OMAHA, Neb. - Dominant pitching and early scoring led the Longhorns to a 4-0 victory over the Commodores in Omaha Friday, setting up a rematch Saturday, for a trip to the Championship Series.
Senior pitcher Nathan Thornhill was brilliant on the mound, tossing eight innings of shut-out baseball and only surrendering six hits in what might have been his final start as a Longhorn. Thornhill had the Vanderbilt off balance all afternoon, despite being forced to throw 131 pitches, as his effort kept Texas from being eliminated for at least one more day.
“This is who he is," Texas head coach Augie Garrido said. "He doesn't lead by telling people what to do, he leads by doing it himself. He leads by example."
The Longhorns struck first, thanks to Vanderbilt starter Tyler Ferguson’s lack of control to begin the game. Ferguson hit junior second baseman Brooks Marlow with the first pitch of the game. Ferguson continued to pitch wildly in the first innning, as he walked sophomore leftfielder Ben Johnson and then hit senior centerfielder Mark Payton to load the bases with no outs.
Freshman catcher Tres Barrera struck out, bringing up sophomore shortstop CJ Hinojosa, who was the hero against UC Irvine, with one out and the bases loaded. Hinojosa hit a sharp liner that ahad the potential to turn into a double play, but, fortunately for Texas, it hit the second base umpire, leading to a dead ball that advanced all the runners and scored Texas’ first run of the game.
Junior right fielder Collin Shaw then struck out, but the Longhorns scored another run in the first when senior designated hitter Madison Carter walked to score a run. After walking in the second run, Ferguson, who had only thrown 12 of his 27 pitches for strikes, was pulled.
The strong start, and specifically Hinojosa’s lucky hit, gave Texas momentum and allowed the Longhorns to take control of the game.
“It got us off to an early lead which we always like," Payton said. “That’s our goal on the offensive side, to let our pitcher settle down, and we were able to do that today.”
The Longhorns struck with two more in the second, via back-to-back triples by freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz and Marlow. Marlow scored after Payton layed down a sacrifice bunt and was called safe at first after an error.
Once the Longhorns took the early lead, Vanderbilt was never able to get back in the game, as Thornhill consistently got the better of the Commodores.
Texas has impressed in their three contests since falling in the College World Series opener and appear to relish the "must-win" situations they have been forced to deal with.
“We got that mind that its either you win or you go home," Marlow said. "I think that’s what everyone is taking in after that first game against [UC] Irvine. If you lose you go home. I think that’s the mindset everyone has taken.”
The Longhorns will play the Commodores again Saturday at 7 p.m. Parker French will get the start for Texas.