For more than 3 hours and 30 minutes, the No. 10 Longhorns trailed UTPA at UFCU Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday night. But, in the bottom of the eighth, senior center fielder Mark Payton finally put Texas ahead, singling a run home to give Texas a 5-4 lead — something they would not relinquish.
Through the first seven innings, the Longhorns left 12 men on base, eight of which were in scoring position. Texas didn’t capitalize on golden opportunities, failing to advance runners on bunts and stranding runners on third with fewer than two outs. But Payton came through in the end to bail out the Longhorns in a game that lasted 3 minutes, 41 seconds.
“Bottom line is we won the game,” head coach Augie Garrido said.
Both junior pitcher Lukas Schiraldi and senior UTPA pitcher Matthew Harrell struggled to find their command early, combining for eight walks and a hit-by-pitch in just the first two innings, making the pace of the game a slow one.
The Broncos (17-25) struck first, settling for one run in the first after having the bases loaded with no outs. Schiraldi got an RBI fielder’s choice, pop out and strikeout to escape with little damage. UTPA would have three more innings of one run in the game.
Schiraldi gave up four runs in 3.1 innings, allowing five hits and four walks.
Texas had plenty of chances early because of Harrell’s four walks and one hit-by-pitch in his 1.2 innings, but Texas (31-11) was unable to put a crooked number on the board. It left seven runners on base in the first three innings, scoring only once on a bases loaded, second-inning walk by sophomore outfielder Ben Johnson to cut the lead to 2-1.
Immediately after falling behind 4-1, Texas began clawing its way back with two runs in the fifth to cut the UTPA lead to 4-3 on an RBI single from freshman third baseman Zane Gurwitz and a wild pitch. In the next inning, the Longhorns tied the game after Johnson’s fifth homer of the year.
The eighth inning proved the team could claw back. Junior second baseman Brooks Marlow and Johnson singled to start the inning. Then, after failing on his first two bunt attempts, senior center fielder Mark Payton delivered an RBI single to center.
“I was a little frustrated with not getting the bunt down,” Payton said. “I got a pitch I could handle and put a nice swing on it.”
The relief pitchers for Texas did a good job as sophomores pitchers Chad Hollingsworth, Ty Culbreth and John Curtiss and freshman pitcher Morgan Cooper (W, 4-1) went 5.2 shutout innings to give the Longhorns a chance to come back.
“Momentum shifted with Hollingsworth,” Garrido said. “Pitching drove momentum.”
The Longhorns will regroup this weekend for a big showdown with Big 12 leader Oklahoma State on Friday.