LSU's Maurice Hampton Jr. (14) is tagged out by Texas shortstop Trey Faltine during the fifth inning of a baseball game on Feb. 28, 2020 in Houston. (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Baseball

No. 11 LSU 4, Texas 3: Longhorns go down swinging in their first loss of the 2020 season

Posted February 28th, 2020

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HOUSTON — On a Friday night at Minute Maid Park, the number 16 was anything but sweet for Texas.

Texas struck out 16 times in a 4-3 loss to LSU in both teams’ opener at the 2020 Shriners Hospitals for Children College Classic. The defeat was UT’s first of the season. The Longhorns (9-1) were looking to start 10-0 for the fourth time this century.

With the victory, the 11th-ranked Tigers improved to 7-3.

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“I think right now they’re ticked off and I hope they are,” Texas coach David Pierce said. “They’ve got that right mentality, they’ve got that passion. They’ll be ready to go tomorrow against a good Arkansas team.”

Texas’ Austin Todd (44) reacts after being tagged out by LSU second baseman Cade Doughty (4) on Feb. 28, 2020 in Houston. (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP)

Just under a year after he capped a home sweep of LSU with a walk-off single, Texas leadoff hitter Austin Todd singled on Friday’s first pitch. Todd, though, was later thrown out while trying to steal second base. That thwarted theft occurred as LSU starter Cole Henry strung together five straight strikeouts.

The right-handed Henry only needed 25 pitches to get through the first two innings. His workload in the third inning would consist of 37 offerings.

With Texas trailing 2-0, DJ Petrinsky broke up Henry’s strikeout string with a home run. Todd added another single in the session, while Duke Ellis earned one of UT’s two free passes during an 11-pitch at-bat that featured five two-strike fouls. The Longhorns eventually tied the game on a sacrifice fly from Zach Zubia.

“We just really tried to see him down,” Petrinsky said. “He was kind of living off the fastball up, change-up in the zone. We just tried to see him down and fight and I think we did alright.”

Petrinsky gave UT a 3-2 lead with a sacrifice fly an inning later. Texas maintained that advantage until LSU’s Daniel Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the sixth inning. Cabrera had earlier tallied LSU’s first run when he came home on Saul Garza’s triple in the second inning. Garza then scored on an infield single that was initially ruled an inning-ending groundout.

Following the one-run loss, Pierce explained that overturned call was made by an off-the-field official in a replay booth. During Big 12 games and Texas’ home contests, video reviews are handled by the on-field crew. Pierce said he did not get an explanation and added that “It made no sense to overturn it. It made no sense at all. I thought it was really (poor) use of our replay.”

LSU relief pitcher Jaden Hill (44) reacts after striking out Texas’ Cam Williams during the eighth inning of a baseball game on Feb. 28, 2020 in Houston. (Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle via AP)

“Yeah, I think he was out but stuff happens,” Texas pitcher Bryce Elder said. “That ain’t the reason we lost.”

Given three innings to respond to Cabrera’s homer, Texas fell flat. LSU reliever Jaden Hill struck out the side in the seventh session before both Zubia and Cam Williams went down swinging in the eighth with Ellis on second base. In the final frame, Hill wrapped two fly balls around his sixth strikeout.

The 16 strikeouts were the third-most in Pierce’s 192-game tenure at Texas. In 2017, the Longhorns struck out 17 times in losses to UConn and TCU.

“You’ve got some really young guys going up against really good stuff,” Pierce said. “You’re always disappointed because you’ve got to find a way.”

Henry went six innings and was credited with the win. Elder, meanwhile, earned his first loss. Elder struck out 10 and allowed six hits over his 6 1/3 innings, but the junior later regretted the sinker he threw to Garza and the change-up that Cabrera homered off of.

“Two pitches cost me,” Elder said. “If I could have two back, they might not score at all.”

Around the bases: An announced crowd of 15,735 watched Friday’s game. … Todd was responsible for half of Texas’ four hits. The senior outfielder upped his batting average to .357. … Ellis walked twice and stole his sixth base of the season. … Saturday’s schedule at Minute Maid Park features a 7 p.m. nightcap between Texas and No. 6 Arkansas (7-1). Arkansas was beaten 6-3 by Oklahoma on Friday.

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