The road to Omaha is paved with superior pitching—at least for Texas.
The Longhorns advanced to their 35th College World Series with a 4-0 win over the University of Houston, their second victory over the Cougars in as many days. As part of the first team to punch its ticket to the tournament, righty Parker French pitched an efficient game on Saturday, holding Houston scoreless before running out of steam in the seventh. Texas also cruised to a 4-2 win on Friday afternoon with Nathan Thornhill on the mound, with the team never being seriously challenged by Houston. The all-time record between the two teams is now 94-31-2 in favor of Texas.
Coming off a pummeling of LSU in the Baton Rouge Regional, Houston’s offense threatened to be potent, but couldn’t get much going, recording zero extra-base hits all weekend. Texas pitchers haven’t given up more than a single in 40 innings, and have only given up two extra-base hits since the NCAA Baseball Tournament began. Houston’s pitchers fared far worse, with both starters—Jake Lemoine on Friday and Aaron Garza on Saturday—unable to make it beyond the fifth inning.
UT’s offense was also clicking this weekend, especially for SS C.J. Hinojosa and CF Mark Payton. Hinojosa was 4-8 with 2 RBIs in two games, including a bases-loaded single in the fourth that broke Saturday’s game open for the Longhorns. Payton continued to get on base at an astonishing pace, homering in the first inning on Friday, and reaching base six times in 10 plate appearances. Catcher Tres Barrera, not the fleetest of foot, also bunted for a single on Saturday with runners on first and second, loading the bases for Hinojosa. In what may have been shocking to a non-Texas fan—bunting the cleanup hitter with a runner in scoring position—Longhorns are familiar with Coach Augie Garrido’s propensity for situational bunting, no matter who is at bat.
Six Longhorns—including five pitchers—were selected in the MLB Draft on Friday and Saturday, and as tradition dictates, those drafted during the game were not told until the last out was recorded. For RHP John Curtiss, the first Longhorn selected, he controlled that outcome, finishing off the Cougars in the bottom of the ninth on Friday before finding out the Twins took him in the sixth round.
OBP wizard Payton followed Curtiss, with the Yankees taking him in the seventh round on a day where he reached base for the 100th straight game. LHP Dillon Peters, out of postseason play with a shoulder injury, was selected in the 10th round by the Marlins.
On day three of the draft on Saturday, Friday’s starter Thornhill was selected by the Phillies in the 13th round, RHP Lukas Schiraldi by the Mariners in the 15th round, and French by the Tigers in the 19th round.
Texas will face UC Irvine at 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 14th, and either Louisville or Vanderbilt on the 16th.
Above, the Longhorns celebrate their series-clinching victory; Parker French deals to a Houston batter on Saturday afternoon.
Images courtesy Bethany Walter/UT Athletics.