’s performance was a much-needed considering the troubles the Texas lineup was having producing runs. The Longhorns were walked twice before Tim Maitland was hit by a pitch — for the second time of the game and sixth time this year — with the bases loaded, forcing home their first run. Patriots starting pitcher Jordan Staples struggled getting the ball over the plate but Andrew Elkins threw 4 1/3 scoreless innings while Michael Smith tossed five perfect frames before allowing the game-winning run. All five of Texas’ hits were singles, with Jordan Etier, who was intentionally walked in the decisive 12th inning, leading the way with two base hits.

“That might have been the first time he’s ever been walked intentionally,” Garrido said. “The left-handed kid [Elkins] was good. He was throwing strikes, he was getting his breaking ball over. He made it tough on us. Only Etier figured him out.”

And it only took 12 innings for the Longhorns to figure out how to push enough runs across the plate.

Printed on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 as: Defensive effort leads team to low scoring win at home

Erich Weiss watches an errant throw roll past third base during UTÂ’s 5-2 loss to Duke Sunday. An error on the play allowed one run to score.

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

When the Longhorns fell behind Saturday night, they responded immediately and picked up their first comeback win of the season.

But when Duke put Texas in an early 3-0 hole on Sunday afternoon, the Longhorns fell just short of nabbing their second come-from-behind victory and No. 13 Texas lost to Duke, 5-2, as the Blue Devils avoided getting swept in the season-opening series.

Freshman John Curtiss took the loss in his first start and Longhorns debut. He allowed three runs in three innings. Curtiss surrendered an RBI single to Duke first baseman Andy Perez in the second inning and let the Blue Devils score twice in the third frame, once on a passed ball and once on a sacrifice fly that would have gone for extra bases had freshman left fielder Collin Shaw not made a full-length diving catch.

Duke didn't score again until the ninth inning, but Texas managed to get only five hits and went a full five innings without a base hit from the middle of the second through the seventh inning.

“Unfortunately, we didn’t back up a real quality performance — not only by Ricky [Jacquez], but I thought John pitched well too,” said Longhorns head coach Augie Garrido. “I think we have a chance to have a good offense, I think we have a chance to have a good pitching staff and I think we have a chance to have a good team. But I don’t think we have an overwhelming team. I think it has a solid team that has to play consistently and efficiently to be successful.”

Another freshman pitcher made his college debut Sunday as Ricky Jacquez took over for Curtiss and tossed five scoreless innings to keep Texas within striking distance. The 5-foot-9, 160-pound hurler from El Paso scattered four hits and struck out four. Garrido said that Jacquez performed better in his first game than he did in any practice leading up to the contest.

Senior Kevin Lusson made his first start at first base and made the most of it. Lusson doubled in his first at-bat of the season and launched a two-run home run in the eighth inning to pull UT within one run of Duke, 3-2. Sophomore Erich Weiss singled before Lusson’s blast, but the only two hits Texas notched were a Mark Payton single in the seventh inning and a Brooks Marlow infield single.

“It felt good since it was 3-0 at the time and it got us [within one run],” Lusson said. “It gave us a little momentum. It felt great. But I would have liked to have taken the win over the home run.”
Following Lusson's homer, however, the wheels fell off.

Pitcher Kirby Bellow fielded a sacrifice bunt in the ninth inning, but threw it to third baserunner after a Duke baserunner had already arrived. Then, shortstop Christian Summers made a bad throw home, which was followed by another poor toss across the diamond by Lusson. The miscues in the final frame allowed two unearned runs to score.

“The truth of the matter is that we’ve been practicing for two and a half weeks. Today, it looked like it,” Garrido said. “We made some poor decisions in the ninth inning. There were lots of decisions to be made and we made the wrong ones and it resulted in us losing.”

Texas had the opportunity to sweep its season-opening series after winning both games of a doubleheader Saturday. Sophomore Nathan Thornhill made his first start at the front of the Longhorns rotation and threw five scoreless innings while allowing only three hits.

The majority of Thornhill's run support in Texas' opener came courtesy of freshman second baseman Brooks Marlow. In his Longhorns debut, Marlow knocked two home runs over the right field wall, driving in three runs and leading Texas to a 4-0 victory.

“Everybody's told me from day one that he's that kid that when the lights are on, he shines,” said sophomore right fielder Mark Payton. “Not many guys, with these new bats, could hit two home runs in one game.”

Payton helped Texas beat Duke in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader, going 3-for-4 with a game-tying, two-run double in the second inning. Senior center fielder Tim Maitland added two hits and two runs.

“We made a joke the other day when we were at practice,” Payton said. “I was batting first, Timmy was batting second and Brooks was batting third. We said we had the smallest 1-2-3 in the country. But even if we're the smallest 1-2-3 in the country, we'll try to have the biggest impact.”

Like Thornhill earlier that afternoon, junior Hoby Milner started and went five innings. He gave up three runs and picked up his first win.

Printed on Monday, February 20, 2012 as: Texas takes two of three from Duke