Here's a quick look, with plenty of notes, quotes and highlights from the Texas Longhorns' 2-0 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers in front of 5,906 at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin on Sunday afternoon.
How the Longhorns (6-1) Won
Nathan Thornhill bounced back from a poor outing last weekend to deliver a gem of a game to give the Longhorns the three-game sweep over Nebraska. The junior only lasted 3.2 innings in Texas' only loss last Saturday, but in this one he went seven innings, allowing only two hits and striking out three. After Corey Knebel finished the Huskers off with six straight outs in the eighth and ninth innings the Horns had faced only two more Nebraska batters than the minimum of 27 on Sunday. Texas also got help at the plate from Mark Payton who went 3-for-3 with a run and an RBI to bring his season average to an even .500 (12-of-24).
How Huskers (0-7) Lost
The Nebraska batters couldn't get anything going against Thornhill all day. The Huskers had a few opportunities but good fielding, and a few timely double plays, got Texas out of the jams. In all Nebraska sent only three batters to the plate in seven of the nine innings. Starter Ryan Hander pitched a great game for the Huskers, going six inning and tallying a career-high seven strikeouts, but he allowed the Horns to get their leadoff hitter on in five innings, and it came back to bite him twice. Stell reached in the fourth when he was hit by a pitch and was brought home on a Payton double to center field. Payton then led off the sixth with a base hit to left and would eventually score on Jacob Felts' single to right.
Nathan Thornhill. His confidence could have easily been shaken after his poor start against Sacramento State, but the right-hander started the game by retiring the first six batters he faced. He dominated early with his fastball, registering two of his three strikeouts in the first two innings. Those first two innings helped him settle in and get confident going forward, and put the bad Sac State outing behind him.
It Was Over When...
Corey Knebel came in. Texas was holding on to that two-run lead and it was obvious the Nebraska hitters were struggling to get anything going. And when Texas brought in its closer it left very little doubt how the final two innings would play out. Knebel only struck out one batter, but he got all six batters he faced out to put the finishing touches on Texas' first sweep of the 2013 season.
To the Longhorns. It was a team effort to get the win and the sweep against the Cornhuskers. They got great pitching, and timely hitting to not only win on Sunday but on Saturday as well. Outside of the brutal eighth inning on Friday for Nebraska it was a very tight three-game set, and the Horns made plays when necessary to get wins every time out.
The one negative you could draw from this weekend might be that Texas could have done more. Sure they won every game, but again on Sunday they had opportunities to make things easier on themselves and left a lot of runs out there. The Horns stranded seven batters on Sunday, five of which were in scoring position. It didn't hurt them against Nebraska, but when they play a team like Stanford next weekend those would-be runs could be very costly.
Going back to Thornhill, this was a big start for him after his 2013 debut. Not only did he bounce back, but he had arguably the best start of his career on Sunday afternoon. After his first two strong innings he relied on his change-up a lot, trying to induce ground ball outs by the Nebraska hitters. Over his final five innings, 12 of the 15 outs came by way of the ground ball. The Texas defense that has been a little shaky to start the year put up a clean sheet to back up a great start by Thornhill.
Again, the opportunities to add more runs that were wasted. In the fourth Texas had runners on first and third with one out when Felts and Codey McElroy went down swinging in consecutive at-bats. And in the fifth Texas again had runners on second and third with one out when Taylor Stell struck out looking and Erich Weiss swung and missed for strike three. Credit Hander for making great pitches, but the Horns are going to need to do better in the future when a runner is 90 feet from home with only one out.
Stat(s) of the Night
Texas is batting .304 as a team...With three more steals on Sunday, Texas has 18 through seven games... Taylor Stell, Erich Weiss and C.J Hinojosa have reached base safely in all seven games so far in 2013.
Story of the Night
Nathan Thornhill and Corey Knebel put together as good of a performance as you could ask to close out a series. The two combined for just 103 pitches on the day, holding Nebraska to just two hits. Both pitchers had moments they'd like to forget last weekend against Sac State and both performed against Nebraska this weekend as well as any Longhorn fan could hope.
Augie Garrido on Nathan Thornhill:
"He had command of what he was doing out there. Kept a great tempo, made it easy for the defensive players to play behind him because of that, and they played very, very well all weekend."
Garrido on leaving runners stranded on base:
"We're trying to hit with no runners on base. Just take your normal at-bat, and the hitters didn't. They tried to drive in the runs. They swung too hard, they got outside themselves."
Nathan Thornhill on starting strong and gaining confidence:
"I felt a lot better. I felt more like me, more like what I felt like - even going back to my freshman year I felt more like that than I did last weekend. So it felt really good to get those first two innings underneath me and to keep going."
Mark Payton on getting confidence after sweeping:
"It's just a big boost. Every game you win and play well as a team it's big confidence booster going into Tuesday and especially going into Stanford (next weekend)."
Payton on the difference from 2012:
"The chemistry. We're having a lot of fun being together, playing together. That's the biggest part about baseball - you've got to like your teammates. You've got to enjoy being around them all the time because it's a big family for the next six months and hopefully all the way through Omaha."
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