Here's a quick look, with plenty of notes, quotes and highlights from the Texas Longhorns' 6-3 win over the Sacramento State Hornets in the final game of the series in front of 5,667 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin on Sunday afternoon.
After going 2-for-3 on Sunday, Mark Payton finished the weekend 7-for-12 with three runs, five RBI and a stolen base.
How the Longhorns (2-1) Won
For the second game in the series the Longhorns got great pitching from their starter. On Sunday it was sophomore Dillon Peters who went seven innings, allowing two runs on five hits. He only recorded one strikeout, but the Texas defense came to play today, putting up a clean sheet for the first time this season. On offense the Horns got big production at the top (Taylor Stell), middle (Mark Payton and C.J Hinojosa) and bottom (Weston Hall) of the order using some patented Augie Garrido small ball and aggressive base running. After a rough Saturday in which the Horns didn't get much from their starter or their bats, they flipped the script on Sunday and played very good, fundamental baseball to take the series, two games to one, over Sac State.
How Hornets (1-2) Lost
The Sac State batters couldn't get any kind of rally going against Peters or Texas closer Corey Knebel on Sunday. Over the first two games the Hornets pieced together a big inning to get their runs, but on Sunday they couldn't string anything together. Their biggest inning was the first in which Peters plunked the first batter on the first pitch, then walked the second batter before retiring the next three. Sac State wouldn't send more than four batters to the plate in any one inning the rest of the way. After first baseman Rhys Hoskins went 5-for-9 over the first two games, the Horns kept him to 0-for-4 on Sunday.
This goes to Peters. He looked shaky to start the game when he put the first two batters on base, but he retired the next eight Sac State batters he faced. When his day was done after seven innings he had used his change-up very effectively to force 12 ground-ball outs and scatter the five hits to avoid getting tagged for a big inning.
It Was Over When...
A home run by Sac State's Chris Lewis in the fifth inning brought the score to 5-2, easily close enough for the Hornets to make a rally as they'd done in the two previous games. Texas added a run in the bottom of the seventh when Hinojosa lined a 1-1 pitch up the middle to score Jacob Felts from second, giving the Longhorns a four-run cushion heading into the final two innings. Knebel came in to start the eighth, and though he was being hit hard, got through the top four batters in the Sac State lineup unscathed. The Hornets' No. 5 hitter, David Del Grande, homered to start the bottom of the ninth, but Knebel mowed down the next three batters to give the Longhorns the win.
To Mark Payton and C.J Hinojosa. After his 2-for-3, performance on Sunday, Payton finished the weekend 7-for-12 with three runs, five RBI and a stolen base. Hinojosa finished 6-for-11 with a run and two RBI after going 2-for-4 on Sunday. Garrido's move to put Payton at the cleanup spot has paid huge dividends through three games, and if his freshman shortstop continues to hit the ball well he may have to make an adjustment and move him up from his current position in the six hole.
It's not time to worry about Corey Knebel, but it's definitely time to watch him with a careful eye. He was better, but he was still far from his elite level on Sunday after his horrible Friday night outing. He allowed a big hit to lead off both the eighth and ninth innings, one of which was a shot to the parking lot over the left field fence. He also had two more pitches hit hard but were luckily right at outfielders. The All-American candidate will most likely be fine as the season gets going, but his first two appearances of 2013 have been far from what was expected.
Center fielder Weston Hall went just 1-for-6 over the first two days as Texas' No. 9 hitter but was one of the most productive Longhorns at the plate on Sunday. He executed one of Texas' two safety squeezes by putting down a perfect bunt on the first-base side of the mound in the second inning (he would score on the second one in the same inning on a bunt by Stell). Hall finished the day 2-for-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. He's another Longhorn with a lot of speed, and if he can consistently find ways to get on base he makes the top of the Texas lineup that much harder to deal with.
Cody McElroy has gotten off to a slow start at the plate. The new Longhorn finished the weekend just 2-for-11 with two strikeouts after his 1-for-4 showing on Sunday. He's made some great plays at first - which is saying something considering he just finished his third game ever as a first baseman - but his offense hasn't started off quite as fast.
Stat(s) of the Night
After the much talked about offensive struggles of 2012, the Longhorns finished their first series of 2013 with a team batting average of .347.
Story of the Night
When the Longhorns play their game they're hard to beat. Texas got great production from Dillon Peters and used some small-ball tactics and aggressive base running to take the rubber game from Sacramento State. Everybody knows this Texas lineup won't be hitting a ton of home runs this season, but when they can get on base they will be a headache for pitchers and catchers - the Horns finished with seven steals this weekend. Add on solid play from the starters - like Friday's performance from Parker French and Sunday's from Peters - and it's a Texas team that will be able to beat a lot of good teams this season.
Augie Garrido on Dillon Peters:
"The first inning was a big inning, had that exploded on him it would've made it much more difficult. The fact that he worked his way out of that was huge."
Garrido on Corey Knebel:
"He did much better in the second time out. We're not concerned about Corey. He has a type-A-plus-plus personality, he's going to be fine. He doesn't understand why that all happened Friday night. He's not going to let it happen again. He's that kind of battler. He doesn't wonder who he is, he knows who he is. He knows that what he did wasn't really the real Corey Knebel, and today he was closer to it."
Dillon Peters on his performance:
"I felt pretty good after the first two innings. I felt like I got in a groove and the defense played really well behind me."
Mark Payton on Texas' fundamental win:
"That's who we're going to be this year. That's how we're going to have to win games. Dillon threw a great game."
Payton on his start at the plate:
"When you're feeling good you've got to ride it out as long as you can. You can't take a day off."