On Saturday afternoon, Texas went down swinging.
The Longhorns struck out 17 times in a 2-1 loss to UConn at UFCU Disch-Falk Field. The strikeouts — Texas’ most since it fanned 18 times against Stanford in a 12-inning game on this exact same date in 2016 — upped the Longhorns’ strikeout total to 67 in 2017. Texas (4-3) struck out 11 times in a 4-1 win over the Huskies on Friday.
Thirteen of Saturday’s strikeouts were recorded by UConn junior William Montgomerie, a right-hander whom Texas failed to solve over 6 1/3 innings. Montgomerie needed 116 pitches, but he settled down after throwing 33 in the first inning and loading the bases with two outs. He allowed four hits and two walks, and he held the Longhorns scoreless.
Montgomerie’s 13 strikeouts were spread out among eight players in Texas’ lineup. Junior Patrick Mathis was the only Longhorn not to strike out against Montgomerie, but he was later baffled by reliever John Russell.
“I’m not going to take anything away from Montgomerie,” said Texas coach David Pierce, whose team swung on 12 of Saturday’s 17 third strikes. “I thought he really pitched well after the first (inning), when we had a chance to do some damage then, and we didn’t take care of it. He settled in, and he was very good after that.
“We’ve got to trust ourselves,” the Longhorns’ first-year coach continued. “We’re trying to do too much at home plate as opposed to just seeing the ball and believing that we can drive the ball when we get a pitch.”
Texas got its run in the ninth inning when Travis Jones singled home pinch runner Tate Shaw with one out. After a David Hamilton flyout put runners on first and third base, Russell got UT leadoff hitter Zane Gurwitz to ground into a fielder’s choice.
“It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t come through with another hit, but we’ve got a chance to win the series tomorrow,” Pierce said.
Montgomerie’s career high in strikeouts overshadowed the efforts of Texas pitcher Kyle Johnston, who took the loss. He struck out seven over seven innings in his second start of the season.
Johnston took a no-hitter into the sixth inning, but UConn’s Anthony Prato bunted with one out and beat a throw to first base. Zac Susi then contributed a clean hit, and both runners scored on Isaac Feldstein’s double. Those three straight hits were the only hits allowed by Johnston against UConn (4-2).
“At the end of the day, it’s a loss,” said Johnston, who said he failed to keep his slider down on Feldstein’s double. “It doesn’t matter when (the hits) happened. You lose 2-1, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but we’ll be back tomorrow.”
Rounding the bases: UConn head coach Jim Penders is the nephew of former Texas basketball coach Tom Penders. His younger brother, Rob, directs the St. Edward’s baseball program, which is playing four games in Austin against Missouri University of Science & Technology this weekend. … Texas sophomore Beau Ridgeway gave up one hit in two innings of relief work. Fifteen of his 19 pitches were strikes. … Freshman pitcher Blair Henley (1-0, 1.80 ERA) will get the start Sunday against UConn’s Doug Domnarski (0-1, 54.00).