Here's a quick look, with plenty of notes, quotes and highlights from the Texas Longhorns' 5-3 loss to the Sacramento State Hornets in the second game of their three-game series in front of 5,778 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin on Saturday afternoon.
Nathan Thornhill finished after just 3.2 innings, giving up three earned runs on six hits and only striking out one.
How the Hornets (1-1) Won
Starting pitcher Brennan Leitao threw seven innings, striking out four Longhorn batters, and allowed two runs on six hits. He was far from overpowering, but he was locating his pitches consistently and not letting the Longhorn hitters get great contact. On offense it was another big inning that did most of the damage. This time it was a three-run third inning that got the ball rolling for the scrappy Hornets. Sacramento State ended a short day for Texas starter Nathan Thornhill by getting four hits on the junior right-hander in the third, including an RBI double by Rhys Hoskins, who is now 5-for-8 with three RBI and three runs over the first two games. Sac State got an insurance run in the seventh after Erich Weiss couldn't make the tag on Nathan Lukes as he stole second and the ensuing batter hit a single to left-center to score Lukes.
How Longhorns (1-1) Lost
Thornhill certainly didn't have a great day, but neither did the Longhorn batters. No Texas hitter recorded an extra base hit on Saturday. The Longhorns struck out five times as a team, and none was bigger than the strike three C.J Hinojosa took in the eighth inning with Texas rallying. The Horns entered the eighth down 5-2; Erich Weiss scored on a Madison Carter RBI single to center, and after a line drive out to left by Jacob Felts, Hinojosa took what he thought was ball two when the homeplate ump rung him for a strikeout. The Longhorn batters were making good contact throughout the game, but their few shots to the outfield didn't find any gaps to get anything going offensively.
Like French yesterday, this has to go to the pitcher that went seven strong innings and shut down the opposing lineup. Unfortunately, that means Sacramento State's Leitao gets the nod today. He was placing his pitches down in the strike zone, making it even harder for the Horns to drive the ball and get extra bases. He allowed an early run when Mark Payton drove home Taylor Stell in the first inning on a base hit up the middle, but after that he faced the minimum in four of his next five innings pitched.
It Was Over When...
It felt over after Hinojosa's strikeout. It wasn't a horrible take by the freshman shortstop as it was a borderline call, but he didn't get the benefit of the doubt from the ump and it ended the Texas rally in the eighth. Augie Garrido sent Brooks Marlow and Collin Shaw to the plate in the ninth as pinch hitters. While Marlow was able to put together a great at-bat and start things off with a single, Shaw followed up with a fielder's-choice ground ball to second before the game-ending double play by Matt Moynihan.
Texas newbies Cameron Cox and Travis Duke pitched great in their burnt-orange debuts. The two combined to go five innings, allowing one run on four hits and striking out three. After Thornhill's less than stellar start the two relievers kept the Longhorns in the game, unfortunately the offense just wasn't there today to take advantage of their performances.
The fielding in the middle infield. It will get better as the new pieces get used to their respective positions, but Hinojosa had two more errors at short to go with his one on Friday, and Weiss' botched tag on Lukes in the seventh inning cost Texas a run. Without those miscues the Horns don't allow five runs on Saturday and they may be looking at a 2-0 start to the season instead of a disappointing loss in the second game of the year.
This goes back to Duke. The freshman from Pearland threw only 20 pitches - 18 of which were strikes. The left-hander came out dealing, striking out the first batter he faced as a collegiate pitcher, and getting another to end the eighth inning. There's no way he can keep up the pace he set for himself in his first outing, but things couldn't have gone much better for Duke Saturday afternoon.
Nathan Thornhill would have liked to have gotten off to a better start to his junior season. He left a few too many balls up in the zone for the Hornet batters to pounce on and it was very costly. Hoskins is a legit hitter for Sacramento State, and his big RBI double to deep center got things going for the Hornets in the third and eventually sent Thornhill to the dugout earlier than he wanted in his first outing of the year.
Stat(s) of the Night
With two stolen bases today the Longhorns now have five on the year. It took Texas eight games to reach that number in 2012.
Story of the Night
The Longhorn batters couldn't get anything going against Leitao. The sophomore right-hander was in control throughout and gave Sacramento State reason to believe it could take the second game of the series. The Hornets have proven to be a feisty, scrappy bunch over the two games in Austin and when there's a glimmer of hope for a rally they've shown they know how to seize the opportunity. For the Longhorns, it's just one game so the worrying needs to be put on hold for a while, but they certainly will need better production at the plate and on defense from the middle infield if they are to bounce back from the 2012 season.
Augie Garrido on the game:
"There really wasn't a whole lot of separation between the two teams except in the third inning. Their pitcher had a little better command than our pitcher, kept the ball in the bottom of the strike zone more consistently than Nate did. Also, they played better defense and you put those two things together that was pretty much the margin of separation."
Garrido on Cox and Duke:
"The fact that they came in, never been on this mound before, never been in front of this crowd before, and pitched their game, thats huge for us."
Garrido on not being able to hit Leitao:
"When we got behind 4-1 it shocked us and stunned us a little bit and then we started getting a little bit more conservative and got away from our aggressive plan at the plate and we didn't hit the first pitch very much or we didn't go after the first pitch very much and he was throwing it for a strike, and he continued and it just added to his confidence because we didn't do anything to him to take him out of his game."
Nathan Thornhill on his performance:
"It's not the end of the world. It's not what I wanted, but I know I have better stuff than what I showed today, and I'm going to maintain my confidence in that and just get ready for the next outing."
C.J Hinojosa on his performance:
"It was rough. Everybody has them. I'm just going to move on, turn the page, come back out tomorrow and play hard."