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Texas 11, Texas Tech 3: With Hansen providing relief, Horns salvage weekend, title chase

Texas pitcher Pete Hansen throws a strike past Texas Tech's Easton Murrell at UFCU Disch-Falk Field in Austin on Sunday. The Horns avoided the sweep by beating the Red Raiders 11-3.

Texas has six Big 12 games left on its schedule, so Sunday's series finale against Texas Tech wasn't a must-win game by definition.

The Longhorns, though, really couldn't afford to lose. They had already dropped the first two games of the series, including the second game that started on Saturday but finished on Sunday. Those two losses dropped Texas (35-11, 13-5 Big 12) two games behind TCU in the standings.

The Horned Frogs (33-10, 15-3) then beat West Virginia on Sunday, so Texas needed a win to keep that gap between first and second place from widening even further, especially with three games coming up this weekend at TCU.

But with Pete Hansen leading the way, the Longhorns kept the Horned Frogs within their sights. Hansen pitched nearly eight innings of relief in Sunday's 11-3 win at UFCU Disch-Falk Field.

"We talk about sweeping, we talk about winning series and we talk about survival," UT coach David Pierce said. "Today was a survival game."

With much at stake, No. 3 Texas immediately stumbled. The first four Red Raiders to face Kolby Kubichek reached base. No. 11 Texas Tech (30-11, 10-8) struck first on a bases-loaded walk.

More:Texas Tech 6, Texas 3: No. 11 Red Raiders knock off No. 3 Horns in opener of Big 12 series

After Texas Tech took the 1-0 lead, Kubichek was yanked. That marked only the sixth first-inning pitching change at Texas since Pierce took over the program ahead of the 2017 season. The shaky start also came one week after Kubichek lasted just an inning in a 7-3 loss at Oklahoma State.

"Every player is going to go through some adversity, and he's having a hard time right now," Pierce said. "It's tough on him, it's tough on us. We're going to help him through it."

Pierce turned to Hansen, a left-hander who got Texas out of the bases-loaded jam with a double-play grounder and a flyout. The Longhorns rode him until two runners reached base with two outs in the eighth inning.

Over his 7 2/3 innings of relief, Hansen allowed seven hits and one run. He struck out seven. Thanks to a double play, he faced the minimum amount of batters between the fourth and seventh innings.

Hansen told reporters that "it's always fun hearing your name get called on the bullpen phone."

His next appearance won't be out of the bullpen, though. He also won't be used again as a midweek starter. Pierce announced after the game that Hansen will replace Kubichek in UT's weekend rotation.

"Just confidence is key, that's kind of what I was feeling," Hansen said. "Just having trust in myself and in my delivery and just getting that feel."

After falling behind 2-0, the Longhorns came alive. Texas Tech used eight pitchers. Motoring around the bases on a triple and a Red Raiders error, Ivan Melendez got Texas on the scoreboard with a little league home run in the second inning. Five batters later, Texas grabbed a 3-2 lead it wouldn't relinquish on Trey Faltine's two-run double.

Faltine later drove in another run on a sacrifice fly. The biggest of UT's nine hits belonged to Douglas Hodo III, who hit a grand slam in the seventh inning. 

"First two days, they got the big hits and we didn't," Faltine said. "We just stuck with it and knew that it was going to come out sooner or later. Thankfully it came out today. We got to do what everybody knows we can do, which is hit."

More:As Big 12 race heats up, Texas baseball no longer viewing its young relievers as freshmen

Around the bases: Hodo's grand slam was the first for a Longhorn since Lance Ford's  against West Virginia in 2019. ... Texas Tech starting pitcher Mason Montgomery, who graduated from nearby Leander High, took the loss after surrendering four hits and five runs over 3 2/3 innings. ... Texas first baseman Zach Zubia extended his on-base streak to 22 games. ... Texas will return to Disch-Falk for a home game against Texas State on Tuesday.