Texas avoids elimination with two critical wins

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Senior Cole Green throws a pitch Sunday against Texas State. In his eight innings of work, Green stuck out eight Bobcats and allowed just two earned runs.

Photo Credit: Ryan Edwards | Daily Texan Staff

The Longhorns live to see another day.

Texas won twice on Sunday at UFCU Disch-Falk Field to force an elimination game tonight with Kent State in the Austin Regional. Texas beat Texas State 4-3 in the afternoon and followed with a 9-3 win over Kent State.

“I think the purpose of the first loss was to challenge the players to find their inner baseball player inside of them to come up to another level,” said Texas head coach Augie Garrido. “And now they have experienced it.”

The Longhorns got off to a hot start against Kent State, tallying three runs in the first inning. They only scored five runs in their loss to the Golden Flashes on Saturday.

“From top to bottom, it was a great effort by our lineup,” said Texas first baseman Tant Shepherd. “[The early runs] make pitching a lot easier, it gets momentum on our side, and it’s huge for us.”

Shepherd led off the game with a walk, and scored two batters later on a single from Brandon Loy. Erich Weiss followed with a single and he and Loy stole bases to reach scoring position. Paul Montalbano and Jonathan Walsh later drove them in.

It wasn’t just the bats that were working for Texas. Counting hit-by-pitches, steals and walks, Kent State surrendered 14 baserunners to the Longhorns.

“You can’t give them bases,” said Kent State head coach Scott Stricklin. “When you do that against Texas, they are going to beat you. You have to play solid baseball to beat them, and we didn’t do that.”

Shepherd stole second base in the fourth inning and moved to third on a sacrifice bunt from Mark Payton, his second of the game. Erich Weiss slapped a single to right field two batters later to send Shepherd home and put Texas up 5-2. It was Augie-ball at its finest.

“One of the things about our bunting game and running game is we give our players a lot of freedom to act on their own decisions,” Garrido said. “When you see some of those bunts, I’m not putting all those on. I want them to be aware of what they think they need to do and then have the freedom to act on it.”

Payton doubled in the sixth inning, and scored on one play as a wild pitch moved him to third and Kent State catcher David Lyon’s throw missed third base for an error. Kevin Lusson tacked on three more in the ninth with a home run to right field, his second against the Golden Flashes in as many games.

Nathan Thornhill (3-0) pitched 3.2 innings in relief of Hoby Milner and picked up the win for Texas. The freshman struggled early, surrendering consecutive singles with one out, but found his changeup and was able to fool the Golden Flashes with a mix of that and his fastball. He struck out a career-high seven batters.

“His changeup started working and got us off balance,” Stricklin said. “He won the game for them.”

Cole Green pitched eight innings and struck out eight in the Longhorns 4-3 win over Texas State in Sunday’s early game, moving him into third place all-time at UT with 378 innings. Lusson won the game in the ninth with a walk-off single that bounced onto Comal Street.